#biketour

This summer’s three bike trips!

You all, I’m so excited! Everything keeps falling into place, and it’s reminding me how powerful it is for me to hold a beautiful vision—strongly yet lightly—and to allow the pieces to put themselves together, with just a few gentle nudges from me.

As I’ve been preparing to embark upon an entire year of bicycling around the continent… and thinking of how my current bicycling practice consists mainly of a 3-mile-each-way commute to my workplace four days per week… I’ve thought it would be a good idea to do a few “practice trips” this summer, to give myself more time in the saddle, more experience with the trailer, more practice with loading the bike and trailer onto different kinds of transit vehicles, and more outreach to potential hosts.

So, this past week I have put together two such practice trips, and the magic of my vision has been showing up in spades!

One wonderful serendipity: Amtrak’s 50th anniversary, on May 1st. To celebrate, the company offered 50% off fares for one week, which was perfect for me. I booked two trips, both splitting my time between bicycling and Amtrak: Corvallis, Oregon and Seattle, Washington.

I have a wonderful and amazing friend in Corvallis who had offered to host me, not just on my actual trip in September, but on a summer practice trip as well. I’m so looking forward to spending a couple of nights with her and her partner, both of whom are avid cyclists (and recently vaccinated). And, I’ve never spent any time in Corvallis, save for a two-hour evening event at Oregon State University a few years ago, so I’m looking forward to exploring and experiencing a new city, as well. I’ve heard great things about Corvallis.

My sister and her partner, also both cyclists, live in Seattle. (Several years ago, they spent the whole month of May bicycling around a very rainy Germany.)

I had initially thought to bicycle the whole 200-mile distance to Seattle—over the course of four days—and then take the train back home. However, I realized that would take more time than I wanted, and would be more physically rigorous than even my main trip will be, with 50+ mile days every day, and no rest in between. As I searched for lodging hosts all along the way, too, I ran into some gaps.

I reminded myself that a key part of my vision for this journey is to gently challenge myself while prioritizing ease, flow, beauty, and joy. (Some bicycle tourists are motivated by pushing themselves physically. I am not.)

So, I realized that I could use the train to make things more pleasant and joyful.

I will take the Amtrak Cascades train to Olympia, Washington, and then bicycle from there to Tacoma, arriving mid-afternoon, just in time to visit one of my favorite restaurants, Quickie Too. (If you ever find yourself in Tacoma, please do yourself a favor and stop at this restaurant! They are a wonderful Black-owned vegan sandwich shop, and their food is truly amazing. In fact, when I found out they were closed on Thursdays, I moved my whole itinerary back a day to make sure I wouldn’t miss out!)

I needed a place to stay in Tacoma, so I made my first outreach to a Warmshowers host. I searched the map, and found four hosts within a few blocks of the restaurant. They all sounded like interesting people, but I was especially drawn to one particular house of vegetarians. I sent a message explaining my trip, and received a prompt warm welcome of a reply from the host, saying they would love to have me on that date! I had been a bit nervous to reach out to strangers on this new-to-me platform, so this was a wonderful reassurance that I was on the right track.

I needed to continue on to Seattle, and I looked at Google Maps bike directions to puzzle out my best route. During this time, I talked to my sister on the phone, and she checked with her partner, who had recently biked between Tacoma and Seattle. He strongly suggested going through Vashon Island, rather than paralleling I-5; the scenery would be dramatically better, if I could stomach a few more hills.

I have never been to Vashon Island, but this recommendation reminded me that I have another incredible friend who lives there. I had been out of touch with her for some time, but I reached out with an email to see if she might like to meet up for tea.

To my surprise and delight, she also replied almost immediately, and insisted that I stay with her and her husband for the night! I had been contemplating whether to try to find lodging on the island for the night, or to press on and try to make Seattle in one day. Her offer made my decision easy, and I think I will appreciate it, given all the hills between Tacoma and Seattle.

