The trip uptown was uneventful, though I had to pedal at 6 miles per hour the whole time because of the destroyed rim. The fellow at the rental station had my minivan ready in the parking lot. He showed me how to use the new-fangled electronic key, demonstrated the automatic doors, and helped me fold down the seats and load the bike inside. The stereo had a line-in jack, so my first stop was Wal-Mart to purchase a cable for wiring up my iPod. Then I hit the freeway! New York, here I come!
As I drove along, bellowing lyrics to They Might Be Giants and then listening to electronic boopy and beepy music, I thought about my trip:
Q: So how many miles did I ride?
A: Somewhere around 1300 miles, from Trinidad, CO to Toldeo, OH. That works out to 43 miles per day. For comparison, my original route to New York was 1800 miles, and to make it there in 30 days I would have needed to ride 60 miles per day.
Q: Was it everything I'd hoped for?
A: Well, I had a pile of different plans and ideas for the trip, but when I got on the road I became focused mostly on enjoying each day as its own thing. That was probably the best approach - the most important, at least. I didn't have any expectations about what I would find, but I had some personal goals: Relax, see new places, restore my health, and figure out what to do next. I think I met those goals.
Q: How did a bike trip work to restore my health?
A: Last year I developed a thyroid condition that pitched my metabolism into overdrive, burning my body down like a road flare. Then my thyroid swung hard in the other direction, and I gained a lot of weight, became very lethargic and depressed, and had huge difficulty concentrating at work.
The causes were both psychological and environmental, and to get healthy again I wanted to push everything off my calendar and do a lot of aerobic exercise outside in the fresh air. It was especially important that I stay away from my apartment, which had become a gas chamber of mold spores and dessicated rat crap. A long bike trip was a perfect activity, and it had the desired effect.
Q: Did it cost too much?
A: It certainly cost a lot. I planned a pretty loose budget, and I still went over it. A hundred bucks a day is serious money, especially when you're not working. And as much as I've fantasized about the idea of biking across the country while I do contract-based computer work on a laptop, the real world is not very accommodating for it. I need long chunks of quiet time to write code, and the daily costs of sitting in place - hotel, food, and camping fees - appear to outweigh the benefits of using that time to work.
Better to drop anchor and work some place cheap - like an actual apartment that you can rent for the equivalent of 15 bucks a day - and save up the vacation time for later.
Q: Is that the kind of life I aspire to? Work a while, then bike somewhere new?
A: When you've been working 60 hours a week for five years, the idea sounds grand. But this trip has taught me that I'm too interested in planting roots and building things to be a seasonal nomad. There are plenty of people who bike around the world perpetually. Some have written books about it. I'm not going to be one of those people.
Q: If I was going to do it again, what would I do differently?
A: I would set a much longer deadline. I would budget for 30 miles a day - like I knew I should have - instead of 50. I'd save up a bit more money. I'd leave three months earlier. I'd have more time to explore, talk to people, and write. Less of a backlog.
Q: How did my equipment fare? What would I keep; what would I change?
A: The answer to this is long and warrants its own post. :D
Q: If I did this again, would I do it alone, or with other people?
A: I have never gone on a trip like this with other people. If I wanted to do so, there are organizations - web communities - that I could use to find companions pretty easily. Since I have never done so, I must conclude that there is something in me that prefers to go it alone. I can think of a few reasons why: It's easier to plan and schedule a trip for one. I can go exactly as fast or slow as I want. I can listen to audiobooks for hours, since I don't have to keep my ears open all the time.
Of course if I had a companion I could substitute audiobooks for conversation... And I'm sure we could save a lot of money and carry less weight... Maybe I'll try it some time; who knows.
Q: What am I going to do next?
A: Enjoy the holidays, look for a better place to live, and get employed!
I arrived in Elmira after seven solid hours of driving. Erika's parents greeted me and gave me a tour of their impressive home, then Richard and I caravanned to the airport so I could drop off the rental car. Business concluded! A little while after that, we all drove to the airport in Binghamton and met Erika. Smiles and hugs and tears of joy ensued!