That’s a Wrap

August 23, 2011 2 comments

Partly because I wanted to see if it survived the traumatic experience, and partly because I wanted to feel what it was like to ride without all of that extra weight, I put my bike back together today.  I cycled a route I have done many times in years past. This time was not like any other. I felt like a veteran home from war. Moving along a bike trail, in an area all too familiar, I couldn’t help but feel contained, like a cowboy who encountered a fence on the open range for the first time. I have gained all this experience, and do not have any one good way to use it (although in many ways, the skills I have that allowed me to create this experience, I use again and again every day).

I saw a cyclist riding with traffic from my vantage point on the trail. I can remember a time when I did that… Which leads me to an important point, from now on, the people I interact with will not know what I did (for the most part). For the last 70 days or so, everywhere I went, I was almost preceeded with a message that told anyone, “I’m an interesting person; come talk to me.” Those days are gone, and that’s okay. Some piece of advice I would lend to anyone pursuing a goal they deem to be extraordinary, “Do not let the ‘success’ of your journey depend on the people you encounter on a day to day basis. You will go home empty handed more times than not.” I was fortunate enough to accomplish an easily relateable feat. Had I say, cycled from North Dokata to Texas, the “success” of the trip would not be as apparent to those I encountered. The same goes for someone else that embarked on a trip that hasn’t been glorified by the Silver Screen.  You are the only person you have to impress.

You can’t tell yourself your limits. That’s what this trip tought me. There were many times I met people that echoed a familiar cry, “I could never do that!” I can’t help but think they could, but they’ve never tried.

It’s a message that applies all too well to many aspects in life. If you put yourself out there, and you remind yourself every day that quitting is not an option, you too can live out a dream beyond your wildest imagination. Basically I did what just about everyone can do. I rode a bicycle. I just did it longer, and farther, than most care to. I’m not the fastest, and I’m not the strongest. I just had a feeling if I kept going, I’d have the time of my life.

Don’t be afraid to follow your heart. Follow your dreams. There’s this whole world out there that isn’t as set in stone as some would take it to be.

“If you’re bored, then you’re boring.” – Harvey Danger

The Underwear Awards:

  • Citizen of the Trip: Bob and Violet of the First Baptist Church in Sebree, Kentucky (highly contested award that could have gone many ways)
  • Favorite State: Colorado
  • Best Burger: ‘The Fat Freddy’ at Fat Freddy’s in Pacific City, Oregon
  • Best Ice Cream: ‘Oregon Strawberry’ by Tillamook Ice Cream
  • Cheapest Motel: $15 at the Golden Lion Motel, Raymond, WA (no bed)
  • Worst Motel: Pine Tree Inn, Falls of Rough, KY (no soap of any kind in the room)
  • Dirtiest Fast Food Restaurant: McDonald’s in Dillon, MT (by far!)
  • Favorite Nice Gesture: The mysterious cold Gatorade that appeared with a hand written note, 40 miles west of Lolo Pass, ID
  • Most Played Song on my iPod: Asphalt Cowboy – Jason Aldean
  • Hardest Day: Rawlins to Jefferey City, WY (the first of three consecutive windy days)
  • Wettest Day: Soaked to the bone from Breaks Interstate Park, VA to Hazard, KY
  • Most Cycling in One Day: 113  miles from Hot Sulphur Springs, CO to Encampment, WY
  • The Thing You Never Knew Happened on Day 1: I dropped my phone on a rock at a 7 Eleven outside of Mechanicsville, VA. I did the whole trip with a shattered iPhone screen.
  • Best Question about the Trip: Why didn’t you take any pictures of the people? (It’s more important that I remember what they did for me, than what they look like. However, I would say if I could tell myself anything on day one that I know now, it would be to take a picture of just about all of the role players)
  • Most Dogs to Chase me at Once: 4 (somewhere in eastern Kentucky)
  • Most Thrilling Moment: Jumping off Dog’s Bluff, Houston, MO
  • Most Accommodating State to Cyclists Passing Through: Kansas (can stay in their city parks, and shower in their city pools for free, if you’re a cyclist…)
  • Nicest Cyclist Only Lodging: Al’s Place, Farmington, MO
  • Favorite Small Town: Guffey, CO
  • What I Wasn’t Prepared For: the cold in the northwest (55 degree sleeping bag did not cut it in those cold desert nights)
  • Best Night Sky: western Wyoming to eastern Oregon
  • Most Frequented National Motel Chain: Motel 6
  • Most Expensive Meal: Chicken Alfredo at the Olive Garden in Pueblo, Colorado
  • Most Expensive Water: $3 for a litre of water in Richland, Oregon!!
  • Most Refreshing Beer after a Long Ride: Coors Light
  • Pop of Choice on the Trip: Sprite
  • Candy of Choice on the Trip: Starburst
  • Random Thing I lost: one flip-flop somewhere near Fairplay, CO
  • Hottest Day: 108 F, Ness City, KS
  • Coldest Night: My bike and tent frosted over in Yellowstone, WY
  • Favorite Cyclists to Cross Paths With: Darrel and David (Bay 2 Brooklyn)
  • Least Used Item: face wash cloth
  • Favorite Equipment Choice: leaving the helmet at home
  • Most Regionally Used Phrase by Locals: “You bet!”, (mostly in Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho, but also Oregon)
  • Best Story I Never Wrote About: Sometime after lunch, forty miles outside of Eugene, OR (less than two days to the Coast!), I had the best macaroni and cheese of my life. It was within ten miles though, that I realized I had just dug my own grave. I was on my bike, too far from anywhere to be saved. That stomach pain came over me that is associated with dissolution. With a wall of rock to my right, I gingerly crossed the country road to seek immediate privacy. By the time I got to the steel guard rail, I could go no further. I stepped over, and in the light of midday, I gave the locals a show. I garnered a few courtesy honks, surely in jest. Fortunately, beyond the pricker bushes off the road ran the McKenzie River. In lieu of toilet paper, I partook in what may be the most functional form of skinny dipping. In many ways the event could have been disastrous, but I found myself in one of the best places in America to be stranded without an outhouse.
Categories: Uncategorized Tags: ,

The Home Stretch

August 19, 2011 Leave a comment

I’m somewhere along in the last 24 hours of my complete Greyhound experience. I’m in Wiscosin, but we haven’t reached Milwaukee yet. There is not much to report, or even show you.

We’ve spent the night driving across Montana and North Dakota. I arrived in Minneapolis by lunch time, for a 2 hour lay over. I spent the extra time, took a stroll through the city, and got something to eat at Arby’s. It felt great to walk around; my ankles have become inflamed from all of the sitting. For now, I have straight up kankles. They don’t hurt, I’ve heard it just can happen when you sit for too long. I love Minneapolis by the way. The last time I was here in ’08, the Metro-dome was decked out for the Twins, now they’ve got their own stadium, and the Vikings have redecorated the old one.

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Life on the bus is going just fine. I’ve done long car trips before, of the 8, 12, 17 hour variety. In those cases I could feel my patience evaporate at times. Even occasionally on the three and half hour treks to Athens from my childhood home, or vice versa. Now I find myself, having spent at least 39 of the last 43 hours, on charter buses, mentally un-phased.

As one can imagine, I’m probably in the best physical shape of my life from that bike ride, but I also find the mental benefits to be serendipitous. All of those hours of sustained silence, in nature, or some extension of it, have exercised my inner patience. The Buddhists or Hindus would refer to it as an “inner peace”. I don’t want to say I’m less likely to be argumentative or more likely to compromise, it’s different than that; plus, when I saw the news at one of the bus stations, I confirmed that I’m still as irritated as ever with the media (most of them don’t have a clue, neither does the government).