That friend—who has not owned a car since 2008, and who told me she has biked around Europe three times(!) picking up litter all along the way(!)—said she would meet me in town and give me a bike tour of the area, before we headed up to her house for the evening. I’m so excited!

The next day, I’ll take the ferry over to Seattle, and head the rest of the way to my destination with my sister and her partner. I’ll spend two nights and one full day with them, and then leave on the Amtrak Coast Starlight train back to Portland. The Coast Starlight—unlike the regional Cascades train I’ll take on the way up—is a long-distance, Superliner train. It is more luxurious, and I love taking it any chance I get. It runs daily between Seattle and Los Angeles.

Taking both types of trains will give me an opportunity to practice loading both the bike and the trailer into different types of luggage compartments. In fact, I plan to take a pre-practice trip just to the Amtrak station in Portland sometime soon, with my bike and trailer in tow, to talk to a baggage attendant in person and ask how best to prepare for this. (When time is of the essence on a trip, there is little margin for error or uncertainty. I don’t want to be stressing about missing a train or having any luggage snafus.)

The Corvallis trip is in June; Seattle is July. I also have a third “practice trip” planned for August, this time without any trains except perhaps our municipal light-rail MAX train: I will bicycle across the west hills of Portland and out to Stub Stewart State Park, along the Banks-Vernonia Trail, where I have rented a cabin to stay for the night and do some wandering in the woods.I

love how things are coming together to make this all wonderful: my vision, my friends and family, Amtrak, and the wonderful network of Warmshowers hosts.

I’ll write about the magic as it unfolds on each upcoming trip. Thanks for following along!

Do you have your own dream or project, and would like some support or collaborative brainstorming about it? Use the green “contact” button above to schedule a one-hour phone or video call with me!

Want to be notified of future blog posts? Use the green “sign up” button to subscribe!

Want to support my vision financially? I am in the process of manifesting $50,000 in lieu of a “salary” for the year of this journey. You can make a one-time or monthly contribution, or even become a Fairy Godfunder! (Heartfelt thanks to all my patrons and supporters!)

Stepping into a wonderful network

Wow, what a great response I’ve had, all over social media, for my last post about my route! It’s been wonderful to connect with so many like-minded people all around the US and Canada, many of whom have offered me lodging or meetups when I reach their areas. I’ve also done some Zoom calls with some of you about your wonderful ideas and projects. (If you’re reading this and you feel drawn to a Zoom or phone call to talk about your dreams or projects, please comment or use the green “contact” button above to schedule something!)

My newest step forward on this journey, which I’m excited to share with you all, is that I just finalized my Servas.org membership. I love talking to anyone who will listen about Servas, because I find that very few people seem to know about it, and it is an absolute gem of an organization. It’s a global peacebuilding nonprofit, founded in 1949 in the wake of a horribly destructive world war, and run entirely by volunteers who support its mission. I first learned about it a little over a year ago, from a friend who had had a great experience with Servas hosts when she was a traveler, moving to Oregon from the Midwest many years ago.

Servas is similar to couchsurfing.com in that it is a way for travelers and hosts to find each other and connect. It differs in that it is a nonprofit organization, and explicitly aiming to foster deeper human connection. Therefore, joining is a bit of a process: you submit a letter of introduction, which is reviewed by Servas volunteers. You answer several questions—such as whether you wish to join as a traveler, a host, or both—and fill out an online application. Then you do an in-person interview with a local Servas volunteer in your area (or, in the era of COVID, a video interview) and then you pay your annual dues. As a traveler, I paid $98.

Once you join, you gain access to connect with more than 12,000 other members worldwide. (About 1000 of these are in the US, and another 300 in Canada.) When travelers and hosts connect, the “standard” stay is two nights, which is perfect for my intentions. During that time, travelers and hosts share at least two meals, and engage in meaningful conversations, with the underlying belief that connecting meaningfully with strangers all around the world can lead us to greater intercultural understanding and, ultimately, a peaceful world.

