Bicycle Vision Quest 🚴Bicycle Vision Quest 🚴
In January 2018 I quit my job as a high school teacher and began preparing for my next bicycle trip. I leave March 12. Hope you follow my progress!
If you or anyone you know lives on or kinda nearish to this route and would be interested in hosting a sweaty bicyclist for a night, let me know!
Bike Trip FAQBike Trip FAQ
Where are you going?
Across North America. From Key West, Florida to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. There is a map on the main trip page.
How long will it take?
Hopefully three months. I have accepted my usual summer job at CTY (in Pennsylvania) and I need to report for work on June 21st. I'm leaving March 12th.
Is anyone going with you?
For the most part, no. I plan to take most of the trip as a lone wolf. But! My friend Katie will join me for the last one to two weeks through Alaska! I also have a few friends along the way who will ride for a day here and there.
What kind of bike do you ride?
If you like talking specs on top end bikes, I'm not the guy you should be talking to. I ride a diamondback 7-speed hybrid that I got from Dick's sporting good in 2010 for $200. We've been through a lot together and I look forward to completing this trip together. The wheels and cables are upgraded to handle this kind of touring.
How can I help?
Thanks for asking! If you live along my route or know someone who does, I'm always looking for places to stay. It feels amazing to have a shower after a long cold day of riding. This is the biggest help of all.
You can also encourage me. Many days are emotionally draining. Obstacles include mechanical problems, detours, soreness/injury (I'm not 20 anymore, sadly), cold, wind, and many others that I won't even know to expect. An encouraging message goes a long way.
Can I help by giving money?
I certainly won't turn down your money, but lodging and encouragement really do go a long way. If you do want to give money, my BTC, BCH, and ETH addresses are listed in the footer.
Why are you doing this?
Vanity of vanities; all is vanity.
What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?
One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever.
The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose.
The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually, and the wind returneth again according to his circuits.
All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again.
All things are full of labour; man cannot utter it: the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.
The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.
Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us.
There is no remembrance of former things; neither shall there be any remembrance of things that are to come with those that shall come after.
But really, Why are you doing this?
This is my vision quest. I got tired of working my regular job, answering to the man, and putting up with #WhiningAndComplaining. I want to do something that challenges me and requires me to be tough when it would be easy to quit. I also want time to meditate and decide what I want to come next in my life. I need a chance to encounter real problems, not just problems that someone made for me, and be forced to solve them.
Day 0 -- Starting in Key WestDay 0 -- Starting in Key West
Last Thursday, mom, dad, Sarah, and John flew down to Florida with me and we've been on vacation in Key West since. Lots of good food, snorkeling and fun.
While the serious riding begins tomorrow, I put in a test ride today and took care of the first few kms. I've had a few minor setbacks including my back wheel being pulled significantly out of true during shipping, and my phone no longer making voice calls without headphones due to water damage already, but I guess that's how it goes.
After doing my best to get the wheel adjusted, we went to the "southern most point in the continental us" and dipped the wheels. Mom, dad, and Sarah rode the half hour ish back to the condo with me.
Daily distance: 6.77 km
Average speed: 14.4 km/h
Trip odometer: 6km (apparently my bike computer rounds this number)
Day 1 -- Key West FL to Key Largo FLDay 1 -- Key West FL to Key Largo FL
I woke up at the condo shortly after 8:00. The family and I got ready, said goodbye and headed downstairs efficiently, and I was on my way around 9:00. After a quick stop at "We cycle" for air, I set out on the overseas highway.
The first setback happened a mere 6km into the ride when I rode through about a one foot section of grass to cross from road to bike lane. I immediately heard hissing and stopped to find a flat rear tire. Irritating, but I had a spare and it gave me the opportunity to put in the puncture proof liner that I hadn't gotten around to yet. I reinflated with my hand pump and put the wheel back on. It was hard to get on because the skewer nut wouldn't turn - likely a result of shipping and related to the completely loose spoke I discovered on my practice ride. By the time the wheel was back on, the tire was flat again. I pumped it the best I could and turned around to head back to the shop. It was a little early in the journey to be backtracking but such is life. At least it gave me a chance to appreciate the tailwind that I would have all day. Before I got back the tire went too flat to ride anywhere and came off the rim. I ended up walking the ~1.5 km to the shop.
Luckily the lady there found additional glass in the tire that I missed, fixed the skewer, and sold me some extra tubes. I got back on the road around 11:00.
