DOWNTOWN — Post-collegiate road trips are the stuff of cinema classics and novels, pitting the restlessness of youth against the endless open road to create a journey replete with beautiful scenery and usually a life lesson or two.
Those stories tend to involve cars, however.
Santa Monica High alumni and recent college graduates Rachel Horn and Owen Gorman, both 23, embarked Saturday on a different route, taking their touring bicycles and 45 pounds of personal possessions from San Francisco to New York City in a nearly three-month trek across the country.
Their continuing mission: To spread the good word of biking local and sustainable menstrual products and generally to have a good time doing it.
Gorman and Horn are, in a word, activists. In this trip they saw a unique opportunity to blend their personal passion about sustainability with an equally-noble desire to hit the road for a few months before the real world chained them to jobs and other responsibilities.
Beginning in San Francisco, they will cross through the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, endless fields of corn and grain in the Midwest and up past the Great Lakes to get to New York City and a train back home.
Along the way they will rely on campgrounds, social networks and the kindness of strangers to keep within a meager budget.
“If we didn’t go now, we weren’t going to do it,” Horn said.
Both Gorman and Horn will use their three months to accomplish more than just developing their quads.
Gorman plans to document Safe Routes To School, a federal program that promotes walking, bicycling and other means to get students from home to campus and back again.
After all, Santa Monica’s City Hall has embarked on a Safe Routes to School program of its own, as has the city of Los Angeles, two cities in which Gorman interned.
As Gorman inspires people to take to the streets on two wheels, Horn will make pit stops at college campuses and women’s health clinics to spark conversations about periods in an attempt to break down the stigma of discussing a process natural to half of the global population.
She also comes armed with product — 90 Diva Cups, reusable silicon cups worn internally to catch menstruation that eliminate the need for wasteful feminine hygiene products like pads and tampons.
Women don’t consider the chemicals that they put so close to their bodies, Horn said, and the amount of material tossed during each cycle is huge.
If the entrance of Diva Cups into the story surprises, it may be worth noting that the little cups actually inspired the trip from its inception.
Horn had long wanted to bike across country, and she stumbled upon the story of Toni Craige and Sarah Konner, two feminist activists who founded the nonprofit Sustainable Cycles. The pair met at a dance festival and in 2011 embarked on a bicycle trip down the West Coast, stopping along the way to engage in conversation about their periods.
They found some creative methods, including the “Handsome Young Man” project, in which they conscripted handsome young men to approach women and talk flow.
Horn approached Craige and Konner for help with her own trip, proposing a similar style of grassroots activism and community engagement. Sustainable Cycles helped her with a $200 check and access to its website for her blog about the journey as well as the listserv to help raise the funds needed to get through.
Craige and Konner managed their adventure on a $1,400 budget, and Horn is keeping with their tradition. She raised $2,000 for the journey, $600 of which has already gone to equipment like new bicycle racks and bags needed to hold food, clothes and — most importantly — water.
Horn went to Gorman in December with her idea. The pair had known each other at Samohi, where they’d participated in separate sustainability-oriented clubs that created the predecessor of what is now a district-wide Bike it! Walk it! Day, for which club leadership received a presidential commendation just two years ago.
They’d kept in touch throughout college, and despite the risks inherent in spending three months with anybody under such conditions, Gorman was an easy sell.
He began researching routes, plotting them out on an online map down to the last twist and turn. The front pouch on his bicycle, donated by the Santa Monica Bike Center for the journey, is stuffed with a packet of maps in the off chance that cell service is poor in the middle of the mountains.
There was a little extra room in there, however.
“It’s a nose flute,” Gorman said, receiving only confused stares in return. The blue plastic device, buried underneath the maps and a small rear view mirror that attaches to glasses, hooks into the mouth and nose to create a kazoo-esque sound that’s about half as funny as the visual that goes with it.
The rest of their supplies, packed into four other bags at the front and back of the bicycles, weighs no more than 45 pounds. Along with their bicycles, the pair will be pushing 80 pounds of gear between 30 and 90 miles a day, with the intent to average 60.
They’ve gone on a number of practice rides, and took every opportunity they could while in town to travel by bicycle in an attempt to prepare for what promises to be an arduous experience, not only for their legs, but for their minds.
Horn will have her books on tape and Gorman his iPod, but for three months, they will really only have each other.
“We know we’re taking a gamble,” Gorman said.
The kids will probably be alright.
It’s an open invitation, so join them for the ride. You can track their project on their blogs at sustainablecycles.wordpress.com and www.odogsodyssey.com