Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Final Post (as promised)

Final Thoughts

Here it is. The long awaited final thoughts from my 55 day epic adventure of cycling across the continent. Easily the most frequent question that I’ve been asked since returning home has been, “What was the toughest part?” It seems to be the most important question a person can ask, as if that one crucial difficult task is what is preventing more people from doing it. Well, I’ve given it a lot of thought over the past month. I’ve thought about all the hills, the weather, the sleeping in tents. It was all tough in its own right, but the singular toughest part of the entire ride was… getting to the starting line. Getting myself mentally ready to embark on this seemingly unachievable thing. My stomach was tied in knots in the days leading up to the start date. “Did I pack the right things? Am I in good enough shape? What if I get lost?” All of those thoughts just about made back out from even starting this thing. But I was bound to do this, one way or another. I had prepared enough and I was as ready as anyone who has done this before me. I just needed to get myself out the door.

I came the closest to quitting when Chancy decided to go home because of a family emergency. There’s no way I would have actually quit, but I really didn’t want to continue alone. Fortunately I met a guy named Nick who came around to the right place at the right time and said just the right things about his own cross country adventures by bicycle which spurred me on to where I was even looking forward to setting out solo across this great nation.

A number of phrases went through my head on my bike trip from America’s great patriotic songs. “From sea to shining sea,” on both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. “Oh Beautiful, for spacious skies,” in Missouri and Montana. “Amber waves of grain,” as the sun would set throughout Kansas, and “Purple mountain majesty” in the beautiful Rockies of Colorado and Wyoming. It was all there in front of me as I peddled across the country.

I ate countless numbers of hamburgers and fries from all the local mom and pop restaurants. I met friendly people all along the way, both the restaurant owners and patrons as well as the other bicyclists. If you ever see a bicyclist eating a meal in a restaurant or taking a breather outside a gas station, ask them where they are going or where they’ve come from or how many miles they’ve biked so far. They would love to tell you about their travels and you would just as equally love to hear them. It only takes a moment to ask.

I loved the Rocky Mountains. I had never seen them before and was more than mildly surprised to see that they still had snow atop the high elevations. The bitter cold mornings in the Rockies surprised me and gave me cause to start my days at 8 or 9 rather than 6. I loved the sun shining on open highways with a gentle breeze at my back as the horizon presented new, unseen adventures of what they day was to behold. Each town had its own quirkiness. Each town had its own claim to fame whether it was the whiskey capital of the world or if it housed the world’s largest ball of barbed wire. Some towns were once booming gold mining towns and others were college towns. But they were all America. They all represented the woven fabric of what makes America unique.

Whenever I would ask someone what they thought of their town, I would usually get the same response. “It’s boring. There’s nothing to do here.” Which led me to think, “Huh. That sounds like where I’m from,” which further led me to realize that it’s not the town that makes a place special, it’s the people within the town who are actively pursuing a greater town, a greater community, which makes a place a great town where people want to be. Like the town of Baker City, OR where the downtown was a happening place, in part because they had fought to keep Wal-Mart and similar stores away which enabled and empowered downtown businesses to continue to do business. It meant that people would have to pay a little bit more for their goods and they wouldn’t find things all in the same place, but it enabled those family businesses to remain intact and it employed people that bigger super stores tend to put out of business.

So that was my impression of the bike trip. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat! Will I do it again? I certainly hope so!

There is still a need to raise more money for the kids in Uganda. The community center building which is being built with the funds raised for this bike trip is to be used by the Compassion International kids once a week when they come for their supplemental education on Saturdays. It will also be used by the 2 schools as well as the church which are all located together there on the hill of my village. Due to increasing food prices, increasing gas prices, and because of the December ’07 riots in Kenya there is a need to raise additional money to complete the building! I hope to post pictures soon of the progress of the building. I spoke with them recently and they are working on getting the roof onto the structure.

If you have been following me on this cycling adventure and have enjoyed it even a little bit and would be able to help this amazing cause and these amazing, amazing kids, then please consider even a small donation to this great cause. It takes a few people taking action and deciding to give, to sacrifice. When just a few people do that, then buildings in Uganda get built and communities are changed. Please, just take a moment to consider what you can do to help.

Thank you all for taking this journey with me!! I appreciate all of the encouragement along the way as well as the number of people who have told me that they enjoyed “following me” on my journey and miss their daily bike trip with me.

Below I’ve included some statistics from the trip, and beneath that my highlights of the trip.

