At the time of the early bike trips mentioned in the training, I wasn’t planning on taking my bike across the country. I say they are training because it was necessary for me to take these trips in order for me to learn and decide to make this trip. Some people I know have heard about them. I figure I would include them for anyone who would like to see more about the progression and learning I did before the trip. Skippable for many, but perhaps more necessary for some. I would want to read this in someone else’s blog, so that’s my measuring stick for adding this.

Training Day #1 – Philadelphia to West Chester, PA – 45 (ish) miles

Sunday, April 26th, 2009

Yesterday was a big day for me. First mild but longish bike ride ever. First real hills to climb on my bicycle maybe ever. I learned a bunch of things, which made me whiny and annoying to my company (my friend Chris H.), but was a necessity for me. I learned that I never really learned how to shift. I have a 10 speed, which is not the first one I have had, but the first one I have actually needed to change gears in any real way. So I tried playing with the shifters beforehand. I figured something was wrong, but really, it was only that I had little idea what I was doing. It’s all okay, I’m reading a book now, and some blogs, and it seems like there are a bunch more people out there who haven’t learned how to ride a bike past the simple stuff. It feels better knowing I am not the only one.

I also learned that I was probably either sitting wrong on my bike and putting too much pressure on my hands or my saddle position wasn’t right, since my left hand was numb for about a week and a half. One person wrote after three weeks of still experiencing numbness. Bike gloves should help, I’m told.

We wound through back roads and spent a long, gorgeous time on the Schuylkill Bike Trail. The weather was hot and sunny, but bikeable. I didn’t mind the heat so much, it felt good to be doing something productive with the first day of summer (after pretty much skipping spring, of course, since that’s how we roll these days). I had a great deal of stamina until I got to Valley Forge. This is where it got hilly. This is where I really got frustrated not being able to shift gears properly, since I usually had to start out either in a higher gear than I wanted to, or in too low a gear to gain any momentum. I tried everything, but once I was climbing the hill, shifting was next to impossible. Grinding gears was “in”, and I was beat before I got halfway up any hill.

Actually, I still had stamina at this point. But then we took a food break, and that’s when my body figured I was done and prepared for relax mode. I also couldn’t eat much, because it was so hot and food was not appetizing, so I ate a few carrot sticks and an apple. Bad idea. I was starving about two hours later, when food rest was not in the game plan and my energy went to barely anything and a headache began to pound. I tried to tell myself that my body was fine, I had plenty of water and it should just use that as energy, and for some reason, I couldn’t convince myself of the truth in this (sarcasm). The moment I ate my PB & honey sandwich about an hour after that, I was a new woman. I know that I get cramps easily after eating and doing some kind of exercise, so I still have to find a good balance to make sure that doesn’t happen again. I drank a lots of water, and that seemed like a good thing.

We left my house at 1pm and arrive at about 7:15. That’s a long time. I don’t care so much about time it takes to get anywhere, and I don’t really know what people on bike tours average a day (I mean normal bikers, not the hard-core people who are all about speed and such). I have been told 60 miles is about average for an 8-ish hour day, depending on weather and terrain and getting lost, etc. I think that takes me to almost average, then, on my first trip. Who cares. It was a really decent experience, and I can’t wait to do it again. I am going to practice on hills to get my shifting right, cause that nonsense was for the birds. It’s way different trying to practice on the flat treks than when you actually encounter a hill.

That’s enough for now. But I am super glad I did this and even though I have a ways to go understanding more about bikes and how they work and how I can possibly do a bike tour, I feel now like it is possible. I have to also start getting good at directions. Man, this is a lot of work. But worth it, and I want to take the time to learn.

Training Day #2 (first multi-day ride) Philadelphia to Margate Beach, NJ

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

I went to Margate (and Longport) beach in New Jersey this weekend via bicycle. I got lost a whole bunch. I also got pulled over crossing the Ben Franklin Bridge and was slapped with a charge of defiant trespassing and have a court date in Camden in two weeks (ed. note – court changed my charge to Disturbing the Peace in a Quiet Area – on the Ben Franklin Bridge! $230 fine). I was trying to figure out why it was handled this way, but the Port Authority dude who pulled me over was not forthcoming with any real answers to my questions. The fact that I was unaware of the law that says I can’t cross the bridge on a bike had zero baring, and I feel like the guy was really bored and looking for anything to make it less so on this Memorial Day weekend. I also then left my lock in the back of his car (I had to be escorted the rest of the way across – it was really a silly affair), and had to hunt him down. Then I got lost almost immediately. All of this felt like a sign not to go on. I spent longer in Camden then I would ever have wanted.

