Monday, October 8, 2012

Always learning

I’ve been fortunate enough to travel a lot over the years, and I always try to enjoy those moments to their fullest. I tried to do that this summer, but I think I fell short. Instead of reveling in the amazing opportunity of just riding my bike all day, there were times that I treated a day as a checkpoint, counting down the miles to get back West.

Lately, I’ve been asking myself if the things I raced back for were worth it. Landing an amazing job was great, but there’s a certain monotony that comes with the 8-5 working world. Navigating office politics and learning to embrace the cubicle life pales in comparison to the feeling of achievement of climbing a mountain pass. And it’s so easy to romanticize happy reunions with people you miss the most during your travels. But when you come back and all the geographical miles have dissolved away, the emotional and physical distance becomes clearer. For better or worse, sometimes the people you return to aren’t what you’d expected or hoped for.

I know that I enjoyed my summer riding across the country, but a part of me feels like I didn’t experience the trip with absolute abandon and that “no regrets” attitude so common in my adolescent peers. I think that to a certain extent, I was focused on the things that lied ahead- socially, my working career, etc.- and I wasn’t able to live as “in the moment” as I would have liked. I hope that I have learned my lesson and can begin to be more appreciative of the present, focusing instead of on what “is” and not what “may be”.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


To quell all of my adoring fans (yeah right, just kidding!) that have been anxiously holding their breath, waiting for me to write the closing entry I promised in my previous entry-here we go. The final post.

I’ve been back for almost two weeks now, adjusting to being back “home”. I feel weird saying home, because I haven’t really had one. The day after I got back from Vancouver, I moved out of my apartment. It’s funny how things play out- there’s a certain irony to my situation. After biking across the country for the affordable housing cause, I came to find myself homeless. Fortunately, I’ve got a best friend with a couch. After spending 2.5 months sleeping on the floor, a couch feels luxurious. I’m happy to report that my housing plans are just about finalized and I’ll be staying in Davis. I’ll be living in an awesome house with people I’m looking forward to getting to know.

Oh, and I’m employed! I’m not sure how, but things fell into place without skipping a beat: graduated from college, biked across the country, started my career in urban planning. Definitely counting my lucky stars right now. None of this would have been possible without my amazing support network of family, friends and various mentors.

I guess I should re-cap that final ride into Vancouver from Surrey. It was only 36 miles, but it turned into the Amazing Race. One of the first turns on the cue sheet was wrong, so we were quickly sent off into the wrong direction. Being in Canada, none of our smartphones worked, so we were left to our own devices to find our way to Stanley Park. Fluctuating weather, off-road biking through trails, following commuter cyclists to find safe roads, urban riding, speaking with locals, consulting maps—clearly, the ultimate wayfinding adventure. It was Bike & Build in its truest form- absolute chaos, and probably the best way to close the ride.

Somehow, just about everyone managed to make it to Stanley Park, and we biked the last few miles to the Pacific Ocean together—as one long, whooping, yelling, cheering line of ridiculous cyclists headed for the beach. Many of the riders' loved ones were waiting at a nearby gazebo, armed with hugs, champagne and a picnic lunch. Once the final two riders made it to the gazebo, we all headed down to the water for the long-awaited moment of dipping our front wheels into the Pacific. We set our bikes down, and like total crazies, we dragged each other into the frigid water, celebrating what we had accomplished over the last seventy days, both as individuals and as the Northern U.S. (NUS) family.

A 3,900 mile bike trip with thirty one people was quite the summer. It was a truly unique way to see the country, and it tested me in countless physical, mental and emotional ways. From it, I take away a deeper awareness of the incredible diversity within our country- both socially and geographically. I saw places I never imagined going to and falling in love with (Hello, Montana), and places I never imagined going to-probably for good reason (I'm looking at you, North Dakota). I ate myself sick with copious dairy products in Wisconsin. I biked past lighthouses in New Hampshire. I briefly said hello to Michigan, Pennsylvania and Idaho. I climbed my way across Washington and the Adirondacks of New York. I saw almost all of Minnesota's 10,000 lakes, dontchaknow. I took the scenic route along Lake Eerie in Ohio. Vermont revealed itself to me in more ways than one. I did my first 103 mile century ride in Illinois, learning that "all things go, all things go, biked to Chicago", and I got lost in the Amish country of Indiana. Overall, I find myself more connected to the land, but also to my body- I’m frankly quite impressed by the endurance of the human body. And having spent a summer with only a backpack (a few t-shirts, some bike stuff, not much more) I have a strong desire to sort through my material possessions. Things aren’t important, they (as I learned this summer, quite literally) only weigh you down.

I’m also humbled by the hospitality of my fellow Americans, something that usually we attribute more with other cultures. As we made our way across the country, hundreds of people who we didn’t know and will probably never see again supported us. They fed us, offered shelter, drove us to showers, did our laundry, provided entertainment, gave us bike parts, kept us in their thoughts, etc. Our cross-country ride was definitely an incredible feat, but certainly not one we managed alone.

Well, that’s about it. It’s been a great, insightful summer and I see myself changed from the experiences along the way. But there’s always more to see and explore in the world, and there’s always more room to grow and learn as a human being. My bike arrived yesterday, making for a happy reunion. I’m excited to get back on my bike and continue enjoying life on two wheels.

Just keep pedaling,

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


We made it! Longer blog post later, but for now, MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Puget Sound

Yesterday we biked along The Puget Sound... Which connects to the Pacific Ocean! We are so incredibly close!

We've done lots of camping and climbing the last few days. Feeling accomplished.

66 miles from Vancouver! Here we go!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Climbing the Cascades

We are in Washington! And crossing mountains! Less than a week to go...

Sunday, August 19, 2012

End of Montana; Idaho!!

Eureka, MT
64 miles

Libby, MT
70 miles

Sandpoint, ID
95 miles

Currently icing my knee after a long 95 mile ride... The last "long ride" of the trip! Instead of intense blogging, I'll just post some pictures from the last couple of beautiful ride days. A picture is worth a thousand words, right?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Reflections and the Rockies

The last few days have been breathtaking. Biking across Montana, reaching the Rockies, camping in Glacier National Park, climbing up 6,600 ft Logan's Pass (and descending at 30+ miles an hour on a 6% grade!)... It has all been beautiful. The rides have been invigorating and terrifying at the same time. Stormy weather, skinny roads, bad visibility, freezing temperatures-- but we pressed on, fueled by our adrenaline. I feel very alive from all of it.

I also feel reflective from the last couple of days. While we were camping, a terrible storm struck. We scrambled to tie our tents down, keep our possessions dry and ultimately, stay warm. We were hardly successful in our attempts. Our ride the next morning was tough- cold, wet, and exhausting from a poor night's sleep. My beloved moleskine journal that chronicled college/ this trip was also water damaged and became a blurred, inky mess. For anyone that knows me, you'll understand my devastation with this.

Sure, the camping experience was a taxing and unpleasant one, but I took away an important reminder. We only had to deal with one night of inadequate housing-- millions of people in our country face that on a daily basis. One night of being in a leaky, poorly insulated, cramped shelter really put the affordable housing cause back into perspective for me. As we pedal these last 700 miles, I want to make sure we continue to raise money and awareness for affordable and adequate housing.

And as for the journal, oh well. I'm trying to appreciate the enjoyment and opportunities for reflection my journal gave me. But not all is lost. I still hold into the memories it contained, and for that I am most grateful.