|Info--Escapes-- Air-- Hotels-- Cruises--Vacations--Cars-- Railpasses--Specials--Insurance|
July 21, 1996
I have been home from The Great Trek---Ms. Toad's Wild Ride ---BOBOB--- for almost three months now: longer than I was gone. And I must say that being here is STILL odd. I returned with a new head, so to speak; and I'm still having trouble putting that new head into the old trappings. It is very unsettling to still be this disjointed in my own life. Yes, I'm still riding; but then I always rode. The distances of my loops are longer than before; and I'm riding in higher gears than I used to. But riding in a circle, repeatedly, simply doesn't hold a candle---or a valve stem---to travel, to riding from point A to point B. Frustration.
Upon return, the moment 1 walked into my house---a house I've lived in and filled up for twenty-five years---EVERYTHING in it suddenly seemed extraneous, burdensome, unnecessary. This is the fruit of living with just 40 pounds of stuff for two months. I understood that immediately. But oddly, the feeling has not gone away. For the past year or so I have been aware of a need to thin down, refine possessions, divest; and I had begun to slowly do so. But in the weeks since I've been home that process has accelerated. I have cleaned closets, the attic, taken loads to the dump, to Goodwill, had a garage sale. The dent is almost visible. I shall continue. In addition to, shall we say, material dislocation, 1 also experienced upon return some strangeness in people-relating. Being constantly in motion is a very Zen experience. Everything is in the here and now, in the moment. There is no past and no future that applies to any particular place you find yourself, or to any person to whom you may be speaking. This is very seductive, because there is NO emotional baggage pertaining to the folks you encounter. It is, again, Zen --- in the moment. Seductive, yes. Realistic, no. I had to readjust, at home, to the fact that all around me were people who KNEW me, for better or worse. Oddly, this was easier to overcome than the stuff aspect. Had I thought about it at all ahead of time, I'd have assumed it would be the other way around.
I suppose the main thing is that I naively did not anticipate any of this. I expected a little post-partum-blues-type syndrome. But I did not expect what I'm dealing with. 1 feel like I'm just skimming along on the surface tension of my own life. An interesting phenomenon, it's true. But it would be nice to really BE here, since I AM here. In New Mexico, we encountered two fellows in their twenties, who had ridden out from Philadelphia (I think), down the east coast, across the south, and up the west coast to Seattle. They were on the road for five months. I'm sure they will experience even more-so what I am. I need to write them.
However, let's talk travel. My selection of gear proved fine for the whole trip. I could have done with fewer undies, but that's really about it. The rain suit I had was pretty warm and unbreathing --- NOT Goretex, which was too heavy to suit me, and too costly. Plus I'm told it is sweaty, too. So mine did the job, even if it wasn't optimum. But at least I was not carrying anything I felt was frivolous. We encountered one fellow who had a load of ninety pounds!! Strapped on his back rack, along with an incredible pile of other stuff, was an aluminum folding patio chair. Another fellow had crammed into a giant duffel on his back rack his pillow from home. I guess it wasn't frivolous to him.
For helpful hints, I have a few choice tidbits for those who may venture out. Procedurally, send stuff ahead. Find a friend, or a friend of a friend, who lives about halfway along your route, and ship a package of stuff out there before you leave home. Things like second-half maps, more vitamins, standing medications, clothing for a different weather pattern, and the like. Things which you know you will need for the second half, but which you really don't have to carry the entire way. And when you arrive where that box is, empty it of the incoming stuff, fill it up again with stuff you have been carrying but don't need anymore, and send it right back home again. And remember --- padded mailing envelopes can be found in most communities. Send home stuff all along the way that isn't being used. Don't carry a single thing that isn't necessary. Ship it back.
As regards items, the following:
- If you have any trouble at all on the loaded bike in reaching your tires to hand brush them after going through questionable stuff on the road, carry a toothbrush in your handlebar bag for just that purpose. The extra length makes it easy to reach. Just be sure not to get it caught in the brake assembly; and don't use it on your teeth.
