As I was planning for my 2020 ride, I knew I would experience many challenges. A global pandemic was not one of them.
It's no surprise, but I'm not cycling the TransAmerica Bicycle Trail this summer. A series of roads and multi-use paths, the TABT is a cross-country route that goes from Yorktown, VA to Astoria, OR. That's over 4,200 miles! My route this summer would resume where I left off in 2016, beginning in Goreville, IL.
I realized when school was transitioning to home-learning and orders were put into place to limit travel that I'd have to delay my ride. Though cycling may seem solitary, there are so many interactions that happen throughout the day. It may be the convenience store where I refill my water bottles and buy a mid-day snack or even the kindness of a stranger to offer me a place to stake my tent in her yard. I stopped at libraries to send email and charge my devices. I was grateful for restaurants and cafes so I could eat a meal without the prep and cleanup required to feed myself. So, even though I might be cycling solo at the edge of the road, I was never truly accomplishing any of my ride "all by myself".
There are people sick and people dying from COVID-19. Missing my bicycle ride is a small loss, but a disappointing loss nonetheless.
Here are updates from Adventure Cycling Association, if you're interested in how this organization (a huge support for the bicycle touring community!) is responding to COVID-19.
11 Weeks and Counting
76 days left until I roll out from Goreville, IL and head towards the coast of Oregon.
I found a blog written by someone who rode last summer, and in it I learned of an alternative to the TransAm Bicycle Trail, once I reach the Tetons. It cuts off about 300 miles and would give me some extra room for slower days and some rest days, too. My goal is to be home in 6.5 weeks and her itinerary looks really appropriate for what I would like to accomplish. With that said, I'm also open to riding whatever mileage I can each day. I most definitely want to be home with my family sooner than later but I also know that in order to reach my goal (the Oregon coast!) then I'll have to pedal the miles that will get me there. There are no short cuts and it's really up to me to figure out how to move forward. Pushing myself to ride longer days than I had four years ago may mean that I'm not enjoying myself as much as I'd like...or it could mean that I tackle that many more miles and feel good about how I'm progressing. I really think that momentum in the beginning will be helpful; to see how far I've ridden in the amount of time I've set as my goal will probably just feel like a great accomplishment. Even though I didn't ride to the coast of Oregon in 2016, I continue to feel super proud of the 1,100 miles I did pedal from Virginia to Illinois.
Starting March 2nd, I've been waking up early Monday-Thursdays to attend a cycling class at our YMCA. I had attended a cycling class (in college?) before but I didn't think I really would enjoy it. With Jim's encouragement, I registered for the classes for March and April. It will only help strengthen me and prepare me for when I start my ride. I haven't been outside yet on longer rides, but that'll come soon.
I'm just really enjoying this anticipation and the planning that goes into bicycle touring. Looking forward to sharing it via this blog.
I woke in the morning, ready to begin my bicycle ride. I rode flat roads to Williamsburg, where I stopped for a cappuccino and a snack. There were graduates walking around with families, as it was graduation for William and Mary (the second oldest university in the country). It felt so interesting sitting at the start of my bicycle ride, watching such nicely dressed people out and about while I sat wearing bicycle shorts and jersey, keeping watch over my heavy touring bicycle. I navigated the roads and enjoyed riding past the historical buildings. I had the option to camp 25 miles further down the road but decided I'd keep riding for the full day's agenda, which would bring me to Glendale, VA.
I rode much of the day on a bicycle path and it was so beautiful. The roads were relatively flat and I felt really comfortable on my bicycle. I came across a small convenience store where I picked up some candy, gum and a soda just before riding to my overnight accommodations. There are many churches that open their doors along the route, with that night being in Glendale, VA. Willis United Methodist Church offered comfortable accommodations, with me sleeping on my own in one of their small rooms used as a nursery.
I was happy to chat with Jim in the evening and readied myself for the next day's ride.
I never really spent time writing in detail about my bicycle ride in 2016, and while I've dabbled in putting together a photo-book, I wanted to write this out before embarking on the second part of my bicycle ride.
