Leaving On my Epic Journey by Kellie Morris

I’m leaving on my Epic Journey May 17, 2012: a bike ride across the USA

I’m a 58 year old grandmother who has been married for 30 years.  My husband and I live in North Long Beach.   I started cycling in earnest in 2002 when I trained and rode in the AIDSride: a 7 day fundraiser ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles.  I kept riding locally but missed being on the road for multi-day trips.  So I rode the 8 day Amgen Coast Classic (a ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles) in 2006 and 2007.  My husband also rode the 2007 Amgen Coast Classic with me in 2007. These were fundraisers for arthritis research and treatment.   

I met Pat Messer and her husband during the Amgen Coast Classic 2006 and we became close friends.  She was the one who shared her dream to ride across the USA.  I thought, in 2006, that she was nuts.  Especially since she was planning on camping! I am a serious city gal and staying Motel 6 is my idea of roughing it.  I do NOT camp!  Ugh! Sleeping in a tent! Bugs and dirt! No 15 minute hot showers? Wearing the same clothes day after day? Squatting in the woods?  No way!!!!!!!

But life has a way of changing the “no ways” in our lives. I was laid off my well-paying job as an IT Project Manager, in 2009 and was then unable to work due to illness. That illness was diagnosed in 2010 as mixed connective tissue disease: an autoimmune disease. While I was seeing to my health, I realized that there are some things more important than getting ahead, making money and living comfortably. My husband and I have made a major downsize and now live a much more simple life. We have come to cherish what cannot be taken away from us: love, close friendships, building memories, growing emotionally and spiritually and serving others.

Now I could hear Pat as she shared her dream with me. I began to have the same dream. I knew that we could work well together: we would have to since we would spend 90 days together for this ride. So the seed of an idea that she had planted many years ago was starting to take root.


On May 17th, we start our 90 day Epic Journey: a bicycle ride across the USA, from Maine to Washington state. 4200 miles in 90 days.  We will haul all our gear in trailers attached to our bikes and camp under the stars every night.  You can follow us now and during the journey on our Facebook page:

I have learned a lot from Pat about how to plan and execute an exciting Epic Journey. I would like this trip to give vision for many other people:

  • That you can take on this extraordinary physical and mental challenge even though you are pushing 60!
  • That you can take on this extraordinary physical and mental challenge even though you suffer from a chronic, painful disease.
  • That you can take on this extraordinary physical and mental challenge even though there are few role models in the African-American community who cycle!

Just My Bike and Me by Nicolette Norris

Nicolette at Bikestation Image: Bernard Serrano of Cyclone Coaster

They say that knowing how things work is the basis for appreciation, and that therefore, you need to understand something in order to appreciate it. It wasn’t until I was a sixteen-year-old being driven into Belmont Shore, that I truly recognized the meaning of this saying. I was already impatient with an eagerness to ride my bike. Of course, I didn't actually own the bike yet; I was on my way to Jones Bicycles to purchase it. This bike, however, might as well have been mine already. I had entered the shop at least three times preceding this day just to stare at the vehicle I so strongly desired, each time finding a new feature to fall in love with. But today was the day that I didn't have to walk out of the shop empty-handed.

I felt my heart race as I viewed the storefront and couldn’t even wait for the car to park before I hopped out. I entered the shop and tried to make the transaction as quickly as possible, and I finally held the bike in my hands, admiring the beauty and comprehending the fact that it belonged to me. Then the salesman asked if I had ridden a bike like this before. This bike, a single-speed draft, was one that I had never actually ridden. I had been used to beach cruisers, but I was naive and assumed that all bikes rode the same way, so I confidently responded that I had, despite the fact that I hadn't. However, I must not have been very convincing because the salesman smiled and suggested that I take it for a test spin.

From the moment that I tossed my right leg over the bike, I could tell that it was going to be difficult, and the clatter of fallen racks in the store was all the proof I needed. It moved a lot faster than I was used to, and the seat was definitely a lot higher than the average beach cruiser, which forced me to bend down to reach the handlebars. But I am the type who enjoys a challenge, so I went through with the purchase anyway, refusing to let anything get in the way of my bike and me (even the fact that I could hardly ride it). To anyone else, this might have been foolish, but that eagerness took hold of me, and before I knew it, I was leaving the bike shop’s scent of metal and elbow grease with handlebars in hands.

Since I was dropped off and assumed that it would be an easy trip, I intended on riding the bike home. But as it turned out, the journey was anything but easy. With each stoplight, I nearly flung myself over the handlebars from braking too hard, and at the time, I wasn’t used to riding a bike so tall. Still, conscious of the danger I was facing and the law I was breaking, I continued to ride my bike through the congested sidewalks of Belmont Shore, hearing indistinct conversations (and sometimes, angry pedestrians) as I passed. My annoyance had been building up since the moment I sat on the bike seat, and not even four blocks in, I just wanted to run these people over.

Then as I reached the quiet residential streets, my mood changed completely. Without pedestrians in my way, all anxiety disappeared, and at this point, it was just my bike and me, cruising the streets of Long Beach. Yes, I was still a bit of an amateur at braking and adjusting to the bike‘s size, but I had about thirty blocks to perfect the skill. By the time I made it home, I had the confidence of a pro and, at some point, began to ride in the streets (which are actually much easier to ride on than the sidewalk, I learned).

What started as a dream gone wrong turned into a learning experience. Ever since that summer day, I've been in love with my single-speed draft, and just as the quote suggested, I truly appreciated it after learning how it worked. Two years later, the bike is still holding strong, and not a day goes by that I regret my purchase. Nothing, not even inexperience, gets in the way of my bike and me. And that's something learned the day I bought it.

About Nicolette Norris

Nicolette Norris is currently a senior at Renaissance High School for the Arts. She has a passion for journalism and is currently the editor-in-chief of her school newspaper. Nicolette enjoys hanging out with her friends in her spare time and, of course, riding her bike. She will be attending California State University, Long Beach in the fall and intends on majoring in Communications.