Today is Friday July 2nd, and my flight leaves at dawn on sunday for San Diego. I'll be on the road in three days, bicycling northeast from sandiego to the grand canyon, then generally north through zion, bryce canyon, arches national park, mount evans, yellowstone, and more.
Too long has passed since any serious bicycle adventure for me, and wanderlust finally intersected with opportunity, so I'm going. If nothing insurmountable interferes, I will spend the next month biking across the country from the southwestern most extremity adjacent mexico, to canada in the north, and then perhaps also to the east.
I'm surprised this trip has taken so long to begin. When I bicycled from North Platte, NE to Portland, OR in August 1995 for my freshman year at Reed College, I described it as the best single month of my life till then. Knowing a good thing, I promised myself to do it at least every other year - some sort of long adventure. But responsibilities added up, comfort spread complacency, and here I find that 15 years has passed, I'm astonished to find myself older than I think, and the country largely undiscovered still.
Why'd I think that trip was the best month of my life till then? My reasons were severalfold, and I'm not sure I could enumerate them all if I tried - here's an attempt, though. Starting college at the end of that tour invested the trip with a lot of meaning, though bicycle touring is much more than mere conveyance. Moving at a human pace by bicycle allows making concrete associations and multisensory memories to associate with what were for me and perhaps are for many, very shallow ideas or awarenesses of the country (couched in terms of 2-D map images, vague senses of distance, and recollections of state and landmark trivia). How does it smell? What are the people like? what are the distances, measured not in gaspedal-hours looking bored through a windshield, but in sweat-days?
I remember well how nebraska smells of cows, corn, hay, dirt, and sun; how a tailwind blew us for an hour at 35mph, that superb three-entree (probably 4000 calorie) breakfast overlooking the spectacular hell's halfacre, the sunset over hell's canyon idaho, the generosity of the anderson's, the exhilaration of silence and speed with only the sound of a well lubricated chain spinning and the wind in my ears, the pleasure of the cold KOA pool in Casper WY when we biked through 110F temperatures in the shade, the superlative bliss of my first hostel bed after a week with only a thermarest, the cool wind misted by giant irrigation sprayers in wyoming, and more.
It was also a joy to have the physiological rewards of regular physical exertion: a ridiculously attuned appreciation of food, sleep, breath. Waking with the sun and sleeping soon after it becomes dark also impose an integrity to experience. The arbitrary convenience of electric lighting breaks this cycle too conveniently, but living on a real circadian rhythm for a while feels satisfying and quite natural.
Anyway, Its exciting to be off again, this time solo (although my new friend and fellow cyclist Lydia may join at some point along the way). The goal is tentatively to go from san diego northeast throught he anzo borrego wilderness to the salton sea, and thence through the mojave to the grand canyon. from there, hike for a few days perhaps, and then head north to bryce canyon. After that, the highest paved road in the USA, the 14000 foot mount evans just west of denver, and perhaps north from there to yellowstone, and glacier national park.