But I didn’t listen to those signs. I was set on getting this ride in. And I am so glad I did. It was an overall very good experience. I wasn’t able to make the 75 mile trip in one day, as by the time I got on the right track it was 12:30, when I had wanted to be in Jersey by 10 am. Then there were all the other times I got lost and had to backtrack. I had to do that over this one road that was mostly sand, and not fun to ride on. I had to walk some of it, both ways. But never was I upset or thought I was wasting time. I was definitely enjoying myself. Though I did run out of water at one point, and was a little freaked because it was on a road that had no end and nowhere to stop, but then I happened upon a campsite oasis and it was perfect timing.

I knew I was at least 20 miles from my destination at 8, and I didn’t want to be stuck biking and looking for a place to sleep once night fell, so I passed this one spot that called to me. It was private property, woods in someone’s yard that extended pretty far and seemed like a really good bet that I wouldn’t get it trouble. If I did, I was willing to face the consequences. While the whole trip was really good, this was the highlight for me. I had the woods to myself, and once I set up camp and citronella-ed myself to ward of the mosquitoes (already, in May? Too soon if you ask me), I ate falafel chips and read my long distance cycling book (which, for the record, I don’t desire to be a competitive cyclist in that way, but there are plenty of tips that apply to my situation).

I slept to the soft wind and perfect sounds of nature. I only woke once to put on a sweatshirt, but I slept more soundly than I have in a while. I love camping, but there is something very special about camping somewhere no one knows you are. Yes, it was private property, but I was hurting no one, and I was not in a dangerous place where wolves were going to hunt me down, or where hunters will stumble through. Any one of those things can happen, and they do happen, but that isn’t the way I feel about it when I am in the moment. In the moment, that level of comfort I felt was unique and I wouldn’t trade knowing what that feels like. I’d deal with being fined in this situation. When I am camping across the country, I may not feel as safe because I don’t know the local threats. I will ask for permission to sleep in spots where it seems like a better idea. But I don’t think I always will, because that night was perfect because it was a moment that really only belonged to me.

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

I had a slow riding morning, and wasn’t too worried about getting to the shore by a certain time. I ended up walking on Longport beach around noon, and there was hardly anyone on the beach. It was more perfection to assist my already terrific mood. It was a little too cold to get in the water, and once the sun moved it felt like time to go home. I could have biked back and camped again, but I took the bus. I really think it couldn’t have gone better if I tried, despite the setback at the onset. I really feel this trip solidified any doubts I had about my decision, even though my days will not all be filled with such contentment. Moments like this are a guarantee to be woven into my situations, and that’s reason enough for me. I am really getting excited now.

Training Day #3 (first biking there and back trip) Philadelphia to Lum’s Pond, Delaware and back

Saturday and Sunday, June 20-21

This trip I had my first bad experience. Flat tire. In the pouring rain. Nail stuck right through my tube. I two miles south of Wilmington when it happened. I still had about 8 miles to get to Lums from there. Luckily, I was biking there and meeting my friends, who had rented a van to drove down to the same campground. But I really didn’t want to resort to calling them.

I had a repair kit to patch my tube, which even in the rain didn’t take terribly long. But mini pumps don’t work, so I had to walk about a mile with a flat to the nearest gas station to put air into it, and boy, pushing a bike with a complete flat and all that extra weight is horrible. I felt like all the spokes were going to pop out. I got to the gas station and after two tries using the air, and the tire still not inflating all the way, I thought maybe I had another flat but didn’t feel like I could find it by spending a dollar every time I wanted to check, since I thought maybe the air compressor wasn’t working.

Long story short, this took about 2 1/2 hours out of my time to get there by the time I got picked up. See, initially I was going to ride down with my friends in the car because it was going to be so rainy, but then kind of last minute thought no, I need to get used to riding in the rain on long distances, and it gave me a chance to really check out how my gear would handle it. Which I was glad to do, but packed a little hap-hazard. I now know I need to spend as much time as possible making certain I am ready for anything.

