Thoughts on a 4000 mile Bicycle Tour…

24 10 2011

It’s always interesting to read a piece written by someone else who seems to describe a similar experience in terms which illustrate your own. The following is just such a piece, A Man, a Bike and 4,100 Miles, by Bruce Weber of the New York Times.

In the piece, Weber writes of his 4000 mile bicycle tour across the USA this summer. He doesn’t dwell on the day-to-day challenges, nor does he dwell on the pain and doubt he experienced along the way, though it certainly gets a mention. He also does not write in overly descriptive terms of the beauty of the country, or the people he met. No, he writes from the perspective of a man of 57 years experiencing something few of us ever do; for the second time in his life.

As he comes to the close of his ride, reflects upon the internal changes which have taken place, as well as the memories of the experience which, perhaps surprisingly, are not so easy to recall. Yet, when he does recall them, they are incredibly vivid.  What I like most about this piece is the sense that no matter how many times one takes a long distance ride, and this is the second time Weber has ridden cross-country, it is a completely unique experience.

“This isn’t to say I don’t dream about crossing the George Washington Bridge with my arms raised in triumph (and then putting away my bicycle for a winter’s hibernation.) I do. But my visions aren’t terribly convincing; they generally engender despair, causing me to sigh out loud and give off a lament that begins with the words “I’ll never. … ” It makes me more than a little nervous to write this article now, about 300 miles from Manhattan. It may be easy to expect that someone who has already pedaled 3,600 miles can do 300 with his eyes closed, but I don’t think so. In order to own those miles, I have to expend my energy on them; in order to live those days, I have to work through all their hours. I’m as daunted by the next 300 miles as I was in Astoria by the first 3,600.”

This is something I too encountered on my own 800 mile trek from Phoenix to Denver. Until I arrived, I never quite believed I would make it and, even when I did, I couldn’t really grasp the fact that I had done so. Even today it sometimes amazes me that I was successful in my first-ever bicycle tour. But the memories linger, as proof that it is true.

I thoroughly enjoyed this read. So many of the things we experienced were similar, yet very different, due to the unique perspective each of us brought to the experience, I believe. It brought back many memories for me, and for that I am grateful. I think it has also begun to fuel the fire for my next long ride.

Later

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MHCG and weight loss program…

4 06 2011

Hey everyone, check out the new article over on MHCG, entitled “Secret Weight Loss Technique – Bike to Work.”

It explains one of the best reasons to commute by bike; weight loss, smart, rapid weight loss. I wrote it. What do you think?

Later





Recovery…

23 05 2011

Took a spin to the bank this morning. It was just six miles but, after yesterday’s 43 mile struggle, I needed to check the old legs. Felt pretty good, actually. I guess that’s why they call it recovery.

Later





10 Miles?

3 05 2011

Hadn’t ridden in eight days, so I decided to go for a 10-12 mile ride. Just wanted to see how the legs were feeling.

Mt Evans, 23 miles from home on the Highline West trail.

I guess they felt pretty good…since I did 30 miles, instead.

 
Long’s Peak, 23 miles from home on Highline West Trail.

Later





The day after, a year ago…

18 04 2011

Below are some thoughts I posted the day after completing The Ride last year. Although I made a few errors in this post, the feelings and thoughts expressed are still valid today.

Today, I’m even more amazed that I accomplished what I set out to do – with some help, of course. I really doubt if I could do it again today. Last year, I had to get to Denver somehow, and the challenge of riding seemed like a great way to do it. Today, though I miss being on the road, I’m afraid I’m a bit too comfortable to challenge myself with a similar adventure.

I know I’ll attempt another bike tour again in the future, but it will be more out of a sense of adventure than necessity and, I’ll make sure I’m better prepared for the experience, as well

I hope you’ve enjoyed my attempt to relive some of what I experienced last year, just as I hope you enjoy the continuation of this blog.

