Sunday, June 16, 2019

LBL

 It turns out that I am not good at posting consistently.  I do my share of personal writing, so sometimes I run out of writing juice.  But, as I watched from my campsite in Land Between the Lakes in Tennessee, holy hell, did my neighbors give me plenty to write about.     
 Night 1-Gaitlin Point  
    There was a group of young bucks next to me.  When they pulled up, I knew I picked the wrong spot because one of the women got out and told her boyfriend , in her best inside voice, to “shut the fuck up.”   
  At one point, I watched the birthday boy pull out a hatchet from the back of his lifted Chevy and take down a 15’ tree with green leaves on it.  For desired effect, he needed to remove his shirt for it and show off all of his tattoos—which looked more like a series of badly coordinated stamps that a first grade teacher would use.  The poor tree was green as a tree could get but, bless its heart, its life was over. He spent the next thirty minutes stripping the branches off and separating the leaves from the trunk.  
  Once Prometheus stripped everything down to his liking, he pulled out his flint and started striking it to the light fire.  Now, I will admit I was hard on the boy and doubted his ability to get this to work.  Mostly because I just saw him cut down a live tree for firewood, so my confidence in his ability to gather kindle and tinder were overwhelmingly low, but, after five minutes, he had a small fire going.  
   See you’re just being an ass.  
   And just when I completed that thought he dumped an arm’s full of green leaves on to the fire.  
   No, you were right.  I apologize.   
   I am still trying to sort out which is more shocking: the act of dumping green leaves onto the fire or the fact that he was surprised when the fire went out.  
   His buddy asked if he could give it a shot.  
   For those of you who don’t know, these are the worst words you could hear when trying to build a fire as a man.  I am speaking from experience.  Especially, if you know that person can build it better than you.  I once (read: recently) spent an entire summer practicing building fires because I was so inconsistent at it that I couldn’t stand the “can I try” moment.  
   His buddy moves some stuff around.  Everyone has their own style. He removed the cigarette from his mouth and kissed some kindling with it.  Boom, the fire takes off!  Well done.  Unfortunately, Prometheus came charging over to help his friend out with another wet blanket of green leaves.  Oh, no—it went out, again! Who knew?
  They spent their night next to a smoldering smoke pot.  To get the right effect though, one of the boys placed his headlamp at his feet pointed up.   
  
Night 2-Sugar Bay
   First off, what a great name.  I can just hear a sweet woman with a southern sway suggesting it for a late night swim surrounded by cicaidas and stars.
  Reality sets in and it’s not a sweet southern woman sauntering through the campsite but more young bucks, military type, grunting and telling everyone that they’re “C-I-D, Baby!”
   Thrilling.
   So, to save me the time and effort basically take the story from above but instead of building a fire they’re trying to pick up women.
  After a leisurely swim, I watched the sunset for a bit and decided to set up my tent.  As far as I could tell, my spot wasn’t an actual site but someone built a fire there before and it was surrounded by two converging creeks which were filled with a variety of frogs.  It was also a popular spot for the local skunks, which I found out when I woke up from a terrifying and random dream that I got sprayed by a skunk.  This dream recurred several times throughout the night and every time I would wake up to the indescribable rankness of a lone striped night stalker.  
   In the morning though, the smell was so strong I was convinced that the dream was real and I did get sprayed by a skunk.  I laughed at my bad luck (for the record: getting sprayed by a skunk is beyond “bad luck”) and hoped that I was wrong.  I decided the surefire way to know would be to take another dip in the lake, so I did.  No funk.  No skunk (spray).  
   
   

Monday, June 3, 2019

Asheville, NC

Things I learned from Asheville:
  I don’t think anyone is actually from Asheville.  Now, I realize that someone has to be from Asheville, but I didn’t meet a single local while I was there.  Most people I met had been living in Asheville somewhere between three and five years.   Even more fascinating is that no one seems to come for the same thing.  I met a woman who had been living in the Virgin Islands for the last ten years and came to Asheville for a change of scenery. Another person told me that the mountains have a unique energy about them and he felt drawn to it.  The woman that hosted me recently retired and wanted to escape the frenzy that is Atlanta.  Two different homosexual couples came for the openness.  This likely explains its eclectic population.  
   
   Asheville is an open community.  Year’s ago I met a guy unicycling across the country—yup.  The woman I was dating at the time and I hosted him for an evening.  He was a fascinating soul with a creative intensity about him that I don’t doubt will push him far in life.  Even though it’s been years since Cary and I have spoken he connected me with his friends in Asheville.  They were fun, crazy, and all about showing me the best parts of Asheville.  With knowing so little about me, they invited me into their fold and for a brief moment we were family—even took a picture together!  Thank y’all for that!  Which leads me to the next bullet...

   Bike touring and socializing don’t always mix.  When I ride, I tend to go to the parts of my soul that I’m not afforded the luxury to go on a regular basis.  The extended hours in the saddle make it difficult for today’s luxuries to distract me from a thought or a sinking feeling.  That’s why this trip felt so necessary after closing out my military career—there was so much to explore and heal from.
  When I got off the bike in Asheville, I was in mid thought and was unable to pull myself back to the real world.  I struggled to be social with most folks that I came across, not because they weren’t fascinating but because I was stuck in my head.  That’s something that I will have to continue to work on as I make way cross country: giving myself the time I need and not rushing to get to the next moment.  
    

