The Long Story
My name is Drew Echelberger I’m 27 years old, I’m from Louisville Kentucky, I’m an “Adventure Cyclist” and I’m living to tell the tale of the great American Bike Ride.
One Man. One Bike. One Life.
No Reservations. No Expectations.
I had some grand aspirations and I decided to aimlessly chase them whichever way the road may lead and it brought me to some absolutely amazing people and places along the way.
I fly by the seat of my pants and hope that if I put my best foot forward out into the great unknown the road that the universe has planned for me will rise to the occasion
It may just be me on my bike but everyone I have met on my journey rides beside me every inch of the way.
I packed my bags and made a strategically calculated leap with no clue and no way to predict where it would take me along the way.
I had a rough idea of where I was going. I had specific things and places I wanted to go along the way and there was a lot of ground between where the real work was done.
Sure there are short and long term goals, milestones and incentives but it’s not about the destination is a bout the journey. The ride, the road, the people the and the places you pass on your path make the ones you’ve looked forward to all that more rewarding but sometimes the things you see along the way can be the most fulfilling.
I am a writer, a photographer, & a glassblower. I am an adventurer, a traveler, & an self supported ultra endurance cyclist. I am A videographer, a curator, a documentarian, & an educator. I am a content creator and an entertainer. I am a poet, I am a rapper, I am a Gonzo journalist. I am out to capture the zeitgeist of the unreported. I want to spotlight the true essence of the niche subcultures that make this world unique. I want to shed light on those aspects of our society that truly define a people in a place In time. I want to share with the world the good the bad and the ugly that I have stumbled upon from wandering aimlessly with no Reservations and no expectations. I want to inspire others to follow that wanderlust and intrinsic curiosity that drives us to explore the unknown. I want to reiterate the concept that “the more we explore and the more we learn the more we begin to realize just how much we haven’t seen, just how much we don’t know & just how much we have yet to understand”. I want to chase that for those who can’t and share it with those who are afraid to. I want to live without regret and write my story to inspire others to embrace their vulnerability, and go for it. Most importantly I want to motivate you to not let fear keep you from doing what you should be doing.
I spend far too much time in my own head battling self doubt and crippling criticism. However the work I’m most reluctant to put out is usually the work that gets the best response. It’s real, it’s raw, it’s un filtered, un edited & it’s terrifying. The fear of judgment, the potential disappointment, lacking living up to the level I’m looking for. Fuck it. I’d rather go for it and fail than never try & wonder what could have been. At the end of your days your biggest regrets won’t be about the things that you did that you wish you wouldn’t have done, they’ll be about things that you didn’t that you wish that you would have.
This is why I am doing this. There are a number of other aspects to what I am doing that contribute to the overall hodgepodge of all this. So here’s a kinda long winded and some what in-depth background story for context.
As a child raised on legos I grew up wanting to be an architect, I have always been fascinated by buildings and structures, now as an adult cyclist (a marginalized member of society) I have shifted that focus on city planning and pedestrian infrastructure. When you slow down and immerse yourself in your environment you begin to notice many aspects of your surroundings you previously hadn’t. As a by product of this I have become a huge fan of street art especially work with a focus on political and societal commentary. Since this interest first sparked I have attempted to document as much street art as I have been able to come across in my travels. I also have been very into art from a young age. As a child with sever adhd I always had this urge to be building or making something; some tangible form of measuring my time invested into a creative outlet. I dabbled with clay and calligraphy in middle school, I got into glass blowing in high school and quickly fell in love with the art form. The balance of science and technique was a beautiful romance you had to finesse. For years I wanted to be a professional full time artist. Every paycheck, every Christmas, every birthday it was more tools, more materials, more equipment until I had built a full studio. I began selling my work and building my business, this career aspiration fell out of my spotlight as a result of going to school full time, working 2 sometimes 3 jobs, and investing the rest of my time into a romantic relationship.
I’ve also always been an athlete, I grew up a swimmer, a sprinter I swam the 50 & The 100 backstroke Those two events were my specialty. I was the captain of my high school swim team. In high school and all through college I worked as a lifeguard a swim instructor and a swim coach, I even ran a swim academy program for several years. I am a pieces so my love of the water was natural but working with the children is where I found my passion for teaching; sure it has helped me live a goal driven life as a competitor but it’s brought me more of a focus on education. I love to tell stories and connect with my audience.
I am a writer, in high school I was an editor or my high school news paper and I’m also a poet, I gave the speech at my high school graduation. It was a poem of the school building saying goodbye to the students in first person (it was 5 minutes long). I went into college as a journalism major, I quickly fell in love with psychology and changed course, my glassblowing career fell on the back burner (pun intended) meanwhile my passion for teaching and learning thrived and my time with the kids in the water greatly benefited from what I learned in the classroom.
At the same time my rap group I was in with my friends (that eventually went on to become a funk band & then a neo soul band) began to get more serious; it went from a fun goofy hobby, to a real artist expression and passion. I would get so hyper fixed on a rhyme that I wouldn’t pay attention in class. As soon as I learned a new term or concept I would zone out trying to figure out how to work that into a rhyme. That’s where I came up with the name “Nightmare The Rusty Robot” based off the concept that we were all programmed to go through the motions in a dreamlike state and do what society tells us we should, I felt as if I had been awakened and was broken or programmed wrong because my biggest benefit and drive to learn was how to find a way to tie these oddly specific things into this somewhat abstract creative form of self expression. I became so addicted to writing rhymes I would have to pull over on the side of the shoulder on the highway during my commute to campus just to stop and write something down that I thought was good (for fear of losing it if I didn’t put pen to paper and capture it in that exact moment).