April 15, 2010…

I’m home…

Well, I find myself a bit unsure of what to post this morning. After all, this blog was supposed to be about the ride to Denver–and here I am–at home. Maybe some thoughts on returning to Denver and the ride will be appropriate…

Denver has always felt like home to me; since we first moved here in 1983, when I visited after moving to Phoenix in 2001, and now, returning in an effort to restart my career, and life. Being here with Andi and Darryl, two of the best friends a person could hope to have, is so comfortable, and comforting. Hearing the delight and pride in my daughter’s voice last evening when I called and told her I’d made it brought me a sense of real joy. Seeing some of the old familiar places I remember from living here before gave me a wonderful sense of having returned to the place I am supposed to be. It is all so familiar and I am happy to be back.

Yesterday, as I began my ride from Salida, I was so eager to get here that I began pushing very hard from the first crank of the pedals. This was, of course, a mistake. I blew up my legs very quickly. I stopped a couple of times for food and Rockstar to reenergize them but, even so, I knew I had created problems for myself by going out so aggressively. As a result, I had to begin hitching after about 30 48 miles. With a couple of tough climbs behind me, and a few more ahead of me, I decided I’d better hitch if I wanted to reach my goal for the day of reaching the town of Fairplay, about 60 50 miles from Salida. As it turned out, I received a ride from a lady named Mary Lou who has done more bike touring than I could ever hope to do. She drove me up the mountains and then out of the mountains into Denver, about 100 90 miles. She saved me at least three days of riding–perhaps four [due to all the climbing involved]. She also saved me from getting stuck in the mountains when another storm came in tomorrow. For this, I’m very grateful.

I also learned some things from her about bicycle touring that I wished I had known before I began this journey. In fact, the whole trip, all 15 days, was an amazing learning experience. Some of the lessons I learned are internal, things I discovered about myself of which I’m proud, as well as things I’d forgotten about myself. Some of these lessons are things I’ll share with all of you later, some will remain my own. However, one of the most surprising and unexpected lessons I learned is something I’ve mentioned before; it is just how kind and generous people can be toward strangers.

I had about half-a-dozen “pay it forward” type experiences during the 15 days I spent on the road. People offered encouragement, rides, and cash, expecting nothing in return and receiving only the satisfaction of helping another human being. I even had one completely anonymous contribution of cash at the hostel in Salida. Someone, I’m not sure who, hid a $20 bill in my riding gloves which I only discovered when checking my gear one morning. I have an idea who it might have been but, since they obviously wanted the contribution to be anonymous, I will honor their wish and simply say, “Thank you for being so generous. It came in very handy.” I have sworn, to myself and my daughter, that I will be just as kind and generous to others in the future.

I realize now that I made many mistakes, in both the planning and execution, for this ride. I really thought I knew what I was doing after spending hours doing research online. Like most things though, it just isn’t the same until you’re out there, actually doing it. I mean, I spent years travelling alone as a salesman driving hither and yon but, living on the road on a bicycle creates a sense of exposure and vulnerability unlike any other mode of travel I can imagine. While I found a great deal of enjoyment in the experience, I also had days when I worked incredibly hard. Yet I did find bits of that joy and freedom about which I spoke before leaving. This ride was, without doubt, the most difficult thing I have ever done, yet I am proud and pleased to have done it.

Many of the things I experienced and learned during this trek will take some processing to evaluate and understand before I am able to share them. Let me just say this, if there is anything in your life with which you might like to challenge yourself, something you might wish to do for you–and only you–please give it a try. While I was not able to pedal every mile of the way during my ride, this old man was able to do about two-thirds of the distance, nearly 500 600 miles; much farther than I could have imagined a mere year ago.

So, whatever it may be that you have dreamed, make it real.

Later





Happy Anniversary to…a Crazy Man.

31 03 2011

One year ago today I began the craziest thing I’ve ever done. At about 10:30 in the morning I began riding my bike, and by “bike” I mean bicycle, from Phoenix, Arizona, to Denver, Colorado; a trip of 800 miles.

Looking back on it now, I’m amazed that I made it; not to mention that I even tried.

My motivation at the time was simple; to return home to Colorado, where I had previously lived for 18 years. My mode of transport for the trip however, was unique. I carried everything I thought I would need  for at least two weeks on the road on the bike with me. Clothing, a tent, a sleeping bag and pad, as well as surprisingly few other supplies, were all strapped to the bike. The bike itself, a mountain bike I’d hybridized into a commuter, was certainly not designed for such a ride. But, it was what I had.