This vision—and this way of moving toward it—is 100% aligned with my personal vision, and more specifically, my vision for this bike journey!

Between Servas, Warmshowers.org, couchsurfing.com, friends, family, and friends of friends, I’m so excited for all the amazing personal connections I will be able to make on this journey. I’m honored to do whatever I can to support each host in bringing about their ideas and visions for themselves and the greater good.

If Servas appeals to you, as a traveler or host, please take a look and consider joining!

  • To schedule a one-hour session with me to talk about your dreams or projects, use the green “contact” button above!
  • To be notified of future blog posts, use the green “sign up” button to subscribe
  • If you support my vision, I also welcome financial support to keep it sustainable! I am seeking to manifest $50,000 in lieu of a “salary” for the year of this journey. You can make a one-time or monthly contribution, or even become a fairy godfunder (thank you to all my patrons and supporters!)

The route takes shape!

Happy spring, everyone! (Or if you’re in the southern hemisphere, Happy autumn!) Are you feeling it? Have you been out to enjoy some sunshine, warmth, blossoms and new growth? I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the glimpses of it we’ve been getting here in Portland, with the cherry blossoms along the waterfront and everything else that emerges in this season.

And… I’ve been working on my route for my trip, and I’m so excited! I’ve had the general idea of where I want to go for a while, but I hadn’t had the skills yet in Google Maps to draw it, with a wide enough swath to allow the “wiggle room” I’m definitely building into the itinerary. But the other day I watched a tutorial, et voila!

The map above shows where I plan to go. My intention is to head south from Portland this September, and make the loop until the following September. Most of the journey will be done on my wonderful Brompton folding bike, with my awesome Chubby trailer. Certain sections will be done by Amtrak trains (one of my other favorite ways to travel!) Some short segments may also be done by city transit or other buses, or in a few cases, “road tripping”/carpooling with friends in a given area.

But, mostly by bike! I’m so excited to see all the natural beauty around the continent; to visit national parks and natural areas I’ve never seen (such as the redwood forests, Yosemite, Niagara Falls, and Glacier National Park); visit new-to-me cities, including but definitely not limited to San Antonio, Atlanta, Quebec City, and Toronto; and connect with people: friends, relatives, and lots of inspiring people I have not yet met!

As the trip draws closer, I am putting together a rough list of people who may be willing to host me for a night or two in their homes. The purpose of this trip—beyond physically challenging myself and enjoying the natural beauty of the land—is to give myself a chance to connect with inspiring people, and co-create as much magic as possible. I am seeking opportunities for in-depth conversations and connections about people’s dreams, ideas, and projects for making the world a better place, so that I can help them to hold those visions, spread the word about them, and network like-minded people together as I travel, so that they can all be more effective in manifesting this magic!

So, rather than camping or relying mostly on impersonal lodging such as hotels, I am seeking ways to stay with people for one to two nights at a stretch. I have several websites/organizations in mind that are well suited to this purpose: couchsurfing.com, warmshowers.org, and servas.org. (If you’re not familiar with that last one, take a look—it is a gem of a global peacebuilding organization, founded in the wake of the Second World War.)

But, as I discovered on my 2019 epic cross-country rail journey, I found many wonderful human connections through my friends-of-friends network. I am looking forward to more of this on this (extra!) epic journey, so if you’re reading this, I humbly request that you consider whether you or someone you know might be willing to host me in your/their home for a night or two when I come through your area. I do my best to be a gracious guest, and my goal is always for anyone I stay with to be happy that we had a chance to connect and talk about what’s important and meaningful to us. If you know people on a similar wavelength, along my route, I’d love it if you would put us in touch!

The blue pins on the map are places I’ve been offered to stay so far (thanks so much to everyone who has offered already!) but I’m always open to having multiple connections in any given place, so please feel free to reach out even if your city is already marked. Also, regardless of hosting, I would love to meet up with like-minded folks to talk, perhaps in a local park or café. The more connections, the better!