I got to the camp, and luckily found a European couple who had a pump. Doh, I didn’t patch the OTHER side of the tube, where the nail also went through. So stupid! When I pulled the nail out earlier, it was bent, so it didn’t even occur to me that it went through the other side because it wasn’t sticking out there. The European biker thought it was pretty funny. He drove by our campsite in the morning to make sure the tire was still okay. How nice.

My tire was fine, but only for a few miles on the way home the next day. Damn, I was headed south instead of north, and I could feel all the stones I was rolling over down a really big hill. I figured slow leak, so instead of riding it flat, I walked it. By then I easily saw I was going south, how dumb, and started walking north. My camping group had already left, but they were still in DE eating at a diner, so I could call them, but again I wanted that to be the last resort. Septa doesn’t run on Sundays, and the nearest greyhound was in Wilmington. I just started walking and hoped I would come up with a solution. I wasn’t even too worried, for some reason.

The solution found me. Another set of really helpful people stopped, Frank and Nancy, and they had just been biking in Clay’s Creek (I think) and the guy happened to be an active member of the Delaware Bicycle Coalition. I am so glad I went South by accident! They even waited for me at the top of a HUGE hill bridge that I was pushing my bike up. Frank was happy to help (gave me a spare tube – my size, a presta valve but whatever!), and is really rooting for me on my cross-country trip. Because of these kind souls, I got to bike all the way home, happy as could be. I will never again assume that I can just patch any tube, and always have a few spares with me. So much for thinking I can beat the system. Thank you SOOOO much, Frank and Nancy! I recommend biking in DE to anyone!

Training Series of Days (4th trip out – watch out, this is a long-winded one!) Philadelphia to Dalton, PA and back

July 4th weekend, I ended up going to Dalton, PA, where I grew up. It’s about 130 miles from Philly to Dalton, so it was a 260 mile round trip. I had 4 days to do it. Technically, it should have taken me 5 days – 3 up, 2 back. But I only know that in hindsight.

Day 1: Friday, July 3 – left much later than anticipated. I waited to tune up the morning of, but didn’t allot enough time. Left at 11:30 am. Biked for about 8 hours, only made it 55 miles. It was very discouraging. I didn’t really think it would take me that long, since it was a beautiful day and I had not really gotten lost, except for once (when I mis-read my directions and ended up going in a circle).

Went up via Bethlehem Pike, which runs into 309 at times. Apparently, 309 turns into a limited access road, which I missed signs for, and it was just as unpleasant to ride on as the rest of the Pike, so I didn’t notice. So wouldn’t you know I get pulled over. I really wasn’t concerned. I figure there’s no way I will get in the same kind of trouble up here – Camden is way stupider than PA, right? Right. The cop hems and haws about what to do, what to do. I say I didn’t know I got off Bethlehem Pike, and if I could cross through the woods to get back to it that’s what I would do. Plus, he asked to see my license, which I in all honesty did not have. I can’t get in trouble now! Pretty much true. That’s when he was like, fine, cross through the woods. So he followed me to a spot where there was no fence that he knew about (he must have to do this a lot), and then watch me awkwardly pull my bike through a thicket. He eventually came out to help me pull it all the way through, since I was mega stuck. Silly cop. He was nice enough, and I gave him zero trouble, and my story held up, so he drove off and I finally sighed. Damn it if I keep doing this stuff. I considered giving this cop my alter identity when he asked for my name and DOB, but then maybe my karma will backfire on me.

At around 7:30 I called it a day. I backtracked to an area I had thought looked really nice, but really once I got behind the stream, it was all uphill. This was in Bethlehem, PA. I couldn’t sleep there, so I ended up settling for a spot on the other side of the road. I figured this was a pretty safe spot and I didn’t want to go searching for another, potentially less favorable place to sleep. So I set up camp and made that my home for the night. I was too close to the road, which was pretty quiet while I was riding, but once it got dark there was a surge in traffic. Not a pleasant night of sleep. I also had to set me tent up on a slant, so I woke up to adjust my position a lot. I tried to cook with my stove, but decided against it because I was not really secluded enough and it was also getting pretty dark – no fumbling with fire in the near dark is a pretty good rule to follow.

