For just over a month, Michele Arnold of Napa discovered America by cycling from the Golden Gate to Plymouth Rock.
With the help of her recreational vehicle support team, led by her husband, Napa Valley College Police Chief Ken Arnold, she raised money for charities and raised her own awareness of how good people can be.
"My faith in humanity has been made stronger," she said after 32.5 days and 3,569 miles on the road. "There are a lot of good people out there."
The Memorial Day-to-Independence Day trip concluded just in time for the Arnolds to celebrate 24 years of marriage.
Her adventure raised nearly $6,000 for multiple sclerosis research and $1,000 for pediatric cancer research. As a physical therapist, she has seen the impact of MS, which claimed a classmate and affects her sister, who she visited in Upstate New York.
Along the ride, she touched 16 states, was chased by 36 dogs, flattened five tires, lost 12 pounds and acquired a great tan.
Her most surprising discovery: "I liked Nebraska, the friendliest state."
The coolest experience: "Riding alongside prancing antelope on the way to Laramie, WY."
The best barns were in Iowa, which featured "hills, lots of hills," and also the best bike path, in Des Moines. The best road was Route 6 in Illinois, while the worst was from Wendover, NV, to Salt Lake City, UT.
"The vastness of this country is incredible," she observed. "Riding across the country 100 miles at a time was easier than I thought and harder than I imagined."
She got caught in the rain only three times, and survived the hottest day when the mercury hit 104.6 degrees. She climbed 102,450 feet, including 8,288 feet in one day. The highest point was 8,062 feet in Colorado.
The prettiest scenery: "California, for awe-inspiring, dramatic views, and New York for absolute, serene beauty."
The best RV parks were KOAs in Streetsboro and Dayton, Ohio.
Her support staff, in addition to husband Ken, featured their daughter Amelia and the family's rescue dog, Scoobert.
The Arnolds are members of St. John's Lutheran Church, where Ken is a handler for Aaron the Comfort Dog, part of a church ministry that provides emotional support during times of crisis. The couple spends a lot of time working with dogs.
Ken and Michele are private pilots, which is how they met.
During her adventure, Michele wrote a daily blog, http://micheleacrossamerica.com, which includes her reasons for embarking on the journey and features dozens of photos.
She will talk about her journey and show photos at noon, Aug. 20, at St. John's Lutheran Church, 3251 Linda Vista Ave., in Napa.