Number of days on the bike: 55
Number of days off (no distance gained): 2

Number of 100+ mile days: 19
Starting point: Yorktown, Virginia
Ending point: Astoria, Oregon
Total distance traveled: 4581.7 miles

Straight line distance from Yorktown, VA to Astoria, OR: 2,478 miles
Average daily riding distance: 83.3 miles
Total amount of climbing (add up the height of all the hills): 201,465 feet
Approximate number of pedal turns: 1.7 million
Approximate energy intake each day: 4000–5000 Calories
Number of times each bike wheel went 'round and 'round: 2,160,000
Number of times the trailer wheel went 'round and 'round: 2,750,000
Maximum altitude: 11,529 feet (3514 m) above sea level (Hoosier Pass in central Colorado)
Minimum altitude: 0 feet (both coasts)
Typical weight of bike, trailer and gear: 90 pounds
Average speed: 11.4 mph
Total time on the bike: 23,114 minutes (385.2 hours OR 16.0 continuous days)
Average ride time each day: 7 hours, 42 minutes
Number of states: 10
Number of time zones: 4
Number of times I crossed the continental divide: 10
Number of flat tires: 9
Distance traveled before first flat tire on bike: 25 miles
Number of tires I wore out: 3
Number of days I rode solo: 33
Number of days I rode with at least one other person: 22
Number of people I rode with: 3
Person I rode with the longest: Pat McLaughlin (18 days)
Lowest temperature encountered: 35°F
Highest temperature encountered: 104°F
Number of other cyclists I encountered riding recumbents: 3

· Historic Yorktown, Jamestown, Williamsburg

· AA Meeting

· Civil War Battlefields

· Free Honey

· Swimming in Lake Anna after a hot day of cycling

· Chancy going home and meeting Nick

· The Cookie Lady

· Chris in Lexington, VA, owner of “Sweet Things Ice Cream Shoppe” a former lawyer who, “used to ruin peoples‘ lives with divorces… now I make ice cream.”

· People gathered around my “funny looking bike”

· Natural Bridge, VA

· Cecil, the city park director, who, after I told him I biked 100 miles that day, said “Nobody does that kind of mileage to get here. Not even the young, strapping ones like yourself.”

· From my blog: “It’s great to be doing this. Outside. On a bike. Great exercise. Sun shining. Listening to the birds, watching deer cross my path, hearing the bubbling brook I’m cycling next to.”

· Entering Kentucky, which I thought would never happen!

· Being chased by dogs in Kentucky.

· Kentucky: 4 wheelers, liquor stores, trailer homes and lawn ornaments.

· The breakfasts along the way were GREAT!!

· Kentucky hospitality and the family I camped with outside of their country store near Hudson, KY.

· I hate State Parks! State Parks = hills!

· A shower at the end of the day is worth its weight in gold

· The ferry ride across the Ohio river into Illinois

· Listening to my podcasts

· Meeting up with my friend Ashby in Farmington, MO

· Meeting up with Pat in Farmington, MO who I would ride with for the next several weeks

· Bathing in the clear, cool water of the Current River in the Missouri Ozarks

· Swimming in a rock quarry on a hot afternoon

· The flatness of Kansas and the smell of fresh cut hay.

· The barren, emptiness of Kansas

· Stepping on a nail

· “Mom’s Bar & Diner” in Seward, KS, where the streets are paved with… dirt

· Riding through Rush County, KS (I’m from Rush County, IN)

· The hotel at Ness City, KS that let us swim and shower there for free even though we weren’t staying the night there.

· Cycling with my friend Mark through parts of Kansas, Colorado and Wyoming

· Cycling 175 miles in one day!!!

· Meeting up with my friends Carol and Sherry in Colorado

· The Colorado Rocky Mountains

· Freezing temperatures in the wee hours of the morning

· Meeting John and Little John, the father and 12 year old son biking across the country, as well as meeting mother and daughter in the support vehicle.

· Alma, CO, the highest city in America

· Hoosier Pass, the highest point along the trail (11,539 ft)

· Our “secret” camping spot in Saratoga, WY and the hot springs there in the town

· Writing our names on the walls of the convenience store in Muddy Gap, WY and seeing that someone from Shelbyville, IN had been there

· My favorite sign “6% Downhill Grade – Next 17 Miles”

· Jackson, WY and the Teton Mountains

· The Japanese volunteers that I met at Yellowstone Park, Nozomi and Yoko

· Quake Lake where an earthquake and landslide in 1957 created a new lake and stranded several hikers and campers in the area and killed several others.

· Virginia City, MT where I saw a play

· Highway 12 along the Lochsa River near Lolo Hot Springs

· Baker City, OR where I took a day off to sightsee along the Oregon Trail

· The Lava Rocks on top of McKenzie Pass (and the road construction workers who made me wait 6 hours to pass)

· Eugene, OR and Hayward Field on the University of Oregon and running a lap around the track.

· The Oregon Coast where I almost cried

· Astoria, OR, the finish line of my trip, and my friend Amber and her mom and aunt there to meet me.