Monday, March 9, 2009

I realize that I promised the complete trip diary several months ago; and although I expect absolutely no one to read this post now, here it is nonetheless:

Day 1 - Nick and I woke up about 6:45 AM and proceeded to pack up our belongings. It was my first time riding a loaded bike ever and so, after taking a few pictures of the scenic beach at Currituck, we rode precariously out of the campsite. The ground was still wet from the previous night's rain and since I was without fenders, within a few minutes my legs were already speckled brown from all the kicked up mud specks. Nevertheless, it felt great to be on a bike again and the two of us felt as though we were unstoppable.

About fifteen miles in, however, my front tire (not even my back one!) fell victim to a shard of glass in the road. After spending about fifteen minutes cursing, we were riding once again. After another five miles, a headwind slowly started to develop; and as Nick and I were both out of shape, we struggled to go 9 miles per hour. Suddenly aware of how dubious an 85 mile day was, Nick and I rode on, frustrated and worried. To sum the day's events, we rode through the Great Dismal Swamp, past Elizabeth City and eventually set up in a side field off the bike route. We had only done 60 miles.

Day 2 - We woke up in a puddle. Somehow (for the life of me, I can't figure it out) the water from the night's downpour seeped through the floor of our seemingly "waterproof tent." Now, I hate the rain more than anything. My friend Alex says that wind is worse; but, for me, nothing feels worse than being wet, especially when it takes forever to get dry. Frustrated once again, Nick and I passed through Gatesville, and eventually made our way into Murfreesboro where I met up with my friend Thomas. He kindly offered us asylum for a few hours which we spent gorging ourselves on his mother's wonderful cooking and laying our sleeping bags and tent out to dry. By this time the sun was shining brightly and, after a quick shower (we were filthy the entire time, really), we were off again. We passed through myriad cotton fields and saw our first hills, however small they were. 

The roads were surrounded by verdant green fields and, although we almost passed into Virginia several times, we finally made it into Gaston, where we set up camp behind a high school. Hungry for more hot food, Nick and I rode into town and, consistent to our gluttonous natures, we ordered chili cheese fries smothered with bacon bits and four footlong subs. Let's just say that we had to open the vestibule that night.

Day 3 - After eating breakfast at Hardee's and grabbing some power snacks from Piggly Wiggly, we started riding towards Gaston Lake. As the terrain began to change we knew that we were leaving the coastal region and entering the Piedmont. Finally, we had to stand up to climb some hills and finally, we had the opportunity to kick it in the highest gear, speeding down descents long enough for us to remember that biking didn't suck completely. We took a break at Gaston Lake, where Nick said, "North Carolina is a pretty cool place." For some reason I suddenly felt all fuzzy inside and I was happy to finally be exploring the state that I had, for so long, known and yet not known.

Near Vaughn, North Carolina we got a little off from the bike route; thankfully, however, a nice man (I divined his accent to be one of Caribbean origin) put us back on track and after just a little more riding, we were on our way again. Some of you may know this about me: my mood is completely situational-dependent. Since the sun was shining and we were going fast, you might guess that I couldn't have been happier. For the last bit of the ride I felt as though I was in Wisconsin, riding at the top of a large and ever-reaching plateau.

As the sun began to set, Nick and I started looking for side fields to camp in. We ended up knocking on an old lady's door just to ask her if we could stay in her front yard. I can only imagine what fools we must have looked like - young boys with shaggy, unkempt hair, wearing tight shorts and riding bikes with 50 pounds of gear strapped on the back. Still though, she kindly acquiesced and Nick and I spent the rest of the night discussing Asperger's Syndrome.

Day 4 - Unbeknowst to both of us, this would be our last day of riding. Nick's ankle began to twerk and since I wanted him alive for the sacrifice (just kidding), we ended up turning south in Stovall. After passing through the beautiful small town of Oxford, we sped through Creedmoore and onto the Jefferson Davis Highway. After passing through farmland familiar to me (I trained for the Big Ride out here), we made it into Wake Country. Shortly thereafter, we were within Raleigh city limits and ultimately back at my house in good 'ole North Raleigh.

Total Count: 260 miles, 4 nights, 4 days

Riding a loaded touring bike is something everyone should experience. The ability to move over 100 miles in a day and at a slow enough pace to enjoy the surrounding scenery is a profound, moving and unique experience. Completely self sufficient, the bicycle tourist is the perfect vagabond. Seriously, go out and do it, you'll love it. 

