Highways & Backstreets: Cycling Solo Across America
Back in fall 2016, my then-coworker Klaus asked if I'd be interested in working together on a book project. I had never designed a book before, and decided to change that once and for all.
Prior to his inquiry, Klaus and I hadn't really interacted too much outside of larger company meetings and functions at CreativeLive. With him being on the Engineering team (also known as the dark side) and my being on the Creative Studio team, our paths rarely crossed aside from his trips near our team's concept wall, where my lettering and sketches were often haphazardly pinned up. Those gritty sketches and lettering drafts became the desired direction for his book, which initially surprised me. As a flexible designer on the brand team, I was almost always working as quickly as possible to meet deadlines, and had developed a rough, hand-scrawled style of sorts that was a bit sloppy, but got the job done quickly and legibly enough. As it turns out, there couldn't have been a better fit for Klaus and his solo cross-country road bike trip along the Transamerica Trail, from San Mateo, California to Yorktown, Virginia.
Over the next year and a half, Klaus and I collaborated (usually hiding in one of the lofts at work, TBH) on this book, piecing together the stories and photos of his 92-day journey. I designed the book chronologically, and in this sense I also felt like I got to experience the story unfold as any other reader would. In reading through his journals and flipping through his many photos, I got to know Klaus on an entirely new level. At the surface, he was an affable, polite Austrian software engineer - but in his stories and photos, I came across a humble observer seeking a challenging adventure, solace in solitude, and comfort in strangers in order to heal from grief and find meaning outside of his cushy tech career.
Klaus's first priority in the book was to spotlight the numbers of friendly new faces he met along the way, including some who came through at especially hard times throughout his journey. Rarely will you see a personal account of one's journey that focuses so much on others. During his journey, Klaus met everyone from college students, innkeepers and diner owners to random strangers, Warm Showers hosts, fellow cyclists, and fellow Europeans, to boot. The changing landscape from the west coast and mountain regions through parts of the southern United States gave Klaus a first-hand look at the varied demographics, economics, and communities of this country. While initially created as a collection of personal journals, this book tells so many stories at once.