Photo of the Westward Wheels Arrival Party by Asia Morris. All others courtesy of Westward Wheels.
It's not an unknown fact that thousands of cyclists take to the long road ahead in cross-country journeys of exploration, month after month and year after year. Those who have a love for the bicycle and all it can do to help the human body tend to take advantage of the opportunities available, whether that involves cruising the entire Pacific Coast or scaling the Sierra Cascades.
But, not all of them are so adept at recording their grueling long-distance trips in a way that allows those of us sitting at home or at an office desk to truly enjoy, learn and become inspired by such a trying outdoor venture.
Two Long Beach natives and childhood friends, Charlie Hockett and Noah Le Beau, decided last year that they would ride their bikes from New York City to home again.
Hockett had just graduated from the University of Oregon with a geography degree and Le Beau was itching to use his philosophy background acquired from Fordham University in real time. They left NYC on June 1, 2015 and nearly 4,500 miles later, arrived in Long Beach this past Friday, September 18.
Perhaps what makes their journey stand out is not just their desire to see more of the country, or their accomplishment of riding over 4,000 miles, but their noble intention to learn from their lengthy two-wheeled endeavor and to bring that knowledge back for the betterment of all those interested. By starting with this well-written blog, Westward Wheels, which the two updated at stops along the way, they did exactly that, ending with a soon-to-be-made documentary. The documentary is a much anticipated work-in-progress, composed of interviews with people they met along the way, and much, much more.
Hockett and Le Beau intended this adventure to be an exploration of the "health, sustainability and people of the American landscape" and genuinely can't wait to share the expedition with their fans and followers.
Upon their arrival to the welcome party, still fresh off the bikes and spandex-clad, the dynamic duo was greeted touchingly at BO-beau kitchen + roof tap by friends and family. Hugs were had, tears were shed and stories were shared.
The Post plucked them from the pack to gather a few insights into their adventure. Le Beau was quick to dismiss the journey as a daunting endeavor and Hockett noted he had mixed feelings about concluding what was easily the best summer of his life.
“I think the first thing that people might jump at is the physicality of it,” said Le Beau of the trip’s level of difficulty. “It really takes two weeks to get in shape, and you can start from not being in shape at all to riding…I think that physically people might assume that it's a really challenging thing, it's really not. You plan for some days with some hills and then you get over the hills and it's all good.”
“You know, after the first week or so, our bodies were ready,” said Hockett. “Some days you're more tired than others, but you can do it all.”
Hockett said he had been looking forward to their return for "so long," and acknowledged feeling positive about celebrating with friends and family.
"But at the same time, you know, it was the most amazing summer I've had in my life and just, every day was a little more epic than the last," said Hockett. "Now that that's over I've gotta find new and different ways to keep that going.”
The two agreed that the logistics were the most burdensome part. As in figuring out where to sleep, eat or charge their phones. However, leaving room for spontaneity allowed for far more of an adventure.
Compromising also took a toll. Le Beau said it took them about a week to figure out how to fluidly work together, although through the process of having to work with each other, they created an invaluable environment to learn about themselves.
Priscilla Hockett, Charlie’s mother, attributed her son’s inspiration to ride to his grandfather, who rode half a dozen double centuries (200 miles in one sitting) and made cycling a major part of his life up until his 80s. She was more than happy to support their journey.
“I was all for it,” she said of first finding out they wanted to ride clear across the country. “I always say you're old for a long time. Do it now when you're young.”
Charlie Howarth of Oriole Imagery, who helped the two shoot documentary footage along the way, said he was beyond impressed by how much distance they were able to cover, despite the weight they were carrying and the hills they had to climb.
“I would get ahead of them, and I'd be thinking, 'They're way behind us, there's no way they've made it this far.' And here they come, right up on my tail,” he said. “It really made me think about what I'm doing right now. This is our time to really get out and see the world and experience things, and the fact that they got great educations, went to great colleges and just decided they wanted to get out there and see America at the grassroots level, I was so impressed by it and really blessed to be a part of the whole thing.”
Hockett says that, on a positive note, you’re exhausted every day, but it’s a matter of finding ways to motivate yourself.
“You don’t have the option to stop and turn back, you just have to find a way to get it done, whether you need to hype yourself up or talk yourself through it or put on music or whatever it is,” he said. “But just getting to the campsite everyday and being like, ‘'Wow, I thought I was going to pass out and I'm still here, I did it,' you realize when you push yourself you can really get things done."
Le Beau said the trip has inspired him to feel comfortable being on the move and having each and every day be vastly different from the next. It also caused him to reflect on its mundanity.
“Even though it might be the mundane of someone else's life[...], for us, if it's my first time coming through your city, it's all magical,” he said. “And the road's bumpy, but it's sparkly, and I'm so excited about it. So that's why traveling is such a good thing because although it may be someone's else's mundane, it is my brand new and that's why it's fun to be in a new place and constantly moving all the time.”
Now that this journey has come to a close, Le Beau’s plans involve finalizing the film and coming up with the next big project. He says this tour will be a stepping stone to pursuing more of his interests, which includes environmental philosophy. Hockett has decided to pursue a path toward bicycle advocacy and urban planning.