Thursday, October 4, 2012

Going Back to Cali...


I'm going back to Cali strictly for the weather, women and the ... hmm, well, isn't that enough?

But seriously, I bought a train ticket the other night.  I am leaving in 2 weeks, landing in Reno, NV, in late October.  Christine and I will visit some friends, bike around Lake Tahoe, go all cannibal-style through Donner Pass and then high-tail it to NorCal.  Right now the plan ends with us getting to the Arcata-Eureka area around the first of November.

And then what?  Good question.  Ideally that would be enough and I wouldn't have to accrue money to continue my existence on the planet, but, you know, it doesn't really work that way.

Like this guy... get a job dude

I am trying to convince Humboldt State University that they need me to teach their populace to sail.  They do need me, they just don't know it yet.  Maybe try my hand in a bike shop?  Who knows.  Not me.

I'm obviously a hard working sailing instructor
Some people have suggested to me that it might not be prudent/responsible/smart to just move across the country without much of a plan.  They may be right, but they are also pretty boring people.  A la George Costanza, I usually take this advice and do the exact opposite of what they tell me.  Its worked well for me so far.

Its not that they are necessarily wrong; in fact they are probably right.  Its just that at this point in my life, I feel like I need to do something, anything, to jump start my existence.  New Jersey is great, but not really intellectually challenging or stimulating.  If I start with that premise, there isn't really a smart way to move 3000 miles away.  At some point, I just have to jump....

So here goes.  In 2 weeks I will leap without knowing exactly where my landing is.  It might be a long free-fall.


In other news, while this is kind of an extension of The Really Long Bike Trip, it more of its own adventure.  Thusly, I will be curating a new artisanal blog-way.  It will cover anything I feel like and might end up being a good way to keep up on my activities in the Land of Fruit and Nuts.  It is located here: 1legchris.tumblr.com for the link challenged.


Nostalgia is already beginning to set in though I haven't even left.  I will miss this place.  I have basically lived my entire life here.  I am very connected to it: physically, mentally and spiritually.  I do appreciate and relish the roots I have dug here.  I talk a lot with my friends about how such roots are enviable   The irony present in 20-something's is just hi-larious, huh?

Here are some pictures from the summer:

Camping in NJ. You can actually hear the Parkway through the internet,

Diana

Bumbling

I will miss this.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

This is the End


I suppose this story needs an ending.

I have been home for 2 months now.  I thought that if I put off writing this last post I could effectively keep my trip from really being over, but I guess not.  It was worth the try, though.


When we left Tampa, after another long stop over, Brittany and I were both slow to get into a rhythm.  Having broken my sunglasses and my camera, I was already somewhat morally defeated.  Add to that some unseasonable 90 degree weather and oranges, oranges everywhere but not a one to eat and I decided I was ready to come home.


I had recently finished a book that made an impression me: Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck.  Steinbeck has always been one of my favorites, so I went with Ross' recommendation to read the author's memoirs of his cross country camper trip with his dog, Charley.  He went to many of the same places that I had been over the past 5 months, encountered many of the same problems.  It was a really great book and I recommend it for anyone, especially someone who has or plans on traveling in the US.

Towards the end of his book, Steinbeck talks about how "you don't take a trip, a trip takes you."  Any number of people could visit some National Park and every one of them will have a different experience.  And, because its the trip thats in control and not really you, it can be tough when it decides to end itself.  Steinbeck said he woke up one day in Virginia and felt that he was no longer traveling or exploring or adventuring.  He was stuck.  In a strange place he didn't know.  500 miles from home.  He went to sleep one day and woke up the next and the trip was done with him.  There was nothing he could do about it.

He also reflected on how, at a certain point, you stop seeing things, noticing the beauty.  Eventually you will find yourself merely going through the motions.  No matter how impressive the scenery or how peaceful the night is, a finished traveler cannot appreciate the things that made the trip worth taking in the first place.

As I biked through south Florida, I felt all of these things.  I was going through motions, biking 50 miles a day because it was expected of me.  Brit had been done for a while; she kept biking for me, I think.  When we took lunch one day, it was 95 degrees and we were on a straight road with no end in sight, and nothing but industrial orange groves as far as we could see.  I was done.  Right then and there I knew it.  For the rest of the day's ride, I did a combination of convincing myself it was OK, getting rid of the pride that stopped me from saying so, and figuring out how to tell Brit.

When we got to the next town, we stopped at a McDonalds and bought train tickets for the next day.  It was that easy.  We biked some more into the town of Sebring where we stumbled upon some kind people generous enough to give us a roof over our heads for our last night.  A warm meal, good friends, a fluffy dog and homegrown grapefruit is really the only way to end a really long bike trip.