Friday, May 24, 2019

Forced Rest

   The temperatures are on the rise, which means I need to start getting my ass in the saddle earlier to avoid the sun’s full fury.  I made a solid try to be on the road early this morning, but once there nothing was going my way.
   About three miles out of Danville, Va, I got my first flat on a long and steady incline.  I wasn’t too pleased but flat tires are bound to happen!  It’s never fun to have to stop on a hill but it pales in comparison to fixing a flat alongside a busy road.  I got to do both in one sitting. Yaaay. I added to the problem when I forgot to disconnect my dynamo connector before removing the wheel, which stripped a bunch of wiring.  Just for the record, I was mad at that point.  Easy fix. Don’t care.
   I thought about turning around right then and there.  I had a funny feeling about riding on what I wanted to be a rest day, but pushed forward anyway.  I really should know better by now.
   A few miles later, I got another flat, and then another.  All of which could have been avoided if I would have noticed that I never put rim tape on my new rim after I had the dynamo installed.  I was so busy with the big stuff (closing out my Navy career, moving, visiting friends and family, coordinating with Project Hero) that I never noticed the wheel was missing rim tape until flat number five on this trip.
   So, six miles into my day I used all of my back up tubes and the closest bike shop was back the way I came.  In fact, I wouldn’t see another bike shop for about two or three days with my current route and, at my current rate, I would need at least twenty-fives tubes to get there, so I turned around.
  Once back in Danville, I met up with Rob Collie at the local bike shop.  That dude is awesome and you don’t even need to talk to him to figure it out.  Just go into his shop and see the amount of people that are just hanging out with him.  It’s like a local biking watering hole with a wide variety of riders.  I met Chris, who is just starting out; Joe, who probably has some great stories; two Allens (one is “Fast Allen” and the other is “Slow Allen” but they both told me that they were the slow one); a sweet woman named Jessie; a very chatty old man who while riding his bike saw a bear recently; and Alex who is doing a downhill race this weekend on a sweet new set up (Good Luck, bro!).
   As I was leaving his shop to find a place to stay for the night, I told Rob that he needed to get more space and open a bar in his bike shop, but I am afraid if he did that then he wouldn’t ever get any work done!  Thanks for all of your hospitality and support, man.  Maybe one day we can pedal together! 

Sunday, May 19, 2019

People Along the Way

   Sometimes, I wonder if I actually like traveling.  At this point, I have been all over the world and if I’m truly honest the logistics can be tedious, long hot days in the saddle can be exhausting, and finding a place to sleep can be stressful.  I also tend to travel solo a lot which can be painfully lonely at times.  These elements are almost never portrayed in social media or blogs because it’s not glamorous, but it’s important that they’re both given their space in this blog.  They will show their faces again, I’m sure of it.
   Today was my rest day and I was reminded that it doesn’t matter if I like traveling or not, because I love the people I meet.  My new friends, David and Joanne, hosted me and my friend the last two nights.  After yesterday’s heat, I didn’t have the energy to be social but today we spent a large part of the evening together.  We chatted about books, bikes, politics, and neutron stars colliding (nerds!).  
   David, supported by Joanne and their daughter, biked across the country a few years back, and  Joanne, well shit, I think she’s done just about everything there is to do.  Both of them have lived their lives to the fullest and, because of it, are fascinating to be around.  Between the two of them, their doesn’t seem to be a problem they can’t solve.  David bragged about Joanne’s tiling job in the dining room after entertaining us on the back porch he built.  They have lived in their home for the last 35 years and when you enter it you feel the love and the vigor they have put into every inch of it.  Thank you both for being so kind and generous during our stay. Much love.
David and Joanne
Charlottesville, VA

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Low Mileage

Ego is a funny thing.  I have struggled with mine for all of my adult life.  Often times, ego prevailed and I suffered as a result.  Since I began bike touring in 2015, my ego has come along on every trip.  It always tells me I need to pedal harder or get a few more miles in.  On my first tour from Monterey to San Diego, CA, I ended up doing almost five 100 mile days in a row.  By the end of it my legs were angrier than a Baldwin being asked to shut down candy crush before take off.  This trip is proving to be no different.
     Since I moved to DC, I haven’t really been pedaling at all, so now that I am back in the saddle my powerful biking legs are no where to be found, and one of those “powerful biking legs” has not adjusted well.  It’s been cramping the whole time.  I have been taking long breaks every hour or so to let it rest and stretch it out, it seems to be working, but the progress is slow and I am more uncomfortable than I would like.  Even with that discomfort, Ego is drafting behind me.  It tells me I need to go faster and that it isn’t pleased with the low mileage days.  This battle will continue throughout the ride.  
   In the mean time, I will just do my best to enjoy the hot tubs and ice packs along the way.

Warrenton, VA

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Slow Beginnings

   Well, today was supposed to be the big day, but yesterday I found myself running around DC trying to get last minute things taken care of at an obnoxious rate.  Whether it was picking up small items at the store or visiting friends and family, I felt overwhelmingly stressed and rushed.  It certainly didn’t help that a large weather system was projected to move through the area over the next two days.
   Don’t get me wrong, I expected some last minute jitters (and crappy weather) but something felt wrong about my final day in DC.
   As I sat and ate lunch with my Dad, I realized that I hadn’t even left yet and was already missing one of the key points of the trip—to relax.  I was leaving on the 12th was because I said so and there was nothing stopping me from changing that date.  So I did.
   The moment I pushed it back I felt a weight lifted from my shoulders... That’s not true at all really.  I still felt a bit stressed, but felt that I gave myself the time I needed to take care of all the small stuff before I rolled out.