2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for my blog. I was really active while I was on the road on my bicycle. I’ve been pretty sporadic since. I intend to write more frequently in 2015. Perhaps I can fill the Phoenix a few more times.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Livia & Steve Russell upper stage at the Phoenix Theatre holds 135 people. This blog was viewed about 11,000 times in 2014. If it were a play at the Phoenix, it would take over 81 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

You Can Only Find it if You Look

Susie and I went to see Wild today. It’s the new movie starring Reese Witherspoon as Carol Slayed in the true story of her solo hike of the Pacific Coast Trail. The story resonated with me because I kept relating her experiences with similar experiences I had while cycling cross country. I loved the movie but realize I’m biased by my recent adventure. Susie liked it too, so I guess it is a good movie.

An experience like this definitely changes a person. I believe each one of us has some experience that we can benefit from having. For me it was the bike ride. For others it’s a long hike, or a meditation retreat, or an Ironman. I don’t know how many experiences qualify. It has to force you to be alone with yourself for an extended period of time. You’ll be forced to use some of that time to get to know yourself, and then you’ll be forced to wrestle with things about yourself that you try to ignore most of the time. And finally, if it’s the right experience, you’ll have to forgive yourself (and others). From that moment on, you’ll be a noticeably different person.

I have a great neice, Vivian. She’s about two years old. She has never liked me. If I’m in the same room, she runs to hide behind someone else. If I talk to her she starts to frown. If I touch her, she screams inconsolably. On Christmas, I was sitting at the table when Vivian and her mother arrived at my sister’s. I called out to her from across the room so she would be sure to notice I was there and could maintain enough distance for her own comfort. Vivian ran acros the room with her arms wide open and jumped into my lap. She gave me a kiss and began to babble at me in her two year old language. The room went completely silent, which is a neat trick with my family. Vivian and I get along swimmingly now.

The next day, I went with Susie to feed Nike, the Helmuth’s rather anti-social cat. In the entire time they’ve had Nike, he’s never stayed in the same room with me. In fact, he wouldn’t even stay on the same floor of the house. This time, he ignored Susie and came over to rub against my leg. He let me reach down to pet him for a moment.

These two events reminded me of something my Big Mama used to tell me: Babies and animals are excellent judges of character. I don’t know if I ever believed that statement, but the response I got from Vivian and Nike made me feel like whatever changed in me when I was on the road has become permanent to some degree. A big enough degree that the babies and animals can tell.

I enjoy the world so much more now. It was during the movie that I realized what it is. I have been telling people that I discovered during my ride that I liked me. Actually it was during my ride that I found the strength to forgive myself, and that allowed me to forgive others. Now instead of collecting and cataloging grievances, I spend more time noticing good and beauty all around me. You can only find it if you look.

My Search for a Path

PathGrowing up I was always one of those people who had a plan. I never realized it until recently. My plans were the kind that consultants call “100,000 Foot Plans.” In the Air Force they described these as “Commander’s Intent.” I think most of you would define them as dreams rather than plans. They didn’t have specific steps as much as they had general outcomes. But nonetheless I had them, and over the years many of them came to pass without me ever getting to the specific steps. I like to think that I handed them off to my subconscious and it went to work while I did other things.

In the past 16 months since I quit working, I haven’t really had any semblance of a plan. I have greeted each day with wonder about what might happen. I’ve given a speech in Maui. I’ve ridden across the country. I’ve done some coaching. I’ve read and written a lot. I’ve shared my experiences with a lot of people.

Recently I’ve been reading heavier books. A year of fiction novels gave me a desire for something meatier. The last couple of books I read have been rather philosophical. In the most recent, Waking Up by Sam Harris, a phrase caught my attention:

We need not come to the end of the path to experience the benefits of walking it.

That captured what’s been going on with me lately. I’m just experiencing the benefits of walking my path. I don’t know where it’s leading me, but I’m enjoying the stroll, and the people with whom I’m strolling.

Define Yourself

Fourteen months have passed since I last worked full time. Everybody around me told me that I wouldn’t last six months before I was going crazy and had to jump back into something. Most were sure I’d start another business. A few thought I’d rest in corporate America for a while. None thought I’d be content to remain gainfully unemployed.

At the six month point, I was in the middle of training for my cross country bike ride. The thought of finding work never entered my mind. People told me the bike ride was a distraction, but I’d still be jonesing for a job once I got back. Not so much.

