Catching Up: Well I am home and have been for about 10 days now. I am catching up a little bit on the honey-do list that was neglected for six weeks. I am also actually starting to apply for a few jobs. It was rather hard to do this before when people would call and I’d say, ‘hey I need six or seven weeks off in the summer to go on a long bicycle trip.’ I actually had one interview and the owner of the company was a cyclist. When I told him my plans and that I would basically need the summer off he was not happy. Odd his response was one half mixed up in almost resentment. So now I can apply to jobs with the full intention of going back to work, but it has to be the right position. I wanted to follow up on a few items in three more posts related to this journey. First, what were some of the questions I have been asked and the answers. Second, I have been prodded in my own understanding of community through this journey and I wanted to share some thoughts. Last, I have a long post of thanks. How many people have shared this journey by being my support has been incredible.
Questions I Have Been Asked:
What one thing stood out the most from your trip? This is actually one that a few people have posed to me. Let me juxtapose (OK, I am an English and Journalism major so I use some big words!) what I believed would be the most memorable thing before my trip and what it actually was. Before the trip if you had asked me what the most memorable thing would be I would have most likely have said the scenery and the places I looked forward to seeing. In the end the thing that most stunned me was the people. The people I met, the people who helped me, the people who hosted me, the people who blessed me. Honestly, what an incredible thing. I had many Canadians and friends who were concerned before I went on the trip that traveling through the US in these political times was iffy. They were wrong. My interaction with people was as people. They talked to me and blessed me and offered me help with no expectation of any payback. I never told you about my one encounter with Gary the crew foreman in Colorado for the road crew. I got stopped by a construction crew in Colorado and the road was shut down for seven miles (12 kilometres for you Canadians, or 11.2 to be exact). The lady with the sign saying ‘stop’ looked at me on my bike at the front of the line and raised her eyebrows. I asked how far the one lane was and she said ‘seven miles.’ I asked if i could ride down the newly paved section as far as I could? She looked at me again, raised her eyebrows again and not even answering me put her radio to her mouth. Her question into the radio went something like this; ‘Gary, we have a guy here on his bicycle wanting to get through.’ Gary back to sign lady, ‘Um did you say on his bicycle?’ Yes, she responded and he said; ‘I’ll be right there to pick him up.’ Gary showed up with the truck (you know the one that has the pylons and everything on it) and we trundled my bike into the back and off we roared. We wove and dodged pylons and vehicles (in the US this is pronounced veHICles) coming the other way. I got a lesson in how they do asphalt in Colorado (three layers all with different mixes of asphalt and other additives (in the picture below you can see the three layers). All of this while managing three different radios and two cell phones. Two days earlier (the reason I was getting this tour) lightning had struck the light system that regulated traffic and Gary was up 32 hours straight trying to manage the traffic on this main east west route into Colorado Springs. At the end of my 20 minute tour and lesson Gary dropped me off way beyond then end at the only grocery store around, helped me down with my bike and shook my hand and wished me luck. I mean that just sums up my experience. People are people, and wow what a gift and revelation this was.
What’s Next? This is really the most interesting question of all in many ways. I am hooked. The journey was incredible and I want to do more. I don’t have any multi-week trips planned but I do know I will do another one. I have re-done my Dahon Flo since I got home, added my panniers on and have plans to do a couple small one night trips to local places in the fall. I have fallen in love with the enjoyment of just wandering and discovering by bicycle. I also have the equipment now. I was musing on this fact today. Things only seem scary until you have done them once and then they are less daunting. For example. My first Leadville race scared me. The second, third and fourth have been hard; but once I knew what to expect, how much pain it would take, where I would be able to press and where to hold; it is manageable. The same can be said for your first half-marathon, marathon, 10k run, crossfit WOD, century ride etc. So, I have gone almost across the continent. It is doable and manageable. I want to do it again. I hope some day (truly) that Joy will be able to join me on one of these. We both love to wander, we both love to experience new areas and we both love the outdoors.