Day 2 – Saturday July 4th: I was up by 5:30 and riding by 7:30, after thoroughly picking slugs off of my tent and bike. Those little things are harmless and cute enough, but they leave a slime behind that does not wash off. I won’t ever leave my shoes outside my tent again.

I figured I would be able to make it to my destination with 12 hours of riding, making up for lost time the previous day. Not so. By about 3 pm, I was getting cranky for the first time since I started biking longer distances. I never even got frustrated with all the flat tire Delaware nonsense. I was going up never-ending hills, and my shifters were not functioning very well, so I could not shift into the lowest gear. Climbing the Pocono Mountains in the middle gear is the pits. I thought about a dozen times about turning around. I thought about how I could be home by the following night. But instead, I kept chugging along, taking frequent rests. I was only in a hurry so I could spend a little time with my friends before I had to go back home.

Around 5:50 I was still in the f-ing Poconos. At this point I looked at my map. I was almost out of them – and only had 40 miles to go. Hurray!. I knew I could get to Tobyhanna in an hour, which would leave me with 30 miles to go. But I figured rather than be miserable and not get in until 9 or ten at night, depending on what those last miles had in store for me, I called my brother. “Hey,. Mike – you in town? Hey, wanna drive to Tobyhanna to pick me up?” So in an hour, my brother came to pick me up. On the way up, right through the actual town of the Poconos, I stopped at a tourist shop that sold cool fireworks as payment to my brother for being such a stand-up guy. I forget what they call those stores that have all sorts of touristy junk and guns and ammo to boot, but I love them for the length of time that I am in them, then I’m hit with a burning need to leave. The shelves and bins were crammed with clothes, knives, guns, toys, candy. I overheard the saleswoman, who looked like the Mamma Fratellii from the Goonies, say, “Yeah, we got the good stuff, but only if you can show me an out of state license.” Awesome.

My brother took me to my parents house (they were away), and I took the greatest shower of my life. My butt was so sore! But I felt like a million bucks after I put on this cooling gel stuff. I tweaked my directions, played with my brother’s new puppy, then he drove me to my friends house, the Holgate family, where I ate my weight in Manning’s Farm ice cream (maple walnut), waiting for me in their freezer. It’s the local ice cream where I grew up. I got there about 8:30.

I socialized and fell asleep watching a DVD of Smallville, maybe sometime around midnight. I’m surprised I stayed awake that long.

Day 3 – Sunday, July 5th: Up at 7 to the sounds of daddy Holgate playing guitar. He plays every morning, and I have spent many an night on their couch with his classical guitar as my alarm. I didn’t even bother to set my alarm, as I knew this would be the case.

Ate a banana. Talked to some people. Kept reminding the fam I had to leave by no later than 10. Kept reminding myself. By ten, I was drinking really good tea and eating eggs that my friend Sarah seemed to think were the best culinary masterpiece she ever made. I’m a cooking good luck charm. It was delicious. I was still revising my cue sheets, so I was trying to do that while not ignoring people, which was hard.

Okay, all packed up by 11 am. Ready to go. Outside, I did a tune-up on my bike. That back tire was still looking low, so I took out my mini pump to give it some oomph. But, presta valve attachment was not cooperating. Oh well, I take it out and replace it with my shrader, which is what I’m used to anyway. Presta was a gift from Delaware angel man (see training #3). Okay, 11:30. Guys, I really have to go. There was another half hour of ooo-ing and ahhing of my tales, and then I was finally on the road by noon. I can’t say I was upset, because these guys are great and I wish I could take them with me wherever I go.

By 1:30 I was on my way out of Scranton, but I didn’t realize just how unbelievably steep the climb out would be. I was almost going straight up, and none of the roads were marked, so I walked up and down these crazy hills that were at an 80 degree angle trying to get out. This took a really long time. I think it covered one mile this way and it took me an hour. Plus, I stopped to eat  snack at a crazy stupid spot, when around the corner was beautiful Lake Scranton. I almost always choose the wrong places to take eating rests, and this was a time I really was kicking myself. I have never been there, and it was super pretty. I stopped to check it out anyway.