My first day on the road began well enough. The Phoenix metro area is relatively flat, after all. But soon after leaving town things became more challenging. First, I fell, scraping my left knee and breaking my rear-view mirror. I’d rarely used a mirror in town, but I thought it would be smart to have one for such a long ride. Well, that was the idea, anyway. So, bloodied and brooding, I continued. Then I began to hit some climbs. Those nearly finished me almost before I began.

Phoenix is called the Valley of the Sun, due to the fact it is surrounded by mountains. While these mountains are not large by Colorado standards, they’re pretty big to a cyclist. Especially one carrying about 60-70 pounds of extra stuff on his bike. I did a few miles of walking that first day, pushing the bike uphill, which was something I would do repeatedly during The Ride. However, I did make it to my first goal, a KOA campground 45 miles north of the city.

KOA Campground, first day out...March 31, 2010

Remarkably, 45 miles was the farthest I had ever ridden in one day, and I did it on a fully loaded mountain bike. Naturally, I was exhausted; but I was also proud.

Pitching my tent and securing all I had with me inside, I headed for a much-needed shower, and found Nirvana. What a great feeling that shower was. My tired old body was rejuvenated for a while, actually making it difficult to fall asleep that first night. Of course, thoughts of the trip ahead of me, of the many miles and many climbs to come, also kept me awake as well. Finally though, exhaustion overtook me and I slept surprisingly well.

That first night’s stay at the KOA also began a series of surprising and rewarding experiences in which I was treated to the kindness of strangers during my adventure. Many people were eager to help me, in whatever way they could, and I am still grateful, to this day, for the encouragement and generosity I experienced from folks I had never before met and will likely never see again. I will share more of these experiences later.

Thus I began the greatest challenge and adventure I had ever set for myself. It was not the most auspicious beginning I might have hoped for but, I was on my way, head up, legs churning, willfully grinding my way toward home. What a crazy thing to do.

March 31, 2010…

Day 1…

The following are links to the first two audio posts from Day 1 of The Ride.

 Visit http://ipad.io/I2O to hear my latest ipadio phonecast

Visit http://ipad.io/I2R to hear my latest ipadio phonecast

Everything I carried, including my bike, fit inside the tent with me.

While I do not plan to re-post every day of the ride, I think I will post my most vivid and cherished memories from the experience.  Even after a year, the memories I hold can be almost overwhelming. I hope you enjoy reliving some of them with me.  

Later





2 Days to go, a year ago…

29 03 2011

The countdown continued a year ago today. I was working hard to get everything done and really wasn’t riding much at all. This was probably a good thing however, even so, my legs were not really getting much rest.

You can’t believe how busy I was at the time. I remember this much, all I wanted to do was finish the work and hit the road. Riding a bike 800 miles simply had to be easier than moving house.

 

March 29, 2010…

2…

I’m nearly packed for the move now.

I’ve done a much neater job than usual. There are cartons and boxes all over the place. Knowing that I had to pack for the future drive to Denver meant that I had to take more care. Many times in the past, when I was merely packing for a move across town for instance, I would just throw a bunch of junk into a box for ease of carrying, not worrying about transport. This time, I had to bear in mind that my stuff would be in a dusty storage unit for months before I would load it into a truck for the eventual drive to Colorado. This has forced me to be much more organized and careful. This is a good thing, right?

Packing for the ride is also pretty much settled.

I’m a bit worried that I am taking a little too much stuff. My riding clothes are lightweight and easy to pack but, even so, I’ve probably planned on too many pieces. All I really need is one outfit in my bags and one on my body. Trying to pack for all possible contingencies, such as weather and remote locations where it might be difficult to clean things, has forced me to choose more clothing than I might otherwise do. I’m going to play with the packing and unpacking a bit today and make a final decision. I really don’t want to get on the road and feel like I didn’t bring enough, yet I also don’t want to carry anything I don’t really need.

Since this is a “future post” I can’t tell you how the camp out on the floor went last night, but I’ll try to post from my phone later to let you know. I hope I didn’t wake up too sore this morning. lol

Later








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