One of the things I discovered during my 45 day ride is that society puts a huge effort into defining us. Marketers tell us how much happier we’ll be when we own a new whatever, or how sated the new burger will make us, or how we’ll never find our soulmate unless we wear their clothing. Our family and friends also have definitions for us. These are usually less manipulative, but forceful nonetheless. They want us to be the person they need us to be. Oftentimes we are that person, which is why we are a part of their lives. Often we force ourselves to be that person just like we buy the whatever or eat the burger or wear the clothes.

The corollary to the societal defining forces is you. You should be the person who defines you. I have had several conversations with myself in which I challenged my happiness without a job. If everyone tells me that I should be miserable without work, then what is wrong with me that I’m not?

Zig Ziglar called that Stinkin’ Thinkin’. I decided to write my own definition of me. That definition includes my being able to be happy without working for money. I’m not just sitting around wasting my time, or hiding my candle under a bushel. I just fast-forwarded to my end game. I’ve become the Mexican fisherman. And you can too.

I’m not suggesting that you quit working and start doing the things I do. I’m suggesting, imploring, that you define yourself instead of letting others do it for you. You might find that leads to more fulfillment without changing anything about your life but your attitude. You might find yourself riding a bicycle across the country.

The Mexican Fisherman

Mexican FishermanAn American tourist was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna.

The tourist complimented the Mexican fisherman on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took him to catch them.

“Not very long,” answered the fisherman.

“But then, why didn’t you stay out longer and catch more?” asked the tourist.

The fisherman explained that his small catch was sufficient to meet his needs and those of his family.

The tourist asked, “But what do you do with all your time?”

“I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, and take a siesta with my wife. In the evenings, I go into the village to see my friends, have a few drinks, play the guitar, and sing a few songs…I have a full life.”

The tourist interrupted, “I have an MBA from Harvard and I can help you! You should start by fishing longer every day. You can then sell the extra fish you catch. With the extra money, you can buy a bigger boat. With the extra money the larger boat will bring, you can buy a second one and a third one and so on until you have an entire fleet of trawlers.

“Instead of selling your fish to a middle man, you can negotiate directly with the processing plants and maybe even open your own plant.

“You can then leave this little village and move to Mexico City, then Los Angeles, and eventually New York City! From there you can direct your huge enterprise.”

“How long would that take?” asked the fisherman.

“Twenty, perhaps twenty-five years,” replied the tourist.

“And after that?”

“Afterwards? That’s when it gets really interesting,” answered the tourist, laughing. “When your business gets really big, you can sell your stock and make millions!”

“Millions? Really? And after that?”

“After that — and this is the best part — you’ll be able to retire, live in a tiny village near the coast, sleep late, catch a few fish, take a siesta, and spend your evenings drinking and enjoying your friends!”

Friendly is an Option

Man wavingI lived in Los Angeles in the mid-eighties. One of the first things I noticed when I moved there was the way in which people would go out of their way to avoid having an interaction with strangers on the street. I’m talking about crossing the street, or ducking into a doorway, or even changing direction to avoid the possibility of having to speak to someone. It didn’t strike the people who had been there for a while as odd. In fact, many of them admitted to having done it. I assured them that no one in Indianapolis did anything like that.

Flash forward to 2014 and I’m sad to say we’ve become more like the Angelinos of the 80s. I walk a lot. In fact, I suspect that walking is my primary mode of transportation these days. I started an experiment a few days ago as I walk around downtown. I go out of my way to interact with people I pass on the street. My first goal is to get them to make eye contact. If I can manage that, I give them a smile and some salutation. I’m sad to say that less than half of the people in my experiment have acknowledged me. A few have taken the active step of crossing the street or changing direction to avoid me.

Have we become so distrusting that a simple hello is a risk? Try it out. See if you can get over half of the people you pass on the street to respond to a greeting.

Hurry Up and Slow Down

Slow Down signI walk with my mother several days each week. Over the course of the summer we’ve worked up to a little over a half a mile. That’s not bad for an 89 year old lady. I have such a good time talking with her as we stroll along. She’s told me stories this year that I’d never heard before, sometimes even about relatives I didn’t know about.