And, if you do want to connect either just to talk, or to host, I’d love to “meet up” beforehand, to have a phone or video chat to get to know each other a bit, and talk about dreams and projects. We can do that at any time—the sooner the better!—so that we can have a great jumping-off point for the conversation when we meet in person.

I’m so excited. Thank you all for following along with me and supporting my vision!


To schedule a one-hour session with me to talk about your dreams or projects, use the green “contact” button above!

To be notified of future blog posts, use the green “sign up” button to subscribe!

And/or, you can support my work financially with a one-time or monthly contribution, or even become a fairy godfunder (thank you to all my patrons and supporters!)

A chain of challenges

(After substantial scrubbing at home)

Thursday was another beautiful summer-like day, and I wanted to make the most of it. After I got off work around 4:30, I spontaneously decided to check out a new all-vegetarian Ethiopian food cart I had heard about. Google Maps told me it would take about an hour to bike there. I thought, Sounds perfect! Having had a late Clif bar instead of lunch, I trusted that my appetite would be perfect by 5:30. The route was pretty much a straight shot, and pretty flat. I would be done with dinner by about 6:15, and should even be able to get home with some light left in the sky.

I wasn’t on the Brompton; my daily commuter bike remains my beloved red 1979 Free Spirit. 

I enjoyed the ride to the cart pod, and savored my kik alicha at a picnic table in perfect weather. My (pre-sanitized) hands got pretty messy with the meal, but I knew I could wash them at home, about seven miles away.

I threw away my dinner trash and put on my helmet. But as I began to roll the bike, I noticed the chain had come off. 

Oof! 

In the 24 years I’ve had that bike, this has happened probably only five or six times. It never occurs to me to worry about it. Partly for this reason—and partly because I’m just lazy and hate doing bike repairs, and partly because for the past two years I have been paying for bike roadside assistance through Better World Club—I haven’t bothered to carry any tools with me. And, as I soon noticed with dismay, even the grease-covered rag I normally carry in my backpack in case of such events had been removed in preparation for my North Carolina trip, and I had not yet replaced it. So, my stash of paper napkins was the extent of my bike-repair preparedness.

I sighed, and hoped I could easily put the chain back on with my hands.

Nope.

Tried again.

Nope. (But now my hands were filthy.)

It was thoroughly jammed. Only once before had I encountered this problem so badly, about ten years ago. I was at my workplace at the time, and two coworkers helped me and struggled with it until they finally righted it.

Those two were nowhere to be seen at the cart pod. I looked around to see if there was someone I could ask for help, or to borrow a tool. I felt embarrassed. Vulnerable. Stupid for being so unprepared. In pre-COVID times, I would have thought nothing of simply walking the bike to a bus stop and making the (lengthy, two-bus) trip home that way. But these days I’m doing my best to avoid enclosed auto spaces.

My eyes fell on a father and daughter sitting at the next table over, waiting for their food. I stepped awkwardly toward them. (The pandemic makes every social interaction more fraught: I wanted to get close enough that the father could hear me through my mask, but not closer than six feet.) I asked if he had any sort of tool I could borrow, to put the chain back on. He said no, but that maybe he could help with his hands. I felt further chagrined as he interrupted his chat with his daughter to blacken and grease up his own hands, before concluding that he couldn’t get it to budge either. I thanked him for the effort, and decided to look up nearby bike shops. Could I find one still open? 

Google Maps showed a dearth of such, but there did appear to be one a few miles away that claimed to offer mobile repair. Great! Who knows what I might shell out for this, but it was exactly what I needed. I called the number, but got a voicemail box. Dejected, I hung up. A few seconds later, I received a text: 

“Thank you for contacting XYZ Bikes. Please send a text with your name and description of which bike or service you seek. Thanks!”