Oh, and do it in North Carolina, the best damn state in the entire Union. I've never encountered more friendly and helpful people in the entire world. Although we didn't make it all the way west to Piney Creek, it was beautiful nonetheless. Next time I tour North Carolina I'll make it all the way to the mountains and then I'll have even more to brag about. So until then, check back - I might have some more interesting weekend trips to write about.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Here It Goes Again!

Well folks, thanks for being so patient. After a several month long hiatus here I am ready to wander once again.

Tomorrow, Nick will be driving down from the wonderful city of Catonsville, Maryland early early in the morning. After making sure that we are properly geared and that our bikes roll well, my parents (God bless them) will drive us to Currituck, North Carolina from which Nick and I will begin our week-long wayfaring adventure. We will be riding the North Carolina/Virginia border as far as it stays straight, ending in Piney Creek, North Carolina after a beautiful 400 miles. Copied from the great North Carolina Department of Transportation website: "You'll be able to explore areas such as Stone Mountain, Pilot Mountain and Hanging Rock State Parks, Hyco Reservoir, Kerr Lake and Lake Gaston Recreation Areas, Merchants Millpond State Park, and the Dismal Swamp and Currituck Sound areas."

I am hesitant to say that I will have internet access, or even indoor shelter for that matter. Thus, please do not expect daily updates from me. I will carry a journal along with a camera and, upon arriving back home, I will post these entries complete with pictures in quick succession.

Have a great New Year's everyone!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Chapel Hill, North Carolina

So my ride across the United States is complete; and yet, I am left unfufilled. While the ride was absolutely incredible, it instilled in me a newlyfound desire to see the world by bicycle. It seems to me that my glass will be perpetually half full.

I have resigned my self to a life of continuous travel and exploration. And I have decided that the only way to travel is by biking, whereby I become part of the scenery. The purpose of this blog here on is to document my travels as I see more and more of the world, inch by inch and mile by mile.

Later this month, my friend and fellow Big Rider, Rosie Browne, is going to send me her old Trek 520 made in the late 80s. This will become my treasured bicycle and faithful steed.

Already there are plans to ride to Wilmington, North Carolina in late October and then to bike from the Outer Banks of North Carolina to Asheville in December. Eventually, I will take on larger projects such as biking Taiwan and perhaps even crossing Europe. 

Posts will be sporadic, so do not expect anything regular. But please, do check in every now and then to follow my nomadic adventures. I promise pretty pictures and interesting anecdotes from what hopefully becomes a world wide trek.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Raleigh, North Carolina - Done

Day 47 - Since the day's ride was fairly short, we got to sleep in a little and leave a little later. The ride took a big group of us through Frederick, Maryland which has a beautiful historic district. After passing through and getting a quick lunch it was not that much farther to Clarksburg, Maryland where we set up camp for the night. Riding through Maryland offered some very nice rolling hills and wide open fields. For being such a small state, Maryland is incredibly diverse.

Dinner at camp that night was a little quiet. There was a general bittersweet vibe running through the entire group. I suspect that everyone was a little torn between having to leave such an incredible experience on one hand but also the feeling of relief on the other hand.

Most of us cleaned our bikes up that night as to look presentable for the ride into DC the next day and afterwards, around a big camp fire, a bunch of us stayed awake being loud and obnoxious and laughing at each other for the last night.

Day 48 - It was a strange feeling to pack up my tent for the last time. After a quick breakfast, a large group of us rode out together through the beautiful Maryland rolling hills. We were shaded by trees on both sides and big fields beyond them. I once again found myself riding with Noah and we rode in silence to our first rest stop.

After regrouping Noah and I set out for DC with a bunch of other riders. We rode through the busy streets and highways on the outskirts before finally getting on a very crowded path that took us right alongside the Potomac River before spitting us out just a little ways from the finish line near the Lincoln Memorial.

After getting lunch from the Greek restaurant of a past big rider, Ed, Austin, Greg, Chad, Noah, Simon, Catie, Rachel, Letty, and I rode together towards the finish line at the intersection of 23 and Constitution to conclude the 2008 Big Ride Across America.

The experience was all together too much fun and too incredible for me to be happy that it is done. I have learned so many things about myself and while I do not think that I will behave any differently, I definitely think much differently.

