Cycling from Capitol to Capitol in the United States – Unfinished Business

By Sherry Ott of (

When I was a kid, I was scared of everything.  As I grew into my adult self, I realized that being scared was a paralyzing way to live. I started to push myself into the corners of fear and little by little I changed my life. Now I live by the motto, “Do one thing that scares you every day.” I believe the best way to overcome fear is by confronting it directly. Whether you take a leap or proceed with small steps, facing fear is essential.

Fear has driven many of my bold decisions. It led me to quit my job in 2006 and travel solo around the world. It compelled me to move to Vietnam for a year to learn motorbiking in chaotic traffic. It also pushed me to join the Mongol Rally despite my fear of driving in foreign countries.

The thought of biking across America—maneuvering busy highways and backroads as a relatively new cyclist—frightens me. Additionally, I must ask for help from others, which is just as frightening to me. But to finish my dad’s quest and complete my goal, I must face these fears.

My Father’s Unfinished Journey

In 1984, my father began a remarkable journey at 47 years old, setting out to visit the capitols of the lower 48 states on foot. Starting from our home in Illinois, he meticulously planned a counter-clockwise route. Over 25 years, he walked to 23 state capitals, covering around 4,085 miles.

My father is now 87, and sadly he won’t finish his unique quest. All of his plans and notes are just gathering dust in the attic.

Teenage Embarrassment to Adult Admiration

When my father started his quest, I was 14. Like most teenagers, I found my parents’ eccentricities embarrassing. My father’s project was no exception. I couldn’t understand what drove my practical, Midwestern engineer father to undertake such a peculiar mission. I longed for teenage normalcy while he pursued uniqueness. In my twenties, I dismissed it as another one of his eccentricities. By my thirties, I began to admire it, and by my forties, I was impressed.

Genuinely unique ideas are rare, yet my dad embarked on a distinctive quest in the 80’s that remains unmatched even today. It astounds me that he conceived an idea so original that no one else has attempted to walk from Capitol to Capitol over the years.

As I grew older, I realized I shared more with my father than I initially thought; I was driven to be different and not follow the crowd. At 36, I left my job as an IT professional to travel the world, visiting over 75 countries and living a location-independent lifestyle for 11 years. I accidentally became a travel blogger back in 2006!

Capitol to Capitol Quest is Reborn…On a Bike

I’ve decided to complete the remaining 26 capitols and 8,000+ miles, but instead of walking, I’ll be cycling.

Cycling is a new passion for me. I started biking during the pandemic to explore my city, and soon, I became fascinated by cycling paths, gear, etiquette, and tools. Simply put - I fell in love with biking.

I went to the attic, dusted off all of the notes, and brought it to life with my Dad’s blessing. I’m using my father’s route he designed in the 80’s.  He chose his route in and out of the capitols in a counter clockwise direction around the US.

Understanding the Motivation

When asked why he undertook this challenge, my father’s answer is simple: he enjoyed big projects. There was no life-changing event or mid-life crisis; he simply decided one day to walk from Springfield, Illinois, to Madison, Wisconsin.

In many ways, my dad was like Forrest Gump before the character existed—dedicated, methodical, and driven by a love for hard work. He came from a German Lutheran background where emotions were kept in check, and life was about perseverance and quiet resolve.

My Reasons for Continuing

While my father’s motivations were pragmatic, mine are more introspective. At 54, I find myself at a similar age to when he started, reflecting on my own desires and motivations.

Exploring the U.S.

Since 2006, I’ve traveled the globe, immersing myself in new cultures. Travel is my passion. The pandemic, however, made me realize I had neglected domestic travel. I wanted to explore more of the U.S. at a slower pace, and the Capitol to Capitol quest was perfect for this. It would take me through rural America, allowing me to experience and write about lesser-seen aspects of American culture.

Seeking Purpose

After nearly two decades of traveling and blogging, the predictability began to wear on me. I felt lost within the evolving world of social media. Taking on the Capitol project provided me with a renewed sense of purpose, offering a big, inspiring challenge to dedicate myself to.

This project is daunting but gives me a reason to wake up each day, be creative, and push my limits.

Finishing What Was Started

My parents instilled in me the value of hard work and the importance of finishing what you start. My father’s insistence that I complete what I began, like sticking out my high school basketball season despite wanting to quit, taught me resilience and commitment.

By taking on my father’s journey, I am not just visiting state capitals; I am honoring the principles and values my parents instilled in me. This quest is about more than just travel—it's about perseverance, dedication, and carrying forward my father's legacy while creating my own chapter in our family history.

Off and Pedaling

In 2022 I began in South Dakota (where my parents currently live), digging my dad’s maps out of the attic, and started documenting this crazy quest.

I have completed 6 routes and now have only 20 left! I’ve learned a lot on the road and have also moved from being a beginning cyclist to a new-ish cyclist! Thanks to Velorosa, I have my first kit!  They helped me learn that kit is for everyone…even if you aren’t racing. I wear it with pride on every route!

I have a Logistics Queen on each route that comes with me and handles all of the details leaving me to just worry about pedaling. Part of the fun for me is forming a relationship with a new Queen every route.  I spent years traveling on my own, and it’s nice to have someone with me now.

When I decided to take on this quest, I knew I wanted to document it differently than my usual blogging. I enlisted one of my best friends to help me create a documentary series. This project would be a chance to record my parents’ accomplishments so their efforts wouldn’t be forgotten, and to record my own ups and downs of this quest. You can see the first two episodes on my YouTube channel.

This week I’ll be taking off on my 7th route  - 460 miles from Cheyenne, WY to Lincoln, NE - wearing my new Whimsy Kit!  I hope you’ll follow along on my social media channels (Instagram, Facebook). And if you feel like joining me on a route or simply cheering me on from the socials – just give me a holler!




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