Overland SUMMER CAMPS FOR 4TH - 12TH GRADERS Family Login

American Challenge

6 weeks open to grades 9-12

When you get to the Pacific, you will jump off your bike, race across the sand and dive into the water. You’ll scream, yell, shout and hug. Onlookers will not understand, and even if you tried to explain what that moment means to you, they probably still wouldn’t get it. That’s the way a lot of the American Challenge is.

The American Challenge doesn’t require previous experience—it requires determination. The American Challenge isn’t a race—there is no sag wagon or support team. The American Challenge won’t change you into a “hard core” biker—but it will change the way you see yourself and the world around you. Bike with us across America and discover for yourself the meaning of the American Challenge.

We start our six-week journey just east of Charleston, South Carolina. This first section of the trip takes us straight into the heart of the South, as we make our way across the Mississippi River and skirt south of the Appalachians. Long days on the bikes take us across the Great Plains, where towns are few, and toward the cooler climates and high passes of the Rockies. We’ll pause briefly at the Grand Canyon, before we make our way across the Arizona and California deserts. Our final stretch of riding will take us up into California’s San Gabriel Mountains. We’ll camp high above Los Angeles and look back on six weeks of adventure and camaraderie.

On our last day, we’ll work our way down and out of the mountains, through L.A. and all the way to the Pacific. When we reach the coast, we’ll sprint across the sand, front wheels in hand and dive into the crashing waves. Surrounded by trip mates with whom you have shared every day, every mile and every moment of these past six weeks, you’ll scream, yell, shout and hug.  Only then will you really, truly know what the American Challenge means to you.

“Thank you for the best six weeks of my life! My favorite part of the trip was the amazing bond with everyone in our group. The kids and the leaders were inspiring, and there was never a lack of positivity or enthusiasm. The American Challenge was beyond anything I could have imagined.” Clarity Huddleston, Middlefield, Connecticut

Highlights

  • Bike from the Atlantic to the Pacific
  • Ride over 3,000 miles across the U.S.
  • Discover small-town America
  • Cross the Rockies
  • Visit the Grand Canyon
  • Swim in the Pacific

Grade

For students who will finish grades 9-12 in June 2015 and 2014 high school graduates 

Every year there are typically between two and five groups; multiple considerations go into our placement process (age, grade, gender, hometown, school, etc.)

Call us (413-458-9672) to check on current availability

Challenge Level

10 (1-10, 1 is easiest)

Start and End Location

Starts in Charleston, South Carolina

Ends in Los Angeles, California

Dates

6 Weeks

To keep our groups separate we have multiple start and end dates:

Monday, June 23 to Thursday, August 6*
Wednesday, June 24 to Saturday, August 8*
Friday, June 26 to Sunday, August 9*

*Please note that an August 6, August 7, August 8 or August 9 end date is possible based on the assigned itinerary of your child's group. We will notify you of the exact start and end date on May 1.

Students need not choose a start date; instead, we will put together groups based on a number of factors (age, grade, gender, etc.) and notify all students of their assigned start date on May 1. If you have an end-of-the-school-year conflict that is inflexible (for example, Regents Exams in New York State) please contact us and we will try to accommodate you on one of our later departures. 

Many parents—typically almost all—will travel to Los Angeles and be at the Santa Monica pier to see their son or daughter finish the ride. Our groups generally arrive at the pier between 11:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. (we will have a better idea of the actual time on the arrival day at the Pier) on the second to last day of the trip (the last day of the trip is taken up with getting the students either picked-up by their parents from the youth hostel in Santa Monica or shuttled by us to LAX for flights home). As you make your plans for the summer you may want to keep this in mind.

Fees

$6195

What the trip fee includes:

  • All meals, group gear, accommodations, activities and transportation during the trip

What the trip fee doesn't include:

Please note, one of the following bikes is required: Trek 520, Surly Long Haul Trucker, Fuji Touring, Jamis Aurora, Novara Randonee. They must be in excellent condition and have been purchased in the past 48 months. Other bicycles will not be accepted. Questions? Please contact Alec at alec@overlandsummers.com.

“After 11 programs taken by our three children, Overland somehow still manages to exceed all our expectations.” Pam Stone, Summit, New Jersey

Trip Details

Students: Is this trip right for you?

Only you can answer this question. We suggest you start the decision making process by reading everything on our website about the trip. Then, email us with any questions you have. Then, talk to students who have done the trip (we can give you references).

To start your thinking about the American Challenge, consider the following:

1. There are many kinds of challenges on the American Challenge:

  • Mileage: 80+ miles a day for six weeks with many days over 90 miles and a handful over 100 miles.
  • Weather: high temperatures (hot and humid east of the Mississippi; hot and windy across the Great Plains; hot and dry across the desert) and the good possibility of some rainy stretches.
  • Not-Feeling-Great: over the course of six weeks there's a good chance that you'll catch a cold or that you'll have a minor stomach upset—nothing serious but still a challenge when you're far from home and working hard.
  • Scrapes, Bumps & Bruises: before you jump joyously into the Pacific at Santa Monica you may have scraped a knee or elbow, or bruised a thigh, or had some such minor injury.
  • Homesickness: even if you've never had it before, there will likely be times when you long for the comforts and ease of home.
  • Camping & Sleeping In Churches And Community Centers: you'll get very comfortable sleeping out and sleeping on floors but you'll still miss the familiarity of your own bed.
  • Group Living: group meals, group snacks, group cooking, group cleaning, group chores, etc., etc., etc. The demands of group living will be some of the most important challenges you'll face.

2. Are you ready to commit yourself to the training that is required for this trip? Visit the Pre-Trip Training page to see what is required. The pre-trip riding is essential as, once the trip starts in Charleston, students who are not able to maintain an average speed of 12 miles per hour will have to leave the trip.

3. Are you ready to commit yourself wholeheartedly to a demanding group experience? The American Challenge is all about the group succeeding, about the group getting the miles done, about the group enjoying the highs together (reaching the Rockies) and sticking together through the lows (heat or humidity or rain or tough headwinds). Are you the kind of person who can put his or her own needs and wants after those of a group?

