We are joined today by Natalie Izzo. Natalie's first solo tour led her down a fantastic road to discovery, along with some wild and wonderful experiences along the way.
Natalie's love of cycling started with short weekend trips when she was in college. After graduation, she wanted to try something different, making her step out of her comfort zone. In the summer of 2018, Natalie took off for a three-month, cross-country bike tour from Anacortes, WA, to Bar Harbor, ME.
Natalie did not do a lot of training to prepare. She didn't buy a lot of fancy new gear; in fact, she rode the bicycle she had since she was 12 years old! All the rest of her gear was either decades old, borrowed, or bought second-hand. A little camping pillow was the only brand-new thing she bought. Natalie says that all you really need for a bike tour is a bike and a good attitude!
The beginning of the tour was a little daunting, and at times, she couldn't believe she was actually taking this crazy solo trip. Luckily, her mom was able to drive along and camp with her for the first two nights, so she didn't feel quite lonely. After that, she met many cyclists along the way and almost always had a traveling companion. The warmth of the cycling community eased her concerns about traveling solo.
Some of Natalie's wildest tour experiences were sleeping in a city park bathroom in Montana one night to escape a severe thunderstorm. It was actually quite comfortable, and she got a personal visit from the sheriff! Making it onto the local television and radio station in Fargo, ND, and then being recognized by someone on the street, just like a celebrity. Eating a meal that was entirely grown, hunted, or foraged by one of her Warmshowers hosts in Wisconsin. Having a crazy dream about a colorful chameleon in Michigan, and then the next day, while cycling on Highway 2, finding a chameleon Beanie Baby on the side of the road. She picked it up and named him Calvin; he is still with Natalie and lives on her nightstand.
Natalie shares that cycle touring is not about the gear, your level of experience, or how physically fit you are. It's about just going out there and doing it. It's about the surprising encounters you have with other cyclists, with Warmshowers hosts, with passersby who give you water or a big thumbs up. No matter how small, these interactions are what kept her going through deep loneliness, exhaustion, or frustration, not high-end gear or a ton of training.
Natalie truly believes that to restore one's faith in humanity, you just need to hop on a bicycle and go explore.
You can learn more about Natalie on Instagram at Nizzo.Hope.