HIGH SPRINGS, Fla. Eight weeks have passed since I began a coast-to-coast bicycle trip across the southern tier of the United States with 15 other cyclists. Our group has ridden more than 3,000 miles, and along the way, we have learned a thing or two.
We have found, for instance, that some of the best bonding happens while doing chores. I was one of three volunteers who drove the support and gear, or sag, vehicle, and as one of our responsibilities, we washed the dishes each night.
During the nightly half-hour of work, I learned what my peers considered their greatest accomplishments. I also heard about their most embarrassing moments. Sure, I sometimes resented the dishes particularly after long days, when the pots were especially crusty or when we had to wash the same pan three times before the chef called it clean.
However, hearing the ladies stories always made me smile. The oldest rider, at age 72, has had plenty of experiences, and I particularly enjoyed her tales of the shenanigans she pulled when she was 19 and of the shenanigans she still pulls today.
Another good one dont follow the leader without checking the directions yourself (especially if theres a tail wind that could become a head wind). My most poignant memory regarding this lesson came while en route to Van Horn, Texas.
I started alone that morning. At some point, I caught up with other cyclists and settled in behind them. The landscape was barren, bland, and truth be told, I was eavesdropping on their conversation to ease my boredom.
We joined up with another group, and as we all came to an intersection, I wondered if we needed to turn. But since 10 people were riding in the same direction, I kept my question to myself. Until six miles had passed, the sag driver was nowhere in sight and I had become rather hungry. I double-checked the cue sheet.
That was our turn way back there. We had been enjoying the hefty wind, pushing us from behind. Our error realized, we now had to bear into it at half the pace we previously held.
Equally important, we have found that even if you dont plan to eat snacks, bring them with you. This means carrying them on your person rather than leaving them in the sag vehicle and expecting to pick them up 20 miles down the road. It also means making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, even if you cannot imagine after two months of peanut butter and jelly eating another one.
Things happen to the sag driver. She may get lost, or stuck in traffic, or need to stay behind to help another cyclist fix a flat tire. There are many reasons the sag driver may end up not being where you expect her.
Or it may just be you who gets lost, and ends up putting in an extra 12 miles without sag support. Extra miles definitely lead to extra appetites, and sometimes, a hankering for peanut butter and jelly.
Said one cyclist: Always be happy with your best effort, even if it falls short of your goals. You may want to be the fastest or ride every single mile or climb a hill without walking. But sometimes, it becomes necessary to set aside that plan and do what makes the most sense.
We had riders who caught a bump up the road with the sag driver because the traffic seemed too dangerous, and riders who suddenly found their knees in too much pain to keep climbing.
We had riders who called it a day early because they werent acclimated to the elevation, the heat, the humidity or because they failed to eat right. That didnt mean they were any less a cyclist. It just meant they were taking care of themselves.
Since this trip began March 3, I have gained more than I can put into words. I crossed eight states, meeting locals along the way and, as the miles passed, became increasingly better friends with my fellow cyclists. Im only able to share so much in this space, but I hope that anyone whos considering bicycling cross country does and that if they do, they consider this advice useful.