Photos courtesy of Noah Le Beau and Charlie Hockett.
Like many college students who hit the point of graduation, Long Beachers Charlie Hockett and Noah LeBeau pondered the great question that many of us ponder after a major achievement: What’s next?
In their words, they dreamt of doing something epic—and given the inner adventurer that Noah was and the explorer-by-bike that Charlie was, the idea of venturing from New York City to Long Beach by way of their two-wheeled steeds became not just an idea but a venture toward a new era of life; something that would harness what they’ve learned but say au revoir to a part of their lives that they would be stepping away from. And now, the biking partners will be returning back to their hometownafter 4,500-plus miles of cities, plains, forests, road, and the indescribable experience of doing something few ever achieve and celebrate in DTLB with friends, family and anyone who wishes to hear their tale.
The discussion of an epic adventure—that they dubbed Westward Wheels—moved toward tangible planning as the pair built their own Surly Long Haul Truckers and, day after day as June 1st approached, trained (of which Charlie [pictured below] noted that after riding his new bike, his old bike, Mikelah, “perpetually felt like it is riding through mud”). Combine this with Noah’s major in philosophy and Charlie’s major in geography—a perfect pairing if there ever was one for a cross-country bike tour—and you have what could be the stuff of exploration magic.
June 1st came and three days later, the pair found themselves in Philadelphia, an old-meets-new city of brick and places that are cogs of American history—or in the words of Noah, “a city that seems to be constantly moving. We went to the oldest bar in the city and danced amongst sweaty and happy Philadelphians.”
The dancing prefaced what would be one their most grueling days of the trip—June 8th—where they climbed a 4,000-foot elevation across 60 miles and, despite the excessively mayo-ed veggie wrap and high fructose corn syrup smoothie that was their only reward, ultimately proved a rewarding part of their experience.
“Never have I experienced such freedom as I have during the last few months I’ve spent on the road on my bike. There is something so wondrous out there and I am free to know it.”
”[W]e fell into conversation with two older guys sitting behind Charlie,” Noah said. “As we talked, the wind continued to howl and grow in strength and the men mentioned that it was supposed to thunderstorm that afternoon around 3 o’clock. It was 2:30. We had another 20 miles to go and it involved going over the top of a mountain. To say the least, we were not confident that we could make it. Before we left in a panic the two men gave us a tip, we could ride through a closed turnpike that would allow us to go under the mountain.”
Thank to the assistance of a retired Navy vet, they found the tunnels that would provide them brief shelter—well, make that two tunnels. Nearing some 12-plus miles through both tunnels, they then had to face an uphill climb that stretched for miles.
”Finally, after six more miles of puddles, lighter rain, pot holes, and gravel, we met another metal gate similar to the one we encountered on the west side of the turn pike. This time there was more room to pass and we rode on through. Down a dirt cliff we descended, walking our bikes, for the final time, leaving the turn pike behind and with only three quarters of a mile until the Econolodge were we would stay. We pulled up, got a room, showered, and went to dinner. Charlie and I hugged, joked and moved on. We were only at the end of week one, the trip had only just started.”
That spectacular trip would span through Detroit and Chicago, into the Great Plains and rural Oregon, and into San Francisco.
Now, they are coming home and joining BO-beau’s rooftop of craft beers to cheers with, well, anyone who is willing to cheers with them. After all, from kind strangers to chance encounters, the traveler’s spirit is bright within both of these young men—and they want anyone to enjoy their accomplishment with them come Friday, September 18, when they hit BO-beau’s at 3PM. For those wishing to ride with them through Long Beach, they’ll be making a pit stop at 2:30PM where the LA River Bike Path hits Pacific Coast Highway.
“Never have I experienced such freedom as I have during the last few months I’ve spent on the road on my bike,” Noah said. “There is something so wondrous out there and I am free to know it.”
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