I could really just keep riding and riding. I don’t know why. I guess it could be an “inner-peace”, a sub-conscience development of tolerance to account for a limited range of motion. I suppose it would best serve those in captivity, or extreme isolation (think Tom Hanks in Cast Away). Only time will tell how long it would take me to slip. I’m not saying I’m ready to apply to be the next Dalai Lama. But I do think I could slide right into a long haul truck driving position and not bat an eye-lash.

I’m due in Cleveland sometime tomorrow morning. It will complete the 56 hour marathon that has been Seattle to Cleveland. As you might be able to tell, I do not regret taking the Greyhound (and the various other companies they subcontract). It saved me over $200. I would not recommend it for everyone. It just so happened that I was in a rare position in life where I had the time to spare (no obligations until the day after Labor Day), and I benefited financially from the affordable transportation of my bike. If you are unable to sit next to a wide variety of people from different walks of life, the Greyhound is not for you. I will say though, it’s an experience anyone can benefit from, regardless of their predisposition.

I’m thinking I’ll write a wrap up, the awards for the most, worst, best, et cetera. After that I’m done. I’ve really enjoyed writing daily over the past couple months. I’ll miss it to some degree. I’ve heard it said before that you should write every day, even just a little. As someone who’s never kept a journal, or written beyond the requirements of an English paper, I’d say it’s good advice. But don’t just take my word for it…

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Greyhound is not for the Feint of Heart

August 18, 2011 Leave a comment

When the buses load with new passengers, a collective hum will build. If you listen closely you’ll hear the same story repeat. A “where ya from”, “where ya headed”, will exchange between new seat pairings. The veterans (at least have been around for one additional stop) will make light of the mess they’re in, hours or days from where they intend to be. After 15 minutes, the conversations will tail off. Only one or two pairs will continue talking until the next stop. From there, a reshuffle will perpetuate the circle of Greyhound life.

There have been a lot of “wild cards” who chose to travel by Greyhound in the past. Just this morning, eight hours into the trip, two Idaho Police officers boarded with the intent of apprehending a fugitive. They briskly walked straight to the back, muttering, “You’re not Ramon, you’re not Ramon..”. When they found Ramon, he didn’t put up a fight. A lifetime worth of tattoos were showcased on his arms, legs, and face, including a teardrop beneath his left eye. Needless to say, I was very pleased to see him go.

That’s my story for today. I’ve got to save my battery when I can. There’s nowhere to charge it until Minneapolis. Transfers are boom-boom-boom. To give you an idea, I’ve only had two opportunities to get a substantial amount of food over the last 20 hours because there has only been a vending machine, or I have only had 15 minutes or less to buy fast food.

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Categories: Uncategorized, Washington Tags:

Dare You to Move

August 18, 2011 Leave a comment

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I’ve packed my home, and all of it’s contents into a 52 “x 8 1/2″ x 31″ box. On both sides, a small note is printed to help ensure it’s arrival in Cleveland. All I have on me right now is my camel-bak, containing my phone, charger, birth certificate, retainer, credit card, college ID, ticket, and The Republic.

Feasibly this bag on my back holds all I would need to start a new life, and more. I could trade in my ticket for somewhere new and leave everything behind. But I love my life. I love Cleveland. I love Ohio, my family, and my friends. I’ve done well for myself thus far, all things considered.

If life was a basketball game, I’d be up 20 points after the first quarter. If you know anything about the NBA, those early leads can evaporate very quickly. But I’m going to bring the same intensity to the next three quarters (60 years, God willing) that I brought to the first. I’m trying to win by 100.

I really like Seattle. I know we just met but I’d say I love Seattle. This city is great. It’s young, clean, culturally and financially diverse, and bike friendly. It is my favorite city in the US. The locals would like to think they’re similar to San Francisco, and they are, it’s pretty hilly. But Seattle is not as flamboyant as SF. It carries itself like a big city; at the same time, it’s no where near as crowded as New York. I think those are the biggest draws for me. (To establish my credibility: I’ve been to and explored New York, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Minneapolis, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and San Francisco). Don’t worry Cleveland, you’re still number 1 in my heart. We can work on our shortcomings.