“Charles is still raving about his trip and he is filled with incredible stories. Thank you for running such a brilliant program.” Susan Scherr, New York, New York

Parents: what you need to understand

The American Challenge Requires Fitness And Pre-Trip Training

Parents need to understand how demanding the American Challenge is-- 80+ miles a day over demanding terrain in all kinds of weather averaging 12 miles an hour on a fully loaded touring bike. Your child must be active, involved in sports and fit; in addition, your child must be willing to complete the Pre-Trip Training page. Parents need to understand that if a student is not able to maintain the group's pace (12 miles an hour on average) that he/she will have to leave the trip.

The American Challenge Requires Selflessness, Sacrifice And Teamwork

Every summer there is a small number of students who wonder why they can't do as they please on the American Challenge: "Why can't I buy my own snacks (or lunch... or dinner... or dessert)." "Why can't I ride ahead of the group... I'm so much faster than the others?" What these students have failed to grasp is that the American Challenge is a chance to see beyond their own needs and wants, to see the needs of the group before their own. In this way, the American Challenge is a chance to become a caring friend... a terrific group member... an exceptional leader. Parents need to discuss this with their son or daughter to make sure that he/she understands the group demands of the trip (and parents need to understand, too, that if their son/daughter is not able to commit to the group that he/she will have to leave the trip).

Conclusion

The American Challenge is a chance for your son or daughter to be challenged in ways that school and sports might never have. Riding a bike is not technically difficult—but riding a fully-loaded bike for 80+ miles a day for six weeks with 13 other people is just about the hardest sustained challenge we can imagine. For your son or daughter to succeed on and enjoy the American Challenge you have to be committed to the goals of the trip so that you can help your son or daughter understand what it is they are to be a part of.

The American Challenge ends in Santa Monica... the group rides right down Santa Monica Boulevard... parents and siblings are waiting at the pier... the riders come streaming by, shouting for joy and racing for the beach where the entire group—front wheels in hand—dives into the water together. It's a remarkable achievement for each of the kids and the group as a whole... and, for the parents who are at the pier; it's an unforgettable moment in their lives, too.

“We were truly a team, and never have I felt closer to a group of people than with my Overland group.” Sarah Cooperman, Westport, Connecticut

“Lizzy had the experience of a lifetime on the AC. She couldn't stop smiling and laughing after she rode up to the Santa Monica Pier. Her leaders are remarkable young people—amazing leaders and amazing overall!” Olivia Baker, Washington, D.C.

“Each Overland experience has been fabulous, but the AC was truly extraordinary. Sasha is so proud of her accomplishment, and she values the connections she made with the leaders and the other students on her trip.  She learned a tremendous amount about her own capabilities, about team work and about the different regions and landscapes that comprise the country. It was a transformative experience!” Jonathan Fishman, Baltimore, Maryland

Please note that the below itinerary will vary slightly by group

Days 1-7: The Atlantic and the South

We start our six-week journey in Charleston, South Carolina. On the first day of our ride, we’ll watch the sun rise over the Atlantic, dip our front wheels in a gentle breaker, then look west and begin our 3,000+ mile trek to the Pacific. This first section of the trip takes us straight into the heart of the South, as we make our way across South Carolina toward Georgia, our first state line.

Days 8-13: Alabama to the Mississippi River

From the Alabama state line we continue west to one of America’s greatest rivers, the Mississippi. The terrain is generally forgiving, as we skirt south of the Appalachians, but our daily mileage is long with most days in the 75 to 85 mile range. The mileage is made more difficult by the demands of making the transition to group living—getting up early, waiting for others, sharing tents and meals, and making new friends.

Days 14-17: Arkansas and the Ozarks

We'll triumphantly cross the Mississippi River, the first major landmark of our trip, and enter Arkansas. Here the rolling hills of South Carolina, Alabama and Mississippi slowly give way to short, but steep climbs through the beautiful Ozark Mountains.

Days 18-25: The Great Plains

We'll then head out for some long days on the bikes that will take us across the sparse beauty of the Great Plains, where towns are few. Although we'll cover a lot of miles (averaging between 75 to 85 miles a day) across the Great Plains, the group is in fine shape and trip routines are down pat. The Rockies slowly rise above the horizon as we pedal west.

Days 26-31: The Rockies

Crossing the Rockies, and the Continental Divide, is a major goal of every American Challenge group. Left behind are the green, rolling hills of the East and South, and the wide open, but barren plains. The Rockies offer challenge and beauty—high passes and snow-capped mountains, thigh-burning climbs and rollicking descents.

Days 32-36: The Southwest and the Grand Canyon

We’ll spill out of the Rockies and into vast painted deserts on our way to the Grand Canyon. We’ll pause briefly at the Grand Canyon, spending a night on the South Rim, before we make our way south toward the glowing sandstone of Sedona, Arizona.

Days 37-40: The Desert

As the final days of the trip approach, red sandstones slowly give way to sagebrush covered plains and, eventually, the deserts of eastern California. There is one day in the Mojave Desert when we'll have vehicle support, from Parker, Arizona to Twentynine Palms, California.

Days 41 & 42: The San Gabriel Mountains

Our final stretch of riding will take us high up into California’s San Gabriel Mountains, climbing up from the desert to an elevation of over 7,000 feet. After almost six weeks on the bike, however, we're ready for such a climb. On our last night before riding to the Santa Monica Pier, we’ll camp high above the lights of Los Angeles and look back on six incredible weeks of adventure, camaraderie and challenge.

Day 42 or 43 (depending on the group): The Santa Monica Pier

On the last morning of riding, we’ll work our way down and out of the mountains, through L.A. and all the way to the Pacific (where lots of parents and siblings will be waiting). When we reach the coast, we’ll sprint across the sand, front wheels in hand and dive into the crashing waves. After the Pier we'll head to our accommodations for the night, pack up our bikes and go out for a final, celebratory dinner before saying goodbye. 

“This trip was truly a life-changing experience for me. It allowed me to realize that I can do anything I put my mind to. It was eye-opening, and I am so glad I did it.” Ben Holland, Newton, Massachusetts

Accommodations

The group will camp about half of the time at comfortable campgrounds with modern amenities - most have flush toilets and showers - and stay indoors half the time. Indoor accommodations include: churches, community centers, motels and a hostel in Santa Monica. The group will do laundry once a week.

