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    Tuesday, September 22, 2009

    In case anyone was confused...

    In case anyone was confused about the cyclist who circumnavigated the globe in 174 days, finishing just a few days ago in London, THAT WASN'T US. I'm not sure which would have been more difficult for me and Jess: averaging 103 miles a day through 20 different countries (How do you expect us to sample the local beers at that rate?), or growing a beard like this guy.
    (image from the Daily Telegraph)

    Congrats to James Bowthorpe for a truly epic journey which I can't even begin to comprehend.

    Here are some additional photos from San Diego, where I was able to hook up with a Critical Mass on my second-to-last day of biking. Critical Mass is a biking movement that overtakes city streets on a spontaneous route to celebrate the joy of biking and biking pride. I've never done a Critical Mass before, and San Diego's monthly Critical Mass has been known to tear through shopping malls, movie theater lobbys, and parking garages. I wasn't able to stay for the whole Critical Mass since I had to get back for Bramble's last gig, but what a ride....

    (Before the crowds really arrived)

    About a thousand people gathered at fountain in Balboa Park at dusk. A drummer started wailing away on a drum set as people slowly started doing laps around the fountain. Eventually more and more joined the circle, and then with a few short whistle blasts the entire crowd surged forward and we were off, biking through the streets of San Diego with no idea where we were going, just surrounded by bikers on every side. To be a part of that community--the trendy fixed gear riders, the tricked-out racing bikers, the high school kids doing wheelies on BMX bikes--all moving together as a single, wacky unit with no idea where the crowd is going.... indescribable. Peter and I were the only loaded bikes and everyone asked where I had come from. When I answered, "Vancouver to Tijuana!" they couldn't believe it, and to be honest, neither could I.

    A few days later, staying at Chad's house (who I met at the Bramble gig,) he summed up my feelings for bike touring and my bike with a succinct quote from Pirates of the Caribbean, one of the top movies of all time. I like to think of myself as Jack Sparrow, both because I like pirates and because the name of my bike, the Lady Merle, rhymes with the name of his boat, the Black Pearl.

    "Wherever we want to go, we'll go. That's what a ship is, you know. It's not just a keel and a hull and a deck and sails, that's what a ship needs but what a ship is... what the Black Pearl really is... is freedom." -Pirates of the Caribbean

    That's what the Lady Merle is--freedom. Freedom to explore, to move at a perfect pace, meet crazy, amazing people, to ride off into the horizon and see what awaits.

    May you all find what makes you free and may all of your trails lead towards adventure.

    On to the next horizon...

    Tuesday, September 15, 2009

    What a long, strange trip it's been...

    SUCCESS. A few tears and a huge smile as I hoisted my bike in triumph at the Mexican border on August 31st. Part of me still can't believe it's over, and it was hard to take it all in at the border. Bicycle touring is amazing but there are certainly days when you just don't want to bike anymore, when you wish you could just get in a car and end up where you need to go, when all you want is some toast from a toaster oven and a real bed and not have to find a place to stealth camp on the side of the road where you may or may not get bothered by coyotes or townies. Standing under the Mexico sign, I had all those memories running through my head--of the excruciating hills, of the sheer feeling of flying down some of those same hills, of wandering in the ethereal sanctuary of the redwoods, of laughing with hosts on Vancouver Island that we'd probably never make it that far, of sneaking into hot tubs all down the west coast, of making stir fry in my thrift-store pot and fold-up stove, and of telling all of the strangers who asked "Yes, I'm biking from Canada to Mexico." Suddenly, that became, well, I BIKED from Canada to Mexico.

    This was such a large trip, certainly been the longest and hardest physical challenge I've ever undertaken, that I could never look farther than the next major city or rest day. I concentrated on Seattle, then Portland, then Arcata, then San Francisco, then Santa Barbara/LA, and then suddenly... here I was, at the finish line. Pieces of a puzzle just falling together, and when I looked up, I had done something incredible that I never would have been able to do two months ago. Biking is about determination and true grit, not about physical ability. Anyone can bike 10 miles an hour. Anyone, with enough food and determination, can keep that pace up for 5 hours. And anyone could repeat that cycle for 8 weeks, which is more than enough time to make it from Canada to Mexico.

    Now I'm back at my parent's house in Lexington, MA, trying to recoup some financial losses and reenter society. It was hard, the first week back, to get up and not have to go anywhere, to come home to the same place that I left, to not have a distance goal for each week and section of my day. But it was amazing, too, to rediscover the incredible technology like the refridgerator (what a wonderful idea! Cold food whenever you want it!). And so I move on to the next phase of my life. We'll see what comes next.

    Jess is still making her way down the coast, taking plenty of surf breaks and having crazy experiences along the way. Last I spoke with her she was in LA staying at a commune with Max, who we met further north.

    I'd been looking forward to this margarita since Canada. It was, by all accounts, the best and worst margarita of my life. The best, because I worked so hard for it and envisioned it for about 2,000 miles. The worst because, well, it was a gross margarita. But what could I expect at a place called "Gringo Plaza"? People asked me how far I biked into Mexico. And the answer is, oh, about forty feet. But hey, you know what? It counts!

    My friend Julia, who I worked with at Outside Magazine in Santa Fe, is now living in LA. She rented a bike and biked the last 25 miles, from San Diego to Tijuana, with me.

    Camping south of LA is not really an option. So we make it work in our own way, like camping out on a golf course in Laguna Beach.

    This sign was from Big Sur. Normally, this sign would inspire fear and quaking in my spandex-clad knees, but by Big Sur I was in great biking shape and so inspired by the stunning scenery. All I could think of when I saw that sign is BRING IT ON.

    Big Sur was the last true wilderness we went through before LA.

    We came in under our fundraising goal for World Bicycle Relief of $3,000 at $1,700 (not all of our donations were registered on the website). I think this is more due to rookie mistakes--I was so overwhelmed by the trip itself that I could barely think about fundraising. Now that I'm back home, I'm exploring some other options to help us meet our goal. If you'd like to help us on our way, please consider donating by clicking here.

    As I finished my trip, I think the perfect way to sum it all up is my favorite Grateful Dead song, Truckin':
    Sometimes the lights all shinin' on me;
    Other times I can barely see.
    Lately it occurs to me what a long, strange trip its been.

    Thanks to everyone who helped us out along the way. It wouldn't have been possible without you.
    Happy Trails,