I feel like I’ve seen as much of Seattle as someone who has lived here for five years. To get back into the city today from my motel by the airport, I didn’t even need to look at the directions. I rode all over, hit up the post office to send one last post card, and took a leisurely stroll through the University of Washington. I also had a chicken teriyaki sandwich at some restaurant by the college; it was delicious.

You might still be wondering what mode of transportation that ticket I have is for? It’s the bus. Ten bucks got me a box. I spent $210 on the ticket. And for another ten bucks I could bring the bike with me as checked luggage. All said and done it’s about half the price of a plane traveling one way. I’ve got the time, why not save the money?

I’ve never taken a Greyhound before. Things will get interesting. Let’s say the people here are wildly adventurous travelers, or cut from a different cloth to put it nicely. I got to talking with the guy Randy behind the desk, and the security guard Shadrey. They’ve seen everything from a guy getting stabbed in the eye trying to break up a fight, to a woman hitting the manager with a purse. I also asked what the most annoying questions were. The top two worst opening lines are… “What time does my bus leave?” (please elaborate m’am) and “What time did the bus to city X get here?” (does it ever matter what time it got here if you’re trying to go somewhere on it? It could have gotten here 5 days ago).

Getting everything ready was a process and it’s still not over (I haven’t boarded yet). After buying the box I had to ride to the nearest bike shop, Seattle Bike Port. They graciously took my pedals off with a special wrench and twisted my handlebars to fit in the box. They did not have to help me, but they did anyways; thanks guys!

Everything fit, I got my ticket, and Adam from packaging did a great tape job. I’ve heard bad things about Greyhound service, but today the staff gets an A.

I thought about going to the Mariners game, but I didn’t want to deal with the hasslement in case I was turned away for having a backpack. Instead I went looking for a bookstore. I wound up walking through the center of the Seattle gay scene, Capital Hill. Randy says they’re not as agressive as they use to be. We’ll leave it at that. Afterwards I headed to Pacific Place, a beautiful mall located nearby the bus station. I enjoyed my last movie of the trip, Rise of the Apes. I have to say I’m impressed with the versatility James Franco has continually exemplified in the choices of his films.

Anyways, I’m gearing up for that bus ride. I asked Randy if I should worry about oversleeping. Off the record, he gave some good advice, “Look at how dumb some of these people are, yet they still make it where they’re going.”

Updates from the road tomorrow. I’ll be seeing some of you very soon.

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Life Imitating Art

August 17, 2011 Leave a comment

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Every once in a while, more like once a year, 4 minutes of my life will play out like a scene from Seinfeld (or Curb Your Enthusiasm if you have HBO).

I was in the heart of the city, looking for a Kinkos. The directions were ambiguous and I found myself doing the tribal dance where the tourist spins in a circle to clarify the map. On my side of the street, I spotted a local man (wearing a University of Washington hat, heading into a laundromat). When I asked, he wasn’t sure where to find it. This led him to ask the next woman walking down the street.

(This is important for the visualization) The woman never made direct eye contact with me, just a glance to confirm that I wasn’t a threat. The two then began conversing where to find the nearest Kinkos. It was very casual. The man would toss out, “Hey you could go down Aloha and turn left to get to Denny”. She said, “Oh but you could stay on Dexter and turn left on 7th, that’d be easier.” Keep in mind they are paying no attention to me, the guy who cannot associate a street name with a location. I don’t know who this “you” was, but it did me no good.

I kid you not, they agreed on the shortest route then went their separate ways without shooting me another glance. I stood there speechless, so stunned that I didn’t even try to get their attention. I guess they just got so wrapped up in the solution that they forgot the problem (Sounds like 89% of DC).

