Sunday, August 7, 2011

What I was doing for the last two months

On June 2, I left New York City on a 10-speed Schwinn, heading for Seattle. I met my two friends, Trevis and Joanna, on the Upper West Side and we crossed the George Washington Bridge into New Jersey, leaving behind the city, and college. Two months later, on August 2, I rode the same bike into my parents' driveway, 3,000 miles of roads, adventures, and people now behind me.

Here are the basics:

Why did I do it? To see the country. To be surprised. To have a goal.

Reading List:
Zhuangzi - Basic Writings
James Baldwin - Go Tell It on the Mountain
Leo Tolstoy - The Death of Ivan Ilyich
Monique Truong - The Book of Salt
Michael Connelly - Nine Dragons
John Updike - Rabbit Is Rich
Margaret Atwood - The Handmaid's Tale
Amy Tan - Joy Luck Club

I always traded books, finding a new one at a gas station or a thrift store in a small town I was passing through.

What was the hardest part?
The wind. After reaching Montana, I faced days of unrelenting head-winds. A day of head-winds is like biking up a mountain, without ever having the opportunity to go down the other side. The wind is loud, and it can make you madder than hell. I cursed at the wind, and called it dirty names. I tried singing to the wind, hoping to appease it. Sometimes I would just lie down and let it blow over me, waiting for it to change its direction.

I spent whole days riding and ended 50 miles from where I began, in a place that was just as flat, windy and empty as the one from which I had left in the morning. Those were the hardest days.

The easiest part?
Riding with friends. I wish you guys had come farther! In Montana and North Dakota I encountered other west-bound cyclists, Rich in North Dakota and Michael in Montana. When we started riding together, the mile-post signs just seemed to effortlessly float past. Check out Michael's blog:

Number of flat tires: ~10, almost all of which occurred during a particularly frustrating week in Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Diet: I started as a vegetarian. My last dinner was a Big Mac value meal. The switch to a carnivorous diet wasn't easy, but I don't think I could have finished the trip without eating meat. I have a lot of thoughts about this and I'll explain more later.

My bike: My bicycle doesn't have a name, but I still love it. A Schwinn "World Sport", it's a steel-frame, 10-speed. I can't believe how sturdy and reliable this bike was. I never had to fix anything other than a flat tire.

The route: To begin with, it was never planned. In general, I intended on staying north to avoid the heat. That worked well until Montana, when the temperature topped out above 100 degrees for a few consecutive days.

I went through New York, Ontario, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, and Washington. I biked along the Erie Canal, took a 2-hour ferry across Lake Huron, followed numerous bike paths to their sudden and unannounced terminations, and hugged the shoulders of divided four-lane highways.

Coming soon: North Dakota's Oil Boom: The New Wild West;
Flooding in the West: Natural or Man-made Disaster?;
How a Thunderstorm Made Me Bleed;
Why Canada Didn't Let Me In;

and much more.... stay tuned

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