I still get all wishy-washy when I watch this
Certain events change our life. It tends to be things you don’t expect. When I moved home from Texas, and finished the continuation of my plans to ride a bicycle from Phoenix, AZ to the state of Maine, traversing north of the Great Lakes, I had no idea how much the trip (or rather, the plans for that trip) would change my life.
Unbeknownst to me, I wouldn’t take that trip. I would plan that trip until just fourteen days before leaving – then everything would get turned upside-down. I found a flyer online that day, by chance, on a site I hadn’t visited in years. Why not send in an application? They’re only asking for a page explaining why me and not them.
So I write it. And then I’m accepted. I’m sponsored by 42 Below (Bacardi) to ride my bicycle across the United States.
And it’s not the trip, the time away, the everything you EXPECT to change you, that changed me. It was the everything. I fostered some great friendships on this trip. I saw more than I could imagine. I covered more distance in two months on a bicycle than many people will do in their entire life. 58 days. 5,000 total miles. 44 eclectic personalities. NYC – Atlanta – OKC – San Antonio – San Diego – LA. There’s not enough time before work to find all the pictures that express my words. The video should fill in the gaps. Just picking a few quick pics to recap on good times; they pale in comparison to the trip, the relationships, the times.
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).
I didn’t even get to ride yesterday. Some days I don’t get to ride as much as other days, but I fool myself into being okay with the shorter distance by doing harsher sprints and workouts. Mental power is such a strange phenomenon, which brings me to the next A.C.T. 2010 keypoint: Preparations – Training, Mental and Research.
Self-supported bicycle touring is not like a lot of other tasks, hobbies or jobs. In general, they take a great deal of will power and mental strength just to overcome common day normalities. The endless hours alone, carrying your whole ‘life’, self propelling your ‘life’, the unknown (where you will sleep, where you will get your next food/water, etc) and logistics are just a few things that can make a head-case out of any of us. An expedition-esque trip like the ACT2010 is the next level of that. I will be forced to go slower, and walk many hills that I wouldn’t if I was on a conventional bike. I will have to extremely micro-manage my journey and good. As I’ve said before, rare is it that someone does a round trip of the Dalton Highway. That alone calls for the high attention to fine detail in planning calories and weight/space management. Preparations are what help build the mental strength necessary to tackle such a task though. Training under harsh conditions and pushing yourself to your extremes are the best way to find what you can do under pressure (or what you need to work on). Endless research fills my days – something I feel more than invaluable – and is the easiest way to feel mentally fit. Knowing what you’re up against, and being able to plan around the troubles of that makes you feel positive of your goal.
When first gazing to this dream, it was so far past understandable or even graspable in my mind. Even though I have a fairly good history or survival and the outdoors, I was not comfortable with myself. The age of billion book libraries and countless internet sites help shine a light on things that otherwise would have been a large question-mark in the past. The Milepost is bar none the most incredible piece of research material for anything this monumental. I still find the Fairbanks to Deadhorse round-trip overly daunting, but that mostly comes down to figuring out food (and food I want to eat). I’ve come to some new, great conclusions and ideas for food on the route, but it will take some more research and brainstorming to put to life. I should have a much better idea in the coming weeks (and definitely coming months), but it’s so very complicated. The unknown is undoubtedly a living, driving factor of my life. Conquering something completely foreign to my life is a fantastic feeling.
Maybe part of me is just distressed by the weather. It’s mid-November and it’s still well over 30C/90F every day; matching records (and breaking them in some cases). My family grew up in cold places, while I quite the opposite. I see the very vast opinion due to this. My dad even mixes up winter and summer in his speech (winter being the ‘bad’ weather and summer being the ‘good). The heat is depressing to me. Many people who live in gloomy and/or cold regions feel the same about their weather. The climate in Phoenix can be nice, but this is pure ridiculousness. Forecast calls for snow at the Grand Canyon tonight. That’s 350km away, yet it’s nearly half the boiling point of water down here.