I was all over the city again today. I had to go south of Bellevue to find the pedestrian way to enter downtown Seattle (the I-90 bridge bike path). Bellevue I might add is a wonderful city. It’s clean, busy, beautiful, and maintains a very healthy vibe. I have a few theories why, but I’ll keep those opinions to myself for now.

There are a few places in Seattle I would love to live. The whole area has a great balance of nature and the modern world. Business appears to be good. It has been a very bike friendly part of the country and they appear to be improving, going forward.

It was kind if cool that I entered Seattle on the I-90 bridge because I enter Cleveland on the I-90 bridge. Except in Cleveland, the bridge doesn’t have a bike lane. They’re currently reconstructing the bridge, and if my memory serves me correctly, the new one won’t have a bike lane (I could be wrong though). If it doesn’t have a bike lane, it’s because the decision makers involved were blind, visionless.

Cleveland’s I-90 problem was a chance to create a new iconic bridge that postured the city for the future. Instead they’ve continued to leave constant reminders why the city was (and is) in desperate need of a visionary.

So in summary, great city, great day, great riding. Over the past few days I have been working on several opportunities to extend my trip. Because I’ve run out of room in the country, the solutions are more complicated. The complications come with a cost and this evening I’ve ruled out the last of those opportunities. I wish I could stay out here, on the road. I haven’t lost that hunger. This way of life has been great.

I still have options for return travel. The plane or the bus are the two finalists (it’s honestly a joke how expensive it is to take a train, they act like the car hasn’t been invented yet). I could fly tomorrow night. I’ve found a bike shop that will give me a box. I would walk the bike/box to a FedEx, ship it, then head to the airport. If I took the bus, I could leave at 11pm and have a whole nother day in the Emerald City. If I do some finagling I may even be able to catch most of the Mariners’ game. The bus is a 55 hour process, but an experience none the less. It’s also $200 cheaper than our friends at Priceline.

I’ll sleep on it tonight. If you see a picture of a baseball game tomorrow, you’ll know my decision.

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Categories: Washington Tags: ,

Viva la Vida

August 16, 2011 Leave a comment

Today presented probably the most stimulating ride thus far. The ride from Olypmia to Redmond was a maze through the cityscape. I was all over the metropolitan area; that’s really the best way to put it.

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Armed with a google map of the area on my phone, I had to stop quite frequently to memorize the next three turns, that more often than not, were in the next couple miles. It was a choppy ride for almost the entire day. I was stop and go with the red lights. Sometimes I got held up trying to cross traffic. And once I had to backtrack as Google tried to take me through a gated community.

Those were the negatives. The positives, I rode through neighborhood streets, past high schools, and along the bay that acts as a coastline. I saw bridges and buildings unique to the area. I saw families boarding taxies at the Seattle Tacoma International Airport. At one point I even wound up on a bike path riding past the Seattle Seahawks practice facility. Oh and at just about dinner time, I rode by the Microsoft Headquarters.

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It was a wild day. The traffic was stressful at times. Occasionally I had to pull off some precise maneuvers to stay out of their way. That came with the territory though. I traversed almost 80 miles of urban sprawl.

Redmond is to the North East of Seattle. And more precisely, the Motel 6 I’m staying at is 17 miles North East of the city’s center. You might be thinking I got really lost along the way. Don’t worry, I am in Redmond because the brother-in-law (?) of one of my dad’s coworkers, Trent, graciously accepted the birth certificate and photo ID my dad sent from home. He’s been patiently waiting my arrival to complete the “handoff” and I have to give many thanks because I now no longer have to try so hard to prove my identity to a new staff every time I try and book a motel. Thanks again Trent, and especially thanks dad for being someone I can depend on (I can’t stress enough the importance of a quality father figure, blood or not).