Click thumbnails below to enlarge

Preparing for the Biking

Training ahead of time is essential to your success on an Overland bike trip. Training will also enable you to enjoy your trip this summer. Please review the training guidelines below:

This is Overland’s most challenging trip due to its length and intensity. The American Challenge is rated a 10 on a scale of 1-10 (1 is easiest). 

  • 3000+ miles of riding
  • 80+ miles a day of riding
  • 44 or 45 days from start to finish (depends on the group). Some days off of the bikes: arrival day, departure day plus four buffer days to allow for delays en route (most groups will find that they spend these buffer days partially or completely off of the bikes)
  • Riding begins at first light and ends in the late afternoon or evening

Past experience has shown the following:
(1) Your health and well being for the duration of the trip will depend on the quality, duration and intensity of your preparation.
(2) Your enjoyment of the trip will depend on your understanding of and commitment to the American Challenge as a group experience—one that demands selflessness and teamwork.

Required Pre-Trip Training
You must be able to commit to a pre-trip training program that requires the following:
(1) two rides a week of one hour each in March (14 miles over varied terrain);
(2) two rides a week of 90 minutes each in April (21 miles over varied terrain);
(3) two rides a week of two hours each in May (28 miles over varied terrain);
(4) four rides a week, two afterschool rides of two hours each (24 miles over varied terrain) and two weekend rides of four hours each (48 miles over varied terrain). All rides in June should be on fully-loaded bikes with all of your gear and clothing.

All training rides that are unloaded (i.e., without your panniers, sleeping bag, etc.) must be at an average speed of 14 miles per hour (or greater); all loaded training rides must be at an average speed of 12 miles per hour (or greater). You must be able to maintain (or exceed) 12 miles an hour fully loaded on terrain that includes hills.

All pre-trip training rides must be undertaken on the bike you will use on the American Challenge and with the pedals and shoes that you plan to use on the trip - either running shoes with toe cages attached to your pedals or bike touring or mountain biking shoes with bottom treads and recessed cleats—these shoes clip into “clipless” pedals (it’s confusing). You must be comfortable with your pedals and shoes so that you can be a competent rider once the trip starts.

Your Commitment to the Group
The American Challenge requires an extraordinary amount of selflessness and teamwork. Consider the following:

(1) Riding. There will always be a range of abilities in every American Challenge group. Successful groups are the ones where the stronger riders commit themselves to support the weaker riders and where the weaker riders work hard to improve their riding so that the group can stay as close as possible when on the road. For fast riders, the challenge is to slow down and enjoy the group experience of riding across the country (if you really just want to go fast then ride across the country on your own). For slower riders, it's important to pay attention to your speed on the bike during your spring training rides. If you can't maintain the minimum speeds required (see above under Pre-Trip Training: unloaded rides must be at an average speed of 14 miles per hour or greater; all loaded training rides must be at an average speed of 12 miles per hour or greater), then you are going to have to train more—and harder—than the requirements that we have spelled out.

(2) Pace. Let's say an easy pace for you when your bike is fully loaded is 8 miles per hour. Do the math: 80+ miles a day at 8 m.p.h = 10 hours of pedaling—when you add in stops for snacks and lunch and delays and breakdowns your 10 hours of pedaling has grown to 12+ hours. Assuming the group is on the road by 6:00 a.m. that means you're rolling into camp after 6:00 p.m.—it's simply not a schedule that can be maintained, especially when the day's mileage is in the 90+ range (there are typically 4 days between 90 and 100 miles and 6 days over 100 miles). Plus, there will be a handful of riders who will be able to maintain close to 15 m.p.h. If in the spring you find that you are a slower rider, then you must work to improve your speed and endurance. If, despite training, you find that you simply cannot maintain the required pace then you must contact us so that we can try to place you on a different trip.

(3) Meals. Experience has shown that it is absolutely essential that the group come together for meals, snacks and drinks... these are the times when friendships form and bonds are strengthened. These friendships and these bonds not only make the trip fun, they are the bedrock that provides the support for the most difficult days. Your group will work together to make sure that everyone has the kind of meals, snacks and cold drinks that they need to stay healthy and to have fun. You will find that you are eating and drinking constantly on the American Challenge—but you are doing it as a group; enjoying meals, snacks and drinks that the group chooses, that Overland pays for and that the group enjoys together.

(4) Time Together Off The Bikes. There's precious little time off the bikes, but when it comes, the group has to stick together, to include everyone... in everything—from chatting at morning snack to relaxing at lunch to reflecting on the day just before bed. Train hard for the trip, be prepared for an incredible challenge and come ready to be an important member of a close-working team.

Conclusion
The American Challenge is the greatest trip any high schooler could ever take... if you're excited about it, apply today—then get ready for the most amazing summer of your life!

Packing for Your Trip

  • Label the following items with your name, address and phone number.
  • Overland bicycle tours are fully self-contained—meaning there is no van support. You will carry all of your belongings, plus some group gear, on a sturdy rack mounted over the back wheel of your bike. You will hang panniers (these are saddlebags, pronounced “pan-yers”) off the rack and attach gear like your sleeping bag and sleeping pad to the top of the rack using bungee cords.
  • Please bring only the clothes listed below and do not wear an extra set of clothes for the flight. At trip start, your leaders will distribute group gear and they will help you repack your panniers and bike—at that time any unnecessary items will be mailed home.
  • Check out some of our favorite brands and retailers to purchase items on this list.
  • Please do not bring any type of knife or multi-tool like a Swiss Army knife or Leatherman tool. There are absolutely no weapons permitted on any Overland trip.
  • Please do not bring any items not listed on the packing list.
  • If you are flying, as you pack your gear adhere to the following instructions: (1) pack your sleeping pad and shoes in your bike box (2) Please take your helmet and sleeping bag with you on the plane as carry-on items in case your checked luggage fails to arrive on time. (3) Pack all your remaining items in your panniers. You can tape or strap your panniers together to check them as one piece of luggage. 

