Right now it’s Day 27. I’m at my friend Grace’s house in Hannibal, MO. Over the past few days I’ve been thinking, and I’ve reached a conclusion. The tour ends here. I will fly home after the weekend, from St Louis.
I’ve had a lot of fun so far, but I cannot continue. Of course I have excuses, like “I’m only a third of the way across and yet halfway through my leave time”, or “I’d have to shuffle some savings around in order to not starve”, but those can’t get in the way of the real decision. There are also elements of this lifestyle I don’t enjoy, which similarly should not get in the way of decision-making. The physical discomfort of riding all day is the greatest of these.
The real reason is that it isn’t fun any more. I knew from the beginning that riding all day would be a different lifestyle, and I don’t mind the new routine (once I figured it out). I also knew this tour would happen in two halves. The first half was all about visiting family and friends, the second about following the Lewis and Clark trail.
I realized at some point, maybe near Boston or DC, that the First Half would always be about destinations. It would be “get up, be sad to leave, push hard, be happy to arrive, take a day off”. While there were pieces of the journey that were enjoyable–the C&O Towpath and Great Allegheny Passage, Amish country, the Atlantic ocean–my attitude was largely affected by the destination. I hoped that this would change upon reaching St Louis, and to that end I made a deal with myself in Pittsburgh.
If I could start enjoying the journey more during the 8 or 9 days it would take me to get to Missouri, I would know that I could continue on the L&C. Maybe I picked the wrong part of the country to enjoy the journey, since it’s all corn and soybeans and flat. Maybe I needed more of a push, to jump off the deep end so to speak (I had one more destination in Missouri before St Louis, which biased my attitude). Whatever I needed, I didn’t have. My mood only improved with the thought of arriving in Hannibal. And when I got word that she could come pick me up, saving me a day of riding, I knew from my own response that destinations would always win over journeys, at least in the context of this tour.
So I relax this weekend, go exploring and take my mind off the road. Don’t worry though, I’ll be back in the saddle next season.
Well I’ve had a relaxing few days in Pittsburgh. I arrived here Sunday evening, after three days on the trail from DC. DC itself was a lot of fun. I stayed with my high-school drama instructor, which was sort of surreal since I hadn’t seen him in 7 years. Apparently I have the same laugh as back then, and the same desire to implement useless solutions.
Hello from DC! The tour so far has gone really well. The last couple of days were very warm but I’m fine as long as I keep pedaling. The bike is in the shop today, getting a new cassette installed, so that I might have some chance of getting over the mountains in my future. My camera holster suffered a minor break, so until I glue that there will be no road-filming. Other than that everything is in great shape. My left leg is starting to get a little tanner than my right, so I know I’m still headed West.
I made it to Boston! I’m staying with college friends Daniel and Kendra for a couple days, then I’ll be doing a couple 100+ days to NY…we’ll see how that goes.
The riding so far has been pretty fun. Got a little rain in NH on the morning of day 2, but otherwise it has been sunny and breezy. It hasn’t gotten super boring yet, as I anticipated it would. I did find myself playing a few games on the road though, especially the closer I got to Boston (spoiler alert: biking into Boston sucks).
Avoid the Glass. This game entails not running over the pieces of glass on the shoulder.
Don’t. Antagonize. Anything. The objective of this game is to not piss any drivers off such that they might cut you off, or honk at you, or throw things at you, or run you over. It’s very easy if done right, even in and around Boston.
And my personal favorite: What Road am I on Now?. It turns out that New England is really good at not putting signs on streets. I’ll be going down a road that I think is the right one, and there will be signs for all the cross streets, but no signs for the road I’m on. You win the game if you can end up where you’re going without looking at a map. Stereotypically masculine, I know, but it adds an element of adventure to an otherwise-normal adventure.
Anther highlight of my ride so far is the East Coast Greenway, a network of converted rail beds and sidewalks and not-highway roads. Presumably this route will someday extend from Canada to Key West along the Atlantic ocean, but for now it’s still under construction. Maine really has its shit together, and finished its portion. New Hampshire did pretty well with “just stay on 1A”, with a few detours around the towns (the ECG is VERY car-phobic). Massachusetts…needs a lot of help. As soon as I crossed the border, I got lost. Then the trail was poorly signed. Then the trail wasn’t even built yet and I walked my bike through an active construction zone. Then I said “screw it”, switched to state highways and didn’t look back.
I think I’ll be able to take the Greenway about halfway to Hartford tomorrow, then switch to state highways where the ECG turns South for Providence. I may be able to pick it up again on the New Haven line on Saturday.
Physically, I’m feeling very well. Sight sunburn on day 1, and mild soreness in the evenings, but nothing alarming. I’m eating a little more than usual, which I realized today will increase my costs unless I figure out a way to cook all my own meals, though I do really like lounging in an air-conditioned restaurant with a beer while someone wearing a smile brings me delicious hot food. Hm.
I think I’ll start filming tomorrow. One of the chores I did during my “day off” today was to repack everything, not only to send things home I’ll never use (razor, mug, cup, a ratchet set without a ratchet…) but also to rebalance the weight distribution, which was fairly awful the first time I did it. In the process of doing this I dug out all of the parts necessary to mount my phone to the handlebars and charge it from the hub dynamo.