------------------

When I got home, I found a note I had written to myself before I left.  Three questions: Did you have fun?  Did you learn something?  Was it worth it?  Yes.  Yes.  And yes.

Looking back, I can say that I have never done anything more fun.  Riding bikes has always been one of my favorite things to do.  Riding bikes everyday for 5 months was that much more special.  Between the people I met and the places I saw, it will be hard for me to top the fun list for a while.

I learned a whole lot, too.  I learned how to read a map.  I learned how to get lost with grace.  I learned how to feed yourself on $2 a day.  I learned how to pack, how to talk, how to be silent, how to listen, how to think.  I think I even learned how to bike better.  I feel like I learned how to be a different kind of Chris Childers; one that is different from what I had been in the past but one that is still true and still me.

I find myself saying constantly "one thing I learned from my trip is...."  There are a lot of lessons that I learned that I try to remind myself of often.  Perhaps one of the most powerful ideas has to do with what everyday life means to a person.  In my 5 months on the road, I woke up to a different place almost every day.  I woke up in places where many people live and in places where nobody lives and everywhere in between.  I thought that the place in which you live and the character of that place must surely have a profound effect on how you think and feel and live your life.

There is a town in west Texas called Terlingua.  It lies in the shadow of the Chisos mountains on the edge of Big Bend National Park.  The hundred or so people that live there all know each other and they all know when someone new is in town.  In the last 2 years, they've gotten about 2 inches of rain.  What must it be like to wake up to this everyday?  How would it affect your worldview?

There is another place where the sheer marble cliffs tower 4000 feet above the ground and some people look at that every morning.  Theres another place that gets to 130 degrees in the summer and people live like that too.  There is a place where the trees are older than our history, literally bigger than life.  How different would you be if you woke up every morning and saw a 2000 year old tree?


Life is beautiful, where ever you go.  With novelty, it can be easier to notice, but it always is; it never just isn't.  And its not just about the scenery, either.  I thought this trip would be all about the scenery, but the people that you meet and surround yourself with are perhaps more important.  They are a reflection how how we see the world, what we choose to take from it.  The people we find ourselves with and the places we find ourselves in define our world on the most personal level.

We owe it to ourselves and each other and the rest of the living and non-living world to find the beauty and the happiness that is ever present around us.  Its there right now, being beautiful and happy and waiting for us.  If you need to take a bike trip to see it, well, there could be worse things.

Was it worth it?  Yes.  I made incredible new friends, solidified bonds with old friends, and saw this country in a way that very few people have ever gotten to see it.  The hills were steep, and the heat and the cold were tough and the days exhausting, but there is no cliche strong enough to convey how worthwhile it was.

This will be my last post.  I want to thank again all the people that helped me along the way.  There are too many to name.  You know who you are and you know what you mean to travelers like me.  Thank you.

Finally,  I have some statistics.

Total Miles: 6,515
Total Days: 162, Sept 8 2011- Feb 16 2012
Average miles per day: 40
States: 11, OR, CA, NV, AZ, UT, NM, TX, LA, MS, AL, FL
WarmShower/CouchSurfing Nights: 53
Camping Nights: 70
Slept Outside/Slept Inside: 42%/58%
National Parks: 17, Oregon Dunes, Redwood, Yosemite, Death Valley, Red Rock, Lake Mead, Zion, Grand Staircase, Lake Powell, Glen Canyon, Grand Canyon, Saguaro, White Sands, Carlsbad Caverns, Guadalupe Mountains, Big Bend
Repairs: New hub bearings and races in Mammoth Lakes, CA; broken spoke in Kanab, UT; flat tire in Van Horn, TX, flat tire in Port Arthur, TX

I hope with this blog that I was able to entertain, inspire or at least provide an outlet to someone's boredom.  If nothing else, go ride your bike.



Sunday, February 5, 2012

I Win

So.

Where to start?

We made it to Tampa.  We were stopped near Chiefland, Florida, by (soon to be friend) Patrick.  He asked us if we knew about WarmShowers.  Did we have a place to stay tonight?  Apparently, he had scoped us out riding south as he was helping out some other bikers riding north.  Of course, we stayed the night.

After so many long, hard days trying to make it south in a timely fashion, Patrick really saved the day by offering us a day off and a ride to Tampa.  The day off was well deserved and well spent.  We lounged and rested our tired bodies in Patrick's warm and lovely home.  Evenings by the fire pit and great conversation were only the beginning.

And, yes, he drove us to Tampa.  This perfect stranger drove us 150 miles so we could have a day off.  We took a couple of scenic detours on the way down.  Patrick really knew the good spots.