In addition to the truly good conversations we share, these walks remind me of the value of slowing down. My motto from my bike ride is, “Life looks different at 12 miles per hour.” That’s easy to forget when you jump back into everyday life. Walking with my mama remind me of it. First, it takes more time for me to get there than we spend walking so the whole idea of speed and efficiency are already defeated. Then, no matter how much of a hurry I’m in when I get there, I have to slow down to her speed. In fact, I have to slow down more than that because even she gets caught up in hurrying and has to be reminded that we aren’t racing anybody.

Most of the time I ride my bicycle, sometimes I drive. After each of our walks, I find myself moving slower and noticing more of my surroundings as I head home. The other day, I became a traffic hazard by driving only 5 miles per hour over the limit. One lady was honking and waving and screaming as she swerved from lane to lane around me. I couldn’t help myself when I caught her at the next stop light. I looked at her and laughed. I really wasn’t laughing at her, although I’m sure my amusement added to her bad mood. I was laughing at our cultural need to be in a hurry. Most of the time it’s so we can do something similar to waiting at the next stop light.

I Love a Revolution

icon_58797I read a post on CityLab the other day describing how bicyclists should rejoice in the new word bikelash. It appears that we’ve moved to step three in the battle for acceptance in American society. First is ridicule, and we’ve certainly been there for a long time. I remember my high school social studies teacher, Mrs. Ryan, stopping me in the hall to ask where I parked my horse. The second stage, the one for which bikelash has been coined, is the stage of violent opposition. Now I don’t know about the new term, but I’ve also been experiencing violent opposition for a very long time. I’ve had all manner of foodstuffs and food containers thrown at me from speeding cars. I’ve been called, as my mother used to say, everything but a child of God while pedaling along city streets. I’ve even been run off into a ditch on more than one occasion. Nonetheless, with the coining of bikelash, we are officially in stage two. What comes next?

Acceptance. I must admit that I feel less anxious riding these days than I can ever recall. I covered the entire US this spring without ever exchanging harsh words with another individual. I did have a few arguments with the wind, the hills, and a lot with myself. Even still, I don’t think we’re close to acceptance. For one thing, we still don’t play well with others. Yes, I said it. Bike riders need to get better at sharing the road (and staying off of the sidewalk) before we can expect to be accepted by the non-riding public. I know my bike riding friends will tell you that it’s those trouble making, fixie riding, Jimmy John’s delivery people that are giving bike riders a bad name. They do, but every one of us seems to do our little part to alienate the non-riding public. I’m first to admit that I’ll run a red light on my bicycle, which I’d never consider doing in my car. And I blow thru stop signs like they don’t exist. If it suits me, I’ll ride on the sidewalk in order to go a block or two in the wrong direction on a one way street. I justify all of those bad behaviors by pointing at riders who do worse things. But every time I do those things, I’m expanding the chasm between riders and non-riders. icon_15423

The bottom line is that we shouldn’t be so excited about bikelash. Riders should start doing what they can to reduce it, rather than relishing in its existence or passing more laws to make it harder to share the road. Yes, three foot passing people. I’m not on board.

I do so love a revolution, however, I think we can get thru this social change without one. If we bike riders start behaving better, then drivers and pedestrians will look bad when they don’t do the same. Until then, get ready for a few more new words.

Bicycles designed by Giulia Malaponti from the Noun Project

It’s Whatever You Think It Is

Windshield bugThere’s an old joke that goes, “What’s the last thing that goes thru a bug’s mind when it hits your windshield?” His ass!

I thought of that joke (I’m not totally sure why) as the clock chimed 2:00. You see, about a week ago, I threw my back out. It’s something that happens once or twice a year, usually caused by an insignificant movement on my part. It’s been happening for several years now so I’ve come to understand that it will leave me in intense pain for 7 days. Since I did it last Friday while painting the basement of my house that was supposed to have already been sold AS-IS, I knew that it was around 2:00 when it happened. A couple of days ago I told Susie that I’d be completely recovered at 2:00 today.

When the clock struck 2:00, I thought of the joke about the bug. You see, his ass may have been the last thing to go thru his mind, but he had full control of his last thought (if you’ll allow me to anthropomorphize the little fella). And thoughts are powerful things that we often forget to take seriously until it’s too late.

Henry Ford is most often credited for saying, “Whether you think you are creative or not, you’re right.” A lot of things about us fit into that sentiment. Maybe most things do. I’m not talking about that whole Rhonda Byrne Secret thing. You aren’t going to make anything significant happen without putting in the hard work. But if you don’t start with the right thinking, the hard work won’t be enough.