Things have been hectically busy for the last few days. Final touches to a work project that is seemingly taking forever has been leeching the most of my time. The extra hours I find in my days have been spent reading The Milepost, getting an online photo gallery up and running (purchasable prints!), plotting out my adventure & future and crafting more granola than I know what to do with. At this point I’ve made between 8 and 10 batches (which is around 2 liters per batch). I’m quite content in stating I finally feel positive in my perfection of creating this however. Each recipe is different, and the experiment of ingredients is always a fun test. Even a failed attempt isn’t a full fail, as I reuse it as a binding / filler / protein agent in future recipes as well; food processors are amazing things.
A common question when confronted about traveling long distances with Pene is about carrying gear. Most of my rides around here are between 30 and 50 miles, which leave very little use to carry much more than small supplies and water (or nothing – leaving me parched!). Another frequent question (or accusation) is about being the first person to want to do this kind of long distance trip via a penny, which is far from the truth. In fact, a few different people have done it, dating all the way back to 1884. Thomas Stevens, the first person to bicycle across the United States, as well as around the world accomplished this in the late 1800s. Most recently, Joff Summerfield cycled around the globe, visiting 23+ countries, completing over 22,000 miles and visiting such majesties as the Taj Mahal, Everest Base Camp and The Great Wall. Both are great inspirations and show nothing but proof of great feats, amazing travel and endless possibilities. While Stevens left San Francisco with little more than socks, a spare shirt, a raincoat that doubled as tent and bedroll, and a 38 Smith & Wesson, Mr. Summerfield knew he would need a little more than that when visiting places like Everest, Tibet, etc. Below are the three styles of carrying baggage possible with a penny.
You are given very few choices when traveling by bicycle to carry your gear. Traditionally, racks can be attached to the rear and front which allow attachment of bags. With a penny farthing, you have to try a bit harder. Some people prefer trailers, which are also a possibility with a penny. The thing about a penny rather than a conventional bike is the reduced space for niceties. Your load must be very compact and efficient. With a conventional bicycle, you have a lot more room for gear and bags. Remote places like the Yukon Territory and Alaska beg for perfection in rationing, gearing and preparation. Miscalculating the amount of food I need to pack along with me means going hungry for a meal (or more). With limited space, this is even more crucial. I’m actually stumped at the moment of trailer versus spine-mounted versus rack-engineering. Short time will tell, as I wish to do some shorter test tours, including one to see my friends from the northern route of the 42 Ride, Jo and Bryan, who continued their US cross-country trip and are now in Mexico. They are a huge inspiration to me as well.
(All pictures are of Joff Summerfield’s penny, with different bag styles he used throughout his travels)
The obvious for someone who has a life changing experience is to continue on forward in that direction. My month mostly out of the saddle has finally transformed the prior two months into a magical experience no amount of words, videos or stills can explain. It’s something that can’t even be experienced for some – it’s just different for each person. It becomes painfully apparent as I clean the mess I made before leaving, preparing to sell things that I had planned to sell even before that trip that I need direction. That direction has shown face however just recently. I acquired a new toy, which happens to heavily influence my future and desires. Every moment spent with her makes me yearn for the next chance. Perhaps it’s the sensation of sailing above everyone. Perhaps it’s the joy in every passerby’s face. Perhaps it’s none of that and nothing at all – I may never know. What I do know is my future goal.
Sell my clothes, I’m off to Heaven. Naysayers will be naysayers.
Better words never spoken than those straight from the first to accomplish such a feat, Thomas Stevens. “‘The impracticable scheme of a visionary,’ was the most charitable verdict one could reasonably have expected. The first essential element of success, however, is to have sufficient
confidence in one’s self to brave the criticisms – to say nothing of the witticisms – of a sceptical public.” As I sift through my goods to find things of worth (and rubbish to make waste of), I start dreaming. A dream is what starts it all. I don’t know when, but the day’s gonna come. Around the world you say? Yes. Around the world. On that crazy thing? You’ll kill yourself! As well, on this ‘crazy thing’. I have no plans of dying, however. I expect plenty criticism. That said, I’m hopeful for much encouragement as well. This webpage will be taking a new form soon, and hopefully I can get my things in order otherwise. I plan to offer my pictures (both ones already existing and those I will take from now on) as printable purchases to the public to help fund such a trek. Hopefully between what I’ve mustered from purging the tangibles I no longer need and selling prints / photos I can fund my trip. Stay tuned for more. I assure you it won’t be a boring journey.