Trip of a Lifetime
WOODSTOCK — It took almost a year, but for Murdock Snarr, his brother Jackson and his cousin Ben, a trip around the U.S. by bicycle was an experience they will never forget.
On May 9, the three Woodstock residents all received a hero’s welcome home. There was a police escort and many friends rode by bike with them as they entered town, and many more family and friends waited for them as they returned.
Murdock Snarr left from Richmond with his girlfriend, Caitlin McBride, on May 28 to start on the journey. They rode together for seven months, going from Virginia up to Maine and then back down across Michigan all the way to the state of Washington, and the down the coast to California. Over the Christmas holidays in San Francisco, Jackson and Ben Snarr joined Murdock and McBride flew back home.
The Snarrs then went from California east to Tampa, Florida, and then back up the coast through Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and then went back into northern Georgia and into the mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee before returning home.
Murdock Snarr, 26, said that he wanted to see the country and he came up with the idea to do this a few years ago, and just decided it was the right time.
“I was just lucky enough to have a little bit of money — it was a cheap way to go,” Murdock Snarr said. “Fortunate enough to have a whole lot of time.”
He said that the first part of the trip went pretty smoothly. Snarr and McBride knew enough people all the way up to Connecticut that they were always able to stay with people they knew.
Murdock Snarr said that he quickly figured out a good routine to use for the entire trip.
“We figured out how to plan where you’re going and stop and pick up food as intermittently as you needed it,” Murdock Snarr said. “Other than that, it was a pretty simple trip. There’s not much to it once you get down to brass tacks.”
Once they ran out of people they knew to stay with, Murdock Snarr used an app called WarmShowers, which allows bikers to find hosts who are willing to allow cyclists stay with them during their trip.
The Snarrs said they couldn’t have done the trip without the WarmShowers app and the generosity of their hosts.
“I was on the road for 348 days and through this WarmShowers site — and a few of them I stayed an extra day — but I stayed with 90 to 100 complete strangers that I had never met before in my life,” Murdock Snarr said. “It was all through this WarmShowers app. It was an unbelievable experience.
“I very quickly learned that the people were the best part of this trip.”
Murdock Snarr and McBride rode for 7,000 miles, 26 states in 175 days. He said one of the worst days was in southwestern Montana. He said that he and McBride had 11 flat tires that day, and it snowed, rained and hailed throughout the day, in which they had to go 44 miles. He said it took an extra seven hours because of the weather and tire troubles.
On top of that, he said they stayed in a town of 500 people where there was no bike shop, and no way to fix his bike, which had another flat at the end of the day. The nearest bike shops were at least 45 miles away. So he had to call a friend to drive five hours round trip to drive him to a shop.
“The very first WarmShowers person I stayed with said the very best stories come from the worst days,” Murdock Snarr said. “At the end of day, it does make for a good story, but at the time being it was pretty miserable.”
Once they were in California, Jackson, 23, and Ben Snarr, 24, joined in on the fun. Ben Snarr said Murdock and Jackson’s mother threw out the idea of him joining them.
“I had just graduated college last summer. I had not started a job yet, so I was thinking why not go across the country, explore a little bit, travel, see the country, and I had a lot of free time,” Ben Snarr said.
Jackson Snarr said he had a “plethora of time as well as the ability to do so” as his reason for joining them.
“I really wanted to push my boundaries and see what I could accomplish on a bike,” he said.
Once the trio were together, they went into 13 states, and Ben Snarr said one of the highlights for him came from the generosity of one of their WarmShower hosts in Florida.
“One of my favorite days was when we were planning to go to Cape Canaveral, Florida,” Ben Snarr said. “We got there just after lunch and the hosts were like welcome, here’s our surfboards, the beach is a quarter-mile that way, go spend the rest of the day there and just relax. We’ll call you when dinner is [ready]. We just got to relax for half a day.”
The Snarrs said there were plenty of times when they didn’t have a place to stay and weren’t sure, even as late as 10 or 11 p.m. where they would be sleeping. Sometimes they would just find a place to put up their tents and camp out. Sometimes they would knock on the doors of the local fire departments, and they would let them put up a tent behind the station.
They had an adventure cycling association map that they used as well as Google maps to help them out. However, one day in Louisiana, as they were on their way to Mississippi, the Google map didn’t quite work.
The original path they were taking led them to a locked gate, but there was a way around it so they kept going. There were signs saying do not enter, but they decided to keep going, and eventually went through a swamp and had to push their bikes instead of ride them. They ended up at another locked gate, and saw some workers outside of the gate who informed them they needed to go back the way they came. It turned out they were at the John C. Stennis Space Center, which is a NASA rocket testing facility in Hancock County, Mississippi.
“I like to call that the day I got lost in the adventure,” Jackson Snarr said.
They said that ended up being a very long day, as they spent all afternoon just to get to a place where they weren’t allowed to be.
Finally, their trip ended, and they were appreciative of the warm welcome home they received.
They said they couldn’t have done it without the support of the community. Murdock Snarr said that was what impressed him the most on this long journey — the people that he met along the way.
“We had thousands and thousands of people be unbelievably nice to us — who were complete strangers,” Murdock Snarr said. ” … Whether it was from people reading our blogs, or asking the family how we were doing, or keeping us in their thoughts and prayers. We had thousands and thousands of people be unbelievably nice to us and under 10 be overly rude or openly mean to us. It was those kind of numbers. I’ll take those odds any day.”
Jackson Snarr said he met complete strangers who he has stayed in touch with and has become friends with.
The Snarrs said they each learned something about themselves, as well.
“I learned I can do a lot more than I thought I could,” Ben Snarr said. ” … Don’t wait for something to happen, make it happen.”
Although they all three said they loved the trip, they also agreed they were happy to be back home.
“The valley is just so beautiful,” Jackson Snarr said. “Even though you go all over the world … you see some beautiful things, but then you get back here, and it’s just so uniquely beautiful that you miss it.”
“I’ve been through 40 states and tens of thousands of counties and areas. Shenandoah Valley is one of the prettiest,” Murdock Snarr said.
Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or firstname.lastname@example.org