My niece started blogging this week. Her first post was titled Lost on the Road to Should. In it, she hints at this same concept. We can spend our lives thinking about what we should do. All of us have had those times in our lives where we stopped thinking about what we should be doing and focused instead on what we want to be doing, or even better, on what we are doing. These are the times when we feel most alive. Can you feel me?

Zig Ziglar used to talk about getting rid of that stinkin’ thinkin’! He said we needed a checkup from the neck up. The man was incredibly corny, but his words contained powerful wisdom. If you don’t believe in yourself, no one can help you get where you want to go. And believing in yourself starts with the thoughts you have about yourself and your situation.

I believe that’s the primary difference between people who grow up in hard times who make their way out of them and those that don’t. It’s easier to blame your surroundings for your situation. But it’s not right to do so. You have to own your piece of it and do something about it. When we circle up at the beginning and end of our Back on My Feet runs, we say the Serenity Prayer. Now those of you who know me know that praying isn’t a common activity for me. But the Serenity Prayer holds the key to moving forward. It is my checkup from the neck up.

So that poor little bug, when he realized that he was unavoidably going to meet his doom, could have had his last thought be one of woe for his predicament, or, since the end would be the same, he could have gone out thinking what a wonderful time he’d had while he was here.

And me. I’ve spent all week sitting on my couch reading good books and watching bad movies. I’ve done rounds on the heating pad until I started to believe I was some of Arby’s brisket, approaching my 13 hours in the roaster. I’ve been to my acupuncturist, and my wife has massaged Deep Blue into me each night before bed. I’ve done the work. It’s past 2:00, and I’m recovered. The declaration I made a few days ago didn’t make my back better, but it set the expectation in my mind for when it would be. I don’t plan to go for a run or a long bike ride tomorrow, but I won’t spend the day sitting on the couch watching bad movies and reading good books. I’ll go back to my normal routine.

What about you?

Why I Run

Damon on the runI was reading Chrissy Vasquez’s latest blog post today. I was moved by her honesty and I really wanted to hug her by the time I finished. Toward the end of her post, she talked about experiencing the runner’s high for the first time. I can’t tell you that I remember my first time, but I can assure you that had I never experienced the runner’s high I would have abandoned running a long time ago. There are less difficult ways to get exercise. Look at that face in the photo! Does that look like I’m having fun?

The fun of running, besides being able to eat anything I want, is what happens in my head when I’m out on the streets. If you’ve never experienced it, there is no way for me to describe it that will be meaningful to you. Suffice it to say that I’m willing to wear that face over there in public several times a week in order to have that experience for a few moments during the run. 

I experienced this mental state for the first time outside of running during my bike ride across the country. As I pedaled along on a back country road one day, I suddenly realized that I had covered nearly 30 miles without noticing anything. Then that feeling poured over me as I realized that I had been in the zone for a very long time, longer than I could possibly stay there when running. I now find that I can get there on my bicycle, but not reliably. I haven’t figured out the conditions that create the atmosphere for me to get there on the bike. But when I run…

As long as I’m running alone and not racing or having to pay attention to my route, I can slip into the zone sometime during the second half mile of a run. I can stay there for 15 or 20 minutes. I don’t know what brings me out. I haven’t been able to return during the same run, which is why I hate when external things like cars or dogs snap me out. 

I have done most of my running this year with Back on My Feet. As a result, I’ve missed those moments in my special state of mind. I ran solo on Sunday morning, and it wasn’t until I read Chrissy’s post that I realized what was so great about that morning run. 

I chase that state of mind in lots of ways. I think I have brief periods during meditation. If I could practice Tai Chi enough, I think there’s a chance to have a group version of the experience. I’ll find the conditions required to get there on my bike now that I know it is possible. Wherever I find it, I’ll savor it. But for now, that’s why I run.

How Often Do You Notice What’s Missing?

Lake MichiganI meditate for 20 minutes most mornings right after I get out of bed. I sit in my ugly brown La-Z-Boy recliner and practice mindful meditation using Insight Timer. This morning I got up and went for a run first thing. It was the first solo run I’ve had this year. When I got back, I was too hot and sweaty to sit in my La-Z-Boy, so I sat in a lawn chair on the deck to meditate. That’s when it hit me that something was missing — silence!

