“I mean, the biking and the views are gorgeous,” says Diane Haupt, “but to me it’s more about the journey and just connecting with people and just seeing all the good in the world and the country.”
Biking cross country for more than two months straight requires a constant push—both the pedals and personal will to perform. Thankfully, local cyclist Diane Haupt had no trouble finding places to rest and recharge during her recent two-wheeled adventure on the Trans-American Trail.
“I’ve slept everywhere from sheep wagons to horse trailers to churches and distilleries to breweries to teepees,” says Haupt, a retired physical therapist and owner of Dynamic Health Services. “I’ve slept on Indian reservations. I’ve just been trying to sleep in as many diverse or different types of dwellings as possible.”
Haupt attributes her eclectic accommodations to welcoming people along her route who are used to bikers riding the trail, developed in 1976 specifically for cyclists to transverse the US. She began her journey on May 24 with a wheel dip in the Atlantic Ocean in Virginia Beach and a goal of finishing 4,300 miles in mid-August with a culminating dip in the Pacific Ocean in Oregon.
She says she hoped to connect with people post quarantine and also collect donations for Cycling Without Age, an international non-profit that provides rickshaw rides to elderly people who have limited mobility. Not only did Haupt connect, but she got offered shelter from the pouring rain, scored a fly-fishing lesson and took unplanned side trips to natural wonders like Glacier National Park with people she met along her trek.
“I mean, the biking and the views are gorgeous, but to me it’s more about the journey and just connecting with people and just seeing all the good in the world and the country,” she says. “It’s really just been amazing how nice people are.”
Haupt says the people made up for some more challenging aspects of cross-country biking, like dealing with weather extremes along the way. She faced 106-degree temperatures in Kansas, unexpected biting cold in Colorado, harsh winds and worst of all—wildfires with smoke so thick she needed to wear a mask and struggled to see.
“You know, it’s 100-something one day and 30 the next,” Haupt describes. “It depends on where you are. At one point rain was just dumping, and everything was being soaked. My frame actually cracked where the cargo is attached. The screws pulled away and I had holes in my frame. I had to go to a radiator shop and get the cargo carrier welded back to the bike.”
Thank goodness she was well prepped for the unexpected, including a bike and gear totaling 80 pounds. She rode with a backpack of daily necessities; a tent on her handlebars; and all of her food, clothing, sleeping bag and mattress pad in the panniers on the back. To test her stamina—and the gear—Haupt says she planned several cycling day trips in Coastal Virginia and a Blue Ridge Mountain excursion.
No doubt Haupt has ambition, which bodes well for her goal to start a local chapter of Cycling Without Age and inspire seniors to get outdoors to learn the pleasure of pedaling.
“COVID hit everybody hard, and I’m a physical therapist so I work a lot with older people, and I really saw how hard they were really hit just mentally and even physically because they weren’t getting out and losing the human interaction.”
Haupt finished her bike tour ahead of her goal, dipping her wheel in Astoria, Oregon in early August, and then catching a redeye to Richmond to surprise a senior of particular importance—her mom.
“I think in general just, you know, don’t put limits on yourself,” she says. “Where there’s a will there’s a way. If you have a desire or dream, go for it. This was beyond my expectations, just connecting to the people and seeing how much physical beauty there is in our country and in people’s hearts.”
Cycling Without Age
For more info about Cycling Without Age visit CyclingWithoutAge.org. For more about Diane Haupt and to donate to her cause, visit BikeNorfolk.org/2021/05/15/About-Diane-Haupt/.
At press time, she had raised $22,000, with the hope of reaching $30,000 so she could fund two rickshaw bicycles.