15 riding days, 14 nights, 13 states, 12 Subway sandwiches, gallons of water, 1 flat tire, 2 epically curated cycling tan lines on my thighs (see rule #7 of “The Velominati), a ton of great memories, a few not-so-great memories, 1,352 miles and as fast as it started it is now over. Candidly, my head is spinning. I still feel the need to hop back on the bike and ride to where I am headed next.
I spent a lot of my ride today summing up this journey. I haven’t had a clear answer when asked why I decided to do this and that bothered me a little. Here’s what I do know.
I tend to be nomadic by nature. I like to travel, especially point to point. I like to set a goal and see what it takes to accomplish it. I enjoyed the planning of this adventure almost as much as the adventure itself. During this trip, sitting in one place too long always resulted in me getting back on my bike and riding. That’s the way I liked it.
I love to ride my bike. While at times it was difficult and I was tired or sore or hangry or thirsty (or all of the aforementioned), I still enjoyed riding. Coasting. Spinning with cadence. Grinding up a long hill in a small gear. Rushing down steep hills with the wind in my face. Hearing the noises around me. Feeling that cool sensation of the wind cooling my sweat. I love all of that. I even like the spandex (especially the pockets in the back of my jerseys).
I believe doing stuff like this trip makes me live my daily life more fully. I don’t do stuff like this because my life isn’t full or great. I’m blessed. My life is both full and great and I’m filled with gratitude because of it. I’m cognizant that riding long distances on a bike isn’t quite normal and that’s part of what makes me like it too.
Traveling like this (cycling, hiking), where you carry what you need for the most part, helps me slow down and appreciate what a good life me and those around me are living. It helps me see the colors of my life more clearly. I am reminded of the abundance in which I’m fortunate to live. It also reminds me I need so much less stuff than I have (watch out kids, a huge purge is a comin’!). This ability to slow down my life through low-speed activities like hiking and biking also helps me see parts of the country a little bit slower than I normally do. It’s a pretty great place.
I’ll admit it, there’s a part of me that does this in hopes that it makes my kids, Cindy and extended family proud of me. This is a feeling I’m not fully comfortable with as it shows the dependency I tend to have on needing the validation of others. This can be as bad of a need as it is good. Self-validation is something I’ve never been great at doing which leads to confidence issues I carry within me. Unfortunately, doing these things does not cure this but it does remind me I can do almost anything I put my mind too and when the going gets tough, I can persist (with only a mild amount of inner complaint).
Most of all, I’m hopeful that as my kids move toward their adult lives that they use these adventures an example, excuse or reminder to live life fully and possibly a little bit out of their comfort zone.
I’d be remiss to mention that good timing and a fortunate sequence of events helped make this trip possible. I’m grateful for this and excited to see what the next chapter in my working life allows me to experience. Lastly, I may have found a new passion for wanting to influence the development of more bike friendly roads where I live. Bike-friendly roads are so good for bikes AND for cars when they are built with room for both. Yet roads are so bad for both when they aren’t built this way. Charlotte has done some nice work with the roads I rode on today. I’m excited to see that all but two to three miles of a seventeen mile commute from my house to Uptown Charlotte can be made on roads with dedicated bike lanes or large lane-wide shoulders. The rest of North Carolina and frankly the South from what I saw needs to catch up here with our neighbors to the North (with some exception given to the roads I saw in Maryland).
This ride reminded me to see more of my life – see it in the way I saw it while away from it. With a strong desire to be in it – fully and with presence. The ride made me want to be more involved in the direction of my life, not just reacting to it as it comes to me. So, a single huge revelation? Not really but definitely many small reminders.