I love living downtown. It’s walkable. It’s vibrant. The neighborhoods are more like the one I grew up in. But downtown is never quiet. Over time, we all become accustomed to the noise and don’t notice the trains, and traffic, and sirens, and animals and insects that create the background noise to our lives. Sometimes though, I get a sudden feeling that something is missing. When I have the time to consider the thought I can often come up with what it is. That feeling led me to realize that I’ve been missing silence. Then all of the silent moments I had during my 45 days riding across the country went flashing thru my mind. I really missed the silence then.

All of this is a long way to say that there are often things missing in our lives that have  been missing for so long that we can’t identify what they are. We just recognize a feeling of loss that seems generic. There are no generic losses. If you’re missing something, it is something specific. Examine that feeling. Sit with it in a quiet place — as quiet as you can find anyway. When the loss becomes more specific, follow it. Find out when and where you lost it. Then go back there, even if it’s only in your mind. Revisit what you’ve lost. Just like I went out and found some silence.

Remembering to be Present

Someone very close to me told me the other day that I came back from my cross country bike ride a nicer person. Before I could thank her for that compliment, she said, “but now you’ve become mean again.”

I was really hurt by the comment. I didn’t respond. Instead I went silent and took time to contemplate her statement. Sometimes, often times, the people around us see things that we overlook about ourselves. I took this to perhaps be one of those times. After thinking about it for a day or so, I realized that she was right. I was mean again. I had lost that connection with the moment that I’d enjoyed during my 45 day trek across the country.

Just as importantly, I had begun to reflect what was coming to me from others. People caught up in their day-to-day activities aren’t as nice to one another as people having an unusual experience. When I rode across the country, I became an unusual experience for everyone I encountered. They responded with kindness and generosity. I didn’t exchange harsh words with another individual during my entire trip. Now that I’m back, my interaction with others is no longer unusual. I’m part of their routine. As such, they treat me with the same ambivalence as the other people they encounter. 

After being the catalyst for kindness, I took this routine treatment as aggression and responded with aggression. The end result was a cycle of meanness that was unintentional. I started paying more attention to the present moment. I started making every interaction I had special, unusual. Not surprisingly, I stopped feeling aggression from the people around me. If you find a way to get into the present moment, every interaction is unusual and the people around you respond to that.

Commit to a Path

I receive an email from Chris Brogan every Sunday. In it he talks about some topic of interest to him. I didn’t get to read it yesterday. This morning I’ve been cleaning up things from my bike ride absence. As I worked my way thru emails, I came across Chris’s. The title: Commit to a Path. Here’s his opening paragraph:

Over the last few years, Damon,  I’ve invested a lot of effort in the area of rework. I’ve changed every aspect of my life in some way, from what I eat, to how much I sleep, to my relationships, to all aspects of my business. In all cases, I’ve pursued improvement and growth, but also clarity and a more integrated approach to my goals and the path required to get me there. I want to help.

Wow! That sounds just like what I’ve been doing over the past few years. I found that clarity on the road from LA to DC. I’m trying to figure out how to integrate it into whatever I do next. I have also noticed, like Chris has, that many people don’t take the time to enjoy themselves. They don’t even enjoy the things they do for enjoyment. They’re too busy flailing around from one thing to the next.

Everybody slow down! Running this stoplight won’t keep you from getting caught at the next one. Movement may look like progress, but sometimes progress comes when you’re being still.

Spend a part of your day going slowly. I bet you find something there.

Ten Days Later

Since I finished my cross country adventure 10 days ago, I’ve been staying with my son and his boyfriend in DC while waiting for my wife to come and pick me up. She arrives today — Yay!

As I’ve interacted with the people of this bustling city, I’ve noticed some changes in my perspective. I’m guessing they won’t be permanent but I hope some vestige remains with me as I go forward. I wrote about the grandeur of our nation as I rode across it. The magnitude of the landscape made me feel how small I am in the grand scheme of things. Imagine how small the everyday annoyances seem in comparison. People, we take ourselves too seriously. We are so busy rushing from place to place and task to task that we never, or rarely, take time to live in the current moment in the current place. In the end, it’s only those current moments that matter.

I quipped after my Lake Michigan ride that life looks different at 12 miles per hour. I think I’ll make that my new motto for life. As I strolled thru the crowds of Washington listening to the locals complain about the tourists, and the tourists complain about the locals, and all of them complain about me, I felt like an alien. I was the only one who wasn’t in any hurry. I had no particular place to go, and it allowed an interesting perspective on all the people who did. I watched people stampede over one another so they could stand on the Metro platform waiting for the next train. I watched people cross streets against the light so they could wait at the next intersection for the light to change. I watched people rush to be first to enter an exhibit where they waited for everyone else to enter before the tour guide began his speech. Each time I laughed.

