I am now sitting in the car headed home via Atlanta. It is a very bittersweet trip. On one hand I am very glad to be going home, but on the other hand, I am struggling with the fact that my adventure is over. I loved every moment of this trip. Aaron Ralston, the young mountain climber who had to cut off his own arm to survive after pinning his arm against a rock once said, "Just because you are not having fun doesn't mean you aren't having fun!" Honestly, there were so few moments that I wasn't having fun and the few, I am proud to say, I was able to work through it mentally (the crying day) or jump in the van (the bad traffic day and the steep climb day). I truly enjoyed Every Fantastic Moment - one of my main goals on this trip. The first was to see America by bike and the other was to do it with a positive attitude enjoying the journey!
I succeeded! I remember how scared I was the last couple weeks before the trip. I would say that I was nervously apprehensive before the trip. I also thought that if I had "any excuse" travel insurance that I would have backed out of the trip. I worried - what if I can't do it? The return answer was what if you can? Well, I did do it and I am very pleased that I now have a large bank of memories to remember this fantastic trek.
Yes, I will do another Transcon. I am not sure when, but I figure there will be many more transcons in my future. I love touring and I love seeing the nation via a bike. You experience and live America seeing it in this manner. I will admit that I would like to do a semi-supported tour that may have to be limited to one or two states at a time. I would like to tour the state with less dependence on a set schedule and more time to visit the neat places along the way. Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota especially had so many things that I would have loved to have stopped to investigate - definitely more time at Mt Rushmore and we completely missed Yellowstone and all things Lewis & Clark. So, I will be planning state tours for the years I don't do transcons.
What were some of my favorite experiences?
Just riding every day. There were some mornings that I would have liked to have slept another hour or so, but there was never a day that I did not want to ride. Every day would be an adventure in itself and I did not want to miss it.
Dinner at night - getting to get together with a big group of other riders was one of the highlights of the day. I loved talking to each person to learn where they were from and why they came on the trip. We ended up with a fairly consistent group of dinner buddies and cutting up and joking and telling stories that would make you laugh until your stomach hurt.
Our crew was fantastic! They worked long and hard every day - even their ride days to support us. I really appreciate John Lake and Jim H for helping me get my bike put together on the first day. I will never forget Carl loading or moving bikes on the caravan during the rainstorm. He was soaking wet. Dave was the first crew member to figure out that my bike would fit on the caravan. He and Tim J both rescued me from having to walk up long steep hills. Then there was Veronica. Being roommates for a little over a week, she gave me insight into what the crew goes through - and it is hard work. I really appreciate her for anticipating my needing a sag on one of the really windy days - one of the ones that should have been easy that was actually pretty hard. I enjoyed my rides with her and was glad when she was our caravan driver. She also made the raisin toast with the most love!
The beauty around the corner - we live in a most beautiful country that changes around every corner. Seeing snow covered mountains peak out from around a bend was breath taking. Seeing the badger, prairie dogs, prong horn antelope, and even white tail deer thrilled me.
Montana was both my favorite and least favorite state. It was absolutely beautiful and we stayed on roads that paralleled the Clark fork river almost the whole time. I now have kayaking the Clark fork river on my life list! However, they were the absolutely hands down least bike friendly state. It still pisses me off that I was pulled over for not riding on the white line especially since there was not a shoulder on the road I was riding.
Did I train enough? Yes, I think I trained as much as I could during the 16 months I knew I was going to do this trip. Yes, I could have used more time to get faster, but that time did not exist. Now that I am stronger and faster (although still slow) I have a better base to continue to improve upon. My next transcon, I would like to be mid-pack fast so I would have time to take more pictures. I need to become a much better climber.
What would I change about my training?
I would have trained with more upright bikes. I think that training with the uprights would help improve my climbing skills. Or, I would have recruited another bent to train with that could have gone on the trip with me. Although Cynthia, the other bent, was on this trip, our riding styles were different and I was slower so we were not able to help each other very much.
I needed more climbing training, but I just don't think I would be able to improve on that in the time I had living in Mississippi .
What would I not change:
I am very glad I had Michelle Grainger as my coach. She understands ultra cycling and thus could anticipate what I was and would be going through.
Lon & Susan repeated that best thing for us to do was ride as many days of back to back 100+ mile days as possible. There were a bunch of these days that I sure did not want to do another 100 miles, but this was where the potential problems presented. I was able to acclimate to the heat, figure out how to handle heat rash, anticipate problems with my shoes and tires all because of the multiple days of riding. Knowing how to handle the problems before they cropped up gave me confidence that I knew how to handle them when they did. This was an area that I was very fortunate as none of the problems I thought I would have ever happened to an extent that I could not handle it.
Crossing with PAC Tour - yes, they advertise that they are the hardest touring company in America - and I believe it. Yes, I probably could have ridden every mile with America by Bike, but Lon and Susan know what they are doing and care. To see Susan in action shopping for what we would like at Wal-Mart or picking up fresh fruit at a road side stand I know she has the riders best interest at heart and wants to provide us with anything that would make us have a better trip. Lon is the same way. He can fix anything or suggest a better way to go about doing something. I will find it very difficult to do another Transcon without it being a PAC tour.
Something that I realized on this trip that I will take with me through the rest of my life is that "it is never all downhill from here"! You hear the phrase, "it is all downhill from here" sometimes as an assurance and sometimes as a joke. I convinced myself on several days that it was going to be all downhill or that a particular day would be easy based on its profile. The trip and life is never all downhill. This is not to be pessimistic, but just realistic and I am really glad that it isn't all easy or that it isn't everything that we expect. The Mt Rushmore day, I truly thought was going to be very hard to the monument and then literally all down hill from there to the motel. Boy was I wrong! The climbing was some of the hardest of the trip for me. The next day we were supposed to have the same climbing over 145 miles as we did on the 45 mile day. I just knew that it would be an easy day! Once again, I was very wrong. That day was hotter than previous days plus we were battling a decent cross wind most of the day. The next day should have been easier, but that was the grasshopper day. Needless to say, that day was not all downhill! On the other hand, we had days that should have been much harder than what they ended up being. So, I learned to judge a day as potentially difficult and not to set my expectations unrealistically. I am also glad that the days weren't easy. I really enjoy the challenge and my blog/life would be boring without the occasional grasshopper story! I want to remember this as I go forward in life to respect each day and its individual adventures regardless of whether the day is uphill, downhill or full of little bumps!
Stay around another day as we will be driving to Jackson tomorrow. No telling what will cross my mind while we continue our drive home...