To all those that sponsored me, thank you for your financial backing.
To my fellow big riders, thank you for the good times.
To friends and family, thank you for your support.

Thanks for reading and I hope that you all enjoyed it.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania - Day 46

Day 41 - After waking up late and hastily packing all my wet things I left with Reuben, Austin and Ed. The first stop was at Kent State University; which, for all you history buffs, was the setting for the Kent State protest shootings in 1970. However, being famously unaware of everything, I knew it as the part-time college of writer and Raleigh native, David Sedaris. The ride was short and relatively flat so most of us got in to our lakeside camp in New Waterford, Ohio with a lot of time to spare.

Day 42 - Today was another short day; however, crossing over into Pennsylvania we began our tour of the Appalachians. Thus, rolling hills turned into mountainous climbs and descents. The upside was that the scenery became much more beautiful and tall trees shaded us from the beating sun. Early on, just after crossing the state line, we passed by a nuclear power plant which was pretty awesome-looking and after a short breakfast stop we kept on going and eventually Ed, Austin, Reuben and I caught up with Chad and Greg and rolled into camp in Washington, Pennsylvania with them.

Instead of taking a shower that night, I opted to jump in the pool and swim around for a little bit with Noah and Simon. As I nonchalantly watched Noah toss in a pair of his freshly-used bike shorts and rinse and wring them out right in the pool, I realized that my mother is probably going to be disgusted by my new standards of hygiene when I get back home. That night, for the first time of the entire trip, we started a fire. Unfortunately, we did not have any s'more material, so shortly after some campfire chatter we dozed off.

Day 43 - Today's ride took us through some beautiful trails and back roads. In the densest part of the woods the canopy above us filtered the bright sun in through the tall trees and made the road speckle and dance with bright lights. Sadly, since there was very little light exposure during this part I was unable to take any clear pictures.

Eventually, we came to a small town and after taking a wrong turn up a monster hill and then back down we met up with the other riders on the Yough River Trail. Although the trail was mainly limestone, the riding was relatively smooth and the lack of traffic was refreshing. After a lunch stop thirty miles from camp, Reuben and I left together and finished out the rest of the day on the trail leading right into Confluence.

Day 44 - Today we had the options of riding along a flat bike trail or climbing Mount Davis, the highest peak in Pennsylvania.

Of course, the people I usually ride with and myself decided to do the climb. It was an incredibly rewarding experience. Still though, it worried me when I had to stand up and put weight forward on my bike for fear of popping a wheelie. The climb was beautiful and the foggy morning was a peaceful contrast to my ready-to-explode heart.

That rest of the day featured a few smaller climbs and rolling hills. We ended up in Bedford at a campground right next to the Cannondale factory. Dinner that night featured hamburgers, turkey burgers, veggie burgers and lots of salad. After a beautiful lakeside dinner a few of us stayed around just chatting and realized that going back to civilization is going to be so strange. I feel as though I have forgotten about nearly all social conventions. Forgive the awkwardness, please.

Day 45 - Our ride leaders described this day as the hardest day on the ride - the "final exam" if you will. The first forty miles featured several big climbs and quick descents. The last sixty miles consisted mainly of rolling hills and one last ridge to climb and descend over before we arrived in Gettysburg.

As per usual, I rode with Ed, Austin and Reuben. However, Patty's friend Chappy joined us today and she told him to ride fast. Being the idiot that I am, I tried to stick with him and thirty miles left to camp I just could not sustain his pace, so I found Chuck and Reuben who hauled me into camp past all the battlefields.

After showering and settling down, a bunch of us went out to dinner in downtown Gettysburg. Afterwards, Simon and I walked through the battlefields checking out the attractions and making our own tour in the extremely creepy nighttime.

Day 46 - Doug, Nick, James, Stephanie, Ed, Austin and I went to town for a spot of breakfast and afterwards Doug, Nick, James and I rode our bikes through the battlefields and stopped every now and then to read the plaques set up where important scrimmages and battles took place.

A dramatic interpretation of the Union destroying the Confederacy
(Note: Doug wearing a Team USA Jersey)

I am only two days away from completion and as I have said before, this trip has been incredible and I do not want it to end. Tomorrow I will end up in Clarksburg, Maryland and the next day I will be in Washington DC. Expect my last update complete with final thoughts sometime after I get back to North Carolina.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Burton, Ohio - Day 40

Day 36 - Our last full riding day in Indiana provided for some nice, long and flat riding. We passed by some very nice sunflower fields and although the day was fairly sweltering the ride was still enjoyable.

