Welcome to a very surreal, somewhat despondent blog post. As I write this, I’m back in Australia, six months earlier than scheduled. I’m on day two of a fourteen day quarantine; sitting at the kitchen table, sipping a coffee, reflecting on what was. Things couldn’t possibly be farther from where we were a week ago, back when we were preparing to cycle the Southern Tier. And yet, my memories are still so vivid that if you told me this was all a dream, I’d wholeheartedly believe you.
Let’s backtrack a little, on 9 March we landed in San Diego with very specific plans. We had a list of things to buy and two bikes waiting for us at the Cycle Quest bicycle shop. The next four days involved driving across the city sourcing everything we thought we’d need for two month ride.
Both our bikes were “easily” secured secondhand, along with a lot needed parts for my bike. We sourced panniers from the friendly bike community of Cycle Quest and used Craigslist to find some camping equipment and clothing. Sure, we had to buy a few things new; some clothing, a tent and sleeping bags, but for the most part it was all pre-loved.
Before I continue, I need to make mention of Charley. We wouldn’t have our bikes at all without his help. We also need to thank Brian, Sharon and Eric for their advice, cycle touring wisdom and continuous efforts to help us get ready in time. Despite our many rookie questions and countless visits to the shop. Thanks to Sandra and Larry for their advice and panniers. Oh and I can’t forget Bernie! Who graciously offered us two helmets from his garage after a fantastic evening of music and cheer at his home.
I need to be really honest here.
I’d never ridden a bicycle with cleats, never worn the shoes, never worn padded shorts and never cycled with a weighted bike before. I had absolutely no idea what I needed to survive and what it was going to be like. Nothing like on the job training right?
I bought a Giant OCR3.
Now, that may mean something to you – but it didn’t and to be honest – still doesn’t really mean anything to me. After a quick test ride around the block, I slowly tried to figure out the breaks. As for the gears, well. I had no idea. Some went up, some went down. If you’d asked me to get to a lower gear, it would take a lot of clicking and pedalling. Trial and error (with plenty of error) to eventually find a slightly lower gear.
Moo has a Fuji Touring.
His operates completely differently to mine, but he seemed to pick it up seamlessly. Who knew bikes were so different? I tried hard to listen to his advice or ‘constructive criticism’, but it often fell on confused ears. Nothing he was saying was correlating to what I was riding. This was going to be interesting.
The next task was dipping the tyres.
Because if you don’t – did you even cycle across the country? The idea is that you dip the back tyre in the Pacific Ocean with the intention to dip the front tyre in the Atlantic Ocean. This provides the ultimate proof in bragging rights. We decided to do a little practise cycle from our hostel down to Dog Beach. This is where the cycle officially starts. It was a phenomenal feeling to cycle down there and feel the weight of what we were about to embark on.
On arrival, we heaved the bikes over the sand to get to the shore. By the time we’d carried them back to the safety of bitumen, the heavens opened up and the rain poured out. We were completely soaked on the pedal back – was this a bad omen? The only saving grace was that we hadn’t loaded the bikes with our gear yet and that the hostel had a dryer.
With no idea if our panniers were evenly weighted, we loaded each side of our rear racks. We then tied down our sleeping bags in between with bungee cords. Water bottles were filled and handlebar bags clipped in. There was one more thing to do. Apply the chamois cream. I mean, this really should come with instructions. We had no clue as to where we should be smearing it. I fumbled along and before we knew it we were ready to ride.
On 14 March, we rolled out.
It took me three days to learn how the breaks were organised. It took a total of five days to fully understand the gears. With a lot of chamois cream, a load of coffee and a heap of rest breaks, we eventually got the hang of it. From California to Arizona, we’d accumulated 700 kms and cycled as high as 3,890 feet to below sea level. The experience was a thrill, something I was only just starting to enjoy.
As only a few of you know, our cycle across the US was not the end of the year abroad for me. In May, Moo was set to return to Australia to start work. I had (still have) a flight booked from New York to Panama City, where I intended to go for a two week hike. All before fleeing back to Europe for the summer. I guess you could say a lot more feels lost than just the cycle.
With our luggage still in Florida (UPS have quoted us $1,000 USD to ship them back to Australia), my hiking gear in NYC and my flight booked to Panama. It feels quite literally like I’m a little displaced. Alas, with those plans now on hold, it’s time to make new plans. First being – how can I amuse myself for twelve more days within the constraints of this house?
But for now! Join me next week with a complete journal of the cycle, day by day.
Until then xo