It was smooth sailing for a while as I watched carefully for any hurricane debris to puncture my third tube of the day. It rained for a while in the afternoon, and I got to cross the seven mile bridge during an intense thunderstorm. Cool video on the go pro, but you might have to wait a while to see it. Despite the rain and storm, that was probably my favorite part of the day.
But the city/metropolis of Marathon was next and is where I received my only two angry honks of the day. I briefly stopped there to have some granola bars, fill bottles, and dry out before continuing to cruise.
I was making good time, and my mood got even better when the skies cleared. I stopped for linner around 4:00 at subway (thanks Sarah and Johnny) and let my shoes and socks dry out front. The second half of the sub got to ride the rest of the way to Key Largo with me for dinner.
I reached Key Largo Kampground just after 6:00 and snuck past the gate to try to get a free site. Some combination of conscience and fear of getting busted led me back to the office where I learned there were no sites. Luckily the host hooked me up with another cyclist who was tenting there long term. Unluckily the dude still wanted $30 to use part of his site. At least it was less than the official campground rate of $50.
There were definitely punches to roll with today, but compared to my first day out of LA in 2013, this was a big success. The distance was roughly the same, but I knew much better what I should be expecting, and how to cope with setbacks. I didn't even have to sit on the shower floor for half an hour hoping my bike would get stolen this time! My butt does hurt more than expected though.
Daily distance: 162.59km
Average speed: 24.3km/h (not bad considering it includes walking)
Trip odometer: 169km
Day 2 -- Key Largo FL to ??? FLDay 2 -- Key Largo FL to ??? FL
My plan for this morning was to be up by 8:00 and on the road by 9:00. But it turned out to be more like up by 8:45 and on the road by 9:30.
I stopped at Winn Dixie (after passing it once) for breakfast of deli meat and cheese and tortilla shells, yogurt, and banana. The deli portion lasted me through several snacks into the late afternoon. Getting back on the road I continued the last little bit east on Key Largo before getting on the bridge to the mainland. The wind was North East which means it was in my face for both of those parts, but I was glad that it would be partially behind me once I turned West later in the day.
Continuing North, I was planning to get on a bike trail to take me West of Homestead and up to route 41 through the Everglades. I was hesitant about the trail because it was unpaved and my one training ride on a sandy trail was super hard. I was also nervous about junk getting through my back tire since it is pretty worn and had a little cut in it from yesterday's glass incident. Luckily I missed the trailhead and didn't have to make that decision.
Rather than staying on the main road, I did take the smaller streets to the West of Homestead, and saw a lot of plant farming. The last bit of my ride North to the Everglades was along route 997, but luckily there was a paved bike path along its side. Unluckily, there were construction vehicles blocking it in several places due to construction on both the trail and the road, so I had to route around them through gravel.
As I reached route 41, I stopped at a gas station to fill my bottles, but they said they didn't have safe drinking water. That would be a recurring theme. The road was nice and had plenty of room for me to bike on the shoulder until I reached a construction zone. It was the kind where only one lane is open and they have a flagger. The flaggers were friendly and let me ride through the closed lane whenever possible to let traffic pass. I did get one extended angry honk at the end, but, as usual, they didn't stop to discuss the issue with me.
Although the road was nice and the wind was partly at my back, route 41 started to get really hard. It was hot, no one had water so I was rationing, and I was getting close to 100km into my second long day. Eventually I noticed that my rear tire was starting to get soft, so I stopped at one of the many air-boat tour places. Thinking there was a chance that nothing was actually wrong, and the tire had just gone soft from two days of lots of weight, I pumped it back up and went inside to buy a water. I also filled a bottle with melted ice from their cooler despite the cashier's advice.
When I got back outside the tire was still hard so I hopped back on and it felt much faster. But it was only 10ish km before the tire went soft again. after a few more unsuccessful attempts to find water, I stopped at a gas station that also had an auto shop. The mechanic let me use his air hose and fill bottles for his 5-gallon-style cooler. But I made a big mistake. I refilled the same tube. Why? Good question. I guess some combination of denial and foolish optimism. But, as we all expected, it went flat again. Now I had to do a roadside change and reinflate with my hand pump. that compressor sure would have been nice. But it turns out I can actually get the time to probably like 60-70psi with that pump... it's just tiring.