I was on the Scranton Pocono Highway for maybe 2 and a half hours. God forsaken land. The whole ride up it was a metaphor. It started out for the first hour being what I lovingly called Armageddon. The shoulder was cracked and broken in desolate patches and it was a pain to climb up. I was sure I was going to hurt myself. I had to get off the shoulder onto the highway on occation, or walk.

The next hour was a little better. Road was still all cracked, but the cracks were not separated quite as much and there was grass growing. Like pangea in reverse. The last stretch was beautiful. The road less traveled turned out to be a sweet place to ride, and it helped that it was scenic and also downhill.

By 4 pm, I took a half hour rest, guiltily (the line for the bathroom at the burger king was crazy long). This guilt was exacerbated by the fact that the next road I was supposed to take did not exist. My GPS was totally useless, almost all the time, since all it wants to do is take me on the illegal highway. No, GPS, no! I asked for directions from a confident police officer, who was very wrong. I asked directions from a less-confident young woman, who turned out to be right, but I did not exactly believe her since I had to go North in order to go South. And told me she wasn’t really sure, either. But that road was one of the most truly beautiful roads I have ever ridden on, and even though it was now 6 and I was not even to Tobyhanna (which is where my brother had picked me up the previous day), I was fine. I said, well, I will just have to call out of work and take an extra day to return, and that’s not the end of the world.

8 pm- about to enter a stretch of highway without a definite place to stop. I pull over into an abandoned lot on the side of the road, and check it out for scamping possibility. Oh, joy. Tucked far off the road in a well-covered forest, a circle of ferns around a patch of moss illuminated with sunlight, and no word of lie, butterflies (and moths) fluttering in the dusky light. It was like a Disney movie without annoying quips from chipmunks. This is absolutely where I was staying. Quiet, peaceful, and only 3 or 4 slugs shared my spot. I only saw one mosquito. I got great sleep here after eating a really great supper of spaghetti. So glad I was running so late just for this perfect place to sleep. This was outside of Pocono Mountains.

Day 4 – Monday, July 6: On the road by 8 am. I got lost almost right away. Made a decision to follow a road that would at least put me where I needed to be later. The whole time I was pretty sure I would have to come back this way, and it was pretty nerve-wracking on that highway. I was hoping to get stopped by a cop so he could tell me whether I was wasting my time. But it turned out to be exactly right, and the shoulder widened up for a good long while.

Made amazing time through all the towns I had to bloody crawl up on the way north. I was sailing, and damn it if my handlebar bag didn’t pop off every time I hit a bump going that fast. Not getting a good review from me on Got through 30 miles in 2 hours. Pretty much a smile on my face the whole time. Nothing too eventful.

This is a good time to talk about all the roadkill. Now, I talked to my friend Sarah about 1:30 on Saturday, the day I ended up visiting her, and she asked about it, and I told her how surprised I was that there was hardly any. Well, almost the whole rest of the way there and back there were large amounts. There was even a pig, or maybe a skinned dog, I didn’t pause to figure out which. But what really shocked me were all the skeletons I saw with fur wisping from their skulls. In towns! How long does it take for a carcass to decompose? I come from a pretty hick place, and there was always roadkill (hence my friend asking me the status), but not skeletons. They get cleaned up before it gets to that stage by the gaming commission or something. What’s up with that?

Anyway, back to the story. So, I guess it was 2 by the time I got into Bethlehem. I was stopped for food shoveling and a biker pulled up beside me on the sidewalk. “Are you a real bicycle tourist?” he asks me, and I am almost positive I laughed when he said this. He was my dad’s age and just put me on par with leprechauns. His name, as it turned out, was John Smith, and teaches high school history, and rode with me for about 10 miles.

At first, I was annoyed because he was taking me on roads that weren’t on course, and he assured me he knew how to get me back on course. He was good people, training for the Finger Lakes tour (assisted ride), and toured in the 70’s from Oregon to I think Florida, so he got cool points for that. I had to stop for a bit to call work and talk to my boss, and he patiently waited, so he got more cool points for that, and he got extra double triple points for splitting an orange Gatorade with me, which we had a discussion about prior to that, and we both agreed it was the only flavor that we could tolerate. Even though he knocked Philly a bunch, and basically called me retarded for not having toe clips (which I am used to and have accepted that no one will respect me because I don’t want them), I was glad to have his company.