I flew out early on Saturday, May 14th. Jim and the kids drove me to the airport in Indianapolis. I had a connection to make in Atlanta and worried about the details of flying. I was thinking about the challenges I'd face and wondered what I was thinking in planning this adventure. I mostly missed my family, but not in the way that I thought they wouldn't be okay without me or that I wouldn't be okay without them; rather, they are part of me and I felt like I was leaving something really big and essential behind. Throughout my time away, whenever I shared an exchange with a stranger, my role as mother and wife was always included in the first three sentences of my introduction. And each time I spoke of them, I felt a ping of missing them hit me harder than if I was busy navigating maps, listening to my bicycle noises to assess if there was an issue or figuring out distance and time traveled for that day's route. It was in the quiet of my days and those times where I spoke of my family that I lingered in my thoughts regarding what they were doing at that very moment and how I couldn't wait to see them in person. So, traveling alone and without my people felt so strange and if I could, I'd work in that my children and husband were at home, cheering me on.
My connection to Newport News, Virginia was made in Atlanta, Georgia. I rested a little, tired due to a late night and a very early morning. My plan was to take a taxi to the bicycle shop, where I had mailed my bicycle. I arranged for the bicycle shop to receive and reassemble my bicycle, ready for me when I arrived. I had also connected with the kind people at Grace Episcopal Church in Yorktown, VA, the starting town of my ride, and they offered to have one of their members pick me up at the airport. John was a kind man, and he reminded me of my father. He offered to take me to the bicycle shop to retrieve my bicycle and instead of me riding it with my panniers to the church, he offered to drive me and my gear back to the church. We even stopped at Walmart so I could pick up perishables and other food stuff to cook along with a couple small camp stove fuel canisters.
We arrived at the church, all the while I was so grateful I hadn't needed to navigate this straightaway from the bicycle shop. Traffic was heavy and I didn't have a way to navigate safely to the church. John and the Cyclist Ministry really provided such care for me on my first day, and I felt so grateful and looked after.
That day I met a family that was also embarking on a eastward bound ride across the country. I can't remember names, so I'll call them Mom, Dad, and Sons. The Dad was cycling while Mom and the two young Sons followed along using their pop-up camper and vehicle. He did finish the ride, which I found out through their blog. They were staying at the Guest House, too, at the church. It rained a little and a double rainbow appeared. The Sons really loved that.
I prepared dinner and cleaned up my dishes. I had already sorted through my gear and luggage and put them in my panniers (the bags that anchor onto the special frames on my bicycle) but I double checked and laid out my clothes for the next day. I wrote in their Guest Register and settled myself in to bed. I knew I'd be riding my bicycle early in the morning. I fell asleep, eager, tired, and in shock that I was states away from my home and my family. I felt really excited for the start of this ride to actually begin, as I had been planning for this day for months and months.
14 weeks to go
If this were a baby I was waiting for, I'd be about 28 weeks pregnant. I'd be getting into my third trimester, preparing more and feeling more. Maybe I'd celebrate this little one with a traditional baby shower or a more intimate gathering celebrating my impending motherhood. But this is not a baby I'm waiting for and so my preparations look very different. My anticipations, however, feel similar.
What will this time be like? What will I feel? How will it all unfold? All these questions and no definitive answers! Just like parenting that second (or third...) baby to join the family, there is a big area of "I'm not sure..." that is the response to my wonderings. But I'm feeling pretty at ease about the unknowns...at least for now.
I was preparing mostly in my mind, prior to a couple days ago. I mean, I was reading through others' blogs and online journals to get a sense of places to stay overnight and difficulty of certain route sections. I am happy to say that I just signed up for cycling classes in March & April at our local YMCA, happening M/T/W/Th early morning. Getting on a bike in a studio has never appealed to me. My style of bicycle touring is a whole lot of coasting and stopping and taking breaks. But, my goal in the first two weeks is high mileage over some hilly sections in Missouri and flat, windy sections in Kansas.
^photo taken Friday, June 3, 2016, near Bardstown, Kentucky
Four Months Away
*Edited to add: I am posting now, but not publicizing my posts. Figured it'll just make sense and take some tasks off my to-do list once I'm cycling.
Well, here I am.