Other chores today included tuning up the bike and waxing the chain, airing out my camping gear and doing some laundry.
There are some friends coming over in a bit for grilled pizza night, so I’m going to go map tomorrow’s route before they get here. Talk to you again from New York!
The first leg is complete. On Friday I flew from Oregon to Vermont in about 14 hours, with one layover in New York. Both flights were delayed, and although my bike box suffered being ripped open at one end, all my gear was accounted-for and intact.
I did some packing tonight.
0 minutes, 0 beers
50 minutes, 1.5 beers
95 minutes, 3 beers
In the end the box contained 1 bicycle, 1 tent (w/ tarp and fly), 1 sleeping bag, various and sundry tools and parts. I didn’t close it because I’m sure I forgot something. Like a towel.
Last weekend I undertook Road Test #2. The purpose of this test was to make sure my body would be ok doing multiple consecutive days of cycling. Here’s what happened:
Day 1: 75 miles from Hillsboro, OR to Nehalem Bay, OR (via routes 8, 6 and 101). Fully loaded.
Day 2: 50 miles from Nehalem Bay, OR to Seaside, OR and back (via 101). Largely unloaded.
Day 3: 100 miles from Nehalem Bay, OR to Portland, OR (via 101, 6, 8 and 10) . Fully loaded.
I did my first ever Century! It was completely by mistake, but I rode at least 100 miles on Monday. Not without stopping: towards the end I took a bus over some bad highway, then continued.
I only felt sore the night of Day 3. I felt physically great up until then. I can totally do this!
I took a few pictures, viewable here.
I noticed some muscles that I’ve never noticed before!
Well, I leave for Vermont in 30 days. I don’t feel a huge need to do a third Road Test, but I may want to get out into the Oregon countryside anyway. Maybe the high desert East of the Cascades? While I figure that out there’s plenty of work left to do on spencersbigadventure.com though. And I keep thinking of little things I might need that I still don’t have, like a camp stove, or a cycling map of the East Coast.
In 12 hours’ time I will be lying awake in my bed, dreading the next 12 hours. Then I’ll be on a bus for two hours. Then I’ll be on a bike for who knows how long. I’m doing Road Test #2 this weekend, out to the Oregon coast and back. The weather has been sunny and warm this week, and I hope it holds through the weekend. I’ll be taking Rt 6 from Forest Grove, OR to Nehalem Bay State Park. It’s about 70 miles. Unlike the Lost Lake route though, the hard part is at the beginning.
On Sunday I’ll leave most of my things in the campground, and take a day trip up to Cannon Beach and possibly farther (at least 30 miles round trip). Monday I return to Forest Grove on the same route.
I’ve set up spencersbigadventure.com to fetch my location every 10 minutes (as long as my GPS is transmitting). The front-end doesn’t update asynchronously (yet), so in order to see any new posts you’ll have to reload the page.
The purpose of RT1 was to test my new bike, new panniers, new tent, new GPS, etc. The purpose of RT2 is to test me. Can I go for long bike rides day after day? We’ll certainly see.
I’ve been watching a few sports documentaries, including among others: Ride the Divide, about the mountain bike race from Canada to Mexico along the Rocky Mountains, as well as Hell on Wheels, about the Tour de France. I can say that watching these not only gives me some kick of adrenaline, it also deadens the fear I have of the upcoming tour.
spencersbigadventure.com is officially in v1 right now. It currently shows all of my tweets, foursquare checkins, GPS pings and blog posts, in the order they were posted. Some of these posts (like those from this blog) won’t have lat/lng data, and thus won’t be pinned on the map. V2 features include: responsive layout for mobile viewing, deep-linking and map-to-list interactivity.
I’ve posted a FAQ on the tour page, check it out!
My gear selection is just about dialed in. I only have to test my power solution (solar charger and hub dynamo) before I can trust my life and livelihood into these wheels. I am starting to think about RT2, maybe for next weekend. I want to get out and see the Oregon coast, but that’s a long ride–possibly 2 nights. Hmm, I’ll let you know.
I’ve finally plugged the entire tour into Google Maps and here’s how it looks:
The route…all 4400 miles of it
It’s 4,400 miles! How will I even do that?! My worst feeling about it right now is how I’ll fly over that whole span in less than 24 hours, then it’ll take me two months to get back. (here’s a link to the map, but note it is NOT for the faint of cpu!)
As this tour approaches I’m struck with two feelings: (1) I know I have no idea what to expect. (2) I’m surprised I’m not more scared. This is going to be life-changing. My outlook, spirituality and maybe even my personality will be put through a wringer. There are both butterflies and rocks in my stomach. I suppose I’ve been “bottling” a little bit, because there’s not much I can do with these feelings right now. Just gotta be patient…
Yesterday I biked from my house to Lost Lake, near Mt Hood. The route I took was about 65 miles, and it took me 9 hours. I left the house at 8am to give myself plenty of time in case of flat tires or bear attacks, and arrived at the campground shortly after 5pm. The journey was pretty definitively split into 4 sections:
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