Hmmm… maybe this could still work?I sent a brief explanatory text, as well as a photo of the chain’s predicament and my location.

No response. 

After about ten anxious minutes, I decided it was time to call Better World to redeem one of my two annual roadside-assistance service calls. Maybe this could be an important “trial run” for me, with very low stakes. Yes, actually, this was a good thing! I could get in some practice close to home, on a pleasant-weather evening with buses not too far if I needed them.

I needed to find a place to make the call, though. The cart pod was noisy: music on the loudspeakers mingled with the rush of traffic on the busy road, not to mention all the ambient conversation. I walked as far away from it all as I could, and looked up Better World Club on Google, grimacing as I realized that if I had a membership card or number, I didn’t have it on me. I found the phone number and called it.

What I heard in “answer” was an extremely jarring sound, which cranked up my existing tension by several notches. 

I hadn’t known it was possible for a phone connection to sound like this in the 21st century. I flashed back to a 1999 quote by comedian Dave Barry: “What, exactly, is the Internet? Basically it is a global network exchanging digitized data in such a way that any computer, anywhere, that is equipped with a device called a ‘modem,’ can make a noise like a duck choking on a kazoo.” 

The sound I was hearing through my iPhone could best be described as 90% kazoo-choking duck, plus 10% what sounded like a standard automated phone menu:

“Press 1 for…” I had turned up the volume as high as it would go, to try to compete with the cart pod sounds, and this static blaring into my ear was an assault on both my senses and my sanity.

Cranky, bewildered, and increasingly anxious, I wondered how to respond to this. I pressed a series of 1s, hoping to somehow reach a live operator. This had little apparent effect; the squealing static continued. I moved the phone away from my ear and glanced at the home screen, wondering if I should hang up and call back, or…?

I spotted a new text from Better World, an Arizona phone number: “Reply with your vehicle’s location in the following format: Street# StreetName, City, State or click the link to automatically locate you.”

I hastily clicked the link, and the squealing-static automated voice blessedly gave way to the call ringing to an actual person.

This person was not much help. She asked if I were sitting in the vehicle. I explained it was a bicycle, and she seemed to understand, but then asked several questions that indicated she thought I meant a motorcycle. 

I was not enjoying this customer-service experience.

Eventually she transferred me to the “bicycle division.”

A woman with a Southern accent and matching slow-paced demeanor answered, assuring me that she was happy to be providing me service this evening. By this time I had burrowed myself behind a closed food cart, next to a building wall, to get as far away from the noise as possible. The daylight was quickly fading, and I was losing patience: All I needed was a tow. Why was this so complicated? Why did this agent seem completely unconcerned with the urgency of my predicament?

I strained to stay polite and explain that I needed a tow for my bicycle.

This seemed to please her, and she continued to speak slowly but enthusiastically: “Oh! This is my first experience with a bicycle issue. I may need to ask my supervisor for help.”

“OK.” [Really? Does no other bicyclist use this service?]

She asked the “make and model” of my bike. [Again, really? I knew that the only service they would provide would be to send a tow truck. How much detail did they need?] I explained that it was a Free Spirit, a Sears. I didn’t know the model; it was from 1979.

“OK… now wait… did you say 1979, or 1976?”

[Are you freaking kidding me???]

“1979.”

“Haha, OK, that’s what I thought you said. But I just wanted to make sure.”

The conversation continued along these lines for probably another ten minutes. At one point she read out loud from her list of “vehicle options,” wondering if my bike might qualify as a “recreational vehicle”? [Please, no, this is not an RV.] At another point, she happily assured me that she had found my location on the map: “Buckman Field!” No, I told her—struggling to un-grit my teeth—that was seven miles west. “Ohhh… haha, OK, the street number is 15700, not 1500!” [I’m glad one of us is enjoying this conversation, ma’am.]

