“no trespassing,” “keep out,” “private property,” “beware of dog,” “absolutely no trespassing,” “stay out,” and a “welcome to the u.s.a.-the land of the free” welcomed me to the states where i crossed the border at eastport, idaho. the crossing was thankfully uneventful. i wasn’t even searched. i was only asked if i had any drugs, alcohol, or tobacco. i responded that i get high on top of mountains. and i was waved through.
instantly, one of the sweetest parts of canada, i.e. the two meter road shoulder for bicycles, vanished, and i immediately found my self tight-roping a white line next to a ditch while semi’s and rv’s that could house the populations of a small country gleefully whizzed by. but i have to admit that by and large, traffic has respected me, and i haven’t been grazed once. which is good because sometimes once is all it takes.
currently, i’m just south of missoula, montana staying with a friend of mine, hunter townsend (a friend from furman university) and his soon-to-be-wife, cecily. luckily i arrived at their beautiful home while they were still out picking huckleberries. so i was able to take my first shower in three+ weeks and detox some clothes before they saw me (they would, of course, have smelled me first). it’s been great to get off the bike and hang out with two super cool people.
lance armstrong says, “it’s not about the bike.” i say, “it’s all about the bike.” and i love my bike.
the “sutra” is kona’s newly developed touring bike. not only did kona provide me with this bike, but they also provided me with a one-wheeled trailer to haul all my stuff. the only modification we made to the bike was to put a riser handlebar (more upright, like a mountain bike) as opposed to a drop-down handlebar (like the kind they use in the tour de france). this is much more comfortable for me. now, my “job” for kona is to write about how the bike is performing on the trip. this is an easy job because currently, all i have to write is “don’t change a thing.” kona is not funding this trip monetarily, but they are supplying me with abundant amounts of kindness and support as i periodically contact them (thanks lisa).
the kona sutra has 700 X 32 wheels which are thicker than an all out road racing bike and quite thinner than a mountain bike. a non exhaustive description of the bike: 27 speeds, disc brakes (which stop you by grabbing small discs encircling the hubs on both wheels as opposed to normal brakes which grab the rims of the wheel), and a steel frame (in the unlikely event of the frame snapping, i can have the steel welded).
the bleeding stopped, the scabs finally wore down to nubs, and calluses are beginning to form. so now, and only now, can i say that i like the bicycle seat. that’s all part of it. the seat also has a cut out section to allow blood flow through a vital nerve to keep my manhood from becoming numb’ish, which i’m thankful for, because who knows, maybe i’ll change my mind and want to mix my dna with someone i love and see what comes out. and while we’re in this area of anatomy, i do have some “special” underwear. no, i don’t have a leaky faucet (yet). they’re anti-shock gel and they help to keep my soldiers happily swimming.
but i will go on record here to say that i am doing this entire bike ride sans spandex.
what i do is this. i wake up, pack up my things, and ride. everyday is somewhere new. i never know when i’ll stop. usually it’s before dark, but sometimes, in these lands we have created which are bound by barbed wire, it’s hard to find a home for the night. but something, eventually, always comes up.
so why don’t i stay in campgrounds? because most campgrounds do not distinguish between an rv and a bicycle. in other words, i am charged the same as a family of four using electrical, water, and satellite tv hook-ups. and this charge is between $15 and $25. and this fee alone is 200% to 350% of my daily budget. so i free camp, and i have definitely slept in some interesting places. i just make sure i’m invisible from the road, and i’m good to go.
many people want to know about nourishment. my appetite cannot be quelled so i eat ungodly amounts of food (and waste none). i usually ride about fifteen miles or so before i eat breakfast. because i like to enjoy a meal, i typically take a two to three hour lunch which also includes reading and writing and napping. the same goes for dinner. because there are local grocery stores in most small towns, i eat whatever vegetarian friendly sustenance i can find. i do not eat out as it is too expensive and the portions rarely dent my hunger. the exception to this was a local all you can eat pizza/pasta/salad/desert place here in missoula. i grazed for three+ hours and my calorie consumption at this sitting alone was sickening. my bowels reaked havoc on me later, but at the time of my gluttony, it was worth it. someone told me that the place went out of business the next day. one of my favorite feasts upon entering a small town: box of cereal, gallon of milk, four bananas. delicious. burp.
the icefields parkway (“the prettiest road in the world”) in alberta and british columbia was definitely a highlight: craggy peaks, glaciers, waterfalls, elk, bears, coyotes, killer climbs, daunting descents, monster valleys, turquoise lakes, and the smell of christmas from the pines. idaho and montana have been spectacular giving me some faith that, however rare and soon to vanish, there are indeed still undeveloped and wide-open spaces in this country.
the maps i carry are simple and don’t provide too much information. i have met some other cyclists who carry the most detailed of maps, including elevation profiles. for me, this is information i don’t want. what i know is this: it’s never all uphill, it’s never all downhill, it’s never all flat. i’d rather not know and just go.
my hobby? i collect license plates of the states i travel through. they are relatively abundant on the side of the road, though virtually unnoticeable when speeding along in a car. i have already acquired ones from british columbia, alberta, montana, and colorado. i was sadly empty-handed in idaho although i still have faith because i think i will cycle there again near the wyoming border.
