The anxiety is building.
December 16th, 2014
I get periodic rushes of anxiety thinking about the ride and all the things that I need to take care of. One thing I feel good about is that I’m doing the miles on the bike, not long miles, but miles in the San Gabriel mountains which face my front door. First thing after this post is to make a to do list.
A question that people ask: why? Well, I remember the excitement and feeling of adventure listening to this runner, at one of the numerous races I ran, relating to me how he and his brother cycled across the United States: the sights they saw, the places they stayed, like, city parks, churches, even a jail cell, and the people they met. Sometime later, maybe more than a few months, I developed intense pain in my left achilles that wouldn’t go away, and this affected my emotional state, because I was running since I was 34 and I was now 44. Long distance running was in my bones. Sometime in September, 1983, the story about cycling across the U.S. surfaced in my mind and it didn’t take but more than a moment to decide that I was going to make that ride.
Once, that decision was made, I was pumped. I bought a bike from a guy I worked with and started training on the bike with the same kind of schedule that I used in training for running races. I started by riding a few miles at low intensity and on flat roads. I slowly increased the miles and intensity with higher gears and with hills thrown in. I alternated with a hard day and then with easy days for recovery. My goal was to leave Simi Valley on June, 1 and arrive in New Amsterdam, New York June, 30, where a staff member I used to worked with move. I also, dumped old Betsy and bought a brand new touring bike, and what a difference that made. Part of my training was to eventually, ride a 100 miles in one day each week, in addition to the miles I was putting in on the other days. I reached that goal but don’t remember when. I had eight months to train, and each month’s total mileage steadily increased to 300, 400, 500, and up to where I rode 1,000 miles for the month of May.
A big question is, how does one choose a route to bike across the U.S.? I picked up numerous state maps and I knew to avoid the Interstates and large cities, and then basically, designing a route based on the places that I wanted to visit: first, was the Grand Canyon, next, was my aunt’s home in La Veta, Colorado, then my uncle’s farm in Ashley, Illinois After leaving his farm, I checked out more state maps and chose what I thought was the most direct route to New Amsterdam. At times, I would ask some local which would be the best road and what roads to avoid. I camped at camp grounds, and when there weren’t any and I was far from civilization, I would pull far off the highway and camp in a field. Besides staying at my relatives, I stayed with a few kind strangers who invited me for dinner, a shower, use of their washing machine, sleeping in a bed, and having breakfast before hitting the road. I also, stayed at a few motels, the cheapest being $15. I never stayed in a jail cell, but I did camp in a cemetery in Chalmars, Indiana, where in the middle of the night, thunder boomed and lightening flashed, illuminating the head stones.
I reached my goal, flying (riding) by the seat of my pants. There were some good days and there were some bad days, but overall, it was truly an adventure.