6/16/17 – The Announcement

So – I’m biking across the country in 1 month & 12 days.

That’s the short version of the story. The longer version includes researching/planning/pondering/dragging my feet/keeping it on the DL since January, finally committing and buying a one-way ticket out West two weeks ago only to find out I didn’t have a bike to ride for the trip (😱), and eventually one epic, two month adventure as I attempt the wildest feat of a lifetime…

I can’t pinpoint the exact time when the seed was planted in my mind, but cycling across the country has been one of those “that would be seriously bonkers but awesome / I should do that at some point in my life”-type ideas over the last few years. And I definitely had a burning feeling in me that 2017 needed to be a big year as it approached. I started doing some light research and reading about bike touring in January. Looking back, I created the “cycle_usa” folder on my laptop on February 12th, the unofficial point when the crazy pipe dream started to become a real possibility. Over the next month or so, I let family and some close friends know that this may go down, and cleared the trip with my bosses at both jobs.

Fast forward from there to Saturday May 13th – after a long day of research, I’m having a couple beers in my apartment, blasting music, and psyching myself up to officially make this a reality (this is kind of a tradition now for committing to something crazy). Filled out the webpage for my one-way ticket to the West Coast on July 28th, clicked the “confirm” button, and stood up triumphantly (actually – the true story is that I got an error from the website cause I forgot to enter the security code on my credit card, and had to retry – talk about a buzzkill 👎) – I had finally committed to the trip that had been on my mind for months. I was full of crazy emotions and thoughts. I texted/called some close friends and family to tell them the news.

During the last month or so since then, there have been a ton of ups and downs, and plenty of contemplating about squashing the trip altogether, hence the delay in letting the word out for over a month after I booked my ticket. Some family drama, some surprise work commitments, some disapproving reactions – all of which I have either worked out or convinced myself are not the end of the world. The news I got after that, on the other hand, had me straight up searching for rental cars & plane tickets back to the East Coast….

So, two Saturdays ago after I had finally picked two sets of racks and bags to carry all my gear (totaling over $500 on their own 😯), I went to the local bike shop to learn more about mounting them to my bike. The guy at the counter says a-matter-of-factly: “not on that bike”. What?! 😵🔫…..My road bike (so I’ve learned) is built for racing – fast, lightweight, and not designed to carry heavy loads (like all the stuff I need to survive for two months), at least not safely. So let me break this down – I was the noob, with a one way ticket to the West coast, in 8 weeks, planning to ride a bike back, but with no bike to do it with. I left the store disappointed, demoralized, and, to be honest, pretty embarrassed.

I spent the next few days feeling pretty down, starting to accept the fact that this year just wasn’t my year. I let some of my friends know the news. By the end of the week though – after a bit of encouragement from those friends, plenty of soul searching, and some number-crunching to make sure I wouldn’t need to eat Ramen noodles until 2019 – shelling out for a brand new bike to salvage the trip felt like what I had to do.

Here I am – I’ve already got a plane ticket to the West coast, I’ve somehow managed to clear a two month leave of absence with both my jobs and still be welcomed back after, I’ve planned and researched for months, and I know that with each year that ticks by, doing something this crazy gets significantly less likely.

The fire was back. A goal is a mother-effin goal and I’m going to get it done regardless of the obstacles put in my way.

I went to the bike shop on Monday this week and ordered my brand new, powerhouse road bike that’s built to go the distance. Yes, I just dropped well over $1000 on it. Yes, it was jolting. And yeah – it scares me a bit to think about the long list of other gear I still need to purchase and the uncertain amount of money it’ll take to live on the road for two months. But you know what, it fired me up more about the trip. It made me feel like I’m unstoppable.

Wrapping this long story up – I’ve got six weeks left to figure out how to make it 3600 miles or so across the country on a bike, living off of whatever I can carry on it. Although I’m sure it will be challenging physically, the logistic/mental challenge feels more daunting to me. I know I can do it though. My life has been driven so far by the belief that I can do anything I put my mind to. Cliche, definitely, but true. And no, not unique to me, but to anyone who actually accepts & believes that cliche as truth.

I know that I will need all of the support I can get when I set off on this adventure. I’ll be narrowing down & sharing my route over the next month – any recommendations on friends of friends (of friends) to stay with (bonus points for middle-of-nowhere locations) would be greatly appreciated. I’m sure positive encouragement of any form will go a long way once I get going, especially when I’m in the middle of Nebraska wondering what the F I’m doing with my life. I’ve also decided to forego trying to raise any funds for myself personally to fund this trip, in hopes that it will inspire more people to donate to the TBD fundraiser that I will organize. More details to come on all of this.