We ended up in Kendallville, Indiana that night and the mayor met us that night along with a group of friendly locals who cooked us a hearty portion of hamburgers. The reigning debate at dinner that night was "Would you rather fight an orangutan or a tiger?" After we bickered for about an hour, we decided that the only way to answer the question would be to acquire one of each. Shortly after coming to this conclusion we terminated the argument.

Day 37 - The same locals who catered to us the previous night provided a delicious breakfast of pancakes, sausage and eggs. Apparently they did not realize how much we eat though because one kind sir was sent to buy more eggs for pancake batter. I rode in a large group today and we crossed over into Ohio not too far into the day's ride.

Austin (dangerous...), Rueben, Doug and Chad

We ended up at the local fairgrounds that night in Napoleon, Ohio. After going to the pool and enjoying a beautiful summer day reminiscent to those of my middle school days everyone enjoyed a delicious meal of chicken and vegetable kebabs. Shortly before turning in to bed we also enjoyed a domestic disturbance across the street that involved a police car and bright flashing lights. You have to love small-town Ohio.

Day 38 - I did not feel fast today so I rode by myself. On the other hand, in slowing down I got to enjoy a lot of the beautiful Ohio countryside scenery. So far, I think that Ohio has the best small towns. They all look beautiful with houses similar to those in the Olde Raleigh historic district. That night we stayed at a KOA campground in Sandusky, Ohio and a bunch of people went to the Cedar Point amusement park while those of us who do not enjoy large crowds stayed behind in camp to relax.

Poor bird had a broken wing

Day 39 - Today took us through Cleveland on the way to Burton, Ohio. My sister Carolyn went to Case Western, so when I got to the university I got off my bike and wandered around the campus that I had visited once when I was only ten. Cleveland is a really great city right next to Lake Erie. There are a lot of great places to get lost in downtown and around the university. It is just such a big city that you really could not get bored. There is a small street called Coventry that is very similar to Franklin Street in Chapel Hill: a lot of college students and faculty sitting outside drinking coffee and exploring book shops.

Lake Erie

After leaving Cleveland and its suburbs, there were lots of hills to climb and descend. I feel as though as I approach the East Coast I am seeing more diverse landscapes and more trees. After getting into Burton and settling down Sharon cooked us a delicious meal of curry chicken with rice and naan. Following a short Beatles listening party everyone dozed off quickly while Nick and I dreamed about biking Europe next summer.

Day 40 - After an early wakeup a small group of us went out to breakfast and in exchange for a good bike cleaning Austin paid for my meal of biscuits and gravy, pancakes, eggs, and sausage. I then did some souvenir shopping and then got a haircut at a small barber shop.

Before our next rest day we will leave the state of Ohio and enter Pennsylvania. There are only eight more days left in this trip and already I have begun to dread the end. Expect my penultimate update August 7.

If you want to be there to commiserate/celebrate with me in DC, then plan on being there around noon on August 9. The finish is going to be at the intersection of 23 Street and Constitution Avenue. Give me a call if you plan on it and I can give you an updated ETA the night before.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Valparaiso, Indiana - Day 35

Right now I am actually in Sandusky, Ohio. I meant to provide this post the last rest day, but as I mentioned last post, I went to Chicago to spend time with my sister Alison and as a result, I did not have too much time for the internet. Anyway, on to the good stuff.

Day 28 - After a quick breakfast at the Martin Luther College dining hall, I left by myself. I rode through the streets of New Ulm and left the city. The day was overcast and foggy which made for a nice and cool ride. I went at my own leisurely pace today and took in all of the green that Minnesota had to offer.

The day's ride concluded in Owatonna, Minnesota. A few of Reuben's friends came and brought musical instruments which entertained a few of us for a while. Shortly thereafter, Chad and I paid tribute to the founding fathers of butt-rock (Nickelback and Creed) by singing along to a few of their greater hits. Eventually, a massage train began to form and I found myself trying to crack Patty's back. Apparently, I was pushing too hard though because she farted.

