PAWTUCKET, R.I. (WPRI) — When you ask Wade Walbrun why he decided to bike more than 4,000 miles across the country, he’ll tell you he was looking for a grueling adventure.
“Sometimes I ask myself the same question,” he said. “I just thought it was an interesting challenge and something very few people have done.”
The 55-year-old Pawtucket resident was one of 45 riders to participate in the Trans Am Bike Race, during which the cyclists traveled through 10 states.
Walbrun said the journey, which took him 26 days to complete, was the most mentally and physically taxing thing he’s ever done.
“It is completely self-supportive, so you are carrying all of your gear,” he explained. “You get no help from anybody … you’re out there all by yourself on an island.”
Walbrun, a stock analyst, first heard about the Trans Am Bike Race while watching a documentary on the inaugural race in 2014.
From that moment on, he was hooked.
In total, Walbrun biked 4,178 miles in the sweltering heat, heavy rains and strong winds from Astoria, Oregon, to Yorktown, Virginia.
12 News followed Walbrun’s journey online, which took him through Wyoming, Montana, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky and West Virginia.
Throughout the cross-country trek, Walbrun said he only slept four hours a night and his checkpoints weren’t always conventional.
“Oftentimes, because of a lack of hotels, I would stay in a post office or something like that,” he said. “After a while, I figured it’s not that bad.”
This year’s Trans Am Bike Race wasn’t his first. Walbrun said he first attempted the journey in 2019, but failed to finish because he lost focus and ran out of vacation days.
Walbrun said after returning home, he realized he needed to change his approach.
“To do this right, I need to be a little more aggressive and ride until 10, 11 at night,” he said, adding that he also needed to not be as selective when it came to sleeping arrangements.
Walbrun said he didn’t lose any weight during his trip, though he did burn 12,000 calories a day, stopping to eat at convenience stores along the route.
When all was said and done, Walbrun didn’t get a trophy or cash prize, but what he did receive was the satisfaction that he was able to finish what he’d started.
And he’s still trying to process it all.
“Looking back on it now, I don’t have much perspective at this point,” he said. “Right now, I’m asking myself, ‘why did I do it?’ It was painful and exhausting.”
Despite sleeping up to 12 hours a day since he returned home last weekend, Walbrun said he’s still extremely tired.