Biking & Camping Equipment

  • Hi-Vis T-shirts and Vest
    Three t's and one vest. Synthetic preferred. Please visit the Overland Store if you need to purchase these items. Bike jerseys are acceptable but not necessary. The vest should be large enough to wear over warm layers while riding.
  • Touring Bicycle & Rear Rack
    One of the following bikes is required: Trek 520, Surly Long Haul Trucker, Fuji Touring, Jamis Aurora, Novarra Randonee. These bikes must be in excellent condition and have been purchased in the past 48 months. Other bicycles will not be accepted.
  • Panniers & Four Bungee Cords
    Panniers are saddlebags sold in pairs that attach to either side of your rear rack. For our trips you will want large panniers, 2400-3000 cubic inches total (for the pair), designed for touring. One large pannier has internal dimensions of approximately 17" x 13" x 7". You should be able to fit all of your belongings, besides your sleeping bag and pad, into your two panniers and have some space for group gear. Consider compressibility of clothing while packing for your Overland bicycle tour. Bungee cords should b 18-24" in length.
     
  • Spare Bike Parts & Tools
    • Four spare tubes that match your bike's tire size. (Note: you may choose to start the trip with just two tubes and mail the other two ahead to one of the mail stops. On average, students on the American Challenge get 6-8 flat tires throughout the trip. Some punctures can be easily repaired with a patch, but other times putting in a new tube is a better option. Although four spare tubes may seem like a lot, many students use all their spares and some need to purchase more along the way.)
    • One pair of spare brake pads.
    • Four spare spokes that fit your wheels (two front, two rear).
    • One tire patch kit; tire levers; one spare tire.
       
  • Hydration System, Water Bottles & Cages
    70-100 oz. bladder inside a small backpack (e.g., CamelBak). The simpler the better—the pack is used primarily to carry water and if it's too big and heavy or filled with other items, it will be uncomfortable to wear all day. Also attach one or two water bottles and cages to your bike frame.
     
  • Helmet
    Carry on the plane with you
  • Biking Gloves
    Well-padded for comfort
  • Shoes For Biking
    You have two options (most American Challenge participants choose option 2):
    • Ride in running shoes and have toe cages attached to your pedals. OR
    • Ride in bike touring or mountain biking shoes with bottom treads and recessed cleats—these shoes clip into “clipless” pedals (it’s confusing). A popular style of clipless shoes/pedals are SPDs. Please do not ride in racing shoes (they have hard soles that are uncomfortable to walk in).
  • Sleeping Bag
    Warm to 30 degrees or less. Lightweight and compact (when stuffed in a compression stuff-sack it should be no larger than 12" x 20"). Synthetic or down is acceptable. Carry on the plane with you.

  • Sleeping Pad
    Compact and either 3/4 or full length. Closed cell foam (thin and firm—e.g. RidgeRest) or self-inflating (e.g. Therm-a-Rest) is acceptable.

  • Utensils
    6" to 8" plastic dish or bowl with top; insulated plastic mug; spoon, fork and knife. These don't need to be special camping utensils. A Rubbermaid dish (or similar) and regular utensils are fine.

  • Headlamp
    Small and lightweight. This comes in very handy in camp when it's dark and you're using both hands.

Clothing

Please bring only the clothes listed below and do not wear an extra set of clothes for the flight. At trip start, your leaders will distribute group gear and they will help you repack your panniers and bike—at that time any unnecessary items can be mailed home.

  • Fleece Jacket or Pullover
    To stay warm on cool nights. Also comes in handy as a pillow.
     
  • Waterproof, Breathable Rain Jacket
    Your rain gear must be waterproof (not just water resistant). Gore-Tex is one of the better-known waterproof, breathable fabric brands, but there are many to choose from. Ponchos are not acceptable. Bright colors prefered. 
     
  • Shorts To Bike In
    Two or three pairs of bike shorts. These are spandex shorts with a padded seat called a chamois. Bike shorts should fit snugly and feel comfortable to reduce chafing and any discomforts from sitting on a bike seat for long distance rides.
     
  • Around Camp Shorts
    One pair--athletic shorts work well around camp as they are comfortable to wear, light and compressible to pack.
     
  • T-shirt
    One synthetic shirt for around camp. 
     
  • Underwear
    Four--typically underwear is not worn under bike shorts, but you'll need some for around camp and days off.
     
  • Socks
    Four pairs--at least one warm, synthetic pair for inclement weather and around camp.
     
  • Pajamas
    One pair only--pajamas aren't required as many students sleep in shorts and a t-shirt.
     
  • Bathing Suit
    One only--not required as many students swim in bike shorts (and a sports bra for girls).
     
  • Sport Sandals
    Flip-flops or Crocs are great.

Miscellaneous Gear

  • Towel
    Medium size synthetic. Synthetic camp towls will dry faster, are lightweight and more compactable than cotton.

  • Plastic Bags
    Ten large ziplocks and five tall kitchen trash bags. The trash bags will be used to line your panniers and to wrap your sleeping bag and pad in. The ziplocks will be used to organize and waterproof the rest of your gear.

  • Toiletries
    All travel size (in a plastic bag). If necessary, you will be able to restock en route.

  • Chamois Cream
    Special cream to put on your bike shorts chamois to reduce the risk of chafing and saddle sores. Some popular brands are Chamois Butt'r and Assos. You can purchase chamois cream at any bike shop.

  • Sunglasses, Sunscreen (SPF 15+), Chapstick (with SPF protection) & Insect Repellent

  • Paperback Book and/or Personal Journal
    Optional

  • Camera/Batteries/Memory Card
    Optional, but great for documenting the trip. Make sure you bring a large enough memory card (1 to 4 GB).

  • Spending Money
    $25/week in cash or with a debit or ATM card. If you are flying home at the end of your trip, please bring additional money to set aside to pay the airline bike fee for your return flight.

Cell Phones, Electronics and Personal Property

Please note the following important policies:

Our programs offer the opportunity to strengthen independence and self-reliance. To maximize these benefits, we do not permit phone calls to or from our students (except in the case of emergency).

If it is important for your son or daughter to be able to call you while en route to Overland, we recommend that you purchase an inexpensive prepaid cell phone. Please do not send an expensive smart phone like an iPhone or BlackBerry. On arrival we will collect all phones but we have found that safeguarding these phones is problematic given that our programs move from place to place. Despite our best efforts over $25,000 in phones have been lost, damaged or stolen in the last two years alone. We regret that due to the expense involved in replacing these items, we take absolutely no responsibility whatsoever for phones, electronics or personal property brought by students and we will not make any reimbursements for lost, damaged or stolen phones, electronics or personal property.