You’ve heard about the day’s ride, “So what’s next?”. Well, there’s that cup of coffee I still need to get. Also the Mariners are in town, and judging by their record, they should be a cheap ticket. Other sites I’d like to see include the University of Washington and the Space Needle. I’m going to try and get the most out of my short time here (Seattle and Life).

My transportation home is still up in the air. Plane, train, or automobile, I’m trying to coordinate the option that will allow me to suck every drop out of this sweet life that I have been living for the summer months. Soon it’s back to the real world, but for now, I couldn’t guess at what’s around the corner. I love it and I am so grateful to have the chance to live out a dream.

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Categories: Washington Tags:

You Can Lead a Horse to Water

August 15, 2011 Leave a comment

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I didn’t pay much at all for last night’s refuge so I’ll take solace in that. My neighbors fit the stereotype for the small town motel dweller. They were loud, and carrying on until one in the morning. At points the couple squared off in a screaming match so convoluted that I would need Larry the Cable Guy to translate.

I gave the wall a good pound. In turn, I got a polite reply with and indoor voice, “Sorry it’s my birthday.” (Sir I don’t care if you’re giving child birth). The couple had a commonality in their overall lack of overall respect for people. That attribute was probably a big reason why, 1, they lived in a motel, and 2, they have relationship problems.

In the bigger picture of my trip, that was neither here nor there. I effectively replaced my lack of sleep with sugary sodas throughout the day.

While I’m thinking about caffeine, I don’t think I have ever had a cup of coffee. I’ve tried it as maybe a ten year old. And I know it’s in the Hot Nut from Tony’s in Athens. But I just don’t drink coffee. I try and keep the caffeine to a minimum in my life. I’ve had maybe a half dozen energy drinks to give you an idea.

Well in honor of my arrival to Seattle I will find a small coffee shop downtown and place an order. I hear they like their coffee. When in Rome..

I’m spending the night in Olympia, the state capital. I was turned away from the Motel 6 and forced to find an independent operation because I didn’t have a state issued ID.

I’ve been turned away because I don’t have a photo ID before. I understand, I really do. But the troubling thing I see in my interactions with these people is the fundamental misunderstanding of the difference between a function and a purpose

A function is how something works. Think of it as an equation, but not limited to math per-se (you could say everything’s math though). A purpose is how something is leveraged to accomplish a goal. It can be very difficult to tell the difference, and at this point in my life I haven’t figured out yet how to properly communicate to people when something is a function and when something is a purpose.

I’ll give an example of why it can be so complex. At first glance, a stop sign appears to be a function. Most people think the stop sign is an equation, and in order to satisfy it, they must stop. A stop sign is actually a purpose, or has one I should say. That purpose is to alert the driver that a potentially hazardous interaction could take place without the proper attention.

To prove that it is a purpose, imagine a world where there is only one person. Would it be rational to expect that person to stop at a stop sign while driving. It would not. That is because purpose has been satisfied by the situation.

I bring this up because the purpose of requesting a photo ID is to confirm identity. People that work in places that ask for said ID are either too lazy or too incompetent to satisfy the purpose if it’s not convenient.

No I do not have the photo ID to confirm my identity. I have a fully loaded touring bike, an elaborate account of how I got here, and a beard to match. The card would have been cancelled by the time I got here 9.9 times out of 10. By the way I’m wearing all Ohio stuff. I can have the clerk lookup and dial the credit card company to verify my identity through a series of security questions. Heck I can pull up the hundreds of Facebook photos linked to my name.

Individually, each piece of evidence will not suffice. But all together they confirm my identity better than a Social Security Card. When someone turns away my business because I don’t have a photo ID, it’s because they’re bad at their job or they don’t care. Neither is acceptable.

Tomorrow I’m heading to the Emerald City. There’s a lot to do and a lot to see. I’ll be there at least until Wednesday. I still have to figure out how I am going to get myself and my bike back home safely.

I’m going to sleep like a rock tonight.

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