Sunday, October 31, 2010

I Live Around the Corner from a Bike Shop

Through a very attenuated grapevine, I heard that someone from my past recently took a solo cross-country bike trip. She averaged about 100 miles a day and kept a blog about the experience. A few nights ago, I read most of her travelogue until the wee hours of the morning, thoroughly enthralled.

I would never stay up past bedtime just to read through the “Older Posts” section of my blog. Here I am, often taking weekly shots at people I barely know, while this fearless adventurer is describing what it’s like to pedal across 4 time zones with not much more than a cell phone and a debit card.

She shacked up with any friends or relatives who lived in towns along her route, and otherwise bunked at a new motel every night. She stayed in close touch with her parents (who are huge right-wingers – I can’t believe they supported something this cool) who helped her book the motels along the way and advised her of which roads to take or avoid.

Since I usually encourage any form of unconventional risk-taking, I spent about 24 hours thinking that maybe this was something I, too, should do before I get too old or tied down. First, I would have to buy a souped-up bicycle and a helmet. Then I would have to soup myself up, to get used to riding a bike for more than a few miles at a stretch. And then there would be the tragedy of having to go on leave from my job for at least a month.

But once I finally caught up on sleep, I remembered the last time I tried using my two legs to cross state lines by myself. When I tried walking from Northern Vermont to the Canadian border (in flip-flops), following what I thought was a clearly-marked trail map, I ended up on the front lawn of a house in a suburban residential neighborhood, much like the one I grew up in.

The blog postings about my own coast-to-coast bike romp would be heartbreaking. They would be all about losing my phone somewhere in Montana or getting dysfunctionally dehydrated on a dirt road in Durango, Colorado. I would have my first asthma attack in years and/or be bitten by a snake. All of the stories I’d get out of the experience would be at my extreme emotional and financial expense, and this is not a cause worth sacrificing myself for.

I dare not cycle cross-country – or cross-town – without a crisis-management-certified chaperone in close tow.


  1. ...but you brave the streets of Manhattan daily, no small accomplishment as observed by outsiders!

  2. I can relate to this post. How great would it be to be one of those people who bravely cycle across the country, climb mountains, trek though damp, muggy rainforests! But then I start thinking how lost, lonely, cold, tired, soar I would be decide that it doesn’t sound very fun anymore and will leave it to the people who actually enjoy it.

  3. Much as I too would like to encourage this kind of adventurous activity, which we do far too little of in our post-graduate-degree lives, I have to agree with your ultimate conclusion. There are those of us who would thrive in such an environment, and then there are those to whom it sounds idyllic in theory but would be a disaster in reality. I'm glad you figured out which camp you are in before you found yourself shivering on a mountaintop, tears frozen to your cheeks.