Oliver Cannard pedaled through state and national parks, across the Rockies and along rolling, white-fenced farmlands, but the spectacular scenery isn’t what the 18-year-old cyclist will remember most from his cross-country trek on the TransAmerica Bicycle Trail.
The highlight for Cannard “was definitely the people, and how kind people were and how willing they were to help.”
Strangers picked up meal tabs, applauded his determination and, through a biking app, welcomed him into their homes for warm showers, homemade meals and a solid night’s sleep. “It was everyone” who opened their doors, Cannard said, from college students to retirees.
The Sonoma resident spent 2½ months biking 4,300 miles from Astoria, Oregon, to Yorktown, Virginia, although not without interruption. More than halfway into his adventure, Cannard was attacked by three dogs in Missouri, suffering several bites on his leg as he tried to defend himself. A passing motorist came to his aid, one of countless acts of kindness Cannard experienced from coast to coast.
Cannard set out on the solo trek in June, two weeks after graduating from Sonoma Valley High School. He spent his senior year earning money and carefully planning every detail of his trip, budgeting about $3,000. A dog attack wasn’t something he could ever anticipate — and it wasn’t something to prevent him from completing the journey.
“There was no doubt,” Cannard said. “I was definitely going to finish it out.”
He flew home to recover, avoiding rabies treatments after officials in Missouri located the dogs’ owner. After a month at home — he extended his time there to help his parents, Julie and Tom Cannard, move into a new home — he headed back to complete the final stage of his trip. An online campaign started by a friend raised enough money to cover the unexpected travel expenses.
While Cannard devoted much time to planning, researching, budgeting and earning money for the trek by doing landscaping and small construction projects, he never found time for fitness conditioning. Between school, work and raising steers for his FFA project, along with completing his senior project and earning his Eagle Scout award, he rarely had time to take long bike rides in preparation for his journey.
“I was in good shape. There was no issue not to do things,” Cannard said. “Now I’m in better shape.”
With excitement and anticipation, Cannard dipped the back wheel of his 18-pound Trek CrossRip 3 bike into the Pacific Ocean in Oregon (as is tradition), climbed aboard and began pedaling. The trail took him across Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky and Virginia — through heat, humidity, rain, wind, frigid temperatures, “everything except snow.”
Cannard averaged 90 to 100 miles the first few days, before reconsidering his goals. “I just realized when I got out there I really didn’t need to push myself.”
Even so, he often pedaled 80 to 100 miles, averaging seven to eight hours of biking a day. He hit 120 miles on his longest day, nearly 10 hours on the road.
The trail, established in 1973 by the nonprofit Adventure Cycling Association, mostly follows rural, two-lane roads that Cannard compares to Highway 12 in Sonoma County.