Writing and anticipating my next steps (or pedal rotations!) that will be underway in four months.
There are many reasons why I am writing and documenting but WAITING to publish these posts until I'm on my ride.
I want to document my thoughts, preparation and reflections in a way that I can revisit.
I wanted to share all of my anticipations in 2015-16 as I prepared for my ride; I wanted to include all my loved ones and be very transparent in my posts. But, this time around, I feel more interested in going inward and keeping my feelings close to my chest.
Because I didn't finish the entire planned ride in 2016, I feel like I might have built my ride up too much. Loved ones mailed me thoughtful items and letters along the way, but when I ended early, I missed the last mail drop and those items were never delivered. People hoped for good things for my ride and when I stopped early, I worry that I somehow disappointed people.
I know my people love me, but I also feel like I need to prove my worth and ability this time around. Right or wrong, that's how it feels.
So, I'll write and prepare but I won't publish this until I've left and ridden many miles.
Thanks for joining me!
January 27, 2020
Change in plans...
Alright, so I had a change in plans.
Last post I was writing about my plans to continue my ride from where I left off, however, I changed my mind.
The original plan was that I'd bicycle out to Pueblo, Colorado and meet my husband and three children there, continuing onward to Mesa Verde, Zion and Arches National Parks with them. But, I honestly had no plans to prep for this ride as I had in 2016. I just really thought, I have the stuff so I'll just figure it (everything else) out when I get in Goreville, IL.
And then it all clicked...I don't want to ride my bike this summer. I want to prep for my family vacation WITH my family, instead of passing along the "to-do" list to my husband and say, "see ya in Colorado!". I want to spend the three weeks preceding this big adventure with my family, instead of on my own cycling through Illinois, Missouri, Kansas and part of Colorado.
So, that's what happened. I was able to go away for a week with my family, including an overnight with my daughter and my mother to Galena, Illinois. I went with my husband to see our friend perform at Steppenwolf Theater in Guards at the Taj. I attended graduation parties for two special high school seniors. My husband and I attended our friends' wedding.
Will I ride my bicycle again, hundreds or thousands of miles? Yes, I really do believe I will. I don't know when that will be, but I see it down the road.
A new year, a new journey
2016 took me 1,100 miles from Yorktown, VA to Goreville, IL. It was such a challenging experience, one that changed me. For no "good" reason, I barely rode my bike the rest of 2016 and 2017, often times thinking back to the +3 week ride that took me away from my family May-June 2016.
Now, with 2018 just days away and having recently celebrated my 38th birthday, I'm gearing up (no pun intended!) for my next adventure. I'm planning a ride from Goreville, IL (where I left off) on to Pueblo, CO, nearly 1,100 miles taking about 3 weeks.
Similar to having that second baby, I'm in such a different place this time around, as I anticipate my cycling adventure. I'm super excited, but I have some perspective over the planning and anticipations.
Join me as 2018 unfolds, as will my planning and adventuring!
Day 15: Arrived in McKee, KY and stayed wtih Jim and the kids for two nights; it was such a great time together. Normal kid stuff, lots of dogs around and really just appreciated my time with them.
Day 16: Rest day (0 miles)
Day 17: McKee to Berea, maybe 25 miles. I rode without my panniers (Jim took them in the minivan) and I met the family in Berea. We stopped at the bike stop nearby and my family drove me to stay with Maya, my amazing host & friend from Berea. I can't say enough about how wonderful she was and how she lifted my spirits, especially after saying goodbye to my family. I also successfully changed my first flat tire on my ride.
Day 18: Cycled about 45 miles to Harrodsburg to stay at a YMCA facility; I had wifi, showers, and indoor space to sleep, which I appreciated as the sirens went off twice because of thunderstorms.
Day 19: Cycled about 45 miles to Bardstown, the bourbon capital of the world! Ate well, slept well.
Day 20: Spent day cycling about 52 miles to Sonora, KY to stay at a guest house; it was so wonderful to be cared for by my hosts, Charlie and Rose. They fed me, shared some brews, and I slept so well.
