Tour of Duty

My style of riding has subtly changed since I’ve entered Virginia.

When I started my ride in San Francisco, everything was Tickety-Boo.  Check out the link below to get an idea of what I’m talking about.

The start of my ride was like the Danny Kaye video above.  Everything was new, fresh, exciting and different.  There was the sensation of high adventure, the exciting feeling that comes with dealing with the unknown on a daily basis, the exhilaration of tackling a grand mission.  Correspondingly was the naiveté that accompanies one who has not yet experienced the travails that invariably occur with this kind of undertaking.

This ride’s not so "dreamy, peaches and creamy" anymore, that’s for sure.  We’re talkin’ more like the two F’s…Focus and Finish.

I got a sense of foreshadowing of how my mindset would change when I met Mike Bosomworth in California (See my May 25 blog ‘Who is NOT riding across America on a bicycle?’).  Mike was about 300 miles from his finish line at the Golden Gate Bridge and he was anxious to get there.  He told me “I’m getting a little tired now and just want to finish the job.”  When I said “You’ll make it no problem!” he countered with “Hey, I’m not there yet, I’m not taking anything for granted until I get there.  I don’t want to jinx myself.”  He chuckled to himself a little bit for appearing to be superstitious as he normally is not, but he didn’t want anything to go wrong now that he was so close to the end.  He went on to say that every day of riding was starting to take a little bit out of him.  He said “Not much, just a bit…but it’s taking a little bit out of me every day and it eventually catches up.”  I sort of understood in a general ‘that seems to make sense’ kind of way, but now at 500 miles to the end of my ride I really understand what he was talking about.

Right now, I still feel very strong.  I’m 25 lbs lighter than when I started; I’ve ridden 4 rides over 100 miles so far and have averaged 70 miles a day per ride.  If you told me I had to ride 100-mile rides every day for the next 5 days to finish the ride, I know I could do it (well, maybe).  However, every day I get in the saddle I feel just a little bit more tired before I start than the day before.  Not much, mind you, but the feeling is there.

I am definitely riding with more purpose and focus.  I’m constantly monitoring my body for signs of stress while I ride.  I try to keep pedaling at a constant relatively high cadence with a light foot pedal.  I’m constantly reminding myself to ‘spin’ rather than ‘run’ as I ride.  I’m continually shifting gears as I go up and down hills to keep my speed up and my stress low on my body.  All this while I’m finding the smoothest part of the road to ride and making sure I keep out of the way of traffic as best I can.  It’s all about energy management as I ride western hills of Virginia. I’m already sniffing the air to try and catch a whiff of the salty breeze of the Atlantic Ocean.

At the beginning of my ride across America I was taking in all of the sights, sounds and smells of the adventure.  Now, it’s all about finishing the mission, to put that ‘check in the box’.

I am not alone with this feeling.  

I met Greg Baltad at Berea VA.  He is a really cool guy.  He was a great football player in California when he was young and tried out and made the team for the Green Bay Packers in the early 1970’s.  He was offered a contract but decided not to go in that direction when he took off his pads one day and realized how all-consuming the sport would be to his life in order for him to perform at that level.  Personally, I admire his courage to make that decision at such a young age.  He’d probably be pretty beat up today and not able to ride across America.  Greg bought a new tire for his back wheel and wanted to keep the old one and asked Jaine if she’d mail it home for him.  Jaine mailed the used tire for him the next day.

I met Tom Burns in Elkhorn City on the Kentucky/Virginia border.  He was a warrior just like Mike Bosomworth.  He’s from Boston and went to school at Andover, the same city where my Dad grew up as a kid.  Tom had some really cool high-tech stuff including a solar panel on the back of his bike to charge his cell phone and other electronic devices.  This guy really knew what he was doing when it came to light, long distance travel.

All of us traveled from West to East and are about to finish our rides.  All of us have really enjoyed the trip and have had some great adventures, but we’re all in agreement that we’re ready to put our trips to bed.

We’re all like the soldier that realizes he has 10 days left of being ‘in country’.  We’re keeping our ‘heads down low’ and counting the days.  We want to finish our mission.  We’re near the end of our tour of duty.


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