I finally got back on the road and eventually reached Midway campground. I checked it out and was pleased to find potable water so I chugged all of mine and refilled. There were no showers or electricity though and the camp host said it was $24 for the night. Brutal. He said there was another campground a few miles down the road that was the same deal, so I said I'd keep moving on despite only having about half an hour until sunset.
Before I reached the next campground I found the big cyprus welcome center complete with drinking fountains, am electrical outlet, and a hose that worked fairly well as a shower. I don't think it is officially for camping, but there were no signs prohibiting it, so I'm laying in my tent out back swyping this right now.
My quads are getting somewhat sore, and my butt is really starting to rash, but I'm surviving. I'll look for a new rear tire tomorrow.
Daily distance: 139.6km
Average speed: 20.2km/h
Trip odometer: 309km
Day 3 -- ??? FL to Cape Coral FLDay 3 -- ??? FL to Cape Coral FL
I woke up just after 7:00 when a big truck pulling a camper parked beside my secret camping spot. The driver and passenger got out, commented on the cold, and climbed into the camper. I was on the road by 8:00 just as the welcome center worker was getting things together for opening.
It was scheduled to be a long, wind-in-face day so I was glad to get an early start. I rode for about an hour straight before stopping for a roadside snack and rest. While stopped I realized the back tire was a little soft and added a few pumps for good measure. But after about another half hour of riding, it was clearly going flat. I did another roadside repair using my last remaining tube, and found a bike shop on the map. It meant going into the densely populated area of Naples instead of skirting it on country roads as I had hoped. It was also another three hours ride away into wind on an under-inflated tire. I told myself I could roll with that punch so long as I didn't lose this last tube before reaching the shop. Three hours on a new tube is usually totally reasonable, but at the rate I've been going it was not something to take for granted.
I as worked the grind, I realized I hadn't applied sunscreen evenly and had to stop to recover some areas that were getting burned. I pressed on slowly but surely thinking about the shop as my only destination, not letting the entire second half of the day's journey enter my mind.
I did manage to reach the shop on the same tube, thank goodness. I upgraded to a new kevlar-lined tire and extra thick tube. I also got Subway (tsaj) and stopped by Publix while the guy was putting them on. I felt silly paying someone to change my tire, but he was friendly enough and it meant I wouldn't have to hand pump again. At Publix I picked up some medicated powder for my saddle rash / chub rub which is about 60% of the way to being a genuine medical situation, and took Johnny's suggestion to look for body glide, but couldn't find it.
When I returned to the shop the bike looked sexy with that new tire. The mechanic handed me my old tube to keep as a spare and I hoped super hard that I wouldn't need it today. He gave me a route suggestion that would be much better than continuing on 41 and I was on my way.
The wind continued in howl in my face, but the fully-inflated tire and peace of mind of knowing that it would likely stay that way made the ride start to feel better. My sore butt continued to worsen although the tingle from the medicated powder gave me hope that it would get better. To prevent more damage, I decided to ride the rest of the way out of the saddle which actually made me go a little faster. Things were looking up.
I ended up reaching Kyle and Kristin's house just after six just in time to join them for dinner. Then I showered and felt soooo clean. We spent the rest of the evening catching up and generally having a good time, and I got to meet their to sons.
Daily distance: 145.45km
Average speed: 19.5km/h
Trip odometer: 454km
Day 4 -- Cape Coral FL to North Port FLDay 4 -- Cape Coral FL to North Port FL
The hardest part of today was getting out of bed. I guess it was partly really needing the sleep and partly really appreciating not being in my tiny tent. The first round of alarms went off around 9:00 and I quickly snoozed them and cancelled the rest. In addition to just really wanting to sleep more I had a slight headache that I hoped would go away with a little more sleep.
Finally got out of bed a little before 11:00. The headache persisted, but I felt fine otherwise. I took my time getting breakfast of cereal and packing up the bike, ultimately hitting the road around noon.
I took Kyle's suggestion of riding burnt store rd instead of the larger main road that was full of traffic lights, and was glad I did. It added about ten minutes to the trip, but on a short day I could afford it and it saved the frustration of having to brake every km for a red light.
I was fighting the wind again today, but it wasn't as strong as yesterday and I had a fully inflated tire so it wasn't as difficult as I had feared. And the medicated powder worked wonders. My butt is only like half as bad as when I finished yesterday. That is to say, it's still kinda rough but much better and I'm optimistic it will continue getting better.