Her last question was whether I would prefer to receive a text or a phone call from the towing company—once she could locate one—to let me know when to expect them.

“How about both, to be on the safe side?”

“OK, sounds good…”

We got off the phone at 7:15. It had been 45 minutes since I had discovered the problem with the chain.

I walked back to my bike and sat in the waning light. I watched the workers at the Ethiopian cart close up shop. 

Argh. This had started out as such a pleasant evening. How long was this ordeal going to last? 

And what if I were on the top of a mountain right now, in Southern Oregon, in the dark and the rain? Or how about the middle of the highway in New Mexico, miles away from any tow trucks, or possibly even cell service?

What on earth am I getting myself into here?

How can I rely on people to help if I need it?

I guess I really do need to brush up on my bike-repair skills.

7:30. I get an automated call from Better World, telling me that ABC towing company, in Vancouver, Washington, was going to respond to my call, “in 120 minutes.”

What?

Two more hours?

I mentally repeated the above hypothetical scenarios. If Portland, Oregon can’t produce bike roadside assistance faster than three hours, what hope do I have elsewhere?

I thought, There is no way I’m sitting in this nearly empty food cart pod at the edge of town for another two hours. I’ll walk to the bus, and cancel the tow.

Right then, the Ethiopian cart guy who had taken my order approached and asked if I was OK, if there was something wrong with my bike. He offered me a ride home, on his way home from work, and I was touched and humbled by his generosity. 

But this was clearly my problem, not his, and I did not want to sully his car with my greasy bike. I thanked him for the offer, and indicated I would take the bus. 

I set out to walk the 14 blocks to the bus stop. The road was unpaved and potholed, and I thought with a chuckle, Well, I guess my bike tour’s adventures are already beginning!

I felt dejected. Morose. This experience had shaken the sense of security that I had allowed myself to feel after enrolling in the roadside-assistance plan.

Clearly, though, this was all surmountable. I hadn’t even left Portland and its city-bus range! The evening was warm, and dry. I had options.

And… I know that I will always have options. I will undoubtedly face much more difficult obstacles once I begin the tour. And, I will find some way around each one. It will be an adventure, and that means there will be lots of fun, plus some big challenges and difficult times.

People do this. 

I can do this.

The gravel under my feet turned to pavement, and the level road gave way to a slight downhill. I thought, Hey, maybe I can’t pedal, but at least I can coast, eh? I hopped up on the saddle and rolled about half a block. I even tried pedaling for a second, just to feel how badly the chain was stuck.

And… the pedal seemed to work.

What?

I pedaled again. The gears engaged.

This wasn’t possible. The chain was hopelessly jammed. Was I dreaming? Had this entire scenario been an elaborate anxiety nightmare?

I hopped off the bike just as I hit Burnside Street. Pulled onto the sidewalk, and examined the cassette.

The chain was on. Like nothing ever happened.

What in the ever-loving…??? What??

OK… I’ll take it…?

And I rode all the way home.

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A powerful mind trick

Some of you know that I am a huge fan of train travel. I have criss-crossed the United States several times on Amtrak, as well as traversed large segments of each coast. One time, frustrated by an order-ahead system that never seemed to work when I needed it, I even ran a successful petition campaign to get vegan meals on the everyday menu of the dining cars. (RIP.) Ever since my first cross-country train trip in September of 2000, I was hooked. And, I’m fondly looking forward to supplementing this upcoming bike tour with a few rail segments.

But, I wasn’t able to dive right into train travel; the time and money were outside of my means at that point in my life. Over the years, I slowly accrued more vacation time at work; switched around my schedule to four days per week, which allowed more long-weekend trips without even touching my vacation time; and I started using an Amtrak credit card to build up miles and earn free trips.

However, I also discovered a “mind hack” to help me bring about this new, dreamed-of reality as a rider of the rails.

