Wednesday, April 11, 2012

3 weeks in.

A week after I started this ride, two girls I know headed out on their own bicycle journey. They left on a similar path that I had ridden in 2007. It was a humorous flash back down memory lane to read about their observations on things I had seen 5 years ago. Humorous, because nothing had changed and it was like reading my own words, nearly word for word. And it was refreshing to read their enthusiasm and innocence about life on two wheels. Every hill, weather, problem, success, and endless sights are all new to them. And I envy them for it. After 6 tours, I have lost so much innocence that it is a rare day that I see something new, challenge I have yet to face, or feeling that I haven't felt before.

People always ask, "what do I think about?". I usually joke that I have solved world peace a few times, forgot it, the solved it again. But actually, after spending so much time on the road, my mind is filled logistical calculations. I wish I had the innocence and thirst as those two girls, but I would never want to be that inexperienced again. I am focused less on the experience and more on the problems at hand.

When cars are approaching, I look to see if their windshield wipers are moving, lights are on, or car is wet. This gives me a tiny bit of information about what weather might be ahead. When I am climbing hills, I look for radio towers or electrical lines for markers on where the summit might be. I watch for flags, leaves, or anything blowing in the wind to give me a sense of what direction the wind is blowing. I know that if I am climbing a hill that the next town will probably be at the base on the other side, never on the top. If I go through a town near a river, I will have to climb some hill to get out of town. I'm always checking the map on the GPS to see where the road is going, and then compare that with what I see on the horizon so I can figure out if I will be going into the mountains, or heading down a valley.

As I move along, I am watching my speed, time of day, miles to destination, and if I'm going up or down in elevation. With these 4 numbers I can calculate down to the minuet what time I will arrive at my destination. And I am usually on time to within a few seconds. But the wind can ruin even the best and strongest predications. The past 5 days I have been fighting my worst enemy, the wind. When people ask what is the worst or hardest part of these rides, being lonely is #3, finding motivation when I am tired it #2, and fighting the wind is by far #1. I can't think of any trip where I have not had a spell of wind that nearly broke me and sent me packing for home. After 5 days of this cold wind, I am early at my breaking point. I am spending all day going nowhere and arriving at my destinations just before sunset. And as each day wears on me, I get no recovery and begin to slow down with every day as I get weaker and weaker. The wind is so demoralizing and leaves me feeling uncertain about my own abilities. And when I have only myself to rely on, doubt becomes a scary and nerve racking train of thought; the kind of thoughts than can wreck a trip. Fighting the wind all day makes me want to vomit. The slow rate of progress makes me angry. And the difficulty of finding motivation to continue when I am tired because I am doubting myself, make me want to cry

I like to tell people that I have a masters degree in suffering. And I believe that I am a master in the art of suffering; and it is an art. It takes an understanding about yourself that can only be achieved through lots of practice. A funny thing about suffering is that it never kills you. As long as I can keep that in mind, and push onward, I'll make it through anything.


  1. Chris

    Really cool trip! I admire your style! I am a little curious about your kit for climbing Denali as your load on the bike looks pretty minimal. You picking up mountaineering gear when you get a little closer?

    I looks forward to reading more about your adventure!

  2. Hi Matt,

    I shipped all of the climbing stuff ahead of me. I really wanted to pack it, but that presented a few problems. I would have needed a custom trailer for about 45 pounds of gear and that trailer would have been another 20 pounds. That much extra weight would have slowed me down a lot, and made the trip nearly twice as long due to a much lower daily mileage average, vs the 68 miles per day that I am doing now. Since I was already starting in winter, I did not want to begin even earlier in the season and risk too much cold and snow. Also, if I got into a big snow storm, I was not sure if I would be strong enough to pull a trailer through 3 or more inches of snow. Since I am meeting people at the mountain, I did not want to risk getting off schedule and delaying or messing up their schedule.

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