Sunday, August 1, 2010

Postscript day 1

8-1-10: Seattle, Washington: Noah’s Bagel Shop, Broadway Ave.

Well, just sitting here at 7:35 AM on a lazy Sunday morning in Seattle having a nice strong coffee, some sesame seed bagels and a spinach and egg panini. Damn does it feel good, for the second day in a row to not to pull on those dank cycling shorts, prep gear, and get on the bike and ride. Ending feels so glorious. Looking back on it all feels so amazing. But I know though that as the weeks start to pass, and August turns into September, and September gives way to October, be damned if I won’t start longing for those care-free days on the road again. I guess it’s in my blood – that wonderlust thing. Something about new places and new faces each and every day that just heightens and exaggerates the joy of being alive. Some days it’s like a spike in the arm the buzz is so great. But today, nope, today is part of that period of time for reflection on the adventure. You can’t be on the high forever! So I sit here in Seattle with a kind of post-adventure hangover.

It’s funny how everything involved in an adventure kind of goes together to make the whole experience so wonderful – the pre-trip preparation with the anticipation, planning and the nervousness; the actual trip itself where you go through a roller coaster of emotions for weeks and months on end, with good days, bad days, great days and stellar days; and then there’s the end, where, as you get closer and closer to the terminal point you ready yourself to be finished, both mentally and physically; and then when you’re done you can just sit down and let those memories replay like a endless film loop over and over again in your mind. It all seems to fit together so perfectly and seamlessly. And it’s this whole experience, the pre, during, and post, that stirs the soul for yet more and more adventures. So you probably think I’m leading into the next adventure…, not really. And that’s the big question I’m asked now that I’m finished: “What’s next?”

Honestly, I just want to savor this trip and these memories and experiences before I just let go of them in search of yet another adrenaline buzz down the road. Yea, for sure I have all these crazy ideas that constantly run through my head, and some rank right up there as real potential candidates, but for right now I’m quite content to let this trip’s imagery play and replay in my mind. The Canadian adventure and now my US adventure, they’ve kind of renewed my thirst for adventure, the thirst I had back when I was in college. Then, some thirty years ago, I’d spend countless hours up on the tenth floor of the Kent State Library pouring through old books and memoirs of famous adventurers like Alexander McKenzie and Lewis and Clark, just marveling at their grit, determination, persistence and thirst for adventure as they explored yet unexplored hinterlands of North America. I envied their experiences, and eventually developed what at that time I called my “hit list” of the trips I wanted to do in life. Today it’s called the Bucket List. Well, I still have my “Bucket List,” and it’s a faded piece of notebook paper that I keep in my top desk drawer. Up until last year, when Ryan and I decided to do the Canadian adventure, I hadn’t looked at that list for over twenty years. But just prior to, and since the Canadian Adventure, I’ve checked that list out numerous times. I’ve checked off yet another item having just finished my trip across the US.

Heck, and the crazy thing is that despite the fact that I still have many items left on the original list, be damned of I couldn’t, right now, ADD more items to that bloody list! To me, doing stuff like this is life changing, and very magical. And it all feeds on itself.

Examining this trip as compared to last year’s Canadian cycling adventure, I’d really have to say this was much more difficult, that because of two things – doing it solo and doing it from east to west. First the solo aspect: Soloing is something that I love and hate. I love soloing because it forces me to deal with myself on a full-time basis. You have to be comfortable with yourself to have to deal with yourself being alone so much – sometimes you’re your best companion! I really dig that, because it’s so bloody challenging. I can only depend on me each and every day. I talk to myself, think to myself, argue with myself like Tom Hanks did in the movie “Stranded”, and sometimes I think I’m going insane. I go through a gamut of emotions on an hourly and daily basis. I really believe that soloing makes you a stronger person, both mentally and physically.

But there also a part of soloing that I hate, and that’s the lonely part, the part where you cannot share the experiences with anyone at the end of the day. No taking and rehashing, no sense of kinship, no bonding, no brotherhood and sisterhood stuff in the solo. It’s something that cannot be shared. It’s a selfish endeavor. And no matter what I tell you, explain to you, show you with pictures, you’ll just not “get it” like I did. Take my “Billion Dollar Day” in the blog, the second to last day of the trip where Barney joined me. THAT is sharing an experience. That day, that moment, that ride – he get’s it! And I was privileged to be able to share that day with a friend and fellow adventurer like Barney. Sharing that experience heightened the moment, and eventually the day – and the trip!

The second aspect of this trip VS last year’s Canadian trip was of coarse the fact that I did it from east to west, bucking all traditional conventions. Going east to west was going counter to the prevailing winds, the same winds that sent Ryan and I across Canada on 120-150 miles days with tailwinds that were just beyond amazing. Yup, there were days where we’d average over 20 mph for nearly 100 miles due to the westerlies – and that was with our pulling some 85 pounds of gear. On this trip, I think the very, VERY best day I had I averaged about 16 mph, and that was with a tailwind. Most of the time my average was in the 10-12 mph range, with some sort of headwind each and every day. And what I lucked out on by not having the super tough Rocky Mountain climbing this year that I had last year, well, I gained the toughness factor back x 100 in the headwinds I took on each and every day.

