Orono doctor preaches work-life balance, plans cross-country bicycle trip

ORONO, Maine (WABI) – An Orono woman will be getting plenty of both adventure and exercise later this year when she sets out on her bicycle for a trip across the country.

“I’ve been biking since I was a kid,” explained Michelle Toder. “I absolutely loved riding my bike around as a kid because it was my first sense of freedom. It was a way to get away from the house.”

This spring, Toder is setting out to recapture that same freedom she felt as a child.

“I got it in my head that I wanted to cycle across the country. I was like, ‘Well, it’s on my bucket list for retirement,’” she said.

Dr. Michelle Toder is a pioneering surgeon at Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center. As the years went on, she realized she wasn’t quite ready to retire but didn’t want to put her personal goals off much longer.

“I love my job. I love my children. I love my husband. I love my family. But, I haven’t had an ‘all about me’ adventure since I was in my early 20s,” Toder said.

She says she approached the hospital about taking a leave of absence and credits them for being open to the conversation about the importance of work-life balance.

“They scratched their heads a little bit, and I said, ‘Because I’m going. I just need to know if you want me back.’ And when they gave that some consideration, they said, ‘We absolutely want you back. Please be safe!’” Toder said.

On April 30th, Dr. Toder plans to put her back tire in the Atlantic Ocean in Acadia National Park and set off for the coast of Oregon. She plans to take a combination of routes well-known among adventure cyclists.

“I’m gonna go across Kansas, which seems terrifying to me. It looks very flat and very hot and very windy, and I don’t really know people there. So, woo! Yeah, Kansas. Oh my,” Toder said with a laugh.

Her first step in preparing for the trip was finding a properly fitting bike. She’s loading it up with just the bare travel essentials, most of which are made in the USA and purchased locally when possible.

If all goes according to plan, by the first week of August she’ll have pedaled and willed herself to the shores of the Pacific.

“I’ve never done a multi-night trip ever, and so this is a big one to start with. Am I as fit and able, and am I gonna love this as much as I think? So, that’s a little bit in the back of my head. But, I’m pretty determined as a person. I can’t imagine I’m going to get out there, be like, ‘No I’m not doing it,’” Toder said. “I think the freedom’s gonna be incredible.”

Dr. Toder will be documenting her trip on Instagram. You can follow along at @mt_and_ooo.

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