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Friday, July 01, 2011

1,000 miles and one month in: Philosophical Ramblings from The Road

Leaving Portland on May 27, one month ago. Photo by April.
NOTE TO ANYONE WHO CARES: I initially posted this a couple days ago before leaving Missoula. But somehow in my haste, I set the date for 2001, so it was technically "published" but not anywhere someone would see it. My apologies.

Hello all you happy people! April and I are still in Missoula, Montana, enjoying three (three!) days off before hitting the road tomorrow. We thought about leaving today, but the high is forecast to be 90F/32C today, so we decided to wait it out. (Of course the weather will cool down tomorrow, but the chance of thunderstorms will increase as well. You can't win.)

We just hit both the one thousand mile (1,600 km) and the one month on the road mark (as we left May 27.) I've taken multiple month trips in the past (though not multiple month bike tours) so I know this nomadic feeling well. On one hand I sort of miss home, on the other I rarely think about "life in Portland". Maybe because I'm too preoccupied with what's coming up next?

One thousand miles is almost the longest I've biked. My 2006 Pacific Coast Tour (Tillamook, OR-Cambria, CA) was a little over 1,100 miles, so we will soon surpass this. And we're estimating 5,000 miles total, so we still have a ways to go!

Even though I've biked toured for six years, in some ways this feels like a fresh start. Maybe because it's "The Big One?" Cross-continent bike adventures by nature are epic in scale, and it makes my shorter tours (even the Pacific Coast) look like small potatoes in comparison. I think it's partially due to the major mental preparations one must do in order to pull it off. A couple days to a couple weeks is not such a big deal. You don't usually put your whole life on hold for trips like that. While the basic mechanics of touring are the same for a two week vs two month tour, the mindset is not.

Having this tour feel like "Bike Tour Number One" is good and bad. Good that it opens up your mind again, bad that you somehow feel like a novice despite the thousands upon thousands of miles of touring you've already done. At times I've felt like the "Incompetent Bike Tourist". Which is funny, since nothing major has gone wrong so far. But it still doesn't feel like I'm always "getting it right". I know, I know, this is a subjective thing. Like "feeling like an adult", which even almost 36 years into my life, I still don't. Sometimes I've felt like we're being judged, even by other bike tourists. I think this is due to the nature of touring. Emotions get raw and amplified. Small things going wrong sometimes make me feel like I'm a total failure. Thankfully these moments are infrequent.

Despite "feeling like the first time", I'm constantly reminded of past tours, finding analogues along the way. Riding across the Northern Tier Route in Washington (which closely follows Route 20), I was reminded of my  "Trans-Oregon" ride from last year, where I followed the Trans-Am route through the state. Spokane somehow reminded me of Minneapolis, the start of my first-ever bike tour in 2005. Following the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes through the river flats I was reminded of riding along rail trails paralelling the Mississippi in Wisconsin on the first tour in '05. It's going to be interesting to see what comparisons my mind will make the further east we go.

Yesterday we visited the offices of Adventure Cycling Association. Not only was it fun, but it was a great boost to my spirits and self-confidence. The previous evening found me in a down and despondent funk, my first true one on the trip. I was doubting what we were doing, and wondering if we were going to make it all the way, and more importantly, should we make it all the way? A lot of the funk was due to me checking my bank account and realizing I don't have as much cash as I'd like. How could I have spent that much money already? Maybe this whole trip was a foolish idea, and we should quit while we're ahead. But visiting the Adventure Cycling office made me realize that a lot of other people through the years were in the same boat, and yet they made it. We can do it too! Sure, we still not might make it the whole way across. But at least we tried.

Now we're ready to begin our second month on the road. Hopefully it will be as great as the first. See you down the road!
Drawing by Greg Siple in the Adventure Cycling offices, Missoula.


  1. Congratulations on your one month journey and making it to 1000 miles.  You're being too hard on yourself.  look at all you've accomplished.  Hang in there and remember you are doing this for yourself and not for us.  It's an experience of a lifetime that most of us will never have the opportunity to do.  It doesn't matter what others think.  I'm cheering for you all the way and look forward to meeting you and April.

  2. Hey -

    I kicked in $100 via PayPal. It's not much, but hopefully it helps. Hang in there and at least make to MPLS. We'll treat you well.

  3. Sue and SnakShak- Thanks for the encouragement and support! And look forward to seeing both of you whenever we make it that way!


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