Bike Tour 2012: Until our Next Adventure
Bike Tour 2012: Until our Next Adventure
It is hard to believe that it has been over a three months since Don and I finished our bike tour. Time flies when you are working full time and readjusting to life out of the saddle. I have had very good intentions to write up a final blog ever since we left Yorktown, but haven’t had enough hindsight or perspective until now to actually make it worth it. Now I must rely on my ever-fading memories and thousands of photos to take me back to bike tour and the many lessons learned, experiences had, and ideas developed.
Our last blog did not do justice to our incredible final weekend spent celebrating in Yorktown. As mentioned, we spent Friday night with our newest friends, Matt and Alex from England. They had also just finished the TransAmerica and we had a million stories to share with one another. We went out to the beachfront pub for fish and chips and beer and truly made a night of it. Matt made a public announcement about our accomplishment to the whole bar, which earned us a free round of drinks and lots of congratulatory pats on the back. From there we headed over to Ben and Jerry’s, where Alex’s proclamation of our success got us free ice cream too! The next morning we woke to a beautiful sunrise over the water (something novel to a West Coaster like me). We were sad to see Matt and Alex off, as they had to make their way to New York for their flight home. There are plans in the works for a bike tour through England, so we know that won’t be our last time hanging out together. The rest of our Saturday turned out to be one of the best and happiest days of my life. The town was having their annual holiday festivities, which meant we got to meet Santa, buy ingredients for dinner at the local farmer’s market, participate in a very successful chili cook-off for lunch, visit shops for holiday treats and drinks, and even go to a couple different wine tastings. That evening, Don whipped up a delicious homemade dinner of scallops and roasted veggies. Sunday was equally awesome, with yummy food, a dip in the Atlantic Ocean, and some time for reflection on our trip.
In a sort of denial, we left Yorktown on Monday morning and began our trip back to California. First we ate lunch at Red Robin (a treat that Don had waited long and hard for and had truly deserved), and then we biked a few miles to a local bike shop where our lovely bikes were dismantled and packed into boxes. A cab drove our luggage and us to the airport and everything went smoothly as we made our way back across the country. What had taken 70 days to complete, our plane accomplished in less than 5 hours. My mother picked us up and took us back to her place where we spent a couple days transitioning and remembering. We cooked up a Thanksgiving feast together and looked through all 2,000 of our photos. We didn’t want to leave, but we had our jobs at Next Adventure to get back to, so we decided to spend a full day driving back home along HWY 101 and through the redwood forest. All our road trip did was make us want to bike down the coast as soon as possible. We viewed hills, turns, and ocean views as a cyclist might, and couldn’t help but spot some fantastic stealth camping spots along the way.
Coming back to Portland was a harder transition than I imagined. Life’s routines changed dramatically as we fell into the responsibilities of cooking, working, and staying healthy. We had spent over 2 months with only one another as constant company, nothing but a tent as shelter, a guarantee of at least 5 hours of exercise a day, and a very simple diet of oatmeal, tortillas, and dehydrated dinners. Now we had old friends to catch up with, we had a kitchen to cook in, and we had to carve time out of our day if we wanted to get any exercise at all. Also, in stark contrast to the beautiful weather we experienced in Yorktown, our return to Portland was a return to consistent rain and short, cold days. Don and I did eventually move into our first home together and we have spent the last couple months settling in and enjoying a more routine and domestic existence.
Speaking of Don and I, we know we have bike tour to thank for much of the closeness in our relationship. Before we left on this trip, we were warned over and over by concerned friends and family that bike tour would either make or break our relationship. Finding someone with whom you can do a trip like this is challenging, and we feel lucky that we were so compatible throughout. On multiple occasions we found ourselves saying that we could not imagine making this trip with anyone else. I highly encourage any couple to embark on adventures as a team. I am sure that much of what we learned about each other could have taken years if it weren’t for the high demands of something like bike tour. We are looking forward to more great adventures in the future, and we feel confident that each one will bring us closer to one another.
Months of reflection have helped me realize all of the many ways that a long distance bike tour can teach people about living life well. Every day we made progress toward our goal by getting on our bikes and riding. It was a simple act, but it took determination and self control. There were plenty of mornings that we wanted to sleep in or hang out in some cool little town, but we knew what we needed to do and we kept moving forward. Every hill, turn, and town we faced brought us one step closer to the East Coast. Lance Armstrong had a lot to say about the many benefits of cycling that surpass just the physical. I found myself relating to the simple phrase “it’s not about the bike” more days than not. Patience, persistence, and compassion are all necessary out on the road. Another realization that really hit home for me was that our bodies are built for endurance (if you don’t believe me, please read “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall). I truly believe that anyone (without injury or illness) who wants to bike across the country, is able. We met so many people along the way who would pat us on the back and say, “I think it’s incredible what you’re doing, but I could never do that.” Yes, there were challenging days, but for the most part, our bodies fell right into a pattern that they’ve known for thousands of years. I expected to feel like some sort of superhero by the time we reached Yorktown, but in actuality, I just felt fully human. I believe that if more people would silence their doubts and forget their excuses and give their bodies the opportunity to perform, we would be a much healthier and saner society.