In 2012, I flew to San Francisco to watch my favorite band Marillion perform, since that was the closest they got to Portland on that tour. I had only visited the Bay Area once before, very briefly. As a transit geek, I was thus excited to experience the BART, which I had only heard about. I was staying with a friend in Oakland, so I would take the BART to and from the concert.

Having paid my fare and taken a seat on that light-rail train, I was anticipating the evening’s show when I had a sudden thought: “Hey, wow, I’m a rail traveler! Here I am, in another city and state, sitting on a train and enjoying the scenery. I guess this is how I get around these days! I have manifested my dream!”

I chuckled in my seat, marveling at what this little mind-trick had done for my sense of self. I knew this wasn’t an Amtrak train… but I was able to “live into” my dream, by recognizing the similarity of what I was experiencing to some important aspects of what I dreamed of experiencing. It took my transportation geekdom to the next level: no longer was I merely experiencing another municipal transit system—albeit a well-known one I had looked forward to riding—but I was now a person who vacationed in various cities via rail.

The shift was powerful. Within one year of that moment, I became an international passenger-rail tourist: In January of 2013, I took a two-week “California rail adventure,” stopping in five cities. In June of that same year, I took my East Coast Empathy Tour, offering on-the-street empathy in four major metro areas while traveling between them on long-distance trains. And then in December, I took a 30-years-in-the-making two-week trip to Australia, where I traveled by train between Canberra and Melbourne.

I’m choosing to start that mind-shift again now, on my bike. As I enjoy my morning or afternoon commute, or take a spin around the neighborhood to do errands or explore a new food cart, I now think to myself, “This is my life! I’m a bike tourer. This is how I get around, wherever I go, and I enjoy the beautiful weather and scenery.”

I’ve always enjoyed biking for transportation here in Portland anyway. But now, I can feel that it’s part of something much larger. I am riding into something much larger.

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The magic is building

Wow… the magic of this trip has begun!

I had sensed from the start that as I began to write about it, and to share the writing on various platforms, people would start to come together to offer advice, encouragement, and the like… and that I would begin making connections amongst inspiring people and resources.

That’s how this all works. If I’ve learned anything from living my life, and working as a life coach, it’s that when we put our scary and exciting visions “down on paper” and begin to talk about them with others, things start to come together in really inspiring ways.

When I shared yesterday’s blog post to my Facebook page, I wasn’t sure if it would garner much engagement, because I thought “the rain” was a pretty unexciting topic, even if it was top-of-mind for me, and felt very relevant to my vision and planning.

But when one of my friends read the post, she tagged three of her friends whom she knew to be bike travelers, and two of them weighed in with some great pointers and encouragement. One of them also re-referenced the third person, who hasn’t (yet?) chimed into the conversation himself, but who has apparently written several books about his own bike-touring adventures! I want to read these books. I think the more I learn firsthand about others’ experiences, the more I will get a feel for what I want, what I should perhaps avoid, and how I can best prepare for this adventure.

Most importantly, though, one of these friends of my friend—Matt Picio, whose name I recognized as a multifaceted leader in the local bike community over the past ten years or so, but whom I had never met—imparted some wonderful words of wisdom, and I want to share them with you too, because they apply to so many areas of life and dreams, not just bike tours:

“Someone told me once that everyone on a major tour hits ‘the wall’ at some point, where they are ready to give it up and go home. If you get past it, then nothing will faze you anymore and you can ride pretty much indefinitely at that point. It was true for me, and for me it was in Virginia City, Montana, slogging uphill after a few particularly brutal days riding from Twin Bridges through Sheridan and Alder. I was ready to be done, and go home, and I had a couple of soul-searching phone calls with friends. What got me past it was having to get to somewhere I could catch a train home, and riding over the crest and downhill into Ennis, MT, I truly experienced why Montana is called ‘Big Sky Country’ – it was a breathtaking, humbling moment coupled with a several mile 30mph+ descent into Ennis that reminded me exactly why I was out there, and why I wanted to ride.