Communications

  • To maximize independence and self-reliance, we do not permit phone calls, emails or text messages to or from our students (except in the case of an emergency).
  • Your child will call home with our phones and assistance on arrival and departure if he/she flies to his/her program.
  • In the case of an emergency, we will make sure you are in touch with your child as soon as possible.

 Cell Phones

  • Cell phone use is prohibited on all Overland programs.
  • Any phone brought by a student will be collected by us on arrival and returned at departure.
  • If you decide to bring a phone, do not bring an expensive smartphone (e.g., iPhone or BlackBerry); instead bring an inexpensive prepaid cell phone.

Personal Electronics

  • We do not permit personal electronics (e.g., iPods, Kindles or iPads) except for digital cameras.
  • We do not permit emergency response or GPS tracking electronics.
  • Any electronics brought by a student will be collected by us on arrival and mailed home or returned at departure.

Personal Property

  • Overland is not responsible for any student’s personal property—including but not limited to: phones, electronics, cameras, equipment, bicycles and clothing. Please schedule all expensive items on your homeowners insurance policy to ensure that your child/ward’s personal property and equipment is covered against loss, damage or theft.

No Reimbursements for Lost, Damaged or Stolen Phone, Electronics and Personal Property

  • Despite taking precautions, some phones, electronics and personal property brought by students (and collected by us) have been lost, damaged or stolen. We regret that due to the expense involved in replacing these items, we take absolutely no responsibility whatsoever for phones, electronics or personal property brought by students and we will not make any reimbursements for lost, damaged or stolen phones, electronics or personal property.
  • Please leave all valuable items - for example, jewelry or an important keepsake - at home while traveling with Overland.

Questions or concerns? Please call us. Your understanding and cooperation are appreciated.

 

FAQs

What is a typical day like?

We'll get up before sunrise every morning and be on the bikes shortly after first light. We'll bike for a couple of hours before stopping for a morning snack. We'll bike until 10 a.m. or 11 a.m. before we stop again for another snack and then continue until 1 p.m. or 2 p.m. before we stop for lunch. The afternoon riding is broken up by a snack stop or two. Depending on the day's mileage and delays en route, the goal is to pull into our overnight accommodations (typically a campground or church) between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. There will be shorter days and longer days—if the day gets too long, we'll change our plans and stop for the night before reaching our planned destination (and we'll make up the mileage in the coming days).

Does the group ride every day?

During each section of the trip, there are buffer days built into the itinerary to allow for delays en route. Most groups will find that they spend these buffer days partially or completely off of the bikes for rest, relaxation and exploration on foot.

What are meals like?

Breakfasts are generally made up of cereal, fruit, juice and milk. A typical morning snack is bananas and granola bars. Lunch is usually sandwiches (peanut butter & jelly, cold cuts & cheese, hummus), plus lots of chips and cookies and fresh fruit and veggies. Based on the availability of stores along our route one afternoon stop a day will include cold drinks (for example, cold water, juice or Gatorade purchased by Overland from a convenience store) and a salty snack (chips, pretzels or crackers). Popular dinners include pasta, stir-fry, tacos and burritos.

Overland's goal is to always provide more food than is needed so that everyone—no matter how big their appetite—gets enough. Each group will plan and prepare their meals every day. Over the course of the first week or so, groups develop a comfortable routine around meals and their favorite meals become established.

Please note that every meal, snack and cold drink on the American Challenge is provided by Overland and is shared by the group. This asks a lot of everyone in the group: even though it would be easy to allow students to buy their own meals and snacks if they wanted, doing so would break down the cohesiveness of the group. Getting 14 people across the country on bikes requires tremendous teamwork—sharing meals, snacks and drinks is an important building block of that teamwork.

What is the weather like?

You should be prepared for warm temperatures and lots of sun. The southeast is hot and humid in the summers. The temperatures stay hot as you work your way through the drier climates of Kansas, Colorado (or Oklahoma and New Mexico, depending on the group), Arizona and eastern California. You should expect some chillier days (in the 50s or 60s) as you pass over the Rockies; prepare for some rain in the southeast and the occasional afternoon storm in the West.

How often can I take a shower?

Goups will have access to showers every three or four days. 

How often can I do laundry?

Groups will typically have an opportunity to do laundry once a week.

What is the terrain like?

Over the course of six weeks you will bike across some of the most spectacular geographic landmarks the US has to offer. The terrain ranges from rolling hills to gradual inclines to mountain passes. You'll cross the Ozarks, Rockies and San Bernadinos as you pedal west. There's even a climb up to the rim of the Grand Canyon.

What kind of bike do I need? 

One of the following touring bikes is required for this trip: Trek 520, Surly Long Haul Trucker, Jamis Aurora, Fuji Touring or the Novara Randonee. These bikes must be in excellent condition and have been purchased in the past 48 months. Please contact Overland with any questions.

Is there vehicle support?

There is no van support with the exception of one day across the desert (because there are very few amenities or services available). Students carry all of their personal gear in addition to some group gear (part of a tent, cooking utensils or pots and pans, for example) and some group food.

How much should I train?

The American Challenge requires commitment, both before and during the trip. Pre-trip riding is essential in order to prepare yourself for a trip that covers 3000 miles over the course of 41 or 42 days, depending on the group (don't worry, there are buffer days built in to allow for delays en route and permit time off the bike). You should be prepared to get on your bike starting in March (or earlier if the snow allows it!) for two rides per week, of about an hour each. Over the course of the spring you should ratchet up your mileage until you're ready to tackle longer rides on fully-loaded bikes in June. Please see the Prepare & Pack section for a more detailed training plan. 

Please tell me about safety at Overland.

Safety and risk management are at the forefront of our decision-making—from trip planning to leader training to supporting our groups in the field. We cannot guarantee absolute safety—no program can. Biking and other recreational activities include inherent and other risks. Therefore, we strive to manage the risks that we can, knowing we cannot eliminate them. For example, we require our campers and leaders to ride with helmets; we ride as a group with a leader at the front and the rear; each bike has a bright orange safety flag; and we carefully review our routes. Beyond these and other important practices, we work hard to recruit, train and support our trip leaders so that they can create the kind of trips that have made us successful for 30 years. Please click here to read more about our approach to risk management and our accreditation by the American Camp Association.

