Rallying in Rhinelander
Trans-american cycling duo catch their breath
By Jared Raney
Rhinelander played host to some special guests this week, in the form of two daring amateur cyclists who are two-thirds of the way through biking across the continental U.S.. Collin Arnett, a Minnesota native who went to UW-Madison, and Devin Burke, a UW-Madison alumnus from Illinois, embarked from Astoria, Oregon at the end of May.
Neither of the pair are professional cyclists, nor anything close, truth to tell. Both admitted to having very little training or experience relative to the scope of their current adventure.
“It’s definitely trial by fire,” Arnett said. “Some of the things that we’ve had to deal with have been a little much for us, but for the most part I think we’ve done alright.”
“The beginning of the trip is the training,” Burke said. “You’re on the road long enough that you adjust to it.”
“Wisconsin’s been kind of a break state for us,” Burke said. “We both went to school here, and know a lot of people here, so we’ve been taking a lot of days off and kind of doing shorter mileage.”
For a trip lasting the better part of three months, the two carry 63 and 85 pounds of equipment—tents, sleeping bags, biking clothes, regular clothes, food, water and maintenance equipment.
“It’s been really cool, because like a quarter to a third of the time we stay with strangers,” Arnett said.
Which is one of the best parts of the tour, they said—the interactions they’ve had with people along the way.
“There’s hospitality everywhere,” Arnett said. “It definitely renews your faith in humanity if you’ve started to lose it.”
The duo has found shelter anywhere from campgrounds and strangers’ houses to parks and churches, once even resorting to ‘stealth camping.’
Arnett, an entymology major turned physician’s assistant, was the instigator of this bold trip—after deciding to leave his job for another position, it seemed the perfect time for a trip he’d spent years dreaming about.
“I think we’ve just been throwing the idea of a bike trip around, back and forth, for six years, seven years. Until it really worked for me and I just said, ‘I’m doing it,’” Arnett said.
Burke, who is a chronic philanthropist, working on projects in the Phillipines before this trip, said they were inspired in part by a biking organization called Bike and Build, which takes a group of young adults biking across the U.S. to work with housing projects like Habitat For Humanity. Coincidentally, the duo originally met working on a Habitat For Humanity project in Madison.
Rhinelander is a familiar sight for Arnett, who comes here in the winter to ski, though he said it’s the first time he’s visited in summer.
“It’s been good. We’ve put on a lot of miles,” Arnett said. “Rhinelander’s been pretty much par for the course as far as awesome, friendly people… It’s been awesome.”