​​Uncommon FUTURES

  Stories told & stories worth telling.

 

BIKE * PUNX

BIKE * PUNX

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Atlantic City, New Jersey



I’m going to bike across the United States.
I’m going to bike across the United States.





I kept hearing that line repeating in my head. It was a frigid morning. The sun had just barely come up. Sitting on a wet bike seat, the last thing I thought I was going to do was bike across the country. I had told more than fifty people of my intentions, five of who took me seriously enough to volunteer and join me. One of them, Dylan, was riding a few feet in front of me.

“It’s about three miles to the station.”

“Sounds good,” I replied.

The problem with stating a goal of such magnitude is that it is hard to retract. At times it can seem like a good thing, but at that moment while trying to decide if the cold or the lack of sleep was worse, I promise you I didn’t see it that way.

We were riding our bikes to a New Jersey train station, then heading to the coast where we would begin our cross-country bike trip. I was making a mental list of things that should not correspond with what I was choosing to do with my free time (some people call this a “vacation”). Off the top of my head:

I should not be waking up earlier than when I have work

I should not be biking when gloves and a raincoat are required

I should not be biking when there is a warm house… with a warm couch… with a television… with all of the Game of Thrones episodes that I haven’t seen

“I’m, well we’re, going to bike across the United States.”

“Huh,” I muttered, as I realized Dylan was answering the questions of a man sitting across from us on the train.

I smiled and returned to thinking about how it is a bad sign when your ass hurts before you have technically started the bike trip. The irritation is probably not going to get better in the next few thousand miles, especially when the seat is the only one you have at the moment.

The thing is I have an anti-training mentality. It can be a double-edged sword. There is a certain degree of practicality. No working individual really has the time to train for biking across the country. Unless you quit your job, fill your bike bags with a couple of bricks, and take a minor (5-8 hour) practice ride five days a week, your “training” is probably not going to help that much. However, if you take your time in the beginning, after a week or so you get used to the exercise and stop minding it so much. This is the sort of self-affirming nonsense I was telling myself. I say nonsense because training might have been partly impractical, however I could have gotten my bicycle earlier than a week before leaving… or tested my bike seat.
“This is the last stop.”

I woke up.

Atlantic Ocean here we come.





It is really difficult to start something when you are not sure why you are doing it in the first place. Why didn’t I start riding from my house in Pennsylvania? Why didn’t we wait for a sunny day?

“Yep, I’m ready,” I said as Dylan and I began peddling on our journey.

The boardwalk in Atlantic City is a weird place to be at seven in the morning. The people you see are workers, die-hard partiers, or a very bizarre third option that I’ll simply call “interesting.” As we biked past many of these third-option people, we saw such attractions as a statue of a horse and buggy (we are potentially fast compared to the frontiersmen I told myself) and many a cotton candy stand.

We rode out to a dock where I could see the general area where my family and I went to the beach last year. It was particularly odd considering that they would be there again in July, without me. Looking at the ocean gave me a one hell of a perspective considering I could probably see less than a thousandth of the distance I planned to bike.

“Man is that wind cold.”

“Shall we continue?”

I’m going to bike across the United States.

The width of New Jersey is about seventy miles. The average biker that I’ve talked to goes on rides anywhere from twenty to sixty miles. I hadn’t biked in quite some time. Of course we planned for New Jersey to take one day.

A lot of biking seems very machine-like when you are zoning out. There is a lot of repetition, but then again there usually is…

Water-peddle-granola bar-peddle-take off coat-peddle-put coat back on-peddle-water.

About halfway I was really hoping that my butt would undergo a magical process where it would stop hurting and fit on my seat perfectly. I saw an ice cream stand and figured out that it takes at least five minutes to eat a cone. That is five minutes off of your bike seat. I love ice cream, but you could have figured out my true intentions if you would have taken into account that it was about forty degrees outside.

A few hours later, and we were really making progress. It is amazing to look at a map and cross off one state from where you have to go, even if it is New Jersey.

I was cold, cranky, wet, and sore. We stopped at a pizza place for a late lunch. There is a saying by Khalil Gibran that “the deeper sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.” While he was arguably not talking about biking, it is amazing how accurate the statement proved to be that day. While I wouldn’t exactly call my volunteered soreness “sorrow” I enjoyed that pizza more than most pizzas ever before… to say nothing of the shower that would follow that night.

While exiting the restaurant, we ran into a guy checking out all of our bike bags and gear.

“Where are you heading?”

“San Francisco.”

Blank stare of disbelief.

“Where?”

After a short conversation and absence the same guy appeared again from the restaurant, walked up to us and handed Dylan a twenty-dollar bill. Before we could summon any words the man made the odd request, “this is going to sound weird, but give this to a random person in Ohio for me when you get there.”

It might have been a small gesture, but it was the type of thing I was waiting for all day. I doubted whether today was the day to bike, whether we should be biking, and every other factor, but the gesture made me feel like we started at the right place and time… it made all the difference.

In a brighter tone than before I stated out loud one motivated, happy declaration to Dylan and anyone else who cared:


“I’m going to bike across the United States!”