“Sarabeth knows now that she can do anything she sets her mind to regardless of difficulty.” Joyce Sandweiss, Houston, Texas

Prepare & Pack

Preparing for the Biking

Training ahead of time is essential to your success on an Overland bike trip. Training will also enable you to enjoy your trip this summer. Please review the training guidelines below:

This is Overland’s most challenging trip due to its length and intensity. The American Challenge is rated a 10 on a scale of 1-10 (1 is easiest). 

  • 3000+ miles of riding
  • 80+ miles a day of riding
  • 44 or 45 days from start to finish (depends on the group). Some days off of the bikes: arrival day, departure day plus four buffer days to allow for delays en route (most groups will find that they spend these buffer days partially or completely off of the bikes)
  • Riding begins at first light and ends in the late afternoon or evening

Past experience has shown the following:
(1) Your health and well being for the duration of the trip will depend on the quality, duration and intensity of your preparation.
(2) Your enjoyment of the trip will depend on your understanding of and commitment to the American Challenge as a group experience—one that demands selflessness and teamwork.

Required Pre-Trip Training
You must be able to commit to a pre-trip training program that requires the following:
(1) two rides a week of one hour each in March (14 miles over varied terrain);
(2) two rides a week of 90 minutes each in April (21 miles over varied terrain);
(3) two rides a week of two hours each in May (28 miles over varied terrain);
(4) four rides a week, two afterschool rides of two hours each (24 miles over varied terrain) and two weekend rides of four hours each (48 miles over varied terrain). All rides in June should be on fully-loaded bikes with all of your gear and clothing.

All training rides that are unloaded (i.e., without your panniers, sleeping bag, etc.) must be at an average speed of 14 miles per hour (or greater); all loaded training rides must be at an average speed of 12 miles per hour (or greater). You must be able to maintain (or exceed) 12 miles an hour fully loaded on terrain that includes hills.

All pre-trip training rides must be undertaken on the bike you will use on the American Challenge and with the pedals and shoes that you plan to use on the trip - either running shoes with toe cages attached to your pedals or bike touring or mountain biking shoes with bottom treads and recessed cleats—these shoes clip into “clipless” pedals (it’s confusing). You must be comfortable with your pedals and shoes so that you can be a competent rider once the trip starts.

Your Commitment to the Group
The American Challenge requires an extraordinary amount of selflessness and teamwork. Consider the following:

(1) Riding. There will always be a range of abilities in every American Challenge group. Successful groups are the ones where the stronger riders commit themselves to support the weaker riders and where the weaker riders work hard to improve their riding so that the group can stay as close as possible when on the road. For fast riders, the challenge is to slow down and enjoy the group experience of riding across the country (if you really just want to go fast then ride across the country on your own). For slower riders, it's important to pay attention to your speed on the bike during your spring training rides. If you can't maintain the minimum speeds required (see above under Pre-Trip Training: unloaded rides must be at an average speed of 14 miles per hour or greater; all loaded training rides must be at an average speed of 12 miles per hour or greater), then you are going to have to train more—and harder—than the requirements that we have spelled out.

(2) Pace. Let's say an easy pace for you when your bike is fully loaded is 8 miles per hour. Do the math: 80+ miles a day at 8 m.p.h = 10 hours of pedaling—when you add in stops for snacks and lunch and delays and breakdowns your 10 hours of pedaling has grown to 12+ hours. Assuming the group is on the road by 6:00 a.m. that means you're rolling into camp after 6:00 p.m.—it's simply not a schedule that can be maintained, especially when the day's mileage is in the 90+ range (there are typically 4 days between 90 and 100 miles and 6 days over 100 miles). Plus, there will be a handful of riders who will be able to maintain close to 15 m.p.h. If in the spring you find that you are a slower rider, then you must work to improve your speed and endurance. If, despite training, you find that you simply cannot maintain the required pace then you must contact us so that we can try to place you on a different trip.

(3) Meals. Experience has shown that it is absolutely essential that the group come together for meals, snacks and drinks... these are the times when friendships form and bonds are strengthened. These friendships and these bonds not only make the trip fun, they are the bedrock that provides the support for the most difficult days. Your group will work together to make sure that everyone has the kind of meals, snacks and cold drinks that they need to stay healthy and to have fun. You will find that you are eating and drinking constantly on the American Challenge—but you are doing it as a group; enjoying meals, snacks and drinks that the group chooses, that Overland pays for and that the group enjoys together.

(4) Time Together Off The Bikes. There's precious little time off the bikes, but when it comes, the group has to stick together, to include everyone... in everything—from chatting at morning snack to relaxing at lunch to reflecting on the day just before bed. Train hard for the trip, be prepared for an incredible challenge and come ready to be an important member of a close-working team.

Conclusion
The American Challenge is the greatest trip any high schooler could ever take... if you're excited about it, apply today—then get ready for the most amazing summer of your life!

Packing for Your Trip

  • Label the following items with your name, address and phone number.
  • Overland bicycle tours are fully self-contained—meaning there is no van support. You will carry all of your belongings, plus some group gear, on a sturdy rack mounted over the back wheel of your bike. You will hang panniers (these are saddlebags, pronounced “pan-yers”) off the rack and attach gear like your sleeping bag and sleeping pad to the top of the rack using bungee cords.
  • Please bring only the clothes listed below and do not wear an extra set of clothes for the flight. At trip start, your leaders will distribute group gear and they will help you repack your panniers and bike—at that time any unnecessary items will be mailed home.
  • Check out some of our favorite brands and retailers to purchase items on this list.
  • Please do not bring any type of knife or multi-tool like a Swiss Army knife or Leatherman tool. There are absolutely no weapons permitted on any Overland trip.
  • Please do not bring any items not listed on the packing list.
  • If you are flying, as you pack your gear adhere to the following instructions: (1) pack your sleeping pad and shoes in your bike box (2) Please take your helmet and sleeping bag with you on the plane as carry-on items in case your checked luggage fails to arrive on time. (3) Pack all your remaining items in your panniers. You can tape or strap your panniers together to check them as one piece of luggage. 