Day 21: Went forward to Fordsville, about 60 miles for the day. The rain fell fast and hard, luckily catching me close to an elementary school the second time. I stayed dry that time, ate my dinner and cycled on a couple miles to my campsite at a county park.
Day 22: Spent the night in Sebree at a church, about 55 miles cycling in Kentucky. The facilities were amazing, and I greatly appreciated the kindness the church showed to cyclists.
Day 23: Cycled about 55 miles to Cave-in-Rock, Illinois!! Crossing over the border felt so victorious!! I met my parents, visiting from northern Illinois, and settled in to a relaxing stay at the state park.
Day 24: Rest day (0 miles)
Day 25: Cycled about 60 miles to Goreville, IL to stay at Fern Clyffe State Park. When I was circling the sites, a gentleman called over "TRAIL MAGIC!", so I rode over and was delighted to find he and his wife welcoming me to their site. They allowed me to camp on their site (so to avoid the $20 fee), fed me a great dinner and cooked me up breakfast the next morning.
Day 26: I woke up, feeling that today was the day I was finished. I can't explain it any better than I woke up peacefully feeling that my adventure was done. I had traveled 1,100 miles on my bicycle, and I felt accomplished and ready to be home. I called my husband, and he was supportive either way. It came down to the feeling that I just didn't want to keep cycling. I had days coming up that were going to be much hotter, Missouri and Kansas intimidated me, from a cyclist's persepective, and I just didn't want to continue. It wasn't that I thought I couldn't; if I was told, "AMY, YOU NEED TO CONTINUE!!", I think I could wrap my head around it and go on. But I just don't feel internally motivated to keep on; I am ready to be home with my children and husband, and I feel really good about what I've done in my cycling adventure. Maybe someday I'll do more, but for now, I am excited to settle into the lifestyle that I left behind, but perhaps with a bit more casual and longer-distance cycling mixed in.
Thank you so much for your love and support! I don't have any regrets and I'm pretty psyched by what I've done. My last day riding (Wednesday) was pretty amazing, maybe my favorite day! The weather was unseasonably cool, the hills were manageable, and I just enjoyed my time. I am grateful I didn't have to end my ride under duress, but instead after a great day.
What next? I'm not sure. I don't have any big adventures planned, other than slipping into what I was previously doing and spending time with my family and friends. Right now, the big adventure is just whatever life hands me. And I can't wait to see what that is.
Updating my blog has taken a back seat to pouring over my maps, sleeping, eating and just setting up and cleaning up camp.
Day 9: cycled 44 miles and camped at Raccoon Branch, a USFS campground. I slept beside a brook (creek, stream?) and a fellow camper helped me build my fire. He also generously brought me over dinner and stopped over with coffee and a bagel in the morning.
Day 10: cycled 46 miles to camp in Meadowview behind a store. I wish I had taken a photo in the store- it was like a trip back in time. The owner was so friendly and he kindly lets cyclists camp behind the store for free.
Day 11: cycled 24 miles to Honaker, where I had two large trucks pass, going in opposite directions without giving me the space I needed. I didn't fall but I felt so shaken up. I made my way to the library and my tears turned into sobs. I couldn't get back on my bike and yet the next place to camp was still 8-9 miles away over a mountain. A police officer came by to see if he could help in any way and he told me what I was feeling was NORMAL. It made me cry even more. I was so grateful he normalized my feelings. A generous woman drove me and my bike over the mountain to a city park where I camped and contemplated how I was going to go forward.
Day 12: I woke up early and headed to meet my cycling friend in Breaks. I NEEDED to bicycle to Kentucky, and today was the day!! We crossed the line, ate some pizza and stayed at a cycling hostel after riding 46 miles.
Day 13; rode 50 miles to an eccentric cycling hostel, ate way too much food and slept well.
Day 14: rode 50 miles in heat and humidity to Buckhorn. Walked up some hills and was grateful to see my friend at the campsite.
It's been such an incredible 8 days of cycling. Not easy, not without its challenges, but really wonderful anyway.
Day 5: rode up major climbs and on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Camped with fellow cyclist Katie at a vacant campground/cabin site. Cycled ~28 miles?