After I crossed the peace river, route 41 got a nice smooth bike lane, and the wind was actually slightly behind me for a few miles before switching back to its usual trick. I stopped at Winn Dixie to stock up on granola bars for tomorrow since it will be a long ride, topped off my tires at a Ford dealer, and made my final push into North Port.
I met up with George and Debbie Triana right around 5:00, and caught up for a little while before heading to dinner with her brother Jim and his wife Judy. It was a fun and delicious night and I'm happy to have a bed again tonight before my long ride tomorrow.
Daily distance: 71.28km
Average speed: 20.8km/h
Trip odometer: 525km
Day 5 -- North Port FL to Lutz FLDay 5 -- North Port FL to Lutz FL
I did a better job waking up today, getting out of bed around 7:15. George made me a delicious breakfast of eggs and toast to get the day started right. Then I packed the bike, said goodbye and was on my way just before 8:00.
It was cold (39F) so I wore the long fingered gloves and neck warmer for the first while. Luckily there was almost no wind and it was actually being me as route 41 worked easy for the first hour of the ride.
Although today was a long ride, much of it kind of blurs together. There was a pretty nice dedicated bike trail at the beginning, and bike lanes on a lot of the rest. Although they have a tendency to suddenly disappear at important times like freeway interchanges. I stopped for lunch at a food truck in a farmers market. Their specially was smoked mullet. Turns out mullet is also a fish. The sample I tried was delicious, but it was a bone-in fillet and I worried it would take me too long to eat on a day when I was trying to make good time. So I went with fish tacos instead.
As I worked my way into Tampa, traffic picked up and navigation got harder as it usually does in cities. Btw, the phone holder I bought us total bs. It it difficult too attach the phone to, constantly pressed the side buttons, and covers to much of the screen. I should have taken Shannon's advice. But I made decent progress, and was actually on schedule to arrive by 6:00. I was pretty excited about that considering when I left in the morning I was worried about missing dinner plans that ended at 8:00.
With about an hour and a half to go I told Sanders that I was ahead of schedule, but still left room for error (I hate to over-promise on time estimates). It's a good thing I did because just a few km later... You guessed it. The hissing started. Some piece of metal junk was lodged into my front tire. This is the first front tire issue so far. So I found a shady place to fix it up.
While I was at it I inspected the back tire again just for good measure and found two pieces of glass stuck in it. Luckily I found them and dug them out before they punctured the tube, but I have to say, I'm starting to wonder how long my patience for tire changing will last. At this rate, which I sincerely hope decreases, I'll spend about $700 on tubes on this trip.
Anyway, I was back on the road with only 10ish km to go and glad to be on the home stretch. I navigated the last big intersection of the day and started to pick up some speed when I heard... any readers from the last cross country trip wanna guess?... I heard a spoke snap. Deep breath. Thought about just riding through and dealing with it later but decided not to put any extra stress on the remaining spokes. So I stopped, took the packs and rear wheel off, and proceeded to replace the broken spoke. I had to bend the new one more than I liked to get it in, but maybe that's normal? It was the only option without the tools to take the cassette off. I trued the wheel reasonably well, and finally got on my way in what I really really hoped was the home stretch.
Arriving at Sandra's house, I met the family, and got a quick shower. Then we headed to their church for delicious fish fry.
When we got back, I fully inflate the front tire, patched the punctured tube just in case I ended up needing a spare, and trued both wheels. Hoping for no breakdowns tomorrow!
Daily distance: 165.90km (I'm starting to suspect my bike computer might have a slight miscalibration)
Average speed: 22.6km/h
Trip odometer: 691km
Day 6 -- Lutz FL to Crystal River FLDay 6 -- Lutz FL to Crystal River FL
I woke up around 8:30 although my alarm wasn't set to go off until 9:00. Laying awake, I opened the warm showers app and saw a host that I thought would work for night eight and left a voicemail.
Lily made me a delicious breakfast of scrambled eggs while I packed my bike. A little after 10:00 I rode off with Lily and Samantha riding alongside until the end of the development. The first 65km of today's ride were on a very well maintained paved bike path with a slight tail wind which felt so amazing. It was mostly uneventful except for one rest stop where I chatted with another cyclist who advised I lighten my packs. At the same stop I got a call back from Jim, the warm showers dude, and I'm all set to stay two nights from now.
