Former Powell residents embark on cycling journey across America

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As Bruce and Sonja Nisley left Powell on their bicycles last week, they embarked on a journey that will span nearly 18,000 miles.

“We have saved our pennies and dreamed and schemed,” Sonja wrote in a recent blog post. “Our bike route will be the perimeter of the USA starting in Wyoming and headed east. We hope to be in Maine by fall and Florida by winter!”

The couple originally planned to leave from Montana, but after the state closed its borders to tourists due to COVID-19, they went with plan B and departed from Powell on May 26. For the Nisleys, Powell is a fitting launching point, as they raised their three children here. They both worked at Powell Valley Healthcare until moving to Cheyenne a few years ago. Bruce served as a college professor/director of agriculture and equine at Laramie County Community College and Sonja worked as an ER nurse at Cheyenne Regional Medical Center.

This spring was an eventful one for the couple. In addition to quitting their jobs and selling their home in preparation for their cross-country trip, Sonja flew to New York City to help COVID-19 patients. A registered nurse, she spent a month caring for patients at the Samaritan’s Purse field hospital in Central Park.

“My time there was likely the most challenging as well as rewarding experience in my nursing career,” she wrote in a Facebook post, thanking family and friends for their prayers and support. “I have no doubt that your prayers were essential and the strength I needed to endure the challenges I faced.”

Now, the Nisleys are taking on new challenges — such as cycling over the Bighorn Mountains. The stretch includes 12 miles of 10% grade, which “did make us nervous,” Sonja wrote Friday on the couple’s blog.

She noted the change in plans to leave from Wyoming meant they got to start “by going up the steepest mountain pass around.”

It got colder as the Nisleys climbed toward the top, and they found the campground where they were hoping to stay covered in snow. They biked a few more miles to find dry ground, camping at a beautiful stream.

Biking along the meandering road across meadows and willow-covered stream beds the following morning, the couple spotted 16 moose eating in the fog, Sonja wrote. They also saw a herd of elk, a fox, a sandhill crane and many mountain bluebirds flitting about.

Following a “freezing” descent down the Bighorns, “the green ranch country on the eastern slopes of the Big Horns Mountains beckons us,” Bruce wrote. “Riding on!”

Their journey is decades in the making. The couple took their first cycling trip through the Canadian Rockies almost 30 years ago.

“Since that first tour together, we started dreaming of cycling across the United States,” Bruce wrote.

Over the years, the couple went on numerous small, self-supported bicycle tours, “which kept the dream alive, fueling our passion to see America from the saddle of a bike.”

From Wyoming, the couple will head to South Dakota and then north, toward the Canadian border. That puts them on track to be near the border of the U.S., since their goal is to bicycle the perimeter of the country over the next 18 months.

“We are not experts on the bikes but have had a love affair over the last 30 years with the freedom of the self-contained, stop-where-you-want, see-the-country lifestyle,” Sonja wrote.

The Nisleys are inviting people to follow their journey on their blog: https://theroadlesscycled.com.

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