The Pedaling Princesses have obtained their goal of riding coast to coast on bicycle.
On Thursday, June 10, Shauna Stoeger and Erica Dillig began making their way across the North American continent. Dipping their bike tires into the sand and surf of the Pacific Ocean, they looked to the east with steely determination and a healthy dose of youthful assuredness. They didn’t give up until they reached the Atlantic Ocean in Bar Harbor, Maine on August 13.
The driving force for these girls, besides the love of biking, was to make a difference in the life of someone else. They pedaled over 3,100 miles with pledges secured for their chosen charities. Stoeger rode for Harbor House domestic abuse programs. Dillig rode for the American Cancer Society.
The energy of a biking odyssey was still pumping through Shauna Stoeger when she stopped by the newspaper office for a recap interview. There were plenty of stories to tell, a Stoeger family trait that Shauna inherited and enjoys.
Highlights that came to mind for Stoeger included wildlife sightings of moose and prong horned sheep, and experiencing the beauty of Glacier National Park. “The Cascade Mountains were incredibly beautiful, too,” she said. She recalled the Adironacks being lush, Vermont being so vibrant and the White Mountains in New Hampshire being very steep. “Maine is very hilly and Bar Harbor, where we completed our trek, was tougher than we imagined. The road surface was horrible and made for rough riding at the end.”
She said out of the entire experience, she’d never forget the people she met, especially Delores, a 69-year old Manhattan native who was going the same route across the continent. “We met up with Delores early in our trip and she was an inspiration to us as we tackled those mountain roads.”
Out west, when the girls were waiting a few days for a replacement tire to be delivered to an RV Park, the girls met up with a Vietnam War veteran who later explained that he had been an interrogator in the war. He left them gulping in amazement and a bit of fear each time they conversed with him. “He was a rough guy and he yelled at everyone. But we realized, after a while, that’s just the way he spoke. He caught a six pound walleye that he fried up for us and the next day he offered to take us to see the dam nearby, since we were wasting time waiting for an inner tube to arrive. We’ll never forget his rough ways and still showing us kindness.”
Another good Samaritan was a Scheels Sporting Goods employee who offered to drive 300 miles on his own time to help them out. Stoeger recalls a man who insisted they take his road atlas to use on their journey.
In Montana the girls met up with some friends from Erica’s church who were vacationing at a relative’s house. The relatives were insistent on extending their hospitality. “You guys are college students biking across the country for charity, we’re going to put you up and that’s all the discussion we need about it,” said the relative. They offered their beds, laundry room and fed them great meals.
“Erica blew a tire in Towner, North Dakota and the only place we could find to sleep was their city park. We ate at a cafè and were transporting our gear from the main street to this park and people offered their golf cart to help us to the park,” explained Stoeger.
“These random acts of kindness – you don’t forget them.”
Unfortunately the two had their share of broken spokes, flat tires, bent rims and wipeouts. “Our record was four flats in one day while in North Dakota.”
Stoeger and Dillig traveled through a familiar spot once they got to the Midwest – the starting point of the Mississippi River, where they had begun their Mississippi River ride two summers ago.
She said in the Eastern United States things were different than the West and Midwest. “People were more apt to donate to our cause when we explained that we were trying to make a difference. They would dig in their pocket and give us loose change or a few dollars and they didn’t even know us.”
In Lewiston, New York, Stoeger experienced her second accident in the course of the trip.
“I just remember trying to turn my bike wheel so it wouldn’t get caught in an angled railroad track and I went over the handlebars, just like I did in Minnesota.”
Again she was taken care of by strangers. “People came out of nowhere and picked up my bike and helped Erica deal with me. I was in a lot of pain and was bleeding pretty bad and those people really meant a lot to her.” She said the EMT’s picked up their bikes and put them in the back of a rescue vehicle to transport them to the hospital.
The bikers recuperated in Rochester for two days and rode 30 miles the first day back on the road. “That was hard. Really, really hard,” says Stoeger.
Then she chuckles. “We had both of our families there to celebrate with us at the end of our journey; only thing is, my family got caught in small town traffic and Erica’s family was busy putting up a congratulations sign and nobody actually saw us come down the last hill to the ocean! It’s pretty comical really.”
So what’s next? “Finish school,” says Stoeger, who attends UW-Eau Claire and is majoring in Psychology and Spanish. Her pedaling princess partner Erica attends UW-Stevens Point and majors in Health, Promotion and Wellness.
Read the full cross-continent journal written by Stoeger and Dillig at www.crazyguyonabike.com/pedalingprincesses2. To learn more about Harbor House, go to www.harborhouseonline.org. Online donations can be made there.
Send correspondence to: Shauna Stoeger, W8964 State Rd. 96, Hortonville, WI 54944.