Since not much worth telling happened on the bike path (and believe me, that's a good thing!) I'll tell you some of the stuff I thought and daydreamed about. Optimistic thoughts are that this is (at the time I was thinking "might be") the first time in the nearly-week-old trip that my average tube replacement rate had fallen below one tube per day. This is also the longest day (of two) that I've gone breakdown free. Some of the worries I have are that breakdowns could happen again at any moment, and the corresponding meta-worry that I'm spending too much energy worrying about that. I also worry about my knees (mostly lefty) which have some injury that is kinda similar to tendinitis. Maybe I should give it a name like Betsy, my friends Alina's ankle. Finally, the fact that my phone doesn't make voice calls without headphones isn't really a worry so much as a constant disadvantage that I'll have to overcome. I'm open to suggestions to those problems; just realize that I may not take every suggestion I get.
After the bike trail ended, I got on route 98 and headed Northeast which was into the wind slightly, but not a big deal. Eventually the road curved back to the north and I made good time getting to Crystal River. One final stop at the Winn Dixie, and I rode the last 7 km to Kay and Lee's campground.
I got a shower, my fav, we had burgers for dinner, and then I hit up the hot tub. This was probably the most encouraging day of the trip so far.
Daily distance: 99.09km
Average speed: 22.3km/h
Trip odometer: 790km
Day 7 -- Crystal River FL to Perry FLDay 7 -- Crystal River FL to Perry FL
I slept in until about 8:30 and then got up and started breaking down camp. For some reason, my throat felt scratchy when I woke up and it persisted throughout the day. Kay and Lee got up around nine and she made a nice breakfast of bacon and eggs. After we said our goodbyes, Kay hooked me up with two pbj sandwiches, and I was on my way.
Today was one long ride on the same highway fighting a headwind. There was little to break up the task, and I just had to keep chugging along. Luckily there were no mechanical problems though.
As I made my final press toward the city of Perry, the sky got dark and I could tell rain was immanent. I got my tent set up just in time before the downpour started. I was able to stash my bike and clothes in a nearby unlocked semipermanent kitchen of some sort, although I'm worried they'll make me pay some outrageous amount for it. The rain is always a mood killer, and the mosquitos didn't help.
A warm shower did help, but as I went to get dressed afterward I found that all of my clothes were damp. I stood in the shower airdrying and letting my clothes do likewise for about half an hour after I was done, and then walked through the rain for a shelter house to write this post. That only lasted a few minutes before the mosquitos drove me away, and I didn't want to put on the deet because I'll be going to bed soon. Luckily the clubhouse was open, so I'm swyping from there.
All things considered, this was a discouraging day in many ways, but there are also several positives.
1. No mechanical problems. This is huge! This is the second straight day with no breakdowns.
2. It was my longest day, and I pressed through despite getting a somewhat late start and fighting wind.
Here's hoping my tent isn't soaked when I get back to it. That would be positive number 3.
Daily distance: 182.51km
Average speed: 22.7km/h
Trip odometer: 973km
Day 8 -- Perry FL to Bristol FLDay 8 -- Perry FL to Bristol FL
Last night was brutal. The rain lasted hours and my tent leaked significantly. Sometime around 1:30 it let up to just a sprinkle and I moved everything into the screened-in kitchenette on the adjascent site where I had stashed my bike. I laid the tent out to dry, and laid down in my wet sleeping bag on my sleeping pad. At least it was warmish out. An hour or so later the thunder and lightning started and so did the wind. Rain blew in the screens hard enough that the entire floor, my sleeping bag, the tent, and all my hung clothes were completely soaked. If I had set up my tent inside to begin with, I probably would have made it through the night relatively dry, but there was no use wishing about it at this point.
I tried several different places on the floor to minimize the rain hitting me before giving up around 5:00. After stashing the phone away inside two Ziploc bags and hoping it wasn't too late, I laid down, pulled the drenched bag over my face and waited for morning. As I fell asleep, I thought it sounded like a tornado, but assured myself that Florida didn't get tornados.
I awoke again around nine. I was surprised how late it was having thought I would barely be able to sleep. After jamming all the wet gear in my packs for future Joshy to deal with, I was off. It was a calm-wind day which was nice and offset the extra water weight I was carrying.
