Sunday, July 21, 2013

Re-evaluating My Goals

Back in the days of pseudo-youthful exuberance, meaning three months ago, before I departed on this not-very-well-planned journey, I thought I could bike all the way across the country, and then back to Michigan, in time for my 50th high school reunion. That would have meant traveling something like 5300 miles over 83 days, about 64 miles a day. That didn't sound unreasonable. After all, Jack and I averaged 65 miles a day back in 1981 - and he was 64 at the time.

But then I delayed my departure for a week - I just wasn't ready. And there was the unfortunate incident in Missoula, which kept me there for 11 days. To stick with the original route, I'd have to average 80 miles a day.

Eighty miles in a day isn't really that bad - if you're not carrying a load, and if you're not saddled by headwinds and other inclement weather. After all, with sixteen hours of daylight, that's only a 5 mph average speed.

But let's be realistic. What with setting up and breaking camp, meals, rest breaks, fixing flats and other bike maintenance, sightseeing, gabbing with fellow cyclists, meeting people, and trying to maintain a blog, eight hours of actual pedaling is much more realistic. So that brings the average required speed to 10 mph. Which, when carrying a load, is close to what I'm doing in good weather. And, to tell the truth, even limiting the pedaling to eight hours a day does not leave enough time for proper enjoyment of the trip.

I've met quite a number of cyclists who are averaging 90-120 miles a day on their crossing. But what's the point? They ride, they eat, they sleep, they have precious little time to enjoy the things that make the trip interesting: the interactions with people, learning about their work and their lives and the varied histories of the places they're passing through. To me, this is what makes the trip fun. Three hundred miles of the same landscape, the same grain elevators, the same little towns can be mind-numbing. What brings it to life are the stories. These are what distinguish one day from the next.

So I would much rather slow down and have fun along the way, than be able to say, at the end of the journey, "Wow! I really made good time on this trip!"

So let's scratch the idea of making it to the Atlantic Ocean. I can do that some other time. I'm now enjoying a meal and wi-fi connectivity in the back yard of someone I just met, somewhere outside Topeka, Kansas. I'm camping in their back yard with the cats, chickens, and ducks. Two more days should get me through Kansas. Then I'll pick up the Katy Trail across Missouri. It's a 250-mile packed-gravel trail on the old Missouri-Kansas-Texas railroad grade (flat!) that will get me close to St. Louis. I'll rent a car there, and drive to South Bend, with a couple of days to spare before the reunion.

Yeah, there are people I planned to see out east: friends, relatives, acquaintances from 1981. And there's a list of places and things I wanted to see. But that'll just have to wait for another adventure.


  1. Congratulations Bret! It's great you focus on having a good trip and not just making miles for the sake of making miles.

  2. Bret, I've just caught up with you. Went back and read about Missoula. So glad you're through that! Sounds like you have a great plan. What an amazing trip!

  3. Hey Bret, hope all is well with you as those following your blog are awaiting an update? Michael Wood

    1. I've actually written several more entries since doing this page. They just come out below this one because I date them to agree with the date I rode them, not the date I wrote them. If you subscribe to the blog, you should be receiving them all. If you don't, just click on the entries you missed, in the list on the right.

    2. Suffice to say that I'm a little behind in my blogging. And I probably won't be giving too much away if I let you know that I'm still alive, as are a great number of my old classmates; and I will be visiting some of them as I bop around Michigan over the next three weeks.


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