John Smith and I parted ways after Quakertown, and then I got silly lost again. Silly because I was absolutely headed in the right direction and knew it, but decided to trust my incorrect directions. I don’t know how I messed that part up. But I figured out how to get back on course. Know what else sucks about directions? The roads on my map sometimes have names like “T437” but have real names like “Apple Lane” in real life. What the hell? This does not help my already problematic direction following skills. This trip was the first time I had to deal with that.

Anyway, smooth sailing after that. Bethlehem Pike was mostly downhill for 20ish miles. I was near the end of it, where I started from Philly, by about 7pm. I saw a sign that said “Philadelphia, this way,” and with excitement followed. Um, then terror. This is an on ramp, and it’s only wide enough for a car to go up! And it’s all uphill! The line of cars behind me were patient, not one of them honked. I got to the top and jumped over the concrete divider where there was a construction zone.

That’s where I got a flat tire. That’s where my journey pretty much got me more and more irritated. I was so close to making it home before dark, and then after much fighting with my pump to use the presta tube (I ran out of patches), my phone had only enough battery power to maybe make one call. I was all set to call Chris Harne (my bike go-to guy) and pray he was available to pick me up in his van, when a dude rolled by on his bike. Mike. He uses the presta attachment on mini pumps! So, he helps me pump up my tire, which won’t go above 40 ppsi, which is super annoying but I know I can at least make it home if I ride real slow. It was 8 by this point, and Mike gave me the wrong directions back. I have a bike map which goes into Montgomery County, where I was, but I was having a lot of trouble figuring out where I was in relation to all these roads. I went north, I went west, but couldn’t seem to go southeast. I was in Upper Merion, if that means anything to you. It didn’t to me. Eventually, I found a Wawa and got put on the straight and narrow. It was dark at this time, and my headlight wouldn’t shine through my handlebar bag (duh). No street lights up there. I was absolutely determined to get home, so I rode in basically the dark.

Yay, Stenton Ave. I know you. Yay, Broad Street – I don’t even care that it is super North Broad Street, the most depressing place in the USA (for sure), I will ride you home and pretend I don’t hear people screaming expletives at each other across the street, from cars, on phones, as a function of singing along with the song on their ipods. And that I was back to trying my best to avoid all the bloody glass scattered absolutely everywhere. Okay, I cared a little, and it made me miss those pretty back country roads immediately. But I had been on my bike at this point for nearly 15 hours, and crankiness was inevitable.

I walked in the door at 11:30 pm. 15 and a half hours of riding. I took a shower, ate a bunch of popcorn, and drank a delicious cherry flavored Samual Smith beer (it’s organic!) and slept slept slept.

This route is essentially the one I will take when I leave for my real trip, from Dalton to Philly, so I think it will go smoother when that time comes. Even though there is a lot of complaining in everything above, man this was a good trip. I saw all sorts of really beautiful things. I have new muscles I definitely did not have last week. I also think I am a little cool for making it and only cheating once. My hill climbing improved. I probably won’t need to ever spend that long on a bike on my trip, since my days will not be so rushed, and I am grateful for that, but now I know I can do it if need be. I wasn’t even sore (except for butt), since I do stretch a lot and it helps.

Training day #5 July 24th – Philadelphia to Margate (round 2)

I wasn’t going to include this in the training section, as it wasn’t exactly training. But it was my first time trying to pass on my “expertise” to others. My friends Vash and Don followed my route with me to Margate beach, my first solo trip. I decided to write about it because every ride I learn something, so even though this was a chill fun ride, there’s always room for learning.

I knew how crazy long this ride took me the first time, so I thought it would be a good idea to leave as early as possible, so we decided to meet at City Hall at 7 for tune-ups, stretching, last minute things to be on the road by 8. Of course, we were all running a little late, and Don had some bike issues and a slow leak almost immediately, and since we were so close to free air at a nearby Hess, we walked there while Vash went back to get the tubes she forgot at her house. So we didn’t really get on the road, if memory serves me, until 9.