Thank you, Patrick.
Light Bikes!
When we got to Grandpa's house, we cleaned up, talked with the family, and stayed the night.  The next day, after dumping much of our gear, we left for St. Petersburg.  The bikes were light and we rode fast.  Stops in Dunedin and Clearwater provided some scenery before we landed at our hosts in downtown St. Pete.
The Pier in St Pete
The weekend was really very refreshing for me.  Instead of the usual biking and sightseeing, I got to do some sailing.  I had a great time taking my Level 2 certification class, making new friends, and, did I mention Sailing?!  It was really nice to be doing something different.
Sailing Class!
Tomorrow, we'll head back north to Grandpa's.  We'll visit for a little while and continue on our way through Florida.  Right now, we've got plans to spend time in downtown Tampa, Sarasota, and Captiva Island.  Our next big destination is none other than Key West.

I have an appointment Wednesday with some Boy Scouts from New Jersey.  How 21st century!  Wish me Luck!

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Race is On


One of my side projects for this bike trip has been to do some sailing.  As it is my other great passion in life, being away from it for so long is rough.  I miss it a lot.  Brittany and I are constantly pointing out the cool boats we see and wish were ours.

Other than pointing and looking, my side project has failed so far; I have not gone sailing at all.  Theres a few ways I am trying to remedy this.  One of them has been to check US Sailing's website for Instructor Courses; I am certified as a Level 1 Instructor but have been trying to find a Level 2 Coach course for some time, to no avail.

So last Thursday, in Bayou La Batre, AL, I checked the website and there it was, my Level 2.  In St. Petersburg, FL, no less!  So close, yet so far away.  549 miles away.  10 days.  The race is on.

Brittany agreed.  I don't know what she was thinking.  Perhaps she was banking on me bribing her with food and beer.  She was right.

So now we are in Perry, FL.  We've got about 200 miles left.  It looks like we'll make it, but the wind always does what it wants.  Grandpa Bill is waiting for us in Tampa.  We'll get there a day before St. Pete and drop some stuff and then continue down.  We'll tool around for the weekend then work clockwise around the Bay, hitting Clearwater, back to Grampa's to visit with the DeAngelo's and the Pribble's, then onto Tampa to see more family and friends.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Stormy Thursday

We are stuck again, though this time in Alabama.

Sometimes, bike touring means stopping for a while for weather.  We are right in the middle of a pretty significant storm front while on our way through Orange Beach, AL.  After our leaving our awesome hosts this morning, we got 12 miles down the road before the sky started rumbling.  We checked out the forecast at McDonald's (every smart traveler knows where the free internet is), made a stop at the bike shop, and looked for some shelter.  We are hanging out at the library, watching movies and writing.

Leaving New Orleans was a strange feeling.  It was the longest stop I had made on this trip so far.  Hanging out with old friends and meeting new ones in a place like that is really cool experience.  I thoroughly enjoyed discovering another strange city by bicycle.

On the other hand, a bike tourer must bike, or what else has he got?  I was feeling a little antsy in such a big city, being surrounded by so many people all the time.  I was ready for the road.

My leg was still bothering me a little, so I held onto a cane my mom bought me in New Orleans.  I have noticed that I get treated a lot different when I walk with a cane.  Normally, most people don't even see my leg; they tend to just walk right past me.  But with the cane, people see a limp, then a cane, then the leg.  There is another level to viewing disability when you can see a walking device.  As before, I'm not judging good or bad, I've just noticed this.


We left New Orleans and were back in Louisiana, again.  There are some similarities, but the two places are worlds apart.  We crossed scenic bayous and long bridges as we skirted Lake Pontchartrain and found ourselves in Missisipi Missississippi Mississippi.

I feel like I did not really see Mississiippi Mississippi or Alabama in all their Deep Southy-ness.  It felt a little like Louisiana, but less boozy.  It felt a lot like the Gulf coast towns we have seen elsewhere.  One of our hosts who had done a lot of bike touring and bike tour guiding said that we are not seeing the country as we ride, just a ribbon.  This was no more apparent than these lasts few days.

There were some highlights, though.  I have always wanted to sleep at a bar.  My chance came in Pearlington, MS.  We had no place to stay that night, so we stopped at a fine looking establishment and proceeded to order a round.  After chatting up the bartender, we secured the vital "OK" to take advantage of the generous awning out back and pitched out tent out of the pouring rain.

In Bayou La Batre, AL, there is a 2 mile long causeway and a 3 mile long bridge to Dauphin Island, a Florida-ish looking island just outside of Mobile Bay.  The ferry off of the island deposited us on a beautiful, piney peninsula after giving us an almost tour of Mobile Bay drilling platforms.  The contrast was very striking.



We probably have another hour or so of rain, and hopefully we'll be able to get in some more miles.  The Florida border is only a few miles from here and Pensacola is another 20 or so after that.  We had hoped to make it to Pensacola, but you never can tell.

Good bye for now.