Now I don’t want to get all mushy or preachy about this. As I said, this sentiment isn’t likely to last long once I get back to my daily grind. I do want to throw the reflection out there for you to ponder. You aren’t likely to get a chance to spend 45 days in a singular pursuit like I did. If you do get the chance, take it. If not, take a little time to consider your current moment. It’s the only one you have.

TransAmerica Bike Ride Thoughts

I have so many thoughts about this adventure. The biggest is that I’m glad I did it. Even though it was 30 years later than I had originally intended, the timing turned out to be perfect. You may have a similar forgotten dream that it’s time to revive.

Our country is vast, and it’s beautiful, and the people are extraordinary. Seeing it all at 12 miles per hour gave me a new perspective.

The total cost of the ride (from first pedal stroke to last) was $2418, which is $53.73 per day or $0.83 per mile. I rode 2949 miles, which is 72 miles per riding day or 65.5 including rest days. My plan was $50/day and 65 miles/day.

I was chased by dogs only a half dozen times. Most dogs responded to a yell and a hand fake. Those that didn’t generated a big adrenalin rush that allowed me to escape. I rescued one turtle from the road, chased 2 deer down the C&O Towpath, and finally saw a live snake on my last day. I never saw a live armadillo or possum or raccoon, but I saw many of each.

I had 4 flat tires, or changed the same flat 4 times, depending on how you want to look at it. I wore out a rear tire and had to discard a moldy water bottle. The chamois came unsewed from one pair of riding shorts. I bought new gloves because one of the two pair I took was causing numbness in my left hand. I also replaced my air pump because the one I started with turned out to be a piece of crap.

I ate a lot of high calorie, low nutrition food along the way. In the first 2300 miles I lost only 6 pounds. In the last 650, I lost 10 more. I blame the Appalachian hills for that difference.

I met some incredibly wonderful and interesting people who helped me along the way. My thanks to:

  • Mike in Amboy
  • Ray in Flagstaff
  • Tim and Tari in Edgewood
  • Helen and Kyle in Amarillo (and Chad at the Bike Shop)
  • Moni in Oklahoma City
  • Larry and Terry in Tulsa (and Ronnie for connecting us)
  • Jean in Joplin
  • Stuart and his kids in Springfield
  • Mark and Sue in Rolla
  • Jason and Beth in St Louis
  • Thom in Vandalia (by car)
  • Dora in Terre Haute
  • Barb, Doug, and Jeff just outside Plainfield
  • Bill, Christine, Jeff, and Mark in Indianapolis
  • Jess in Columbus
  • John, Mike, Barb, and Marty in Wheeling

Extra thanks to the people who pedaled with me for a while: Jeff outside San Bernardino; Jason leaving St Louis; Thom in and out of Vandalia; and my new friend Urs for most of 3 days from Columbus to Smithton.

Thanks also to all the people who sent me encouragement here, on Facebook, LinkedIn, email, and text messages. I didn’t respond to all of them, but you should know they helped.

Special thanks to Alex and Joubert for putting up with me in their apartment while I reintegrate.

And extra special thanks to my darling Susie, who loves me enough to let me tilt after a few windmills.

So, as president Jeb Bartlett liked to say in The West Wing, “What’s next?”




TransAmerica Bike Ride Day 45 – 115 miles

I left Hancock on the road instead of the trail, but it seems that I’m always looking at the grass on the other side of fence. After climbing some long steep hills I decided to try the C&O Towpath, hoping to avoid some hills.
The information I had gotten about the Towpath was accurate. It is much more rugged than the GAP, and it was flatter than the roads. It was also very wet and muddy. The bike and I got covered in mud quickly. It turns out that the mud is just like the water. Once you’re covered, you’re covered.
Unfortunately, there was no marker to indicate where I should get off to get to Leesburg, my intended destination for the day.
By the time I realized I had passed Leesburg, I was only 30 miles from DC. I called Alex to tell him that I was riding in today. He rode out to meet me and guide me to his place. He got soaked and muddy as well. I rode 115 miles today, which is my longest ride of the trip. I did the same thing at the end of my trip around Lake Michigan.
So I’m here! I’ve ridden 2949 miles over the past 45 days. It was an incredible experience.