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In 1999 I began to hatch a plan for my second trans-continental bike ride (the first was a southern cross in 1996), to be in honor of my impending 60th birthday. I was envisioning a Portland (OR) to Portland (ME) ride with Carolyn, my riding companion from the first trip. But family obligations (an early July wedding in the Hudson River Valley) caused me to modify that initial plan to a westbound jaunt beginning two weeks later than the eastbound would have started, in order to dovetail into the wedding timetable. Carolyn opted not to ride westbound, and subsequently found herself another companion for the Portland-Portland run. I planned out a rough route and found myself a new riding companion, and spent the first half of the year 2000 training and preparing.
A week before departure, my new companion bowed out, leaving me the choice between cancelling the entire venture or going alone - it was obviously far too late to begin looking for a replacement. I decided to go alone. Several friends voiced possibilities of hooking up with me for a while at one point or another, so that would have to do. (As it happened, none of those connections came through.) My planned trajectory called for beginning at Plymouth Rock on the Massachusetts coast, and ending at Goat Rock - a physically larger but less well-known monolith on the Pacific Coast about 35 miles from my house. I took to calling this my Rocksin-My-Head Ride, thereby preempting those who would tell me that anyway. I shipped my bike ahead to a bike shop in Boston, and flew east on the 24th of June. A cousin met me there, and transported me and vehicle to Plymouth, whence I set out in the early morning of the 26th.
I was riding a 10-year-old Specialized road bike, off-the-rack model: nothing fancy, but VERY sturdy. I'd purchased the thing new for my 50th birthday, and had LOTS of miles on it. Pre- departure work included new chainrings and chain, brake cables, headset service, etc. My highest gear is a 50/14, and lowest, 28/32. I ride (always) on Armadillo tires with thorn-resistant tubes, and have been known to go upwards of 2000 miles between flats by using this combination. I had a new saddle, a Serfas suede split-seat job that was - quite simply - fabulous. My load upon departure was just about an even 40 pounds: back and front panniers, rear rack, and handlebar bag. Eight of those pounds were camping gear (tent, pad, sleeping bag, and a ziploc of miscellany) which - as it turned out - saw minimal use. I was not carrying cookwear, as I had NO intention of cooking. I believe in local food, whatever it may be. I had mounted the bags in April, and then spent10 weeks slowly increasing the load weight on my training rides. During the course of the jaunt the actual weight fluctuated between about 40 and 45 pounds, depending on the amount of food and extra water I was carrying on any given day. However, once the body adjusts to the load, one can add perhaps 5-6 extra pounds without really noticing much difference. So the fluctuation was not an issue.
I have been an intentional cyclist since early 1986. In addition to commuting (not very far), and the '96 trans-con, I've done a few West Coast journeys, a couple in Europe, and a D.C.-New Orleans jaunt. This trip, however, would be the longest, and the only real solo venture (except for a solitary 5-day loop around San Francisco Bay some years ago). I was looking forward to the challenge, and was not entirely sure which aspect - the miles or the solitude - would provide the greater difficulty.
© 2000 BFZ
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