JAY - A pair of local residents have returned to their home here after a unique sight-seeing vacation.
Mike and Stephanie Battisti, both 52, are now safely at home in Jay after completing a coast-to-coast journey on a bicycle built for two.
"I don't think we were suffering from a mid-life crisis when we left," said Mike, "but it definitely made us take a step back and re-assess our lives, traveling through such a big and diverse country where we have the freedom to follow our dreams."
The Battistis set out in late May, starting their journey from the Atlantic coast of Yorktown, Va. Sleeping primarily in a tent along the way, they logged 4,271 miles on their tandem bicycle to reach the Pacific coast near Seattle, Wash. The journey lasted 94 days.
The trip sprung out of a desire to celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary in a unique way.
"In a way, it was like renewing our wedding vows," Mike said, noting how they needed to work together to overcome challenges and accomplish their cross-country goal, "although we can think of much easier ways to do it."
Their travel route followed the TransAmerica bicycle trail, established in 1976 as part of a celebration of the American Bicentennial. The route crosses the Appalachian, Ozark, and Rocky Mountain ranges and passes through Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks.
"We saw the Shenandoah Valley, the Great Plains, the Great Divide Basin, the Big Hole Valley," Mike said. "We went through Grand Teton and Yellowstone and saw Old Faithful erupt."
The couple averaged about 50 miles per day on the days they rode. They blogged about their travels along the way, sharing photographs of the major landmarks and day-to-day updates of their status. Tales of their travels can still be viewed at tandembattistis.blogspot.com.
"We had four flat tires," said Mike; "not bad considering our bike fully loaded, with us on it, weighed 450 pounds. We were able to dodge most thunderstorms, or sit them out in the shelter of a building or front porch. Headwinds were only occasionally a problem."
In the meantime, they took by-the-mile pledges from friends to support North Country Public Radio and Mountain Lake PBS. Altogether, they raised more than $3,000 to be split between the two organizations.
Still, as they recalled beautiful scenery and friendly greetings, the Battistis agree the experience was intrinsically rewarding.
"By bicycle, we were so much more dependent on services in the small towns that we couldn't help but reconnect with small town America," Mike said. "The trip was like the longest geography and American history field trip you could ever take."