I think we have to embark on adventures. Humans, I mean. I think maybe that’s what we’re made for. I think we have to do things that are probably actually beyond our capabilities — to prove something to ourselves, or maybe to trick ourselves into believing.
I’m going to bike across the country (bicycle, not motorcycle. apparently that distinction is important. honestly when you get into the thousands of miles, I’m not sure it is.) And I’m not going to do it the “right” way. No, instead of east, I’m going West. Instead of a sane pace, I’m somehow both going too fast and too slow (38 miles per day and also taking 5 months). I’m not just traveling, I’m playing music along the way. And instead of straight across, I’m “Going S.”
“Going S” was the phrase my Japanese riding partner, the illustrious and incomparable Hugh Yamada, used to describe our route when we first saw what we’d planned on a map. It stuck because it made me laugh, and because it’s pretty accurate. I mean, it does make an “S.” Hell, we’re not even starting by going the right way! We’re starting by going North. Stupid. Gloriously stupid. We also hope it’s memorable.
This blog will be my daily commitment to you. I’ll keep you informed, updated, and hopefully entertained. I’m not going to try to hit any particular topics here — this will be a chronicle of my life, in daily increments, from now until January 15 (our target date for the beaches of Santa Monica). We don’t leave for about 5 weeks, but preparations should be interesting too.
I can’t promise I’ll cover everything. This is a blog, not a diary, and I’m human. In fact, I’m a particularly social-media-averse human, so this is almost as much of a stretch as the trip itself. So many people requested a blog to follow, though, that it only seemed like the giving thing to do. And I’m a giving person, or at least I’d like to think I am.
So here are some answers to a few common bar and/or café conversation questions:
– yes. really!
– I guess we are, yeah. But would you rather be sane or interesting?
– I have been, yes. For about a year, on and off, but if I’m being honest, in earnest since about the beginning of May. I do about 20 miles per day on my fixed gear.
– well no, training on the fixed gear is good because you can’t stop pedaling. Makes freewheeling bikes feel easier.
– here’s where I lose some people*: it’s a 1993 Giant Rincon that my friend picked up for free off the side of the road, and I’m converting it to an adventure machine. (Here’s where I try to make up for it with gearheads**) It’s got almost identical geometry to a Surly Trucker. I’ve still got a lot of work to do on it.
– I work at a bike shop, yeah. You should come by, we’re not snobby. I mean…as you can tell.
– five months.
– you look worried. Don’t look so worried!
– well yeah, my riding partner’s pretty experienced. He did this in Japan, North-South from one tip to the other, solo, no support. And he didn’t even prepare for that one. He just got on the bike and went. He’s kind of a ridiculous guy. One of my all-time favorite people. He’s from there, though.
– we met in college and have made music together over the years. He gets here (Boston) around August 1.
– we’re touring our music on the way. Hitting college radio stations! Trying to hit venues in the towns, too.
– No, we don’t have those booked yet. If you know anyone, please help us!
– Yeah, lots of camping. Pick a green spot on Google Maps and set up your tent, ya know? But again, if you know anyone…
– no, God no, we’re avoiding trailers at all costs. The guitars go in the panniers. No, I’m not sure how yet…I should really figure that out. An acquaintance who makes bike luggage suggested that one.
– August 15th.
– Well, we’re neither going the North Route or the South Route. There’s a national network of bike routes, and we’re taking a few of them, heading basically west then south through Nashville to the Gulf, then west the rest of the way. That way we avoid the heat in the South at the end of the summer, and the cold in the North afterward.
– I guess it’s partly that, yes. But more needing a kick and a change than running from something.
*this disclaimer is something I say aloud in the bar conversation
Yesterday I took a day trip to Walden Pond. I’m actually not very achy. Some days I am, but that’s just how it’s going to be. It’s about 37 miles round trip, which is close to our planned daily average on “moving” days (as opposed to rest). There’s something magical about biking places, especially alone. It makes it easier to meet people. I always meet interesting people when I bike for a day, without fail. Today’s list included a former road racer; a woman who has a son about my age and who has serenely given up on getting equal pay, but is optimistic about the future of the nation; and a pair of Mormon missionaries who had genuine interest in my thoughts on theology, without much hint of proselytizing. I hope it will be this way with a partner. Given how interesting Hugh is, I can only see it being better.
It was a beautiful day. To say that doesn’t really do it justice. The sunset was almost heartbreakingly perfect, and the woods smelled exactly like The Woods. Every light and sound was timed just right for the music of summer. I can’t help but think all of America will have some of that to offer.
Plus pain. Lots and lots of pain. (Not yesterday. Only a little yesterday…just trying to prepare myself mentally for AMERICA). I’ll have to remember to drink water, eat lots, and put on sunscreen. That should please my mom and my doctors.