I followed just a few highways today, which was lucky because cell coverage has been rough in rural Florida and I was able to easily memorize the route. Around noon, I stopped to take a photo near a pulled over car. The woman inside asked for help with directions and although I wasn't familiar with the area I could tell she appreciated any help she could get. As I tried to do my best it became clear that she was upset about having lost her way and worried that she wouldn't make it back to Michigan. After a few minutes we had a plan for her, and agreed that we would both do our best to hang in there through the day's journey. She offered me a yogurt and a baby wipe. I've never needed a baby wipe so badly in my adult life.
A little while later I heard thunder off on the distance and saw a scary weather radar. Not wanting to get stuck out after sunset, I decided to brave the storm, and about an hour and a half later came through the other side.
Mom helped me find a hotel to stay at rather than the warm showers guy I had originally planned to stay with since I would still have to camp at his place and it would make for a long day tomorrow.
I finally arrived at the hotel around 6:30 and immediately stretched out all my clothes and camping gear to begin drying. While it dried, I got dinner down the street at a local restaurant. The waitress was incredibly friendly and asked me all about my trip. She even tried to find me a phone charger to test since my phone wasn't reliably charging with my own charger. (This will likely be a new source of worry.) At the end of the meal, she told me she would cover my dinner.
While it was a brutal day weather wise, the people made it a positive overall day.
Daily distance: 146.57 km
Average speed: 22.3 km/h
Trip odometer: 1119km (first thousand in the rear view mirror #ReasonsToUseKms)
Day 9 -- Bristol FL to Panama City Beach FLDay 9 -- Bristol FL to Panama City Beach FL
The one big accomplishment of the day was crossing into the central time zone! But it was not an easy day.
After a quick stop at subway where I ate half a sub and packed the second half for lunch, I got on the way. I knew the wind was forecast to be strong and in my face, and the forecast appeared correct. Nevertheless, I chugged away slowly but surely covering some rolling hills along the highway. It was slow going, but it was also planned to be a fairly short day and I was keeping a steady pace.
But mid-afternoon everything changed. My right knee, not the one that had minor lingering tendinitis, began to suddenly hurt on the left top. I rode through it for a while thinking it was likely a passing ache, but it didn't go away. After a few stops, it became clear that the pain was going to stay at least for the day. The last few dozen kms were especially hard as my knee felt more like it was grinding, and I became quite disheartened. The last 10 kms took me about two hours as I alternately walked the bike and rode it pedaling only with my left leg.
I was greeted very warmly by Bob and Sharon Hewitt when I arrived at their condo. The greeting and generosity was exactly what I needed to recover from another draining day. Although my knee continued to hurt throughout the evening, my mood became much much better. We had a home-cooked dinner of ham and potatoes and went to walmart to replace the materials that I had expected to have arrive via mail but hadn't. No big deal, the only things really missing were gu tablets and brake pads.
Daily distance: 97.24km
Average speed: 17.9 km/h
Trip odometer: 1217km
Attempted day 10Attempted day 10
Today did not go well. Things started normally enough when I got up around 8:15, had breakfast with Sharon and Bob, packed up, and hit the road around 9:30. I did a test ride before leaving and my knee was feeling normal enough. I had two potential stopping points in Mary Esther FL, and in Pensacola FL depending on how far I made it with the outrageous headwind.
But over the first few km of my ride, my knee began to hurt again. The same pain as yesterday. When I wanted to get off the bike for my first rest, I looked at the clock and had been riding for a mere 28 minutes. That was not a good sign. I decided to press on, and my knee continued to nag at me to stop. Rather than thinking continually about it, I decided I would ride for at least an hour without stopping. No more decisions to be made until then. Just keep pushing the pedals.
As the ride went on I looked at the clock more and more... seven minutes until I can stop... one minute... fifteen seconds... and I did. I stopped right at the one hour mark. My knee hurt, the wind sucked, the forecast wasn't promising, and both potential stops seemed impossibly far away. I called Julie, thought, called mom, thought more, texted my friend Beth for medical advice, and eventually just got back on hoping for a miracle. I made it nine minutes.
At that second stop I made a hard decision to head back to Panama City Beach, not having a real plan in mind. I kind of wanted to be done entirely. I kind of wanted to shell out for a doctor, but knew a doctor is not the same as a miracle worker. So I just rode. As I cruised back in direction I came, it barely had to pedal. I cruised easily with a strong tail wind and felt relaxed. I remembered that not every single day of riding has to feel like a grind; it's just that I had several unlucky days in a row. Katie summarized it bets, "This is a vision quest, not a race."
