BAR HARBOR — The plan was simple: to bike 3,042 miles through eight states, from San Diego, Cali., to St. Augustine, Fla. Three friends from Mount Desert Island, Auria Mauras, Noreen Hogan and Mary Raikes, left San Diego on Leap Day, Feb. 29, to start their adventure.
Mauras was bicycling to raise money to install a solar array at Willowind Therapeutic Riding Center in Bar Harbor through a GoFundMe campaign called “Pedal 4 Power.” The trip was also, as she told the Islander, “a good way to see the country.”
The trip was well planned. Bikes had been shipped from a Bar Harbor bike shop to one in San Diego, where the women reassembled them and hit the road. They followed the “southern tier route” outlined by the Adventure Cycling Association.
On quiet roads, with wide open land all around them, Mauras said, “our reality was waking up, biking and finding a place to camp.” Their phones had no service on the country roads, and they weren’t following the news as the coronavirus spread throughout the United States, with state after state issuing stay-at-home orders and declaring states of emergency.
The first time the travelers started hearing about the impact of the virus was in Arizona, Mauras said. By New Mexico, it really started to be in the news. They learned that their home state of Maine was shut down except for essential services.
“We went to Walmart,” Mauras said, “and we saw an aisle of toilet paper with a security guard.” In Texas, they saw an empty truck-stop diner that was only open for takeout.
Brewster County in Texas is where they began to run into trouble, as Mauras described in her travel blog. The three friends arrived in Alpine, Texas, on March 31, after the county had issued a travel ban. They were denied a camping spot at an RV park, so they tried a hotel.
The hotel employee wasn’t sure whether to allow them to stay or not, so he called the county sheriff’s office. The sheriff arrived in person and, in Mauras’ words, “told us very condescendingly that we weren’t supposed to travel; haven’t we heard of the virus?” The women left to camp at a picnic area outside of town.
When they reached Del Rio, a Texas town big enough to have a car rental company, “We made a quick decision to rent a van and go home,” Mauras said. “It was definitely a stressful decision.”
With their bike trip cut short by COVID-19, the three travelers drove the 2,000 miles home. Upon arriving in Ellsworth on April 7, the friends returned their rental car and biked the remaining miles onto Mount Desert Island. Since then, following CDC and state recommendations, they are all quarantining at home for 14 days. Mauras said her time in quarantine has allowed her to talk to friends and family in France, where she’s from.
As for the fundraising part of the trip, Mauras said she is figuring out what to do next. “How do we continue; how do we keep people safe and healthy and raise money?”