Today? Oh yeah, I rode 72 miles today. It actually felt like a half day – probably because technically it was compared to yesterday’s debacle. I had a normal ride out of camp today at 7:40 and after a late night to bed I was feeling the effects of poor sleep this morning. Much of the first two hours of the ride had me heading towards Concord, NC over some very hilly and sunny countryside. Granny-gear grinding. I took a small break in Locust, NC to feast on, you guessed it, another Subway meal. This time a double egg and cheese sandwich on wheat flatbread. C’mon Subway…it’s time you opened up those electrical outlets to your customers and while you are at it, how about some wifi? You. Can. Do. It. After this quick stop at the 30-mile point, I pointed my bike towards Sycamore Brewery in Charlotte via a Mint Hill approach. I crossed these 25 miles quickly in the heat of the morning and arrived at Sycamore at 12:35pm to be greeted by my Dad, Tim and Danielle. It was really heartwarming to see them – a very fun way to be on the cusp of home. We enjoyed a beer together, my first since Connecticut, and caught up on the trip alongside many pre-gaming Panther fans. It was good to be back. I should apologize to them for being a little out of it. Fatigue, re-entry, some cramping all contributed to a weakened state. I loved seeing you guys. The stay was short (an hour or so) because my next stop was my family! I enjoyed a tailwind on my last 20 miles or so and with one last state line to cross into Fort Mill. I also got to ride alongside my good Baxter-long friend Catherine for the last half of this leg into the ‘hood. All of this was a fun way to end my adventure.
Upon entering my house I was greeted by an awesome homemade sign and my oldest who had just returned home from being out with his friends (and subsequently and possibly falsely, claimed credit for the sign his brother and sister made). Cindy, Stewart and Ruth (dog) were home a few minutes later after being at the dog park thinking I was still 30 minutes away (I made great time with the tailwind) and Charlie returned an hour after that from playing across the neighborhood with a close friend. All of us back together again. Bliss. Cindy said it best. Our family can handle people being away, but we are definitely at our best as a team of five, uh…ok, six. You count too Ruth (I’ve come a long ways in a couple of months).
What lessons did I learn for a future ride (yes, there will be a future ride one day)? I’m so glad you asked.
- Travel light again, but the next time on a touring frame with slightly fatter tires.
- Ride with another cyclist next time.
- One pair of evening clothes and one pair of riding clothes – nothing more.
- Travel with a better (waterproof) tent.
- Consider waterproof riding pants and waterproof shoe covers.
- Tortillas FTW!
- Seek out more State Parks – all of them were better than private campgrounds.
- Take a day off at least every 8-10 days.
- Visit more people – spending a short period of time with others was really fun and turned out to be one of the highlights of my trip.
- Google Maps is good but trust your gut and go where you want to go not always where the Google blue line tells you too.
- Seek out pedestrian only trails, greenways, etc – these are the future of cycling in cities and great ways to travel safely.
- Traveling through big cities is fun for about 1/4 of the time you are doing it – the rest is a grind – pick your cities wisely and go around the others.
- Buy the touring maps and guidebooks – I think I might have seen more stuff had I leveraged more of the experience of others before me.
- Chamois Butter > Betwixt
- Long distance riding doesn’t always offer the best experience of cities and towns. Especially if you are trying to limit hotel stays like I did. Having kids and obligations back at home doesn’t offer a ton of opportunity to stay a night or two extra in the great places. Next trip, post-kids-out-of-the-house, I’ll sightsee more. Maybe with Cindy?
- Ride with shoes/cleats that double as walking shoes – click-clacking around in cycling shoes is annoying.
- Eat every 90 minutes – no exception. Drink a bottle an hour – no exception.
- Lock or no lock? While I used it twice in front of grocery stores and at most of the campgrounds, I wonder if it was really worth the weight.
- Have a touristy item to accomplish each day – getting up and riding to your next spot is not what the journey was meant to be about.
- There’s a lot of junk on the sides of roads – I need to help clean up litter more often than I do.
- When driving, I will pass bikes as well as the best cars who passed me did – every time. No excuse. Slow down to ensure there’s room. Left blinker to pass and right blinker to come back into the lane. Give the bike AT LEAST 3-4 feet of clearance. Avoid gunning the engine – the bike is doing 20 mph at their fastest and in most cases much slower – it won’t take much speed to get by them and gunning the engine just makes the biker feel even worse about being in the way.
Until the next adventure. I really appreciate those who read this and interacted me here, text or via social media along the course of these 1,352 miles. I’m happy to answer any questions people have about gear, planning or other parts of the experience here, live or via social media. Peace.