Now I wasn’t stupid, and totally knew what I was getting into when I decided to ride east to west. But for the life of me, I’d done west to east – I just had to try east to west for the challenge of those winds, those same winds that sent me into a state of crazy back in ’09 at times crossing Canada. I think when I had headwinds back in ’09, I was pissed just because I expected the prevailing to ALWAYS be out of the west – “that was our right by God!” Well, not really, but I can only surmise. So this time, I fully expected the winds to we out of the west each and every day. And that was so tough, especially from a mental standpoint, getting up each morning and wondering just how hard the wind was going to be blowing against me, all day long, mile after mile. Go through the blog and look, from about Minnesota onward, the winds were just ferocious. And as I worked my way out of the forests of Minnesota and into the treeless Great Plains, those winds became exponentially tougher – nowhere to hide on the plains!

I remember at a stop in Ray, North Dakota, where I was talking to a couple of locals, and the guy told me: “you think the winds are bad here, wait till you get into Montana!” And he was right. Montana broke me and crushed me like a bug being hit by a semi truck. Montana forced me to dig into places I haven’t dug into for over 11 years – ever since I stopped racing. Montana made my legs hurt so bad that I think they just never recovered from the effort of 450 miles of pain in the plains. Montana was like this foe that I so respected I was humbled by it. Montana forced me to develop gameplans that I’d never done before when doing cross-country bike trips. But Montana gave me the biggest sense of accomplishment once I left her border. Montana made me a strong man!

So there it is – ramblings of a mad man. I really do look forward to coming back to Ohio to see my friends and family. Despite all the places I’ve seen and experienced, I still have the invisible bond to my roots, to my home. I’m anxious to get back and rejoin the real world again, so anxious that I was kind of bummed out when I could not get an Amtrak ticket to start home any earlier than this Tuesday afternoon. Believe it or not, Amtrak was booked solid thru this Monday, that or I had a choice of coming back on Monday in a thousand dollar sleep car …….ah no on that one! So I’m here in Seattle until Tuesday at 4:40 PM, when I board a train and actually retrace over 1500 miles of my trip, but on a train. There were numerous times when I was out there riding and I saw the Amtrak train going by me east or west. So I’m just totally looking forward to seeing those same old stretches of road, but from a train. No headwinds. No sore ass. No watching the miles slowly tick by.

Now it’s not exactly a BUMMER, that I’m kind of stuck here in Seattle for another 2.5 days. It’s a beautiful city with just a ton of stuff to do, so I’ll not be bored. I’m going to walk around the city and shoot pics, eat at some new types of restaurants (I ate at two Vietnamese restaurants last night – more on that later), and just savor this awesome place. As I said, last night I just had to try some different dining options – no Subway, no buffet! So the first place I hit up was a Vietnamese soup restaurant, and it was just crazy good. I had no clue, here, other than the fact that I’d dined Vietnamese many years ago when Judy and I were in Ottawa. And the soups were off the charts good. So I looked at a menu that I just didn’t have a clue, and ended up ordering this rice noodle soup with brisket & and “tendon.” Yup, tendon, the chewy, crunchy stuff! And they had like 4 different sizes: small, medium, large, and XL. What did the foodaholic do” Yea, XL! And dude brings me this bucket of soup which could have fed a small Vietnamese family.

Haven’t used chopsticks and oriental soup spoon for years, and with no silverware on the table I wasn’t about to be Joe Tourista and ask for them. So I muddled by with the sticks and spoon. The soup was just awesome, and though I must have looked like a really rookie using those chopsticks, I was still able to get the noodles in my mouth. I left feeling pretty satiated, but yet wanted just one more “taster” for the evening, so I went to another Vietnamese place just up the street. This place had regular dishes in addition to the soups. So I ordered up the Vietnamese spring rolls and a charred pork and noodle dish. Again, the spring rolls were more like sushi, a wrap with rice and shrimp with a peanut dipping sauce. The pork dish was atop a heaping helping of rice noodles. Another homerun. I was just stuffed when I walked out of there. On the way back I stopped at this awesome grocery and picked up a Ben & Jerry’s for myself and for Duane, who was back at the Appt.

Earlier in the day, Barney and I had come here to this bagel shop for breakfast, and then we walked down to REI so I could buy yet another duffle bag for shipping gear home. Must have spent 2 hours in the place mulling about, and then watching kids climbing on this 6-story indoor climbing monolith. Walked back and then helped Barney load his SUV for his trip back to Vancouver. Got to tell you that Barney is just a fantastic guy, and I wish you could all meet him. I get this feeling that we’re like long lost brothers, him being my older brother, and me being the impetuous young pup. He’s an amazing guy, and I was blown away by the fact that he took the time and energy and money to come down here to Washington and ride me in to the finish. THAT meant more to me than I can convey to you! So the time came for us each going our own ways, and as usual we did a firm handshake and the dude hug thing, and then Barney hopped in his car drove away down Boyleston St and off to I-5 north to Vancouver. Thank you again Barney!!!

Well, that’s enough for the day, a day where I didn’t even ride a lick and yet I’ve been typing away for far too long. Been here two hours now sipping coffee and tapping away at this computer. I’ve got to get on to some work - enough blogtime. Talk to you tomorrow from Seattle………Pete

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