Your moment will probably be different, but whatever it is, remember that everybody has theirs, and if you can (safely) push past it, you’ll be able to do whatever you put your mind to on the tour.”

I loved this nugget of wisdom. It was another example of something I had sensed, and imagined would be true on my journey, but to see it expressed so eloquently by someone who had actually done a similar trip really helped to reinforce the principle.

Matt continued:

“Oh – one last piece of (unsolicited) advice. Never let anyone tell you ‘you’re doing it wrong’. I was notorious among people touring the US that year for carrying a cast-iron skillet. (For the record, it weighed 3.5 lbs and I lost 33 lbs during the trip – so really, did it weigh that much? I ate really well.) A couple I met toured with a full Coleman stove strapped to her rear rack. And one guy I met in Gothensburg, NE had a 70s suitcase with buckle straps bungied to his rear rack. Whatever you choose to tour with is YOUR CHOICE. We weren’t doing it wrong, and you won’t be either. The best mental skill you can have on tour is a willingness to accept everyone where they are at and not take anything personally. Everyone will have an opinion – you’re doing it wrong, you shouldn’t be touring alone, you shouldn’t be touring with a partner, it’s so dangerous to be on the roads, etc. Let them roll off you and enjoy the moment. … This is your tour, your life. You’re not doing it wrong. It’s yours.”

This was another wonderful affirmation, exactly when I needed it. Just yesterday at the optometrist, I told the doctor about my plan, and he was excited for me, but then he began speculating about what kind of bike I “should really be using” for a trip like this, rather than my Brompton. He wasn’t the first I’ve encountered, to hear my dream and then try to “edit” it, to “optimize” things for me. (And clearly he will not be the last!) I’m pleased to say that I mostly did take Matt’s advice, before even reading it today; I smiled and let the optometrist enjoy his own “twist” on my dream—perhaps he will even end up making some part of it his own!—while remembering that I have my own vision, and I can take others’ advice, but only if it truly feels right to me.

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What is possible right now? Do that thing.

I’m not on my bike today. I’m sitting here on the couch instead, feeling slightly dazed, with orange sky around me from all the fires in the area. Here in Portland it’s not really too bad, but my Facebook feed is full of photos and accounts from friends in suburbs and more outlying areas—here in Oregon and also up and down the West Coast—including friends who have had to evacuate, and friends in prison in Salem who have had other prisons “evacuated into” their population.

What a surreal and frightening reality.

I am reminded again that I was bicycling blissfully several days ago, not thinking of fires. One place that has been evacuated is Estacada, where I biked about a 50-mile round trip a couple of weeks ago to sample vegan cinnamon rolls at a locally owned bakery. I wonder how the owners and workers of that bakery are doing. Have they had to leave their homes? Will their homes be there when they return?

Friends are posting that they don’t know where they will go if they need to evacuate. I don’t have a plan for myself at this point, and I really hope I will not need to.

I feel strangely numb.

One gratitude has struck me, though: When the weather was lovely, I got out and biked. It was what I wanted to do, even though I faced a familiar internal resistance.

Thinking about this reminds me of a life principle: 

“What is possible right now, in this moment? Whatever it is, do that thing!” 

This applies when conditions are “good”: optimize them! Do the very coolest thing you have access to in that moment. You don’t know how long that cool thing will be available to you as an option. It also applies in difficult or more limited situations, like right now: maybe I could pack an evacuation bag, just in case. Get some affairs in order. Organizing a few key things in my life is crucial in an emergency, but also helpful even if the emergency doesn’t come to pass.

I’m thinking ahead to my plan to bike around the country. In all likelihood, I will encounter many unexpected obstacles, including forest fires and/or other natural disasters. I will need to work with whatever is possible in any given moment, and accept whatever reality I encounter, with creativity and pragmatism.

What realities are you facing in this moment? What can you do with those conditions, in this moment, to best serve you or others?

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