Day 6: rode to the highest peak on the parkway and descended a ridiculously steep and curvy road. I had to stop to let my rims cool and catch my breath. Slept under a canoe shop's overhang to stay out of the rain. Cycled ~64 miles
Day 7: cycled up and down, all the way to a hiker (Appalachian Trail)/biker hostel where I went to a family-style all-you-can-eat restaurant. We all stank and we all ate a bunch. Cycled ~38 miles.
Day 8: cycled in sun and shade and intermittent showers. Ate a blizzard for dinner and showered for the first time since day 4. Stayed at a motel, where I watched Funny Farm and Doc Hollywood. Washed my clothes in the sink and dried them on the a/c unit. Cycled ~64 miles.
It's not so easy to write on my phone, excuse the typos.
I'm in Virginia!!
Day 1: beautiful day, good energy. Left the coast and rolled inland. Rode about 40 miles on a bike path, 62 total.
Day 2: rode 75 miles, weather was sunny and clear. Felt really tired but pushed on to make it to my camping site.
Day 3: rode ~56 miles to Charlottesville, super cute and mega traffic. Rained all day, spent the night with Warm Showers hosts. 2nd half of day was emotionally stressful.
Day 4: rode ~15 miles and invited to stay with a couple. The misses made me the best grilled cheese and red clam chowder. Sleeping in their spare room and readying myself for the mountains tomorrow. Big emotions in the first half of day but it got 100% better later on.
Tomorrow I Begin Cycling!
I will climb on my bike and begin pedaling tomorrow morning! Today, a gracious volunteer from Grace Episcopal Church picked me up from the airport, brought me to the bike shop to retrieve my bike, then took me to Walmart so I could buy campstove fuel and some fresh fruits and vegetables. John went above and beyond and made me feel welcomed.
I've also met a family that is heading west, too! They have a nonprofit organization and keep a website at www.goseeknature.com. It's funny how yesterday I felt all alone and today I feel such good company!!
I Can't Do It...
Taking my son to preschool this morning, he burst into tears because we weren't walking. I'm not even sure he wanted to walk as much as he didn't want to sit in his carseat. So the entire 2-minute drive we listened to him scream and cry. It was really so sad and also the tiniest bit frustrating because there's no calming a screaming three-year old during such a short window between here and there. I carried him into school, and the screaming didn't cease; I didn't know whether to stay or go, but his teacher took him into her arms and started the "say 'bye-bye' to Mommy" routine so off I went.
As I walked away, I realized, I can't...take my children's sorrow or anger or frustration away. I can certainly be there to support them, to listen, to hold and soothe, but I cannot take it away. This is their journey, their exploration of their feelings, their experiences. Just as their joys and smiles are theirs, their harder feelings are also for them to sort through.
In two days I'll be off on my bicycle adventure. I'll experience my own joys and sorrows, and I know my children will experience theirs, as well. Whether they are three years old or thirty, I know I will always rejoice with their happy tales and feel deeply when they come to me with feelings of loss. My absence this summer is only in the physical sense, and I can't wait to see how our heartstrings grow.
I thought I had packed up my things in my duffle bag, and I was pleased with my progress. Then I realized I needed to pack up my handlebar bag, bike tools and helmet. That all takes space! So, out came a pannier and in went items that will be carried on, making space for my checked duffle bag to be repacked.
What else am I bringing?
I'm excited to have some items that will aid in comfort and convenience.
On Its Way
Well, if I want to see my bike again, I'll need to get myself to Virginia to retrieve it.
The days are passing, and I have so many things I want to do. Before my family travels, I make a mad dash around the house, tidying and cleaning and clearing the slate so when we return, our space welcomes us home. This time, however, I am the only one traveling, so it's not like my efforts will be long-lasting, because, let's face it, kids make messes and animals shed.
The thing about my preparations is that I'm constantly revisiting my anticipations and curiosities regarding my trip. I'm wondering what the weather will be, particularly those first few days where I'm figuring out my stride. I'm thinking about how I'll respond to bicycle issues or other logistics of bike traveling. It's all so up in the air. How many times do we feel so certain of the process or outcome, when in reality, nothing is certain.