Biking & Camping Equipment

  • Hi-Vis T-shirts and Vest
    Three t's and one vest. Synthetic preferred. Please visit the Overland Store if you need to purchase these items. Bike jerseys are acceptable but not necessary. The vest should be large enough to wear over warm layers while riding.
  • Touring Bicycle & Rear Rack
    One of the following bikes is required: Trek 520, Surly Long Haul Trucker, Fuji Touring, Jamis Aurora, Novarra Randonee. These bikes must be in excellent condition and have been purchased in the past 48 months. Other bicycles will not be accepted.
  • Panniers & Four Bungee Cords
    Panniers are saddlebags sold in pairs that attach to either side of your rear rack. For our trips you will want large panniers, 2400-3000 cubic inches total (for the pair), designed for touring. One large pannier has internal dimensions of approximately 17" x 13" x 7". You should be able to fit all of your belongings, besides your sleeping bag and pad, into your two panniers and have some space for group gear. Consider compressibility of clothing while packing for your Overland bicycle tour. Bungee cords should b 18-24" in length.
     
  • Spare Bike Parts & Tools
    • Four spare tubes that match your bike's tire size. (Note: you may choose to start the trip with just two tubes and mail the other two ahead to one of the mail stops. On average, students on the American Challenge get 6-8 flat tires throughout the trip. Some punctures can be easily repaired with a patch, but other times putting in a new tube is a better option. Although four spare tubes may seem like a lot, many students use all their spares and some need to purchase more along the way.)
    • One pair of spare brake pads.
    • Four spare spokes that fit your wheels (two front, two rear).
    • One tire patch kit; tire levers; one spare tire.
       
  • Hydration System, Water Bottles & Cages
    70-100 oz. bladder inside a small backpack (e.g., CamelBak). The simpler the better—the pack is used primarily to carry water and if it's too big and heavy or filled with other items, it will be uncomfortable to wear all day. Also attach one or two water bottles and cages to your bike frame.
     
  • Helmet
    Carry on the plane with you
  • Biking Gloves
    Well-padded for comfort
  • Shoes For Biking
    You have two options (most American Challenge participants choose option 2):
    • Ride in running shoes and have toe cages attached to your pedals. OR
    • Ride in bike touring or mountain biking shoes with bottom treads and recessed cleats—these shoes clip into “clipless” pedals (it’s confusing). A popular style of clipless shoes/pedals are SPDs. Please do not ride in racing shoes (they have hard soles that are uncomfortable to walk in).
  • Sleeping Bag
    Warm to 30 degrees or less. Lightweight and compact (when stuffed in a compression stuff-sack it should be no larger than 12" x 20"). Synthetic or down is acceptable. Carry on the plane with you.

  • Sleeping Pad
    Compact and either 3/4 or full length. Closed cell foam (thin and firm—e.g. RidgeRest) or self-inflating (e.g. Therm-a-Rest) is acceptable.

  • Utensils
    6" to 8" plastic dish or bowl with top; insulated plastic mug; spoon, fork and knife. These don't need to be special camping utensils. A Rubbermaid dish (or similar) and regular utensils are fine.

  • Headlamp
    Small and lightweight. This comes in very handy in camp when it's dark and you're using both hands.

Clothing

Please bring only the clothes listed below and do not wear an extra set of clothes for the flight. At trip start, your leaders will distribute group gear and they will help you repack your panniers and bike—at that time any unnecessary items can be mailed home.

  • Fleece Jacket or Pullover
    To stay warm on cool nights. Also comes in handy as a pillow.
     
  • Waterproof, Breathable Rain Jacket
    Your rain gear must be waterproof (not just water resistant). Gore-Tex is one of the better-known waterproof, breathable fabric brands, but there are many to choose from. Ponchos are not acceptable. Bright colors prefered. 
     
  • Shorts To Bike In
    Two or three pairs of bike shorts. These are spandex shorts with a padded seat called a chamois. Bike shorts should fit snugly and feel comfortable to reduce chafing and any discomforts from sitting on a bike seat for long distance rides.
     
  • Around Camp Shorts
    One pair--athletic shorts work well around camp as they are comfortable to wear, light and compressible to pack.
     
  • T-shirt
    One synthetic shirt for around camp. 
     
  • Underwear
    Four--typically underwear is not worn under bike shorts, but you'll need some for around camp and days off.
     
  • Socks
    Four pairs--at least one warm, synthetic pair for inclement weather and around camp.
     
  • Pajamas
    One pair only--pajamas aren't required as many students sleep in shorts and a t-shirt.
     
  • Bathing Suit
    One only--not required as many students swim in bike shorts (and a sports bra for girls).
     
  • Sport Sandals
    Flip-flops or Crocs are great.

Miscellaneous Gear

  • Towel
    Medium size synthetic. Synthetic camp towls will dry faster, are lightweight and more compactable than cotton.

  • Plastic Bags
    Ten large ziplocks and five tall kitchen trash bags. The trash bags will be used to line your panniers and to wrap your sleeping bag and pad in. The ziplocks will be used to organize and waterproof the rest of your gear.

  • Toiletries
    All travel size (in a plastic bag). If necessary, you will be able to restock en route.

  • Chamois Cream
    Special cream to put on your bike shorts chamois to reduce the risk of chafing and saddle sores. Some popular brands are Chamois Butt'r and Assos. You can purchase chamois cream at any bike shop.

  • Sunglasses, Sunscreen (SPF 15+), Chapstick (with SPF protection) & Insect Repellent

  • Paperback Book and/or Personal Journal
    Optional

  • Camera/Batteries/Memory Card
    Optional, but great for documenting the trip. Make sure you bring a large enough memory card (1 to 4 GB).

  • Spending Money
    $25/week in cash or with a debit or ATM card. If you are flying home at the end of your trip, please bring additional money to set aside to pay the airline bike fee for your return flight.

Cell Phones, Electronics and Personal Property

Please note the following important policies:

Our programs offer the opportunity to strengthen independence and self-reliance. To maximize these benefits, we do not permit phone calls to or from our students (except in the case of emergency).

If it is important for your son or daughter to be able to call you while en route to Overland, we recommend that you purchase an inexpensive prepaid cell phone. Please do not send an expensive smart phone like an iPhone or BlackBerry. On arrival we will collect all phones but we have found that safeguarding these phones is problematic given that our programs move from place to place. Despite our best efforts over $25,000 in phones have been lost, damaged or stolen in the last two years alone. We regret that due to the expense involved in replacing these items, we take absolutely no responsibility whatsoever for phones, electronics or personal property brought by students and we will not make any reimbursements for lost, damaged or stolen phones, electronics or personal property.

