When I was riding cross-country in 2009, we were in Arizona, and I came up with the idea of riding a penny farthing across the country. It seemed like a great idea. As soon as I got home from that trip, I started looking. It took a while to find my first. I drove 50 miles to pick it up from the train station, and could hardly contain myself, much like a child on Christmas morning. The box was ripped apart right at the station; my excuse was to make sure it wasn’t damaged in any way during shipping, but the truth was, I was just excited! As soon as I got home, the car was parked, and I started assembling it. At this point I hadn’t read much about them – I had no idea how it went together (half the pieces in the box didn’t seem necessary to ride it [that was the brake]), no clue how to mount and definitely no Earthly idea how to dismount. I took it outside, and figured it couldn’t be that hard – I mounted first try. It was exhilarating. I rode it 22 miles without getting off it…I still didn’t know how to dismount.
The smiles, waves and giggles got me hooked; it didn’t take much. The sheer positive energy it gave off was enough to hook someone, but riding five feet off the ground, the height of semi-truck and bus drivers, the feeling of learning how to ride a bike for the very first time, and everything else included was inebriating. Sailing above the asphalt sea, above all worries in the world. I rolled into the family car-shop, and slowed. Cell phone, “I need help…getting down.”, Dad rushes out, and helps me down the first time. At this point, it was over. I knew there was no going back. I wanted to ride it long distances and energize people, just as riding it fulfilled me – I knew I had to figure out mounting and dismounting in a more graceful fashion. I contemplated. It couldn’t be that hard. I got on, and kind of jumped off. Little did I know, they call that an emergency dismount. It seemed so simple. A couple rides later, I learned I could reach back and dismount just same I mounted (via the peg in the back). Grace came in short time, and the high never gave up. I started plotting. I was clueless to this world that occurred 130 years ago, but I knew I wanted to be part of it. Knowledge comes with experience, and it found its way duly.
April. 2010. “I need a place to stay. I’ll be in SF for the start of my next cycle-tour. Can I stay with you? Great. I’ll see you the second week.” Pack the bike. Pack the bags. Haul to Maricopa, Amtrak. Midnight: off to LA. Union Station chairs are uncomfortable. Sleep the little you can, the trip begins soon. I hope the bike makes it. Did I insure it? Shit. I didn’t. Oakland, via the coast, alone, but beaming. Bus to The City. Assemble bike, and ride to bar. “THAT’S the thing you’re touring on? Holy shit!”. “Yea. Crazy, isn’t it? It’s a hoot”. 22nd, in memory of Stevens [Thomas - the first to cross the country on a bike (a high wheel)], I embark north, planning for Alaska. Rain. Hills. More rain. Even more hills. Trees. Sand. Ocean. Bears.
By Eugene, I was still feeling the journey, but was half uncertain. Another week til Seattle, but AK was distant. Can I make it? Well, I could walk if I had to. A friend, and fellow cross-country rider, in Eugene put me up for a few weeks while I was there. At the time, he worked for the UO Outdoor Department. We ended up rebuilding the big wheel on my then-current bike. We changed how it was built, and it helped, but didn’t solve the issue completely. I happened to be in Eug. during the Bicycle Music Festival, which was quite a blast (and a penny farthing was an extra bonus for those in attendance). Eug., then I was upward again. Corvallis. Portland. Castle Rock. Centralia. Tacoma. Auburn. Seattle. Home.
At this point, I had decided my equipment problems had to be solved before tackling Canada, and its vast wilderness. I trained home. “RAGBRAI 2010 starts in Sioux City this year! You have to come back!”. Sioux City is where the family is from. I wasn’t certain to do it, but ended up doing it. That was the final journey for Ms. Penelope. She found a new home in Reno, and the search continued. My two current bikes came within the next year, and here we are now. The current rider, being “reverse” of the typical ordinary, was quite a learning experience in its own. The many, many miles I put on the last one, some would think I’d have mastered these machines. We drove to Albuquerque to get the Eagle. 45 minutes later, I finally got on the first time – it was a *completely* different bike. Everything I’d learned about high wheels was to be unlearned, which took unlearning normal cycling techniques. Not only was the mounting very much more difficult, the steering and riding was like taming a wild Moroccan tiger. The best analogy this year, was comparing riding one to pushing a cinder block with one’s nose; it’s not far off, I’m here to tell you.
It’s still a joy to ride them, and it hardly gets old (doing anything gets old – you have to accept that in stride). After 7 days, 500 miles and 20,300 feet of climb on direct driven, 120 year old technology, I was tired. A day’s rest, and I felt the best I’ve felt in years, maybe ever. I worked as hard, or harder, in those 7 days than I had in 58 days across the country (roughly 5,000 miles). I felt it more, but after the rest, felt even more energized – I wanted, no, needed to continue. My next journey is possibly months out, but it’s on the horizon, and I live each day to see the next trip through. It’s literally the fuel. Perhaps a tandem high wheel would be fun to ride.
My originally planned x-country trip was Phoenix to Maine, by way of the Great Lakes. The idea was to find myself. I turned down a pretty large promotion at Dell, to be able to ride across The States. Some might find that foolish, and I still wonder myself. I certainly wasn’t able to answer any of those decisions when I got home – nothing could compare to what I’d just done. Two years later (and counting), I still have no destined plan. I’ve not had a full time (or even part time – just freelancing) job since Dell, and while I’d love to have the money it may provide, I feel I’m a much happier person where I’m at right now.
