Following graduation in May, Zack Goodman ’16 completed a solo, coast-to-coast bicycling trip, traveling almost 4,000 miles – from Washington to his home state of Maryland – over 41 days.
The idea for this trek had been in the back of Goodman’s mind since he interned with Volvo Trucks in Europe two summers ago. While traveling along the Mediterranean coast, he realized he’d seen relatively little of the United States, and made it his goal to travel more domestically upon his return. While an internship prevented him from joining his Triathlon Club teammates on a cross country cycling trip last summer, Goodman decided the few months between college and graduate school would be the ideal time for him to make a similar journey. He saw it as the “perfect combination of adventure, sightseeing, and physical and mental challenge.”
Goodman’s only reservation was his lack of a companion. He asked around the Raleigh cycling community but found no takers. He looked into joining 4K for Cancer or Bike & Build – groups that perform service work along the way – but neither offered trips that coincided with his availability. He compromised by choosing a route on which he was likely to meet other cyclists and agreeing to post regular updates on social media to quell the concerns of family and friends.
“To maximize my chances of meeting other cyclists, I wanted to stick to one of the three major west-east cross U.S. routes planned by the Adventure Cycling Association,” Goodman said. “Of the three, I ended up choosing what is called the Northern Tier route, which starts in Washington state and ends in Maine. I
planned to follow the Northern Tier route until reaching Wisconsin, at which point I would make my way towards Maryland (my home state) following a route that I constructed on Google Maps from a hodgepodge of state bike maps, cycling forums, and best guesses.”
Ultimately, Goodman – who medaled three times at the East Coast Collegiate Swim National Championships and competed at the USA Triathlon Collegiate National Championships – traversed three National Parks, seven major cities, 14 states/provinces, and many miles of rural landscapes. Among his favorite stops was Glacier National Park, where he and four cyclists he’d met the day before climbed Going to the Sun Road and reached Logan Pass at 6,646 feet above sea level. He also appreciated Minneapolis’ bike-friendliness and Chicago’s Lakefront Trail, where he pedaled with Lake Michigan on his left and the city skyline on his right. Along his journey, Goodman camped and frequently stayed with welcoming strangers who open their homes to touring cyclists via a web-based community called Warm Showers.
“My trip removed me from my usual environment and exposed me to things I may not notice at home or in the media,” said Goodman. “Most notable were the innumerable examples of human goodness that I encountered. The group of elderly people having breakfast who invited me to sit with them when they noticed I was alone, the truck driver who stopped on his way home from work to offer to refill my water bottles, the random cyclist in Milwaukee who changed his route to show me some of the highlights of the city and help me find my destination – all reminded me that people are generally good and that the horrid events recently prominent in the media are the exception.”
Goodman connected with several fellow Park Scholars throughout his trip. He began his journey by driving west with Thomas Pulliam ‘16, his roommate of three years, who will begin medical school at the University of Washington this fall. Together they explored the Badlands of South Dakota and Yellowstone National Park, and stayed with Vishwas Rao ‘17 in Rochester, Minn., where he spent the summer conducting research at the Mayo Clinic. Liv Adams ‘16 hosted Goodman in Chicago, where she was interning with JPMorgan Chase. Keara Saud ‘16 biked with him 85 miles into Cleveland, where they had lunch with Pranav Kemburu ‘19 (who was interning at NASA’s Glenn Research Center). Goodman also followed the recommendation of Sarah Paluskiewicz ‘16 and read Daniel Gilbert’s Stumbling on Happiness. One of the book’s themes, “seeing what isn’t there” – the seemingly inhuman ability to observe what is absent in the present – laid the groundwork for many of Goodman’s personal reflections as he traveled.
These reflections, Goodman noted, were laced with lessons learned as a Park Scholar.
“My Park experience instilled in me the importance of taking initiative and seizing opportunities,” he said. “I have always been adventurous, but I’m not sure I would have accepted a challenge quite as daunting as a solo cross country bicycle trip without having completed the program. The Park leaves scholars with ‘If not you, then who?’ and ‘If not now, then when?’ attitudes, which can be applicable to running for public office, launching a nonprofit, or in my case, biking across the country.”
Goodman, who majored in economics and mechanical engineering at NC State, will begin his Ph.D. in economics at the University of California, San Diego this fall.