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Teacher from Auburn completes megamarathon cycling adventure

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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AUBURN CA - For two months, 4,400 miles of blacktop between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans became an Auburn teacher’s classroom. Natasha Riedel, an Auburn resident who teaches elementary school in Lincoln, spent her summer break from school traveling across the United States on a bicycle. Moving along a series of northern U.S. backroads, Riedel and three other riders experienced rain, wind, flat tires and the joy of completing a quest many dream about but few carry through on. Riedel said she crossed 14 states with a tent, sleeping bag, extra cycling clothes and a decoy duck she found abandoned on a North Dakota road. The weight added about 50 pounds. There was no motorized support vehicle, just a list of places along the route to stay the night supplied by tour planner Adventure Cycling. “For a majority of the time, I felt safe,” Riedel said. “There was hail, wind and rain. We camped with bears nearby and had to find shelter when lightning struck.” Riedel said she budgeted $50 a day for the two-month, four-day trip. The major unexpected expenditure was for bike repairs of $200 in North Dakota. Along the way, she dealt with just two flat tires. Like many teachers without tenure, the 27-year-old was “pink slipped” last May and decided the time was right to ride out on her cross-U.S. adventure. As a teacher, the Colfax High School grad has made a point of organizing bike rodeos and encouraging cycling among her students. Her own cycling trek was a big next step, cementing her love of cycling in a gritty endurance challenge. “I’ve been wanting to do this for a couple of years but didn’t have the time until now,” Riedel said. The trip started in Astoria, Ore. and ended in Bar Harbor, Maine. And the happy ending got happier as Riedel was nearing completion of her goal. The Friday before Riedel was to fly home from the East Coast, she was offered a long-term subbing job, which started two days after her return. Riedel said her students at Creekside Oaks Elementary School in Lincoln have learned with interest about the journey and some of her former students and their parents followed her on Facebook. And she’s also happy to be back riding in the Auburn area. Riedel grew up in Weimar. “I love riding around Auburn – it has some of the most fantastic rides,” Riedel said.