It went smoothly. I don’t have a whole lot to say about the trip. All the directional mistakes I made the first time were pretty much non-existant this time around. I guess the main thing I realized is that I had been more correct with my directions than I gave myself credit for. I remembered that dumb Blueberry road and how crazy out of my way it took me even though my directions (still now, after trying to write some new ones), told me I had to go there. This time, when we got to that point, we asked for directions, and after some trying to get on the same page with this dude giving directions, realized the “wrong” way I had taken the previous trip was exactly what my directions were telling me. So confusing. Plus, having otther people with you to assist in naviation is a real time saver. So nice.

Anyway, remember the long stretch of road where I ran out of water the previous time on this trip? Well, this is the road that Vash got a flat. Nowhere to stop, though I knew the campsite I had found before was about a mile from where we were. Still a long time to walk. My ballsy friends had no trouble stopping at a house to see if we could use a wrench (the reason we couldn’t fix Vash’s tube on the road is because my multi-tool, while the right size to remove her bolt to take off the wheel, was not strong enough to take off the very tight bolt). We had passed a house I had notoced because it was so darn cool looking, and we went over and knocked on the door. Ah, no one’s home. We saw a bike in the backyard (I know, trespassing), and just took a quick peek to see if there may have been a tool box laying around. The house was still under construction, so it seemed likely to us. Inappropriate, but if I came home and heard our story, I’d let my guard down. Which is exactly what happened when Brad pulled into his driveway to find us and our bikes. He searched his shed and got the right ratchet, and in a matter of minutes everything was looking sweet. I’m so glad that my friends didn’t panic, like I think many people would have. But in my experience, if you don’t panic, there will be Brads around to hand you some tools (ed note – is this the ‘Brads’ Green Day was referring to in Jesus of Suburbia? – this is a joke that maybe only I find amusing).

Before Vash had her flat, Don had more flat troubles. He atually got one when we were right around the corner from a gas station, so no worries there. That was all there really was in the way of problems. Vash had a low tire after my mini-pump, since it’s not good for pumping up all the way. She was a real trooper chugging along with a low-pressured tire on her already crappy Target bike (I had almost the same bike prior to my current bike – a ten speed that really only has two). We stopped for a real dinner of pizza at a roadside bar about 20 miles from our destination. This was pretty close to where I had scamped on my first trip out. It was nice to think about that spot again. And two hours later, we got to Margate, around 9. A 12-hour trip. We went to find some beer to take back to Vash’s uncle’s place, where we were staying. We got there, tired but happy, and passed out around 11:30.

As an aside, I got a flat the very next morning. Vash and I had made plans to join a group from Philly that was taking surfing lessons in Ocean City, about a 3-4 mile ride. I was super cranky, and all that talk about “not panicking” went out the window. We had to be there at a certain time in order to take the lesson, and we were going to be late. But all was well. A neighbor had a full-sized pump, which made mumping air a breeze compared to my crappy mini-pump. How is it that a $30 mini pump can be so junkey compared to my $10 full sized? I had a stress headache exacerbated by my exhaustion, and attempting to actually get up on the surfboard quickly proved an ill-advised plan. Vash and I may have been the only two people who just couldn’t get up. It was still fun. Our surf instructers were the real deal – I wouldn’t trust taking lessons from anyone who didn’t say “gnarly” or tell a horror story of their first time surfing. If you’re ever in Ocean City, NJ check out the 7th street Surf Shop on the Boardwalk. $35 for a lesson.

As an another aside, the next morning I went “running” for the first time in my life. Don and Vash are both runners, so I figured, I made them bike 80 miles, I can certainly try running. I was surprised at how great it really felt, as I am of the mind I only run when I’m being chased. We ran on the boardwalk (with Steph, part of the group that drove to meet us there). Not for very long, but it was great. A little cross-training will certainly help me anytime.

That’s it for the training. Little 30 mile weekend rides here and there happened, and there’s nothing too interesting to report there.

I am writing all this a few days before my actual trip, based on memory and emails I had sent to people, so you heard it here, before I’ve left, that I LOVE BIKING!

Peace, and wish me luck!


4 Responses to “Training”

  1. shawn Says:

    hi! i’m a friend of chris h and am stoked about reading more of your travels. have a rip-shit-up good time forever.

  2. Jenny Says:

    Hey, Sorry I didn’t even read this yet. It just looks too long. Give me time dear peasant.

    • darksparkm Says:

      Aww, just ask someone to read it to you. We all know by now of your illiteracy, you don’t have to pretend anymore.

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