“For God’s sake give me the young man who has brains enough to make a fool of himself!”
- Robert Louis Stevenson
“Most people would rather be certain they’re miserable than risk being happy.”
- Robert Anthony
I can safely say, at this point, I’ve had the brains to make a fool of myself, and risked plenty to be happy. The true question for my future lies in the ability to continue doing so.
If you like bikes, and I certainly do, you will probably enjoy these two videos taken by my good friend Alexander Hongo. I had intended to leave Eugene yesterday, so I packed my panniers and got them on the bike. Turns out, I was sick when I woke up, so I stayed another day. Here is some footage of me riding through Eugene on my Kennedy, fully loaded. One features coasting on an ordinary cycle, the other has me pedaling at 20 miles per hour with ~30 pounds of gear (fully loaded). Enjoy!
Nothing special, but here are some random clips of my trip. The Ave of the Giants one is specifically long and boring, so sorry for that. I also apologize for the blandness of the videos, but I have little time on a proper computer for editing and other fun things, so they are straight from the camera (as are the pictures I post).
So I’ve been avoiding an update because my bike was at the platers. Under the pretense of worst possible chance, I figured I’d wait to get it back before continuing posts. Today I got it back, and I must say – stunning! All that’s left now is to make the baggage mounts and I’m good to go. I have the plans and materials set aside for it, however, I’ve been sick the last few days. Purchasing for the trip is nearly done. A few more articles of clothing and the final leg dehydrated foods are left still. Rapid updates are on the works now that I have the bike back and functional.
As for the trip, plans have changed slightly. I’ll be kicking off the trip from San Francisco on April 22, the same date and place Thomas Stevens left to be the first person to cycle across the US (and around the world). Original plans had me leaving in early May, but part of me wanted to leave on the 22nd. I found a train ticket to the Bay Area and will be arriving there on the 18th. A few days around there and then I will embark northward. Heading north on PCH isn’t ideal for a few reasons, but it is the best I can do considering the terms. Headwinds plague the northbound Shoreline Highway, and when traveling north you are on the ‘mountain’ side (southbound gets the shore side). All that said, I’m still incredibly excited to get back on the road, as well as see all my West Coast friends.
Strange weather really. As debates heat over global warming, we see some of the coldest temperatures for the month / year in many places. In some cases, we even see all time low records being broken – see: Alberta, Canada breaks record low by 10 degrees Celsius. While the effects of modern day humans obviously has *some* effect on the atmosphere, temperatures over the last two winters have been quite bitter – more so than “average”. Since arriving after my long commute, the average low here has been around 30. Winter hasn’t even struck yet! No, this post isn’t about the weather, global warming or what you think.
My time on research and planning has been halted a fair bit lately by work. Soon updates will be more plentiful, but until then, they may be a little sparse. The winter holidays don’t help at all in that department either. Things are hectic and days are short. The weather has inhibited my riding a fair bit since arrival, but it is supposed to be warming a little bit this week. Perhaps this weekend I will get in some decent riding time. Of the two bikes I brought with me, only the penny is functional right now. I tore apart my fixed gear (my ‘training’ bike) to give it a paint job. It’s coming out quite fantastic, and I can’t wait to get it all back together and see it done.
Coming right along. Forgive the camera-phone.
Christmas nears and I can’t help reminisce the magic years ago. Most people grow out of the magic of certain childhood discoveries, beliefs and / or mysteries. Christmas seems to be a subject drawn dismal to most as time goes by. Maybe it’s partially society. Perhaps it’s growing out of tradition. It could be the many a reason, not just a specific something. Either way, I have so many fond memories of Christmas times as a child. Some will argue the ‘reason for Christmas’ versus the commerciality of the common Christmas (while ‘reason for the season’ definitely can differ from person to person).
That said, there are things I miss and feel myself drawn to more this year than perhaps in the near past. I haven’t had a real tree in my house in over 5 years. My dad and I used to volunteer at the Christmas tree lot, and some of those times are the most fond of my youth. I don’t get to sing in the choir this year (and regret that). I haven’t caroled in over a decade, and Christmas music, overall, seems something that has slipped from my life. The last few weeks I have been listening to some of the all time (as well as some not quite as popular) greatest recordings of Christmas songs and I’m really brought back to a time of joy and comfort. It’s almost as if a door has opened, and light is allowed to shine the dark abyss, ultimately warming and pleasing the receiver. Do yourself a favor this year: listen, sing and enjoy some Christmas classics!
I know I can attest to this, and for that very reason I make such an assessment. Rarely does it seem I (or many people) have time to just sit down and reflect on things. Reflecting on things so fond and moving in your life can often be the answer to the question you feel unanswered for some time. Looking back at times of joy and cheer give insight to what could possibly give you such a feeling again. The holidays are depressing to some, but I think many could find great joy by acting out their holiday with more fruitful acts. Even if you’re happy or just neutral, try to give yourself 5-15 minutes a day to think, write and reflect. It can do wonders for the soul.