I felt defeated as I approached the day's starting line. But I also pondered those words. The idea had been expressed by most of my support group. And it began to sink in. I just needed to process.
My plan is starting to come together, but I'm not ready to disclose all of it, nor does it all even exist yet. Here are some things that have been on my mind for those of you who have followed and supported me.
- I couldn't have made it this far without all of your support, and I will do my best not to let you down.
- The trip is not over, and I will return to ride more, but I need to heal a little.
- I may move the finish line. This breaks my heart, and I haven't fully processed the possibility yet. But I want to be in good faith. If I do move the finish line it isn't because I "had to" it's because I've "decided to".
- I need to do some better planning and some slight gear upgrading before I get back on the road.
- This trip has certainly in "challeng[ed] me and requir[ed] me to be tough when it would be easy to quit". More than I even expected.
- I've traveled 10.9% of my originally planned distance.
- It's a vision quest, and the vision is forming. It's not fully formed, and probably not close, but it is forming.
Daily distance: 40.79 km
Average speed: 18.4 km/h (because the second half was a free ride)
Trip odometer: 1258 km
Days 11 - 32 -- WanderingDays 11 - 32 -- Wandering
This update is long overdue. Thanks for all of your patience. The past few weeks have been significantly different than I had planned. I don't mean to imply that they were worse. Only time will tell, but I suspect this surprise turn of events may prove to be better.
One thing is for sure though, I haven't been biking. I rented a car in Florida after the attempted day ten. The reservation was roundtrip so that I would have to get back on the bike. Knowing my own personality, I knew it would be hard to start riding again, so having a roundtrip reservation would get me back down there.
I spent the next night in Tennessee with Andrew, Deedra, and Matthias. Then I headed to New Jersey to see Julie for a few days. Finally I headed back to Ohio to stay with my parents for the week. Then I planned to spend Easter weekend with Julie's family, get the car back to Florida and get back on the bike.
During the week I sized up my knee injury. And it felt fine almost all the time. Very occasionally it felt a tiny bit sore or funny. But it was nowhere near how it felt those last two days riding. My best hypothesis now is that the right knee injury that made me decide to stop was caused by compensating for a lingering tendon injury in my left knee. We'll probably never know for sure. The tendinitis itself continues to be somewhere between inconvenient and slightly painful as well.
During that same few days, I also found out that I got rejected from all the graduate schools I had applied to for the fall. Probably should have applied for masters programs first #RookieMistake. Live and learn. So I started realizing I would need a few plan for the next year.
Some combination of all those things and probably others that I haven't fully realized yet contributed to my decision to change the car reservation and return the car in Cleveland, putting the bike trip on indefinite hiatus.
I want to take a quick aside to clarify something I said in the last post. In hindsight I realize that my remark about stopping because I decided to rather than because I had to could be interpreted arrogantly as in, "I could keep going if I wanted to, but I don't want to." That is definitely not what I meant. What I did mean is that there is an element of defeat here. There is a moment when I said this is my threshold and I'm deciding to stop here. I want to acknowledge in good faith that I made that decision to stop. And that I'd prefer not to frame it as "I got hurt so I had to cancel the trip". It's possible that this distinction is important to literally nobody other than myself. I think it's important to me because I still identify largely as a cross country runner, and this is the same decision that had to be made in every race. I spent a decade of my life practicing being as tough as possible when facing this decision. I love cross country... Okay, back to the story.
I spent Easter weekend with Julie's family and had a great time. We even got a bonus day together because of a snowday in April. (I'll take it 😎) It feels like this is getting serious.
The last few days have been spent studying my butt off, applying to blockchain jobs, and learning a lot of new programming techniques. I'm hoping/planning to contribute to the blockchain revolution somehow, but I genuinely don't know how yet.
I also got to be around for Dad's birthday which hasn't happened in a while. We've spent a good amount of time flying and crashing the rc plane mom got him. And I learned to decorate Easter cookies too.
At present I'm on Oak Forest IL with Paula and Mike on my way to the rchain developers conference in Boulder CO. I'm nervous but excited about it.
You may have noticed that the title of this collection of posts shifted from "Florida to Alaska Bicycle Trip" to "Bicycle Vision Quest". It looks like it will shift even more before it's over. But I guess this is how vision quests go?
To acknowledge the elephant in the room, I haven't tried out biking more. But at the moment I'm feeling like the next chapter of the vision quests may be without the bicycle. Thanks to everyone for their continued support, especially my family.