Okay, enough preaching. While we did experience a lot of success on this trip, there are definitely a few changes that Don and I will make the next time around. Diet is difficult to manage and control when you’re on the road and on a budget. Considering the amount of exercise we were getting, we probably should have been eating the healthiest diet possible. I would expect that to include tons of fruits and veggies, whole grains, legumes, eggs, lean meats, and only a tiny amount of sugars and dairy. It’s not that we ate terribly, but I know for certain that my sugar intake exceeded that of fruits and veggies by at least 50% on any given day. Next time around I will make a much more of an effort to seek out plant foods and cut out some sugars. I think I would have had more long-lasting energy with a better diet.
Our ignorance also played a role in the pace that we set for ourselves and in our overall timeline. We noticed in the first couple weeks that our pace was quite aggressive and that getting to Yorktown in time for our flight might not be realistic. We spent a few days considering whether we should move our flight back or just hope we make it, and as our knees started to feel better, we decided to stick with our original plan. We did get to Yorktown within the perfect amount of time, but only because we pushed for it and made it happen. There were more than a few days where we wished we could have ridden less miles, taken a spontaneous rest day, healed our bodies, or waited out a storm, but couldn’t because of our aggressive schedule. Don especially wished for more freedom, and for our next trip, we will probably allow for a more flexible schedule.
Finally, probably the biggest lesson I learned on this trip and my biggest regret, was not bringing along a high performance rain jacket. As an employee at Next Adventure and a gear-head myself, I pride myself in having the right gear for the right job. It is easy to get caught up in the gear world of vivid colors, fancy designs, and compelling ads, and forget exactly why we spend so much time and money on getting outfitted correctly. That is, until a piece of gear fails us exactly when we need it most. It is not that a person can’t cross the country by bike with the simplest, least technical gear, but they certainly won’t enjoy it as much as something with the proper equipment, and it is likely that their body will pay a high price. It wasn’t until I was faced with multiple days of rain and cold that I learned that my old rain coat was no longer waterproof. I foolishly ignored the problem and ended up soaking wet way more days than was necessary. The cold, wet conditions made me sick and made the going tougher and less enjoyable than I would have liked. It wasn’t until I got back to Portland, bought a new jacket, and then rode to work in a rainstorm that I finally appreciated just how silly I had been. On my next tour, I will test all of my equipment before I begin and will make all necessary replacements and adjustments.
Believe it or not, there is still so much more that I could say about our bike tour across the country. But alas, eventually this blog must come to an end. Fortunately, we are being given the chance to present a clinic on our bike tour and bike touring in general on Tuesday, March 26th at Next Adventure. The clinic will be free to the public and will include photos, some stories, and a lot of information and answers for future bike tourists. I remember having many questions about clothing, food, water, shelter, planning each days’ mileage and destination, the best ways to carry stuff, when to go, how to deal with maintenance issues, etc. We will address all these topics and more. We are excited to share our passion for bike touring with others and hopefully get more people out on their bikes. We hope that if you’re in the area you’ll be able to make it, and if you’re not, we know you’ll be there in spirit. More details about the Bike Tour Clinic will be available in the store or on Next Adventure’s website. Thank you again for sharing this wonderful journey with us, and remember to support your local outdoor enthusiasts and outfitters!
Until next time,
Rochelle and Don
Last but not least, here is some final info to peruse and enjoy!
Total days: 70
Riding days: 62
Rest days: 8
Total mileage: 4,369.6 miles
Average mileage per ride day: 70.5 miles
Average time spent in the saddle each day: 5 hours 40 minutes
Average daily speed: 12.5 mph
Number of nights sleeping outside: 31
Number of nights in a hotel: 13
Number of nights with a Warm Showers host: 6
Don’s weight before and after: Before = 175 After = 155
Rochelle’ weight before and after: Before = 137 After = 132
Total flat tires: 3 (2 in Don’s B.O.B. trailer, 1 in Don’s rear tire)
Other maintenance issues: Skewer holding B.O.B. to bike broke
Riding days with mostly rain: 8
Riding days with mostly wind: 6
Coldest temp and location: 24 degrees near New Bridges in Virginia
Hottest temp and location: Around 90 degrees near Mitchell, Oregon
Hardest hills: Ozarks from Houston, MO to Ellington, MO (Day 49)
Most beautiful spot: Devil’s Lake, IL (Day 52)
Hardest day: Booneville, KY to Hazard KY (Day 60)
Best day: Yellowstone, the Tetons, and Towgotee Pass, WY (Day 25)