Knowing that nothing about my bicycle trip is guaranteed, I can only guarantee that I will tap into the things that make me feel whole. I will bring my favorite blend of essential oils, a few favorite photos, and my journal. I will meditate, feel the sun and wind on my face, and let the rain wash over me. I will sit in my tent with my cup of coffee, reflecting on my journey thus far. I will connect with my family and friends, and I will turn inward to connect with the woman I have become.
In ten days, I will wake up in another state, readying myself for my first full day of riding. That day will bring me closer to the Pacific Ocean, closer to the mountains, closer to reuniting with my loved ones.
<sigh> : )
Will It Fit?!
I brought up my large green duffle bag, the one I used 15 years ago when I cycled across Wisconsin. It even has my name tag and the yarn still on it from the trip. My bike is boxed (thanks Bikesmiths!) and ready to be mailed via FedEx. I've also packed up my panniers and items in my duffle and backpack to bring on my plane. My plan is to mail the duffle back home when I come upon a post office, as I won't need it until I'm heading back home after my trip.
I've arranged with a bike shop in Virginia to receive my bike and reassemble it, though I am prepared to make some adjustments to my pannier racks to make everything sit just so.
Hoping everything unfolds as smoothly as possible, I expect to land in Virginia, pick up my bicycle, make necessary adjustments and arrive to my destination by suppertime.
I've been watching some videos of people's cycling adventures on the TransAmerica Trail. I'm absolutely amazed every time I see images from people's travels. I think about what it'll feel like to see these sights in person! I enjoyed watching this woman's video from her travels.
Brave, Stay True
At the local handmade market, I picked up a couple pennants for the back of my bicycle. They're beautifully made by a woman named Emily, from Kentucky. Her business The Diggingest Girl was selling today, and when I saw the pennants, I knew I needed one! I couldn't decide between Brave and Stay True, so I bought them both!
When I first dreamed up cycling across the country, I had no idea how long it would take me. When looking at blogs and websites, it looked like it might take anywhere from 6-12 weeks. For some tourists, riding quickly from sun-up to sun-down is the way to go. Riding upwards of 100 miles a day is just the way they roll.
Others, however, take their time. Cycling 30-40 miles a day means taking it easy and arriving in the next town early enough to see the sites and enjoy their overnight accommodations (camping, B&B or a motel/hotel stay).
I drafted a couple versions, because I honestly had no idea how long to allow for my adventure. I have a version that allows for shorter mileage days and break days about once a week or so. Another version has higher mileage and fewer break days. I know much of my mileage will depend on the weather, temperature, elevation climbs, my body's health, and even how far it is to the nearest campground, in addition to any bicycle issues or other factors beyond my control.
Because I just can't know when I'll arrive on the Oregon coast, I've decided to hold off on buying my return airplane ticket until I'm at least in Colorado. I have hopes of being in Yellowstone National Park by July 4, which means I'll be tracking my distance to see if that's a reasonable expectation. If I find myself in Yellowstone by that time, there's a really good chance that I'll arrive home in the last week of July.
From what I've read, the longer you ride, the more likely you are to cycle 70-80 miles a day (or more) without it being a huge challenge. Then again, my goals for cycling across America include:
So, those are my goals, and I'm sure I will experience way more benefits of this ride than I can even imagine. But what if I'm cycling and I'm not enjoying the slow pace of bicycle touring? What if that sense of adventure becomes a source of fear or anxiety? What if I really don't want to do JUST ONE MORE mile...overnight camping...day of being away from my family...aches and pains?
I don't know exactly how that would unfold, but I am not going to continue something that brings more negative than positive. I am not too proud to say, enough is enough.
Because everything in my life tends to be a birth analogy, I will say this: I have never done any of this before (bicycle touring, camping on the daily, exploring regions of the country in this slow-paced way). I am as prepared as I will be, seeing that the trip is a mere two and a half weeks away. I have done lots of reading, much like when I was anticipating my oldest child's birth, absorbing as much as I could about something that was going to be so life-changing and monumental. I have a sense of hope and faith that I will meet my goals, knowing that I will be attuned to my needs (emotional, physical, mental).
