Here are the basics:
Why did I do it? To see the country. To be surprised. To have a goal.
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: http://2guys1biketrip.com/wp/.
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