I need to interrupt my ALC story briefly to update you on the BTAA. (For those new to the blog, that's short for Bike Trip Across America!)
"The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry." So proclaimed Robert Burns in 1785, and it remains true to this day. So it is with the BTAA.
As I prepared to embark on the AIDS/LifeCycle, my friend and BTAA riding companion, Gavin, was making his way down from Eugene to San Francisco on his bike, aided by a friend who was driving a support vehicle. By the time he'd crossed the California border, however, disaster had struck. Within days of leaving Eugene, his knees had mutinied, destroying the possibility of riding any distance over 10 miles. By the time I was mid-trip on the ALC, he (with the help of a handful of medical professionals) had come to the devastating realization that the BTAA that he'd been dreaming of was not to be. When I returned, he shared his news with me, and although we tried to find a way to salvage our plans, it became clear that the best course of action was for him to head back to Charleston to take care of his knees.
So it goes. He was not the first, and certainly not the last rider whose adventures were stayed by injury.
I now found myself in the unenviable position of recalibrating and evaluating my options on the cusp of my planned start date, trying to figure out what to do next. I was frustrated, angry at the sudden changes, and angrier still at the helplessness I felt. I had put my life on hold, effectively, in preparation for this trip. I didn't have a job, and I'd sublet my home. I wanted to ride my bike. I wanted to experience the highs and lows of life on the road, to intimately understand the quote, "You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have."
I sat down with my friend Kenny to work through the different challenges and considerations, to look over the route, and figure out what else I needed in order to travel alone.
Alone. My parents were not thrilled. Alone? Wasn't there anyone I could go with? My friends weren't psyched about it. Alone? As a solo female? What if something happened? Other riders I knew thought I might be OK; there were always risks. Had I heard about the wild dogs? What was my plan for dealing with weirdos? There were some real weirdos out there. I heard their concerns, and I shared in them.
Whatever. I wasn't giving up my bike ride.
Sometime back in the day, when riding to and from class constituted a bike ride, I'd decided that one day I would ride my bike from my hometown of Calgary, Alberta, out to the coast, and then south to the US/Mexico border. Because, you know, casually commuting places within 10 km of your home gives you a good sense of what it'd be like to do a tour that would take longer than a month. The truth was that in those short rides I took around town, I had discovered what it was like to be alive, and to be present in that aliveness. It gave me a freedom that couldn't be found in running, while still keeping me in the midst of it all, which wasn't possible in the insular metal/glass bubble of a car. It left me giddy with possibility, and from this possibility the idea of a long bike trip was born.
Now, as I considered my options, the idea of this route dusted itself off and presented itself to me as an alternative to biking across the country. Perhaps it was appealing because well-behaved dogs made me uneasy, to say nothing of wild ones; maybe it was because I would get to begin "at home" in Calgary. Whatever it was, it felt right, like stars shifting into alignment.
In order to give myself time to lock things down, I pushed my trip out to 8 July. As my plans shifted and began to unfold in this new direction, it seemed more and more that this was the correct choice. I was able to get a pro bike fit. My close friend, James, would be able to leave Calgary with me as a support vehicle, and would see me through to Vancouver, where I could hang out with my sisters for a few days. My dad was satisfied that, if need be, he himself could drive (aggressively, without sleeping) to any spot along my route within 24 hours. Plus, I could hit Zion and Arches on my way south by detouring a mere 1,700 miles!
I would be equipped with a satellite device so that friends and family could follow me along the route which, assuming I was able to complete the whole thing, now surpassed my original BTAA plan in mileage by more than 600 miles, and looked roughly like this:
My mother always said that if you wanted something badly enough, it would come true. A little over decade ago, I didn't realize how badly I wanted this trip, but in the years that have passed, it seems that everything I have done has been in preparation for this adventure.