Cece Hampton ’24
This past summer, junior Bantam rower Felix Goldmann embarked on the trip of a lifetime: riding his bike 3,500 miles across the United States. At the beginning of June, Goldmann began the journey with his friend in San Francisco, California. Their goal was to complete the trip in under 60 days, which meant biking an average of 76 miles every day, with some days seeing upwards of 90 miles. Aside from the mileage, the terrain, elevation, and weather each presented their own challenges. Hailing from Freiburg, Germany, and having attended two years of high school at UWC in Costa Rica, Goldmann has seen a lot of the world. This biking trip proved to be a unique way of experiencing parts of the United States he had never seen before.
Goldmann began biking at sea level, starting in the vast wheat fields of California. He soon gained 8,000 feet in elevation over the course of just two days as he approached the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Goldmann and his friend had underestimated the cold temperatures they would encounter, camping at night in temperatures reaching the low 30s. After leaving the Sierra Nevada, the duo passed Lake Tahoe and entered Carson City. Between Nevada and Utah, the landscape completely changed. In these western states, Goldmann says that they often camped in basins and remote deserts, with the nearest towns being dozens of miles away. Goldmann was able to witness the Milky Way in the night sky with the naked eye, and describes these places as the “greatest nights” he has ever seen.
Biking for hours upon hours each day is not an easy feat, physically or mentally. By day four of the trip, Goldmann admits he was bogged down by the thought of how many miles he had left to go. Ascending a mountain with over an hour and a half of arduous uphill biking took a toll on his motivation. As he pushed on, he realized that the only way through would be approaching the journey just ten yards at a time, focusing on the road ahead and nothing behind him. Goldmann encountered all different landscapes – from the desert, to the Colorado Rockies, to the prairies, and more. Goldmann describes the views as the most stunning he has ever seen, explaining, “With so much natural power around you, you are able to feel how you connect with the landscape as you conquer those mountains.” With the mindset of always moving forward, and never turning back, Goldmann found his cross-country bike journey to represent a mindset for approaching life, calling it “truly a way of living.” He says, “We never thought of what happened behind us. We were only thinking about the day ahead of us or the day after.”
Between days 21 and 22 of the trip, around 1500 miles into the journey, Goldmann experienced 15 flat tires. While he knew how to do basic bike repairs, nothing seemed to be working for long between each time he had to stop and pump the tire up again. Having yet to reach the halfway mark of the journey at this point, Goldmann admits he began questioning if the journey was still doable. Despite these doubts, Goldmann pushed through, and ended up buying an entirely new outer tire for his bike. Goldmann says that making it through Monarch Pass in the Colorado Rockies under these conditions is the part of the trip that he is most proud of. Another challenge Goldmann faced was the monotonous plains he encountered in eastern Colorado and Kansas. For ten straight days, Goldmann biked through fields upon fields, passing the occasional corn storage unit or tiny town with a singular gas station. Additionally, he faced brutal headwinds, extreme heat and humidity, tons of flies, and zero protection from the blazing sun. It was hard to take even a short snack break during this leg of the journey because of these conditions. Goldmann also said that on these kinds of roads, it is difficult to track your progress, making it even more challenging to stay motivated.
After the duo reached Missouri, they split ways, each having their own itinerary they wanted to pursue and preferred end destination. Goldmann chose to travel through the midwestern states, passing through Indianapolis and Columbus, among other cities, while his friend wanted to experience the southern states, like Kentucky and Virginia. Goldmann explains the solo part of the trip as being on “a whole different level.” He shares, “You have to push yourself every day, since no one is there holding you accountable anymore.”
The biggest surprise Goldmann encountered on the trip was the hospitality of the strangers that he met along the way. While he camped many nights throughout the trip, he also ended up sleeping in 14 or 15 different houses of people he met on the road. He explains that when people heard about the trip that he was on, they jumped at the opportunity to offer a couch or any kind of accommodation possible. In Davis, California, he slept in an art studio. In Dolores, Colorado, he slept at the construction site of a bike hostel. In Missouri, he got to swim in a stranger’s swimming pool, and had breakfast and dinner with them. Even when people had barely anything to offer, they still tried to help. Others would stop in the middle of the road to offer water or gatorade. Goldmann says, “Regardless of political views or ideologies, it’s such a friendly nation, which is a side of the U.S. I have not seen too much before.”
Goldmann concluded his bike trip towards the end of July in Washington DC, after 46 days of riding. The incredible journey gave Goldmann a unique perspective on not only the various landscapes of the U.S., but also of the different people, cultures, and communities across the nation. It expanded his perception on how much he himself is capable of, physically and mentally, and helped him to recognize that “the pain was only a way to make it easier afterwards.” He will continue to apply this mindset towards his rowing career, reminding himself of what his body and mind are capable of, as well as in academics, and beyond. At the end of the day, Goldmann recognizes that the key to achieving success all comes down to having the right mentality.