Day 29 - After another simple breakfast of oatmeal, cereal, and bananas, I left on my own again. Eventually though, I caught up with Noah and in passing him, he mistakenly thought that I was challenging his riding. So for the next seven or so miles, we stupidly raced up and down hills and beat our tired bodies up even more. The races concluded at a breakfast stop a few of the riders from last year had set up.

After a bit of more riding Noah and I found ourselves about twenty miles away from camp and completely worn out. Luckily we ran into Chuck who pulled us and a few other riders along all the way into Winona and to Winona State University where we stayed that night. After a short nap and an episode of That 70's Show, I ate dinner and then talked to my friend Travis who actually just finished his own cross country biking excursion. Shortly thereafter, it was time to sleep.

Day 30 - The day was pretty hazy as we crawled out of the Mississippi Valley. About seventeen miles into the ride we met the Meyer Family who provided an incredible breakfast stop complete with home baked goods and freshly brewed coffee. Leaving by myself again I made into the state of Wisconsin, through the city of Lacrosse, and began the climb up to Amish Country.

Wisconsin is an amazing state. The entire state is filled with beautiful rolling hills, wide green fields, plenty of running water, beautiful old farmhouses and trees everywhere. It was everything I expected it to be and more. I only got to see a few Amish people, but they were quite friendly and waved at me even though I was so sweaty and disgusting.

We stayed at the fairgrounds in Viroqua, Wisconsin and since it was Doug's birthday, we all celebrated with some locally brewed beers and lots and lots of delicious chocolate cake. A bunch of us spent a good portion of the night talking about bikes we wanted and such and after an interesting discussion of the group shower social dynamic we all fell asleep.

Day 31 - It was very foggy in the morning which posed for some uncertain riding. However, the sun shone through eventually and we were able to see more of the beautiful Wisconsin landscape. It was an long day scheduled to be about 109 miles, but after getting lost about ten miles outside of Madison we made it even longer of a day. We managed to get back on track however and within a little bit we had made it successfully to our group campsite way outside of Madison.

The campground was amazing. It was completely secluded from everything. We were in between a forest and a crop field and despite the killer mosquitoes we had a fun time.

Day 32 - The day took us into Illinois; however, I managed to get lost somehow. After a while though, I found my way back to the route after a few friendly locals pointed me in the right direction. At the last rest stop, Nick told us that the directions on our cue sheets were wrong, so Noah, Letty, Rachel, Simon and I went into a small town and got some delicious Mexican food.

After a while, we got pointed in the right direction and after making it to camp in Belvidere, Illinois, we all spent time playing basketball, ping-pong, guitar and watching the last little bit of the Tour de France.

Day 33 - I left with Reuben, Ed, and Austin and we cruised along at a decent pace all the way through very pastoral countryside. We passed a lot of cornfields, soybean crops, and farms along with a lot of roadkill and hog farms.

After we arrived at camp in Coal City, Illinois, the four of us went down to the beach on the lake to go swimming and get some food at the concession stands. We had a great dinner catered by some locals which included spaghetti with meat sauce and some of the best garlic bread I have ever had. Afterwards, Austin told us the legendary story of Ed's first marathon he ran. Apparently, he did not train at all for it, but still managed to complete it. Sadly though, he could not walk for a week afterwards. Still though... good man.

Day 34 - I wanted to get into Valparaiso early so I could have more time to spend with my sister in Chicago, so I stayed on Reuben's wheel for most of the ride and he hauled us in to Valparaiso University in good time. We passed into Indiana and I really must say that roads there are pretty awful.

After packing up a backpack with the essentials Joe's friends picked the two of us up and drove us to Chicago, where I met up with Alison. After settling down, we went out to burgers at Kuma's where I ordered the Kuma Burger: a burger topped with bacon and a fried egg. Delicious. I meant to see more of Chicago at nighttime, but after we got back to her apartment, I laid down on the couch and literally passed out.

Day 35 - After a late (8 o' clock) wake up. Alison and I walked to meet her fiancée Geoff for brunch. Alison got a gigantic and delicious German pancake which I ate a good portion of. The night before, Geoff was on call at his hospital at Northwestern and sadly he did not get much sleep. So after breakfast, my sister and I walked around downtown Chicago to do some shopping and sightseeing while he went back to their apartment to sleep.

Before it was time to go back to the Valparaiso, the three of us went to get some incredible Mexican food in Chicago before driving back to Indiana.

Our next rest day is in Burton, Ohio. We get there tomorrow and I promise that I will update on time Friday.