Meanwhile I got super Into trying to understand the human brain, human disposition, our thought process, why we do what we do, and what makes us tick. I became fascinated with numbers and data and statistics and research and experimentation to try and attempt to identify the root cause and meaning behind these questions. When I started out as a psychology major I wanted to be a therapist to help people, as I continued in the field of study my focus moved more towards wanting to be a professor in order to do laboratory research and write scholarly journal articles. By the time I was nearly done with my degree I had gotten throughly burnt out on academia and had moved on to my next obsession, a newfound sport.
It gave me everything, independence, a mental and physical work out, the ability to travel and adventure and explore to see new places in a way I never had before. It’s a solo sport where you spend a lot of time alone in your own head, challenging yourself, competing against yourself and pushing yourself to the limits. This is much like the background I was familiar with, spending long hours in the pool in my own head (it helps you grow and develop) it’s competitive nature and my many years as a swim coach helped to drive this progression.
I’ve always ridden bikes. Cheap department store bikes growing up, nothing special. I got into mountain biking in college. Broke several bones in multiple different crashes & was sidelined couch ridden for months at a time. I retired my dads old road bike off the wall in the garage one day in the spring of 2014. I told myself o was going to ride my bike to work and bring my lunch from home for the entire summer. It started for all the generic cliche reasons one would get into commuting. Save $, save the environment, get in shape etc... I absolutely fell in love with it. At a very specific moment out in the crowd at forecastle 2014 distinctly remember deciding that I wanted to ride my bike across the country. My life has never been the same since.
After my parents divorced and After having my heart broken by the love of my life cycling became my outlet to chase those tangible goals. Going back to the Legos, and the glass art, and the data in the research, and the rhymes, it’s all the same just a different approach. My time in the saddle became my therapist, & my means of addressing my issues. My bicycle was my shrink, & the road was the couch. It offered this unique sense of mind and body separation where I could not only satiate the extra energy but also facilitate mental development. Chasing goals. and running away from demons all at the same time. The byproduct of these miles and hours was a euphoric a feeling of accomplishment. This satisfaction came from many things, the numbers from the data recorded on the bike, the sense of experience based off what i had perceived out on the road from the saddle, were all rewards within themselves. The photos I would take of my bike in front of a backdrop became my calling card, my bragging rights, my “look what I did” (on my bike!) & an artsy way to document my hard work.
What I am doing now, traveling alone on a bicycle sharing my experience with the world is all just a product of a combination of the unique circumstances that have led me here. Another aspect of this journey has been my relationship with psychedelics to delve deeper into my own psyche, and sensory deprivation therapy to help extract and articulate these complex emotions and experiences into a relatable and comprehendible story. The places I’ve been and the things I have seen have taught me many things but it’s the people that inhabit these places that have taught me the most. With every new place I go, every new person I meet, I draw from my own previous experiences and combine that with the present, always constantly working toward some unknown and intangible future.
By in large, the biggest take away I’ve had from this entire experience thus far has been the synchronicities, the full circle small world moments that are restoring my faith in humanity one interaction at a time. The people-helping-people-pay-it-forward-mindset on a one-to-one person-to-person human-to-human ground level, has been truly eye opening. Society as a whole has a lot of fucked Up shit going on right now trying to divide us, but when you get down to the fundamental roots that make up this collective society, the individual fish that fill this divided sea cross the line of separation with no question when presented with real life scenarios and not hypothetical concepts.
I have been traveling and visiting with other artist to work and collaborate in their studios along the way. I have been making marbles and hiding them around the country at special places that have meant something to me. I have been posting clues to these hides on the worlds biggest marble hunt Facebook Page. A digital trail of bread curbs, an interactive treasure hunt to find the pieces of me I have left behind. I.E. In a cave on a secret beach, under a rock by a waterfall, at the top of a mountain, or in a tree in a public park in a city, but mainly I have been giving them as gifts to my hosts and the people I meet along the way that take me in and help me out.
For me this trip has been about a lot of things it’s hard to narrow it down to just one short and concise elevator speech because it’s NOT... it’s my entire life’s journey it’s not meant to be summed up in a 50 word mission statement. I try to be eloquent and poetic about it but I’m just too long winded of a person and the answer is just simply too complex to boil it down to just that so this is about as close as you’re gonna get.
If Anthony Bourdain & Hunter S Thompson took a bike tour this would be it. Documenting street art, hiding marbles, floating in sensory deprivation tanks, finding synchronicities and making a great big world seem like a very small place. From the wonders and the beautify of the natural landscapes to the niche hole in wall corners of regional subcultures. I’m documenting the entire process on my Instagram to inspire others to travel by Bicycle embrace your vulnerability, don’t let fear hold you back from chasing your dreams and live without regret. Im living to tell the tale of the great American bike ride, & resorting my faith in humanity, one day, one mile, & one human interaction at as time.
Thanks For Reading!
Enjoy The Ride!