And at the end of it all, I hope that I can look at my accomplishment, whether it be cycling across Virginia or cycling across the country, knowing that I did the best I could with the given circumstances.
I have piles of my clothes set aside; it's not just the clothes I'll wear on my bike but the clothes I'll wear when I'm off my bike, as well. These are the clothes I'll have to choose from for about 9-10 weeks.
Talk about a capsule wardrobe.
What am I bringing?
I'm really curious whether I'll find everything useful or if I'll wish I had made other choices. I'm on the fence whether to have a fleece jacket or packable down jacket sent to me in Colorado, as I know it may be cold at night/early mornings in Colorado, Wyoming & Montana. But I also can see piling on my shirts and jackets and riding in layers.
I don't generally think so much about what I wear (though I have times I peruse my favorite clothing companies' websites), but I was very thoughtful about what I'm bringing. And honestly, I just don't have room for many more pieces of clothing.
With a month left before I fly east, I'm feeling the pressure to figure out the details of my ride. Not only do I need to ride my bike to move ahead during my ride, but I'm also camping along the way. I camped on my own last fall for a couple nights and with my family for short lengths, but never have I traveled from point A to point B, setting up and breaking down camp as I go.
Last fall, after deciding to take this little jaunt across the country, I invested in some camping gear. The equipment we used as a family car-camping was going to be too heavy and bulky to carry with me, so I essentially purchased nearly everything you see. I also purchased most of my camp gear at J.L. Waters which meant I had local folks to chat with about the many options available for camping gear. Though I may have saved a little heading to Amazon's website, I will be depending on independently owned small businesses along the way, so I better support local business in my own community if I expect it to be around in other communities.
What am I bringing? Well, this is all my camping gear, minus my 1-person tent, Therm-a-Rest folding sleeping pad and some other gadgets, which I'll post about later.
This is my kitchen, bedroom and living room, essentially. I plan on cooking and eating meals at my camp, but I've budgeted for eating meals in restaurants along the way.
Just looking at how small everything packs up blows my mind. Can't believe in a month I'll be loading it into my panniers and pedaling off!
...your kids? What about your husband? How are you going to leave your family? Aren't you scared? Where are you going to stay on your ride? What will you do if...
I've asked myself all these questions. I've heard these questions from the people that love me. And I'm OKAY with these questions! In fact, I love talking about my upcoming ride. So, I fully anticipate these questions (and more), and honestly, they only make me revisit the same concerns and questions that have crossed my mind.
So, one thing I know is that I'm going to miss my family like mad. I'm going to want to hold my children and sit with my husband and do all the family things we do. And yes, I think that includes the yelling, the tears, the challenges. I know I'm going to miss my times with my friends, talking about what's happening in our days and our journeys. I'm going to miss my community, the places where I'm bound to see someone I know and where I know the coffee will be exactly what my taste buds need.
Am I scared? Nervous? Yes, sometimes I think about possible things that could "go wrong" and I feel worried. But mostly I can brainstorm solutions or ways to address the possibilities that could "go wrong". And I think about all the ways I've been strong in my past and I'm comforted by the fact that my plans are negotiable. I'm comforted by the fact that my people love me and support me, and they'll be there to welcome me home with open arms, even if I only bicycle a small distance.
And you know what? I'm going to be back with all the people and places I love before too long. I'm going to fly out east, ride my bike westward (hopefully to the Pacific Ocean!) and return back to the people that love me and the place I call home. And while I'm away, I have great maps that list resources in each community I'll ride through. I'll write letters and send care packages to my loved ones. I'll video chat and call and send emails. I'm going to hold all that makes me happy in my heart.
I can't wait.
Six Weeks Left
*Reposted from Olive Tree Birthing's Blog
For the last several months, I've been planning my bicycle adventure to Oregon. I did a practice ride last fall, and I have spent many hours looking over my maps, googling the camping options and local sites.
Preparing to leave in six weeks brings me back to the time when I was excitedly anticipating the births of each of my children, though this time I know exactly when I'm flying out to Virginia to begin my ride. I can't say I had the promise of such an exact time when I was eager to meet my babies!