- Bring along about half a dozen spring-clip type clothespins. They're useful for lots of stuff.
- Instead of buying and carrying a plastic bike cover, get a cheapo plastic paint dropcloth. They tend to be 9x12 feet. I cut one in half to 6x9 and it was fine. Attach it with the clothespins to the spokes. Cheaper and lighter than a manufactured cover, and usable for other purposes as well.
- Bring along a variable-sized sink drain plug. Most campground sinks and budget motel sinks do not have plugs. This makes laundry difficult. The plug weighs next to nothing, and was THE single most important addition to the gear when I finally found one to purchase.
- Even if you have cycling maps with all the facilities listed, bring along a set of current, detailed road maps. You may wish to modify your route; a road may be closed; or you may just want more info. Cycling maps have a wealth of information, but they give you no options re: roads. Keep your options open with other maps. Maps are heavy, so cut away parts that you know you won't need. Keep maybe about one hundred miles' worth on each side of your projected route. For best detail about back roads, you need an individual state map for each state you'll be crossing, Regional maps don't have enough detail. Get state maps, or even county if you can.
- If there are any products that you are addicted to --- like a certain laundry soap or some such --- remember that many brands are not nationally distributed even though we think they are. Either call the company beforehand to find out which names that product is marketed under in the areas you're going to be in; or carry enough and send ahead some more. As regards laundry soap specifically, if you're particular you may indeed find your brand, but only in huge-sized boxes. So --- be prepared, or be flexible. That is a good rule of thumb for most of life.
Everywhere we went, people asked us questions. Where have you come from? Where are you going? Why are you doing this? What did you like best? Worst? Let me hit some of these, and others.
- Did we have any medical problems? Aside from some minor discomfort in the hands (numbness for C., some glove chafing for me), the only medical problem either of us had was that I pulled out a gold inlay in a too-hard Tootsie Roll. But, since it was imbedded in said candy, I simply called a dentist chosen at random from the phone book at our next stop, and he competently re-cemented it for me at a ridiculously low fee.
- What was the hardest part of being away from home so long? Dogs. We had both left behind beloved dogs. It was easy to stay in touch with beloved people, but long before half-time we both knew that we were dog-starved, and found ourselves running (riding, actually) up to people on the street asking if we could pet their dogs. Like little kids. It was funny, but that's what we needed to do.
- . What was the worst part of the ride? Easy.. the sandstorm we rode through between Las Cruces and El Paso. Second worst was the condition of the road surface throughout the state of Louisiana, which caused us to coin the phrase "Louisiana pavement". Louisianans seem to take great pride in the fact that their state government is so corrupt, and they would tell us at every turn that the roads are lousy because "all the money goes into pockets." We finally resorted to county roads, which were far better than their state- "maintained" cousins.
- Would you do it again? Absolutely! Yes! At the very earliest opportunity! You bet! In fact, I recommend such a journey to anyone who has even the slightest inkling to do so. I WILL do it again, and again, and again, as often as I possibly can. I just need to be able to find that window, that piece of time to be able to walk---or ride---away from the stuff, the dogs, the whatever. This is the goal of the divestiture of stuff. I want to do it again; different route, different experiences. But out there, on the road, on the bike. As often as I can.
Many thanks to those who wrote and emailed me; I'll answer whenever possible. It's always a pleasure to compare notes with those who have made similar trips, and to encourage and/or advise those who have not yet set out.
Yes --- wind, rain, mountains ... these are discouraging. But basically all one needs to do a journey like this is the will to do so. Age is not an issue (one motel keeper in Arizona told us she had a coast-to-coaster who was 74!). Conditioning and technique can be acquired in the doing --- though at least a little advance training IS helpful. But if you have the will, you can do it. If I could, you can. Just find that window...
© 1996 BFZ
More Chapters on the Ocean to Ocean Ride
Homepage | More NetEscapes | Armchair World Directory
We appreciate any comments or questions you might have. Our e-mail address is .
You can also fill out our feedback form for sending us your comments. Thanks!