So now onto the first & most important orders of business: who is going to babysit my plants when I leave, and what is my emergency plan when I run out of peanut butter on the road and can’t find any?? 🤔countdownpic

7/30/17: Day 1 – It Begins

Oceanside, OR -> Portland, OR
97.5 miles
7000+ feet of elevation gain (😲)
126 F-bombs dropped (estimate)

So – I knew this day was going to be tough. I debated for a while whether or not I’d split it up into two days, but ultimately decided to try to blast through all 90 miles in one shot.

I got a relatively late start after walking down to the beach to get some pics(knowing I already wouldn’t be finishing until around 7pm), I made a left out of the beach and jumped straight into a steep 3 mile climb… only to find that the road was closed at the top 😱 (dammit Google maps!). So I tacked on an extra 6 miles right off the bat (new ETA: 8pm). A wrong turn later added another couple miles to the trip.

I eventually got into a solid rhythm after the early mishap, managing to conquer a pretty steep 1500ft climb through Tillman State Forest. Turns out steep climbs on a bike that weighs ~100lbs with gear is pretty tough😅 (hence the F bombs dropped).

The great scenery through that forest and along the Oregon coast made up for pain of the climbs though. Got a few nice pics early on but was a bit rushed towards the end making sure I’d be done before dark. I also saw an Alpaca(?) and found a wallet on the ground with a license and $25 that I’m going to mail tomorrow to try to redeem some good karma for my trip 🙌.

Although I’m worn out after the longest/hilliest ride I’ve done in years, I’m definitely relieved to have day 1 in the books after anticipating it for months. Thanks so much for the encouragement! I needed it today a lot more than I expected, and know it’ll be more important in the future. I got so pumped seeing all the texts, comments, videos, pics whenever I took a short break.

Looking forward to a much easier ~60 mile, flat ride to Salem tomorrow!

7/31/17: Day 2 – “Let’s Get Weird”

Portland, OR -> Salem, OR
65 miles
162 total miles for the trip

One of the reasons this trip will be interesting and memorable is the weird and awkward situations I get myself into along the way. You know the kind of times that might be really uncomfortable while they’re going down, but make the best stories later on.

Well tonight I’m getting a warm up – I’m camping in a stranger’s front yard in Salem, OR. This is my first use of the couchsurfing app. She said she didn’t have space inside but offered a secure spot for my gear while I went out and a space in the yard. She also mentioned that I could use the hose in the front yard for drinking water 😅. But hey, it’s free. I also chose this spot because I’ll need to camp in a state forest in two days, so this will be a good trial run in a more controlled environment.

When her husband mentioned he was heading to the library to see if a local bar had open mic night (they don’t have internet access), I offered to look it up for him and in exchange he gave me a lift out so I could get some food. It ended up being a pretty interesting night..

Anyway, today’s ride was a relief compared to yesterday’s – 60 relatively flat miles with a couple fun pit stops along the way. Hit a brewery for lunch and stopped at a swimming hole to jump in quick to cool off during the ride. Rode through tons of farm land along the way too. I was pretty sore from yesterday, but the easier ride treated me well. Tomorrow I’ve got a 75 mile ride to Eugene that I’m looking to knock out early to beat the heat.

The key to the success on this trip for me will be to “learn to be comfortable being uncomfortable” – weird situations, unusual accommodations, being dirty, being physically sore, etc. Today I started working on that.

8/1/17: Day 3 – Dust Bowl

Salem, OR -> Springfield, OR
77 miles
240 total miles for the trip

It was wishful thinking to set an alarm for 6:30am when I was sleeping in a tent – woke up shortly after 5am to some squawking birds outside 😴. It wasn’t the end of the world though, it let me get a jump start on finishing my 77 miles before it hit the high of 102 degrees for the day. I looked forward to the cooler Oregon temps before I flew out for the trip, only to show up for some record high temperatures! To be honest, 100+ on the west coast isn’t as bad as 90 or so in VA where I’ve been cycling.

