Well, it has now been exactly a month since I got home (I arrived in Cockeysville on Sat, July 25th – it is now Sunday August 23rd as I write this). I have gotten a range of questions, so I will answer them in categories below.
What was the best part?/What was your favorite city/state/moment?/What moment will you remember?
This is far and away the #1 question I get. Pretty much every single person has asked me this question in some form or another. And I have done an okay job at not answering it, but under heavy stress I have cracked once or twice and made something up just to get people off my back.
Truth is, there is no way I can answer this. None at all. I mean, I am going to remember the two weeks I spent on the California Coast just as well as I am going to remember the two days I spent in (not on) the C&O Canal (Trail). I am going to remember the amazing landscapes between Carson City and Delta just as much as I am going to remember riding through the rough areas of Los Angeles. I am going to remember the strangers who went out of their way to show me kindness as well as the people who went out of their way to tell me that I wouldn’t make it.
My blog is called Live For The Path, and I would like to think that despite complaining about schedule and the such a little too much I have done that. But the most truthful answer I can give to that question is to say that my favorite part of the trip was finishing it. Not because I was happy to be home, or was tired of riding. To the contrary, I miss being on the bike out in the world every single day. I am just happy to have proved that I could ride a bicycle 4300 miles in two months with absolutely no training. I am happy to have made it, to have capped a journey that will stay with me forever. I am happy for the memories. I am happy the trip occurred, and I am happy that I went through everything I went through, even if I wouldn’t do it again, at least not for a very long time.
Wait. Is this your last time on a bike? What is next?
Well, I can say that in the month I have been home I have not been on a bike a single time. But it is certainly not the last time for me on a bike, either as a commuter or a tourer. What I meant above is that I have no desire to ride across America again (although I didn’t really ride across it – you will notice if you look at my shirts I only claimed the more vague ‘ride around America’). I think it could be a likely story that in 20 or 30 years I will want to do a anniversary tour across the country, but certainly not before then.
But, that does not mean that there are not other places that I want to go. It is just that most of the allure of touring to me is the adventure, so to go somewhere I have already been doesn’t really get me excited. But I do have some ideas of other tours I want to do.
Vancouver to San Francisco – This will likely be my next tour. Probably a short little two weeker, hopefully in a few years. I really feel that I missed something by turning east in San Francisco, although I am glad I did it. This will allow me the chance to tour (if only briefly) in another country, as well as see a part of the country that I have never seen.
The Far Northeast – Another tour I would like to do in another part of the country that I have never been. Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont are supposed to be absolutely beautiful, but I have never been. You could tour through in a little bit of Canada as well on this trip.
The British Isles – Another place with fantastic history and natural beauty that I have never been to and would love to tour. Particularly Scotland, Ireland, and Northern England.
SE Asia – Finally, a staple of bike touring, since you get the benefits of touring in the third world (cheap prices) without some of the drawbacks (crime, shitty roads). And this would definitely quench my thirst for excitement.
What is going on with your weight? What was it like on the bike?
It is strange, but this is probably the third most common thing I am asked about behind ‘What was your favorite part?’ and ‘What now?’. First and foremost, I have gained back a little over 15 pounds already, though it has really only been like five in the last few weeks (I gained 12 pounds in my first two weeks). But that isn’t a problem, I was a little emaciated looking upon arrival (I lost 30 pounds total during the trip). There was a point when I weighed myself in Ohio, and if I wasn’t within a week of being home, I would have had to seriously consider whether or not it would have been healthy to continue.
I thought it would be easier for me to keep weight on than it was. I thought I would lose a bunch off the bat, and then hit a point when I got into rhythm where I stayed just about the same. It didn’t happen – I lost around 4 pounds a week pretty consistently, meaning I was running around a 2000 calorie deficit every day. It turns out that it is really really hard to eat 7500 calories a day, particularly when you are traveling. I invite you to try to do it for one day, under ideal conditions (i.e. not on the road). Then try doing it every day for two months. It is almost impossible.
Do you have any suggestions for someone who wants to tour?
Yes I do – just do it! I wouldn’t worry too much about things like fitness or money. On the fitness point – I did not really train at all except for a single 75 mile training ride in January. I rode my bike to school every day, which cannot be more than a 5 mile round trip. That is it. Look, bike touring is more about mental toughness than anything else. If you actually want to do it, and aren’t the type of person who quits and cries when things are tough, you will ride yourself into shape in no time. And on the money point – bike touring can be as cheap or expensive as you want it to be. Plenty of people out there are touring across America on $5 and $10 a day. Just because I didn’t doesn’t mean it can’t be done. Plenty of people tour on their old mountain bikes with discount panniers.
So many people that I met on the tour looked at me and said that they really wish that they had done that when they were my age, ‘when they could have’. When I asked they why they couldn’t now they would always cite some combination of four things – money, fitness, job, family. I admit that taking two months off to ride 4300 miles isn’t something everyone can do, there is absolutely no reason that anyone cannot take a day off of work and go on a long weekend trip. Hell, just go on a Saturday and hop on your bike and ride the 30 miles to the next town and then ride back. Or ride in something like the Aids Ride in California or RAGBRAI in Iowa. I mean, the opportunities are out there for you to get on your bike and ride. The only reason that you aren’t is because you don’t actually want to. So don’t say that you do.
I will say that just going on a short tour is a life changing experience. From my fully loaded training ride I learned so much that stuck with me, and that was a short 75 miles, and I slept for four hours during that one day trip. If you go on a tour, it will change you.
So is this it for this blog?
I hope not. But for the time being it is. It looks very likely I will return to the 9-5 world for at least a few years, since I have credit cards and student loans to pay off. If you would like a more up to date story on my life, I will make more of an effort to keep kyleaskine.com up to date, but that has always been the redheaded stepchild of my blogs, so I make no promises.
But, in the long run, I think that I will be doing something else deserving of bringing this blog back – I hope so anyway. If you put your email address in the ‘subscribe to liveforthepath by email’ link to the right, you will automatically get notified if I start writing here again, and I promise not to sell your address to scammers or sign you up for the web-herpes. And if you continue to follow me on twitter or facebook I will try to make announcements of note in 140 characters or less though those periodically.
I again want to thank everyone who read the blog, and give special thanks to those who helped out on the trip. I hope you all do something fun from time to time for no other reason than you can, no matter how crazy people tell you it is. To my knowledge, you only live once, so be sure to have a little fun.
August 23, 2009