Right now what is next (and yes I do plan ahead). I believe I am going to make 2018 a no bicycle race year. I have felt for a while that I needed to find what I really loved about cycling. I loved this trip, it reinforced the fact that I love wandering on my bicycle. Some days not even worrying about when you get to the end point. I also want to focus on indoor rowing in the fall and winter, and would like to compete in the 2018 Canadian Indoor Rowing Championships. I have looked at my times for my age group and the results for last years and am intrigued. Making the worlds would be fun.
What Was the Hardest Thing About It? This is another intriguing question to be honest. The hardest things were the days that just felt like they weren’t going to end. When the goal you had set for the day seemed so far away, and I knew it was going to take hours of sweat to get there. Then when you were at the lowest the GPS would tell you to turn; and it would be a soft sloppy gravel road. Now the goal has just gotten further away. I started to avoid gravel by the end of the journey. Those who know me know I prefer gravel. But in Ontario the gravel gets graded and then gets hard and manageable. Out west and through the places I wandered the gravel could suck your soul out very quickly. Since I have gotten home almost all of my rides have been gravel. I love gravel. But the days when you think the ride will be eight hours and it suddenly turns into 10 hours and just shy of 100 degrees. That does beat you down.
Oh, also include the heat on the hardest things. It was punishing day after day.
What Did Your Average Day Look Like? This one was asked of me quite a bit. First off I started in the first week and developed a regular schedule. Up at 5:00 or 5:15 a.m. Before I even left the tent I packed up everything inside so when I got out it was all ready to go in the trailer except for the tent. First breakfast was oatmeal, unsalted butter (grass fed if I could find it) and sometimes MCT oil. I also had a cup of coffee when it wasn’t too hot to turn on the MSR stove. Michael clued me onto a backpacking trip in Nebraska that became a life-saver. I would put the oatmeal and all of the stuff together the night before and leave it to soak overnight and just eat it cold in the morning. Time and stove saver. The latest I was on the road and actually riding was around seven but mostly by six-thirty. I desperately wanted to beat the heat most days and leave room for good stops along the way. On shorter days my riding was completed by two in the afternoon but most days I rode until app. four or five.
Would You Have Done Anything Differently? Odd question but possibly yes, and most likely no. I would have liked to have pressed harder on some days and maybe leave for some more shorter days and rest. Most likely I would have loved to have explored more. Here is the funny thing. In your car you see some place that is say seven miles off of your path. Hey, that sounds like fun to go and see. Now, on your bicycle that same seven miles means a one to two hour detour and not on the way to your destination. Given my proclivities to wander I would have liked to have been able to plan for more of that.
How Does It Feel To Be Home? Phenomenal. Joy and I have been able to have coffee together most mornings and I love being grounded again. I am finding it hard to get back into a regular rhythm of life but that is rapidly coming into scope. I planned on two weeks as kind of a decompression and it is now near an end.
Is There Anything You learned You Will Add Into Your Life? Yes, absolutely. Love people more. Be more generous. To be hospitable doesn’t mean you have to be perfect just open. I think of how much time I have wasted over the years pursuing things that in the end didn’t matter that much. The amount of time I missed with my family and friends for a job that in the end set me aside. Also, do more serendipitous stuff like a cross country tour. Pray more.
Asked of Joy (often); Is he sane? Odd how people’s perceptions can be off. Like I said, what seemed daunting six weeks ago is now possible. I have it in my life dreams book to some day cycle to Leadville to do the race. I have now done that. Now the dreams grow even bigger. Do I want to cycle around the world? No! I do however want to cycle across North America again.
To answer the sanity question. Yes I am. More sane today than I was six weeks before. I see a lot of things in life now more clearly than I did before.
Did You Feel Safe? OK, this is a regular question also. To be honest there was no time that I ever felt in danger. I was very leery and scared of some of the roads I was on but at no point did I feel concerned for my own personal safety.
How Was the Trip Home? OK, one word. Fast. Dad wanted to get home and we did in 22 hours what took me five weeks. It was interesting passing all of the places I had wandered through on my bike, and seeing us do in one hour what sometimes took me two days.