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?”




Circumnavigating Lake Michigan by bicycle

When I was in college I had plans to graduate and take a job that started in the fall so I could spend the summer riding my bicycle across the country. Never mind that I had done nothing longer than a couple of seven day bike camps that were extremely well supported by Ralph and Mary Kay Horn. I had been a licensed racer and it sounded like a great adventure.
By the time I actually graduated, I had been married for a year and enlisted in the Air Force for six months. Then came children and then starting a business and suddenly I was approaching 50. The children were all grown and the business was competently run by my remarkable team, so I decided to dust off that cross country ride idea. Of course my darling wife was willing to support the idea if I presented more of a plan rather than just an idea. I built a 5 year plan that started with buying a new bicycle and training for the Hilly Hundred. I didn’t train as much as I should have but the Hilly is not as challenging as those who ride it want their non-riding friends to think.
With the Hilly Hundred behind me, I looked for a longer challenge the next year. I found the Ride Across Indiana (RAIN). It was 160 miles in one day. I trained more but still not enough, and I finished the ride in 11 hours against my 10 hour goal.
While riding RAIN I talked with some riders who were doing RAIN Storm. I had found my next preparatory event: 100+ miles per day for the five days leading up to RAIN then the 160 mile RAIN. The heat,  humidity, and southern Indiana hills nearly killed me.
And I skipped a day in the middle, but I got to Richmond under my own power on Saturday.
To this point my rides were getting longer each year, but the real challenge was to cross the country alone. Unsupported. So now I begin my final tune up for going transcontinental. I’m riding around Lake Michigan alone; carrying everything with me. Now I intend to take advantage of the fact that I’m riding thru America so I don’t expect to do any cooking. I do plan to camp out (as little as possible). I hope to spend roughly a third of the nights in hotels, a third couch surfing, and a third camping.
I’m leaving on August 22nd.
Watch for my story.

My 30th Anniversary Vacation

The Big Piton

the big Piton

Susie and I married over the Memorial Day weekend in 1983. We did that so we would always have a long weekend to celebrate our anniversary. As the years went by, we began extending that long weekend by a day, then two, until now it’s almost always a full week. We were forced to extend because our tradidtion was to select a city within driving distance and to go there and hang out. After years living in Indianapolis, we began to run out of places we could drive to for a 3 day weekend. Now we generally fly to our anniversary destination. This year we flew to St. Lucia, where we stayed in the Calabash Mountain Villa.
The resort is owned by Julian and Sandra Emmanuel, who live part of the year in Indianapolis. The place has only 8 guest rooms, each with a private balcony that overlooks the lush rain forest of St. Lucia. It’s a scary ride up to the resort on roads that most of us in the US would feel to be unsafe for vehicular traffic. Add to that the left-side driving from the Brittish occupation of the island, and it’s an experience for which you’d rather have someone else do the driving. In fact, most of the roads on St. Lucia fit into this category.
We were lucky enough to have a very experienced driver in the person of Daron. He was our combination innkeeper, cook, valet, concierge, and tour guide. It turns out we were the only guests at the Villa as the rainy season began, so we got his almost undivided attention. Daron presented us with local foods that we could not have experienced at a typical resort. He also made sure we go to eat in places where the food was equally authentic, even going out of his way to organize a special dinner for us at a competing resort because of the great view and delicious food.
We got to tour the local rum distillery and visit a botanical garden filled with the incredible variety of plants, trees, and flowers. We also toured the live volcano and heard about its history including the last erruption in 1766. At the base of the volcano we did mud baths with a bunch of other tourists. I must admit I’d be willing to do that again. It was fun and my skin felt so good. I teased for the rest of that week that if it hadn’t been for the mud bath taking 10 years off, I’d be unable to keep up with Susie.
Most mornings I got up and went for a run in the area. The roads were even rough for that. The locals stared at me as if I was completely out of my mind. It became a game to see how many would laugh at me before I went by. I’m sure they all laughed after I went by. There are no flat roads, and being from central Indiana, I know the name of every hill that I might run up so this was a different experience. Running in the area is my way of getting to feel like I’m a part of the area. It’s one of the first things I do when arriving in a new place. The roads and the hills made this a bigger challenge for me than usual. My Thursday morning run was more like a hike than a run because the route I took was more like a cross country course than a public road.
Susie and I had a great time. Our hosts at the Calabash Mountain Villa welcomed us. Daron introduced us to the real St. Lucia. We got the chance to escape and reconnect so we’ll be strong for another 30 years.

KISS your Life Plans

I came across a commentary in The Globe and Mail recently that provided one tip to help me run a better small business. That tip was: simplicity. The article tells an anecdote from Ken Segall’s book, Insanely Simple: The Obsession That Drives Apple’s Success, that demonstrates how even Steve Jobs, the poster child for simplicity, sometimes got caught up in complexities.

