From Britain to Bristol, and beyond
Anna McNuff has always wanted a big adventure.
At 29, the carefree Brit wasn't tied down in a relationship, with children or debt.
"It's perfect timing," said Anna, whose home-base is London, England. "There was nothing stopping me."
Remembering her trips to the United States as a child, her dream of a big adventure began to manifest. She decided she would embark on a 12,000-mile tour of all 50 states on a bicycle, solo.
"My mom had a mini-heart attack," she joked in between bites of pancakes at the Beehive Cafe Monday afternoon.
"But I carry a GPS tracking device that tells her where I'm at, and I also do Twitter."
Anna, along with her brother Jonathan (Jonty in England), stopped in Bristol to visit with family friend Jennifer Cavallaro, who owns the Cafe. They were heading to Providence where they'll stay the night. Jonty flew in to Boston three days ago to accompany his sister on a portion of the bike ride from Massachusetts to New York. His leg of the 6-month trip will only last a week.
"I actually did a biking adventure when I was 21," said Ms. Cavallaro. "I biked through Indonesia, India and the Philippines."
Anna landed in Alaska on July 22, 2013, and biked most of the state. She hopped a plane to Seattle, Wash., which she considered "cheating," but had no choice. From there, she biked the entire West Coast down to San Francisco.
She then traveled east toward the Grand Canyon.
"It was absolutely incredible," she said. "That bit of Utah with the Zion National Park and Brice National Park; you don't get landscapes like that anywhere in the world. It took me four days to bike all that."
She biked through Montana, following the Great Lakes, and ended up in Kennebunkport, Maine.
"The United States is so big," she said. "You don't appreciate how small Britain is until you realize it could fit in half a state.
"There's a big cultural difference, too. Politics in England are sort of a dinnertime chat. Here, it's quite common to hear people talking about it. Feelings about religion are also much stronger, as I discovered in the Midwest."
Anna humbly stated she wasn't incredibly athletic, despite having competed in events like the Ironman, a 50K ultra run, swimming 40 km, and rowing.
She burns about 7,000 calories a day, which lets her eat just about anything she wants.
"I sat down once and ate an entire block of cheese because that's just what I was craving," she said.
Each day, Anna bikes about eight to 10 hours, covering 75 to 130 miles. She has stopped at 22 schools to promote exercise, biking and health.
Through her biking tour, she is also raising money for the Right to Play, a non-profit organization that enables kids across the globe to participate in sports.
It took her five years, and a second job, to save the money necessary for her trip, which she estimates will cost about $10,000.
"My boss was completely supportive," said Anna, who is a marketing manager at a London-based firm.
Initially, Anna went to her employer expecting to quit so she may take her trip. Instead, "they actually just said they'd hold my job for me, and that I could just take the time off."
From Rhode Island, she'll travel down the East Coast, stopping at major landmarks along the way. She'll catch a flight to Hawaii on Jan. 13, 2014 from Dallas, Texas.
"It's hard, but very exciting," she said. "I wanted something to tell the grandkids later."