Saturday, August 08, 2009


How does my body, how does my spirit , how does my mind stop something as big as a 3,500 mile, 30 day transcontinental bike ride just because I dipped my wheel in the Atlantic? How do I walk away and re-enter my real world?

For 30 days I lived a very simple, structured life. I had two sets of riding clothes, two sets of after-ride clothes, a camera, smartphone, and laptop, Hammer nutritional supplements, a clothesline string and clothes pins. Less than 25 pounds for 30 days. Didn't want for more. My only credit card charges for over a month were for dinner. Twenty-seven of those dinners were at the level of Waffle House or below. Three of them were really high class, like Ruby Tuesdays or Cracker Barrel.

I was never more alive than I was these last 30 days--totally focused on the physical road ahead, but not the journey ahead. To focus beyond the next rest stop 30 miles out detracted from the present. Other times the focus was reduced to the radio tower on the left at mile 68.6 or the relay station on the right at mile 72.4.

People ask what in the world do you think about for all those hours, all those miles? It's a difficult question to answer because I don't think I think about much, but I feel a lot, a real lot.

I felt humbled and oh, so grateful to have the privilege to ride my bike across America. I would direct my gratitude specifically to the individuals who have given so much to make it possible for me to be able to ride today, praying specifically for their presence in my life and courage to live their lives with integrity and passion.

I felt wonder and awe as I glided across this magnificent country of ours--the great mountains some green, some barren, some white that have been there for millions of years and will be there for millions more just looking at us; rushing mountain streams, roaring washes, desiccated river beds; dust, tumbleweed, great rolling plains whose expansiveness defies measurement in units I can even comprehend; towns, like Groom and Conway that have been ghosted by "civil progress", kept alive only my those who nurture the Mother Road; all God's creatures only some of which I saw as road-kill along the way, but they were plentiful enough to remind me of the great diversity of nature and how arrogant we often become when we begin to think that we as a species, race, nationality, or gender are somehow more worthy than others.

I felt a daily anxiety ball in the pit of my being that I would not have the resources to climb or descend the next mountain, or go the full day's distance.

I felt inadequate as the fast group would over take me never to be seen again till dinner. That some of these riders were ranked by the US Cycling Organization, that all the women riders were 12-30 years younger than I didn't change things for me.

Sometimes I wore my old demons as a collar that squeezed out tears making it difficult to see and even harder to experience, the beauty and joy all around.

I felt the age of all my years, really for the first time. I actually believe my hair grayed by 10% on this trip.

It took me till about Day 20 to catch on to something really big. Yes, I was 3rd oldest person on the Tour and the oldest female. BUT, and here's the HUGE but, my bike weighed 15-20 pounds more than everyone else's bike--a blunt reality of a steel recumbent vs a carbon fiber or Titanium upright. I had HUGE nutritional restrictions that resulted in my being able to consume maybe 3,000 calories a day while others were easily consuming 6-9,000 per day. Those are pretty steep odds to overcome.

Wrestling with the demons was useless as they are ageless and rich with tenacity. It's counter-intuitive, but the only way to deal with demons is to accept them, call them by name, and keep pedaling, keep pedaling, keep pedaling, follow the white line, follow the white line, follow the white line. And at the end of the day, say thank you for a safe day doing what I dearly love, shower, share the joys, beauties, and challenges of the day with the others, try to eat something, and get some sleep.

A few things I know are true:

  • In a few days, few weeks, my physical body will be healed by the tincture of time and rest along with returning to foods that can nurture and an activity level that can be supported by those foods.
  • Sharing the journey with those who truly love me, those who truly were supporting me in their own unique ways, and those who are hearing about the journey for the very first time will help me integrate known gifts and discover others still packed in a zip locked bag in the bottom of my duffel bag.
  • I will never be the same person I was when I left home on July 3rd, 2009. My hope is that others will be able to experience my growth and gratitude.

How long will it take to re-enter? Not sure. Maybe check the blog from time to time to see what else I've learned from this PAC Tour from Portland, OR-->Tybee Island, GA in 3,484 miles and 30 days, and 124,000' of up, ups, and upper ups.


Adventure Annie said...

Susan, this is so touching. And really hits home with me as I have some of the same feelings after being home for 3 weeks now. I realized that I went into the tour thinking it was going to be a physical journey (how will my body hold up for 1800 miles?) but by the time it was over I realized it was a personal journey. One that will stay with me for the rest of my life. Thank you for so eloquently putting your feelings into words! --Ann

Susan said...

Thanks, Ann for taking the time to comment. I hold both you and Doug in such high regard first as people and second as riders. Just wish I had been strong enough to ride with you. Maybe in my next life :)

HEIDI said...

This is awesome! I think everyone should take 30 or so days of their life and do something like this to figure out who they are and who they want to be. Thank you for sharing the details of this with all of us! You're a star! Keep shinning!

Anonymous said...

Susan -- I was just re-reading a bunch of stuff about last year and came upon your website. I think you captured quite well everyone's, certainly my own, sentiments about doing a big PacTour ride. I hope that you are still out there and at some point we meet up again. I'm going to do half PacTour's Northern Tier this July -- only half since I have to fly to Fairbanks to do 3 weeks biking in AK and Canada. Good luck, and it was nice to meet you.
Bob Clarke