Communications

  • To maximize independence and self-reliance, we do not permit phone calls, emails or text messages to or from our students (except in the case of an emergency).
  • Your child will call home with our phones and assistance on arrival and departure if he/she flies to his/her program.
  • In the case of an emergency, we will make sure you are in touch with your child as soon as possible.

 Cell Phones

  • Cell phone use is prohibited on all Overland programs.
  • Any phone brought by a student will be collected by us on arrival and returned at departure.
  • If you decide to bring a phone, do not bring an expensive smartphone (e.g., iPhone or BlackBerry); instead bring an inexpensive prepaid cell phone.

Personal Electronics

  • We do not permit personal electronics (e.g., iPods, Kindles or iPads) except for digital cameras.
  • We do not permit emergency response or GPS tracking electronics.
  • Any electronics brought by a student will be collected by us on arrival and mailed home or returned at departure.

Personal Property

  • Overland is not responsible for any student’s personal property—including but not limited to: phones, electronics, cameras, equipment, bicycles and clothing. Please schedule all expensive items on your homeowners insurance policy to ensure that your child/ward’s personal property and equipment is covered against loss, damage or theft.

No Reimbursements for Lost, Damaged or Stolen Phone, Electronics and Personal Property

  • Despite taking precautions, some phones, electronics and personal property brought by students (and collected by us) have been lost, damaged or stolen. We regret that due to the expense involved in replacing these items, we take absolutely no responsibility whatsoever for phones, electronics or personal property brought by students and we will not make any reimbursements for lost, damaged or stolen phones, electronics or personal property.
  • Please leave all valuable items - for example, jewelry or an important keepsake - at home while traveling with Overland.

Questions or concerns? Please call us. Your understanding and cooperation are appreciated.

 

Travel Information

Families are responsible for making travel arrangements to Charleston International Airport and from the Los Angeles International airport. Overland’s leaders will be on hand at the airport to welcome students at trip start and to assist with departure at trip end.

If your child is flying:

Flight Arrival Window:
Charleston Int'l Airport (CHS) between 8:00 am and Noon

Flight Departure Window:
Los Angeles Int'l Airport (LAX) between 6:00 am and 11:00 am

If you're dropping off and/or picking up your child:

Trip Start Drop Off: 
Charleston Int'l Airport baggage claim at 11:30 am

Trip End Pick Up: 
1.) Santa Monica Youth Hostel, 1436 Second St., at 10:00 pm the night before the trip end date
2.) Santa Monica Youth Hostel, 1436 Second St., at 5:00 am the morning of the trip end date
3.) Los Angeles Int'l Airport (LAX) at the United check-in area at 8:00 am on the trip end date 

Overland staff will be on hand at trip end to assist with boxing bicycles (we will provide bike boxes for this purpose). We recommend  shipping bikes home via FedEx and we are happy to assist with this. Alternatively we will transport boxed bicycles to the airport to be checked as baggage. 

Flight and Travel Information

Traveling With Your Bicycle

For alternative travel plans or questions, please call us at 413-458-9672 or email
travel@overlandsummers.com

Mail Stops

Students have the chance to receive mail at five designated points along the route. When sending mail, please write the student's name and section number clearly on the envelope/package and be sure it arrives prior to the specified date to ensure delivery to the group.

  • Please do not send overnight letters: Many overnighted letters arrive before or after we arrive and are then sent back (for this same reason, please do not send mail that requires a signature upon delivery).
  • All mail addressed to a General Delivery post office address must be sent via US Postal Service. FedEx and UPS packages will not be accepted at a General Delivery address.
More detailed information about sending mail to your student will be posted on the Overland Portal in May.

 

Helpful Reminders

Help Your Child Prepare Adequately

Once your child is enrolled you will be directed to the Overland Portal. Please take the time to read through all of the pre-trip information and prepare appropriately. All programs—not just our outdoor trips—require thoughtful preparation and good fitness. It is important to stay active and fit through sports and exercise. In addition, hikers need broken in boots and bikers need to practice safe riding.

Summer Photos

We will upload photos of every group during the summer. Details will be provided in the spring. We’ll also upload all the leaders’ photos from the summer by mid-August (which you can download for free).

We're Here for You

Once our programs start the Overland office is open seven days a week from 8am to 11pm. After 11pm, for all routine calls, please leave a voicemail, and we will call you back as soon as we return to the office. In an emergency, follow the instructions on the answering machine to contact our answering service, and we will return your call promptly.

Expectations, Cell Phones & Electronics

EXPECTATIONS & RULES

Overland programs are wholesome, structured experiences with high expectations of each student’s behavior. Our students are expected to be enthusiastic, positive, helpful and supportive of each other and of their leaders; they are expected to have chosen an appropriate trip for their interests and abilities; they are expected to have prepared adequately so that they can keep up physically and participate in all of the group’s activities; they understand that smoking, using any tobacco product, drinking alcohol or using any drugs (other than prescribed medications) is strictly prohibited. We reserve the right to dismiss any student for any reason whatsoever-- including but not limited to: rule breaking, a poor attitude, misbehaving, an inability to fully participate or to keep up physically. Students who are dismissed receive no refund and all costs associated with the dismissal are the sole responsibility of the parents/guardians.

PHONE CALLS, CELL PHONES AND ELECTRONICS

To maximize independence and self-reliance, we do not permit phone calls, emails or text messages to or from our students; the exceptions to this are: (1) your child will call home on arrival and departure with our phones and assistance and (2) in the case of an emergency. If your child brings a phone for use while en route to his/her Overland program, please do not bring an expensive smart phone; instead bring an inexpensive prepaid cell phone or calling card. Please do not bring personal electronics (e.g., iPods, Kindles, iPads, GPS or similar devices) except for digital cameras. Any cell phones or electronics (except cameras) brought by a student will be collected on arrival and mailed home or returned at departure.

Anytime a student is treated for an injury or illness by a doctor or medical personnel, parents are notified by our office. A director calls the parents to explain the nature of the injury or illness, the sequence of events leading up to the injury and/or the steps leading to the treatment. Parents are typically able to speak with the medical personnel, with the leaders and with the child.

 

Leader Profile

Stephen Coles

Stephen Coles

Hometown
Kalamazoo, Michigan
School
Washington University
Leadership
Nova Scotia & Acadia, Pacific Coast
More about Stephen »

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