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.
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.
*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.
27 miles on a 70° day with only 12 weeks remaining before I fly out to the East Coast.
It's all surreal and feels so soon!
My ride took me over rolling hills as well as a couple bigger climbs. One thing I enjoy is taking rest breaks without worrying that I'm losing time; I stopped at a convenience store to pick up a sports drink. Later on, I stopped at the co-op for a rest and towards the end, I lay on the sidewalk and snapped this picture.