From Oregon to Geneseo by bike

by Claudia Loucks correspondent
Taylor Mighell recently received his PhD from a university in Portland, Ore., and celebrated by biking to his home in Geneseo. Photo by Claudia Loucks

It took just under seven weeks for Taylor Mighell to trek 2,400 miles by bike from Portland, Ore.

Mighell left Oregon on July 29 and arrived at his home in Geneseo on Monday, Sept.14, after pedaling 2,400 miles on his Touring Bike.

My first question was “why,” and he answered, “I wanted to celebrate finishing my PhD and do something that allowed me to disconnect form the world for a time.”

After graduating from Geneseo High School in 2010, Mighell graduated summa cum laude from Creighton University, Omaha, Neb., in 2014, with a degree in cell biology.

He then enrolled at Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, Ore., where he earned his PhD in human genetics in July of this year.

His career choice is a result of his enjoyment of science and he said, “Because it allows me to learn and discover about the natural world.”

His original plans were to visit Geneseo earlier this summer, but that all changed after the outbreak of COVID-19.

About a year ago, Mighell secured a post doctoral research position at the Center for Genomic Regulation in Barcelona, Spain, where he will be working for four to five years, and he said, “In this little field I work on, this is one of the most high powered labs in the world and Barcelona offers a lot of advantages – culture, weather and proximity to the Mediterranean Sea.”

He was to have graduated with his PhD in April, but graduation was postponed until July because of the pandemic.

“Originally I planned to have three to four months free before going to Barcelona and I was hoping to travel around South America and then to Barcelona,” he said. “That all changed when graduation was postponed and international tourism was not feasible.”

He is scheduled to leave for Barcelona in October.

The idea to cycle home came as a result of the free time he had after graduation…”I had been thinking about touring by bike for a few years, but had never gotten too serious about it,” he said. “The first several weeks of shut down I had a lot of free time and I spent a lot of time biking.”

He had a road bike, but when he started biking seriously, Mighell purchased a Touring Bike…”I cycled every day, loaded the bike down, did a few overnighters into the woods around Portland in preparation for my trip.”

As his time was flexible, Mighell had taken care of details in Portland before starting for Geneseo.

“I had to get rid of my stuff, give up my apartment and that took awhile,” he said.

When he first left, he had too much weight with him on the bike and he had to make a trip to a post office in one of the towns he passed through so he could send some of his stuff home.

Mighell shared some of his experiences of his bike trip and said he was able to see a lot of the United States that he had never seen before including deserts, prairies, mountains, hot springs and more…”Travel by bike is different from travel by car because you can experience places with all five senses,” he said. “I met a lot of incredibly generous and interesting people on the way – I talked to a cyclist on his second lap around the world, people cooked me countless meals, let me sleep on couches/yards, gave me cash, helped me work on my bike.”

He also had a unique experience of sleeping in a teepee, an invitation he received from a couple in Lander, Wyo.

“I met them through the Warm Showers website,” Mighell said and he explained that he visited the website and put in the town he would be in…”They answered back right away and they let me sleep in their teepee for a couple of nights. They fed me and I had a warm shower at their home.”

He also commented on being able to visit “two of the most famous national parks – Yellowstone and Grand Tetons.”

When asked about “bad experiences,” Mighell said, “I hesitate to call anything bad, because I knew from the beginning that there would be setbacks, but that’s just part of it.”

He broke a spoke on his bike on his third day out and had to backtrack 30 miles to get to a bike shop.

“I had 10 or so flat tires on the trip, with four in a single day,” he said. “That day I had to walk to a bike shop to get more tubes. I had to replace my chain, cassette and rear tire from wear.”

In the first week of his trip, he said it was “brutally hot, over 100 degrees almost every day, “and so hot at night I could barely sleep. In the last week of the trip there were four days in a row of rain and the first two days were less than 50 degrees, so I had to deal with wet and cold clothes and gear.”

In his reference to clothes, Mighell said he had one set of on-the-bike clothes and one set of off-the-bike clothes, and extra clothes for cold weather; one pair of shoes and one pair of flip flops.

The miles he was able to ride each day depended on weather and the terrain…”In the West, where it’s more mountainous – Washington, Idaho, Montana and Colorado – I averaged 50 to 70 miles per day. In the Midwest – Eastern Colorado, Nebraska and Iowa – I averaged more like 70 to 90 miles per day.”

Mighell also cited the expense of the trip by bike and said, “It wasn’t cheap – the bike itself was expensive and repairs can get expensive. In comparison to other forms of travel, bike travel is pretty cheap.”

“It was a way for me to disconnect from the world,” he said. “I thought riding through the mountains and valleys of Montana were very cool and enjoyable – pedaling up one side of the mountain, reaching the top and then gliding down the other side for 10 to 20 miles.”