When I say, I have six weeks left, I think about how I feel when I know I have a limited amount of time before I embark on this adventure. This is much like when I knew I had a finite amount of time before my family welcomed a new baby; there was so much to do! I was so ready! I needed more time! Why hadn't I taken advantage of the many months prior to this 6-weeks-left mark?!
I also am grappling with the idea that I've publicly shared my lofty goal to bicycle across America, though there is nothing that is guaranteeing me a certain experience or outcome. When I was expecting my children, I don't remember if I shared my preference for a certain birth or experience. But for many women, it can feel daunting to confidently proclaim she WILL HAVE her desired birth without deviating from her plan. And as a birth doula, I encourage the families with whom I work to learn about and understand why interventions may be suggested or perhaps preferable. Because, we never know how birth will unfold, even for the woman that has done "everything" she could to have a certain experience.
So, here I am, soon to be flying out to Virginia to begin my bicycle ride. I could tell myself that I will most definitely meet my goals and expectations. I could give myself some space to stop before I reach Oregon, knowing that I "may not be able to do it." But honestly, right now, I'm at a place where I am visualizing riding on that first day, away from the Atlantic Ocean and headed towards the Pacific. I am imagining days where I'm just so exhausted, wondering why I even schemed up this ride. I can picture crying myself to sleep, as I think about my children and husband. And the best thoughts include cycling into camp at the end of the day, feeling proud of my body and my perseverance.
Much like birth, I thought about how it would feel to hold my baby at the end of labor. I imagined looking down at my child's face, seeing this new person for the first time. I dreamt about how wonderful it would feel to welcome this sweet soul into our family. With cycling, I think about the end goal, whether it be the end of a day, a week's worth of riding, or the end of my 10-week (?) adventure.
With six weeks left, I know that I have a lifetime before I leave as well as a blink of an eye. This time is sacred and I'm so grateful to even be in this position to dream about sunsets over mountain passes and the smell of the ocean air as I ride into my final destination.
Interested in following my ride? I am keeping a blog at amybikes.com, and I would love to share with you my joys and challenges. Want to mail me a letter or a care package? Email me and I'll be sure to send you my mail drop information.
With less than 2 months until I leave, I'm busy with trip planning: length of each day's ride, where to stay overnight, locations of mail drops. Luckily my route is planned, and I have details regarding possible services located along the route. But because my distance can vary based on weather, terrain, and how I'm feeling, so do my options for accommodations and post offices, along with when I'll be where and for how long.
One thing that I'm hoping is to remain in contact with family and friends via mail. Sure, I'll be able to email, but that will be limited to internet access. I'll always have the ability to write a letter! I'm hoping my friends and family not only send me loving thoughts from afar but letters and/or care packages, as well! There will be nothing better than sitting in my tent or fireside, reading encouraging words and hearing what's happening with my loved ones back home.
From what I've read, there are some tips regarding mail drops. 1) Keep it light; whatever you send I'll be carrying with me. Food and other consumables are probably the exception, but even then, keep the Costco-sized Gatorade at home. 2) Send me some self-addressed envelopes for me to write you back! 3) Mail your letter/package early enough to arrive by the time I roll through town, but be aware of my estimated time of arrival; I'm not sure how long they'll keep something before sending it back.
Ideas for mail drops:
Other things I may like:
With a bit more than 8 weeks until I'm standing on the east coast, I have countless tasks on my to-do list.
I've recently looked at my estimated itinerary, particularly because I need to have some idea of daily mileage and options for camping. I have one version that keeps me riding with fairly low mileage and finishing the first week of August, and the other version has higher mileage days and would bring me home a week sooner. I don't need to know any of this right now, and I'm certain I will find my plans will shift with weather, circumstances and how I'm feeling.
Much of what I have on my list is home/garden related; it feels similar to when I was nesting before each of my children was born. I want to leave feeling like I've done as much as I could to support my family's needs while I'm away.
I also have bike repair and maintenance and training on my list, too. I'm so intimidated by my bicycle, and I need to get my hands dirty and just go for it.
As the weather warms up, I'm feeling such anticipation over riding daily, making my way west.
Amy spends her days caring for her children, keeping up with the interweb, drinking coffee and talking about birth and babies.