in mentioning all these states, i will mention again that i don’t have a planned route for this trip. i am currently debating heading east to go through rocky mountain national park and the san juans of colorado (strongly leaning this way) or to stay west and go through canyonlands and the desert country of eastern utah. who knows, maybe i’ll do both. in terms of my immediate future, i will be checking out yellowstone and the tetons. then? i’ll just have to see. i can look at maps for hours.
what i wear (starting from the bottom):
2. board shorts
3. synthetic long sleeve shirt
what i’m carrying:
2. sleeping bag
3. sleeping pad
4. minimal extra clothing
5. rain jacket
6. small tool/repair kit
7. two extra bike tubes
8. book by ayn rand (the greatest)
9. journal by hIrSch (wishes for 1% of talent of ayn rand)
12. bike lock
14. two water bottles
15. mini air pump
17. pictures of family
18. neoprene socks
19.. wallet stuff
20. and this. what is this? this is what i’m typing on now under a shelter as i hide from an intense thunderstorm with grape sized hail as the lightning strikes uncomfortably close. it’s a keyboard with a 5cmx15cm screen. yes, it’s my luxury item. and i’m so glad i’ve got it.
i usually don’t talk because there’s just me and that kind of talking i can do in my head. i do sing, especially on the downhills where i’m convinced i had a career as a rock star. i have yet to cry, but i’m sure i will, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
the most frustrating thing for me are headwinds. although i love my trailer which makes me much more streamline than boxy panniers (bags that hang on the sides of the bike), it is still disheartening to have to actually pedal to go downhill. i do, however, really enjoy climbing, more so than the downhills.
sometimes, bugs get lodged in my beard. i remove them as delicately as i can. i love my beard. if you have one, you know... what is it about beards?
some of the interesting things i see on the side of the road: knives, basketball backboards, “disposable” diapers, tons of beer cans, magazines, dead animals, shoes, toys, smashed cell phones (the only good kind of cell phone). the most common things i see are cd’s. i have also found about $2 and a relatively intact granola bar.
this is what i love. somehow and somewhere, i lose a bungee cord while riding. about six miles after realizing it, i find a perfect one right on the side of the road.
sometimes, when i wake up, i don’t know what state (neither of mind or geographical boundary) i am in.
i am up with the sun, i am down with the sun. i ride the greater part of the day with movements of fluidity, my body is an oiled machine, my legs are pistons. i enjoy moving under my own power. there’s a feeling of genuine satisfaction. and peace.
i am now no longer in missoula. i will be in yellowstone national park on 30 july.
i helped hunter townsend with his landscaping business during my stay near missoula. we made many trips to the city landfill. on one of the trips, a wal-mart truck pulled up and took a gigantic dump. i had to laugh. i inspected the refuse, but couldn’t find anything salvageable.
i also shaved my head in missoula and my first night out was my first frost of the trip and my just about bald little head froze. timing is everything.
and then i met ivan from argentina. i was climbing a steep mountain pass and this motorcycle pulls right up next to me and i hear a latin american accent, “are you hungry, i’ll cook you some pasta!” we make brief introductions as he slows down to my 6 mph pace and he tells me he’ll meet me at the rest area at the top of the pass. he’s from buenos aires but started his trip in seattle, then up to the arctic, and now he’s heading south back to his home. a pound of penne pasta later, we had covered all the major topics including how to get around the roadless area of northern colombia to how much he likes america and americans but just hates our president. he also tells me what a different vibe there is in central and south america, how people are super friendly and just invite you to their homes and share a meal. and he showed me the best routes to take through chile and argentina. a really cool guy who said no one believed he was going to do this trip until he finally shipped his motorcycle to seattle, quit his job, and hit the road. iTwaStObEanDiTwAsUptOhIm.
the next morning when i wake up, i have yet another bloody flat. so i put in a new tube and got to my wheels. five miles later, another bloody flat! so i patch the hole and then find a staple lodged in my tire. staple extracted, should be good to go. but for some reason, i can’t inflate my tire with my mini-pump. frustration. can’t figure out what’s wrong. so i take it all apart again, and the entire valve on the tube has ripped out. not good. so i patch my already patched emergency replacement tube and...here comes ivan the argentinian on his motorcycle. i’d somehow gotten ahead of him. he whips out an electric pump, and i’m finally good to go. then he offers to go to the next small town (65 miles ahead) get me a new tube, and bring it back to me just in case. i tell him no worries but he insists. and sure enough he does it. but he bought the wrong size....but he kept the receipt so he was golden. but it turns out i didn’t need it anyway because i met two cyclists from the netherlands on a tandem bike, and they gave me the exact size replacement tube i needed. i handed them $5 and he insisted i put my money away but did insist on having his girlfriend take a photo of him handing me the tube while we simultaneously shook each other’s hands. he said, “just like your politicians!”
of course there’s so much else to say. so.........no, i learned my lesson. no, wait a minute, i’m going for it. i invite anyone to email me or post a comment with a question about the ride be it philosophy or fact. every one i receive will be answered. so ask away.
i want to send big love to everyone who realizes this site is not a site of conversion, just confession. i have received some stellar comments and private emails that have really challenged me and have the wheels spinning. i abSoLutEly welcome comments and emails, so don’t hesitate.