The ride was relatively flat today and it really didn’t feel too hot til the end, but riding through the farmlands had the challenge of a lack of shade and lots of dust in the air from tractors tilling the dry soil. Thankfully I picked up a bandana at the end of the day yesterday that I wore to filter out some of the dust. I felt good til the very end of the ride, then spent about 30 minutes laying on the floor of my Airbnb recovering & rehydrating 😅. At this point, my butt/back/hands/feet/quads are pretty sore. Capped the day off with a stop at Falling Sky Brewery (#2 for the trip) for some beer to numb the pain & food to replenish 🙌.

Tomorrow, I’ll be heading to Belknap Springs in Williamette National Forest where I’ll be legitimately camping for the first time. Should be a solid test. I’ll likely be off the grid til Thursday.

Question of the night – is my time better spent sleeping in an extra hour to try to recover or waking up extra early to beat the expected high temperature of 107? 🤔

8/2/17: Day 4 – Into the Wild 

Springfield, OR -> Belknap Springs, OR
57 (+12) miles
297 total miles for the trip

Each day of this trip is its own separate puzzle. The goal is simple: make it a little bit closer to home and find a place to sleep. It gets a bit tricky though when you get farther from civilization where there’s no service and a lack of accommodations and places to buy food & water.

While today was an easy ride physically (a relatively flat 55mi), it was the hardest logistics puzzle so far because I’m camping in Williamette National Forest with no service or running water. The closest store is 6 miles back in the direction I came from, and tomorrow my ride starts with a serious climb through Mt. Washington and 35 miles before I’ll hit another store. This is all complicated by the fact that I’m in the middle of a heat wave (105 tomorrow) so I need a lot more water than usual.

So to make sure I’m fully stocked with water for the morning climb and also have some for tonight, I had to head 6 miles back down to the store after I had set up my campsite and waited for the heat to die down (where I’m posting from now). I took only my more expensive/important gear with me so I had some extra room for water & food. This was the last thing my legs wanted to do after resting for a few hours, but I guess what’s another 12 miles on top of 4000? 🤷‍♂️

Anyway – today was super hot again but not too bad of a ride. I got to sleep in a real bed at an Airbnb last night and they even cooked me breakfast (I’m learning to appreciate a free home cooked meal more and more each day) so I felt pretty good this morning. I’m heading into the forest & mountains so the scenery is awesome and my campground is really nice.

I think I’m in good shape to solve the ride/survive/sleep puzzle today. Taking it one day at a time, it doesn’t seem too difficult. It’s just that failing to plan properly can leave me in a serious pickle – like stranded somewhere with no service, water, and/or place to stay. Now I’m off to transport a ton of water back to the campground, take a baby wipe shower, and go off the grid til tomorrow afternoon 😬. Got a big climb in the morning, but it it’s goes smoothly I’ll have gained a lot of confidence for roughing it in the wild for the first time this trip 💪.

8/3/17: Day 5 – King of the Mountain

Belknap Springs, OR -> Bend, OR
60.5 miles
369 total miles for the trip

I survived one of the harder combos I’ll do on this trip: spending the night camping in the forest then waking up to a hard morning ride pretty far from civilization 🙌. The main story of the day was a long morning climb up through Mckenzie’s Pass (5325ft summit) with some epic views at the top!

Notes:
*There’s something about brewing/drinking a cup of coffee in the woods that I discovered I love. So peaceful. Had to get jacked up on some Brotational Force coffee by Bangarang Coffee Roasters this morning to prepare for the climb 💪!
*Made my first biker friend, Mark. A teacher from a small town outside of Salem who was on a “man weekend” camping/biking with his wife and kids out of town. We had a couple beers at the campsite last night and he rode the first 8 or so miles with me this morning 👊.
*369 miles in, my legs are pretty wrecked. But I think I’ve reached a plateau in the soreness. Trying to do the best I can to massage/stretch my muscles after riding and I’m eyeing my first rest day for Saturday or Sunday.
*No one told me Oregon was basically a desert away from the coast! 🤔The scenery totally changed after I crossed the mountain today. The heat has been pretty brutal, especially in the afternoon hours – hoping for some cooler temps soon! 🙏
*Went almost 48 hours without a shower, felt pretty terrible but I suppose I better get used to it 😐. Did scrub myself down pretty well with baby wipes last night before bed to try to prolong the cleanliness/non-smelliness of my tent and sleeping bag 😝.

Tonight I’m staying with a friend of a friend (thanks Rob! & Caroline for the hookup), so shower & bed 🙌. Tomorrow I head to Mitchell, OR (waiting on confirmation from an Airbnb 🤞), about an 80 mile ride. Planning to get an early start to beat the heat wave that won’t seem to go away.