She pedaled through 14 states, got two flat tires, fell three times, and ate countless meals in Dollar General parking lots. She braved hills, 110-degree heat and relentless winds. But Malvernite Sarah O’Connor, who has been riding a bike across the country to raise money for the Interfaith Nutrition Network, said she arrived in Santa Monica, Calif., on Sunday, and that the accomplishment was well worth the effort.
“I feel tired, but good,” said O’Connor, who celebrated her 23rd birthday on the road on Aug. 5. “The INN is such a great organization, and I’m glad I helped them.”
O’Connor raised a total of $12,421 — her goal was $25,000 — which will provide meals for those who come to the charity for help.
The best part of the trip, she said on Monday, was meeting the many people who helped her along the way. Firefighters who gave her meals and offered lodging. Strangers who helped her fix flats. Others who offered her meals — and particularly those who donated to the INN on her behalf. “I’m forever grateful for the help I received along the way,” she said.
O’Connor began her journey from the George Washington Bridge on June 25 with her friend Joey Karp. She has been cycling on her own since they said goodbye in Missouri late last month.
Two weeks ago, she recounted, while she was in Texas, she was looking over online maps of historic Route 66, and realized that huge sections of the highway in New Mexico and Arizona no longer existed. The maps suggested that she bike on Interstate 40 instead — which is dangerous and illegal. “It’s filled with massive trucks zooming past small shoulders at 75 miles an hour,” she said.
Fortunately, her father was available to meet her, and he gave her a ride to an area where she could safely get back on her bike. Though that knocked some mileage off her trip, O’Connor estimated that she had still pedaled some 3,000 miles.
New Mexico and Arizona were her favorite states, she said, because of their stunning beauty. “They are both incredibly picturesque, and the desert environment is drastically different from anywhere else I’ve ridden on this journey,” she said. “I was biking through a winding road, surrounded by massive, bright orange boulders, with a view of these gorgeous red mountains in all directions, and I just had to stop for a moment and process the fact that I had actually made it there on a bicycle.”
She said she had also pedaled through Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona, which was filled with multicolored, blue and pink hills. “It was one of the most beautiful landscapes I’ve ever seen,” she said.
O’Connor said she averaged 70 miles per day, and started out dedicating 10 to 12 hours a day to riding, but toward the end that was more like seven to eight hours. During the last week of her trip, she said, she spent her time on the bike listening to music, but she logged the majority of the miles without any distractions.
After spending several days with family in Riverside, Calif., she planned to visit a friend in San Francisco before returning to Malverne on Monday.