As I read the article, I thought about how it really does apply to the slow transition I’ve been experiencing over the past couple of years. It’s one of those changes that sneaks up on you and is in full swing before you really take note. I have been making my life simpler in spite of all of the societal forces to complicate it. I first noticed it when we began preparing to move. Because we were going to smaller space, we had to get rid of some stuff. I felt a sense of relief with each possession I got rid of.

The simplifying continued once we moved downtown. I walk to many of the places I need to go. The walking has connected me more to my neighbors and community. The cycle is virtuous, and contagious. As I read Segall’s story of tossing paper wads at Steve Jobs, it hit me that my simplification plans have become conscious. I look for ways to make my life simpler and implement them.

Of course, I still have to deal with the societal conspiracy to complicate things. We moved our office to Castleton in January so I have to drive to work again, but, I stay home one day a week. I plan early morning and late afternoon meetings downtown so I can avoid any commuter traffic. I still walk to theaters and restaurants and the grocery store.

Simplicity isn’t easy, but it’s worth the effort to create some in your life.

Old Age is a Terrible Thing to Happen to a Young Man

As I near the eligibility age for membership in the AARP, I’m starting to notice things that my mind and body are doing without my permission. The first was my eyesight. I spent years pretending that I could read words that I really was only able to guess from context. I finally went to see an optometrist and got fitted with “computer” glasses. I think that’s the vanity term for reading glasses these days. Not long after, I went whole hog for the bifocals. I still mostly carry them around but I’m coming to terms with glasses as a permanent addition to my wardrobe.

More recently, my memory has been the troublemaker. I used to forget little things (like taking out the trash on Friday morning). Any more I forget things so solidly that when the thought returns, it seems to be an entirely new thought rather than one I am again recalling.

All of this comes to me as I shop for birthday cakes for my staff. They are all hitting the dreaded 30. I recall my time in the Air Force when we referred to the colonels as “the old dudes.” I realize now that they were in their early 40s. It makes me wonder what my people say about me these days.

In the grand scheme, I guess getting old beats the alternative. It’s just so early for this to be happening to me.

My Fragile Self-Concept

Over the Thanksgiving meal, our family conversation drifted to family genealogy. It’s an interesting topic in my family because we don’t know a lot about our ancestry, especially on my father’s side. The conversation started, as it usually does, with comments that one or another of us remembering Big Mama, my grandmother, having said about our heritage. In this case it was my sister recalling Big Mama’s frequent rant that Debbie was “just like those Whitlocks!” As best we can figure, the Whitlocks were some of my grandfather’s relatives and they were prone to emotional outbursts.

The conversation then tends to cover Big Mama’s statements about the Indian blood that leads to a noticeable lack of body hair and then on to other topics. This time the conversation stayed with that Indian blood thing. My sister proposed that our father may have been half Native American. It was a thought line that had never been considered before in my presence, but it somehow made sense … and then it caused me more concern than I would have guessed. You know how people find out  as adults that they were adopted into their family and the knowledge knocks their world off center? Well my reaction wasn’t that strong, but it was much stronger than I would have guessed.

My father’s background is a mystery because there is no record of who was his father. His mother would never tell out of fear that the man would be lynched. Now we’ll never know as she took the secret to her grave. Before my sister’s Native American theory, I always assumed my paternal grandfather was black, and I really didn’t give any more thought to him than that. Now I’m obsessed with knowing more and have no way to find out.

I sure hope they don’t tell me later that I was adopted.

On Changing Priorities

I promised myself that I wouldn’t write anything about the death of Steve Jobs. Too many people took advantage of the opportunity to eulogize him. His 2005 Stanford commencement will become one of the great speeches of the last decade based on the number of people who hear excerpts from it. So, this is not about Steve Jobs, but rather about the kinds of retrospection created in many of us by the death of an iconic figure.

The mass appeal of Jobs’ speech is the truth about the reality of death. Jobs read, “If you live each day as if it will be your last, someday you will most certainly be right.” On the other hand, if you treat each day as if it’s not your last, you’ll only be wrong once. So what’s really the smart bet?

I’m not putting my money on either. Yes, I believe that facing one’s own mortality tends to clarify priorities, but it doesn’t take a near-death experience for that to happen. It just takes time being present. Here are a couple of examples of what I mean.

– A couple of years ago, doctors discovered that I have a slight pinch in my spine (C5,C6) that causes pain in my shoulder. To avoid long term dependence on pain meds, I tried traction and it worked as a temporary relief. I’ve spent 20 minutes nearly every morning since in a home traction device. Woe for me, having to sit every day. No woe, I spend that time meditating, which I was unable to do before because sitting still for that long was hard for me. Use the moment instead of harping on it.

– I have this recurring pain in my back. Once every couple of years while doing something completely routine, I throw out my back and have to spend the better part of a week in severe pain. My most recent bout started this past Saturday. As I hobbled into the grocery store on Monday, thinking about how painful it was to walk, a man in a wheelchair came rolling out. Appreciate what you have instead of what you don’t have.