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with different ideas to broaden it or even
narrow it.
What I do know is the time on the
road delivered so much more than I even
knew to ask for.
What did people write about?
I’ve been keeping a lot of the writing
unread because I want to take in the
entries as a whole. There is a sense of
randomness, with some of the cities
eliciting more writing than others. And
yet, through this sort of randomness, the
people involved are now connected.
But, from what I have read, I’ve found
that surprisingly few of the entries are
heartbreaking stories or confessions. Most
writers’ entries are about love of place,
and a sense of gratitude for their current
life while still having a kind of dreaminess
about what could be.
Other than sharing their stories,
in what ways did people
As the trip unfolded and more people
learned about the project, I received a
tremendous amount of support and
encouragement from complete strangers.
One standout is Scott Goocher, the
owner of Jack’s Bicycles in Monroe, Mich.
He invited me to set up my typewriter in
his store and give a talk about the project.
I rolled in at 3 p.m. and received such a
warm welcome from him. He immediate-
ly asked if my bike needed any attention,
and proceeded to do a full tune-up, give
me a new drive train, and replace a tire
that had been nicked by an old nail way
back in Sandusky, Ohio—without charg-
ing me a single cent.
He felt like a kindred spirit—one of
several I met along the way—who truly
understood what I was doing and why.
He’s a great example of someone who has
solid roots planted but has that spirit of
creativity, adventure and community that
was the backbone of this project.
How did the use of rail-trails play
into your attempt at creating a
communal hallway?
The idea of a network of trails connecting
towns and communities is very much in
the same spirit as the typewriter being the
vehicle to connect voices and people of all
ages. The rail-trails spark a sense of curi-
osity and pleasure about one’s surround-
ings. Watching people express themselves
on the typewriter made it clear to me that
it mirrored the rail-trail experience.
Also, like the rail-trails, the experience
on the typewriter is noncompetitive and
available to all. It is personal but commu-
nal. It invites personal introspection as well
as reflection about the larger world outside.
Which rail-trails did you travel,
and what changes in the land-
scape did you observe?
I started my trip on the Norwottuck Rail
Trail from Amherst to Northampton,
Mass., and then rode the Manhan
Rail Trail from Northampton to
Easthampton, Mass. I rode a stretch
of the Stavich Bicycle Trail from
Pennsylvania into Ohio, a section of the
Huron River Greenway Border-to-Border
Trail near Ann Arbor, Mich., and a good
part of the rail-trail system from the
Illinois state line into Kenosha.
I rode through 10 states and got to
experience a wonderful shift in geogra-
phy. This was part of the gift of traveling
by bicycle, the way you get to see things
up close and personal and really learn
about a place through its topography.
How did the Type Rider
experience affect you?
Throughout the trip, the experience of
moving through the landscape—regard-
less of the headwinds or the mountains
or the rain—brought me an unparalleled
sense of peace and perspective. I felt like I
was becoming a bigger and better person
every day.
Sara Rae Lancaster was born in Kenosha, Wis.,
one of the stops along the Type Rider’s route.
She currently lives and writes in Union Grove,
Wis., where she conquers writer’s block with
long runs and bike rides on the nearby White
River State Trail.
Supported by Kickstarter, an organiza-
tion that funds creative endeavors, Stein
launched Type Rider: Cycling the Great
American Poem, on her 40th birthday,
in May 2012. Inspiration for the proj-
ect came from a childhood memory of
a typewriter Stein’s father placed in the
hallway that linked the family’s bed-
rooms. Each day he would type a line of a
short story to be continued, line by line,
by the other family members.
To create a metaphorical hallway that
linked cities and people through the writ-
ten word, Stein embarked on a 40-day
cycling journey. Along the way, she set
up impromptu typing stations in more
than 50 cities, where community mem-
bers could add their own words to the
progressive story, ultimately resulting in a
cross-country community book. (A publi-
cation date for the book has not been set.
Her website,
have book updates.)
On June 12, 2012, one day away from
completing the ride, Stein set up the teal
typewriter one more time at Harborside
Common Grounds coffee shop in
Kenosha, Wis. Here, just 40 miles from
her last stop at Boswell Book Company
in Milwaukee, she talked about the
adventure. In some ways, she said, that
adventure was only beginning.
You’re 24 hours away from
completing this ride. Have you
accomplished what you set out to
I knew I wanted to collect whatever
writings I gathered into a book, and I am
doing that. I don’t know if I had another
specific intention when I set out, other
than to bring people together through
the written word. I think I have achieved
You said it feels as if the project is
just beginning. How so?
Response along the way was so over-
whelming and positive that I changed
my feelings about this project being just
a one-off. It could really extend so many
different ways, so I’ve been coming up