05 August, 2014
Angeline Tan is the first Singapore/Malaysian athlete to cycle 4,ooo miles across America. (Photo by Angeline Tan)
How do you conclude an activity you enjoy immensely? Do you end it with a bang? Or simply try not to think about it as the end day approaches?
For Angeline Tan, the Southeast Asian triathlete who had cycled 4,000 miles across America, she decided to take things slow on the last day of her journey.
“My riding buddy and I rode leisurely,” she told the SEA Games editorial team. “We chatted with people, petted and fed a horse just 25 miles from the finishing point...It felt nice not to have to worry about waking up early and riding 100 miles every day, but at the same time, I immediately missed it.”
Angeline, who turns 36 in August, took part in the Trans Am Bike Race on 7 June with 42 other cyclists to cycle 4,233 miles east, starting from Oregon and finishing in Virginia. She had also planned to document her 40 day journey, and had set out on the race having only managed to raise 60% of the funds that were needed for production costs.
The lack of funds eventually caught up with her, and on Day 26 of her journey, she realised that she had to find a shorter route to Virginia in the shortest time possible (she still wanted to reach the end point). It also did not help that the Trans Am Bike Race’s distance was considerably longer than what she had expected; the funds that she currently had could not cover the production costs for an extra few days of cycling.
The distance that Angeline cycled – 4000 miles, is 1,500 miles lesser than the length of the Great Wall of China. (Photo by Angeline Tan)
Angeline also made a confession that she was not enjoying herself during the first few weeks of being in the race. Riding 10 to 12 hours a day, she was entirely focused on the race rather than producing the documentary.
“I felt like a letdown to my supporters - here I was, supposedly riding across America and documenting inspiring stories...I needed to make the tough decision of dropping out of the race so I could realign myself back to the original vision, which was to enjoy the ride, interact with people, do fun stuff, and focus on producing a good document.”
In the end, she planned a new route that would take her to the East Coast in the shortest time possible, and she even managed to reach her end destination a day early.
All in all, her journey had been nothing short of extraordinary. She has heard numerous people stories, and she was fortunate enough to have a cycling buddy, Derek Wilson, alongside her for the journey.
“We met on Day 1 of the race, and rode the same pace for the entire trip.” Both had wanted to drop out on Day 26, but decided to continue their journey following Angeline’s prescribed route.
She also met remarkable people along the way, one of them being Greg Griffin, whom she met in Illinois on Day 31. Greg was involved in a motor accident which made him lose both his legs, and took away his dreams of joining the military, leading him to resort to handling illegal activity. After being sent to a rehabilitation centre, he realised that his activities were placing his loved ones in harm’s way. Now, he has learnt to live simply and happily with his family, who are his source of joy and living.
Although Angeline had plans for an exciting American food trail throughout the journey, they had to settle for eating on-the-go, due to time constraints, and that meant entering into a fast food joint. That being said, she was still able to accomplish her food trail. “I had really good food in Lander, a small town in Wyoming, terrific pasta in Silverthorne, a skiing resort in Colorado and in most places, the breakfast pancakes were terrific.”
The most scenic place that she has cycled through would no doubt be Yellowstone National Park, in which she had expressed a few months ago her anticipation about cycling through the enormous World Heritage Site. Now, it has been accomplished.
“I could fall in love over and over again with Yellowstone... I stopped frequently for several hours to visit some of the geysers and sights, while riding over 100 miles that day. It was a tough choice to make, not to see more of Yellowstone, but we had to keep moving east, given our time constraints.”
Virginia was the twelfth state on Angeline’s cycling journey. (Photo by Angeline Tan)
Cycling 4,000 miles across America does not come without its challenges, and Angeline has certainly met her fair share of them.
“In Montana, I rode through freezing cold weather such that I could not feel my fingers and hands and the grip on my handlebar... In Colorado, I encountered the mosquito hatching season where snarly mosquitoes and gnats in the droves surround and bit me mercilessly as I struggle to ride up the steep mountain passes... In Kansas, I rode against unbelievably strong headwinds which blew relentlessly at over 50 mph; I was barely moving forward even though I was pedalling hard.”
There were days when she had wanted to call it quits and go back home, but what kept her going was her sheer willpower. “Despite the insurmountable challenges I faced, what kept me going mile after mile, day after day, is the inability to quit... When I could pedal no more, I'd tell myself, not today, Angie, not today. So I'd keep pedalling.”
When it comes to achieving the impossible, Angeline is no doubt aware of what it takes to reach the destination, even when times are tough.
She tells of how important it is to keep moving on going: “Even when you can’t go on further, you will always find another ounce of will to keep moving forward. When you want to quit, tell yourself, ‘Not today, not today.’”
“Before you know it, you would have overcome the difficult bits and arrived at your dream.”
Now that she has conquered America, Angeline is now planning a new cycling route, this time of a much grander scale. “I haven’t spoken to my husband yet, but I would like to ride across the European and Asian continent, from London to Beijing, next.”