When I rode across the US with RideToAwareness, I loved the adventure and the challenge and the team that emerged. I also enjoyed how blog titles and posts emerged while I rode. I thrived on my interaction with you, the readers of my blog.
While training for RTA, I wondered if, given my age, the ride might set a Guinness World Record. To find out more about my inquiry, please check out my new blog, Life is Like A Bike. You can subscribe there to get notifications of blog posts from my next US cycling adventure. Cycling begins August 26, but the excitement began long ago!
My raccoon eyes have faded but the memories have not. To keep on living the adventure, I made a huge paper wall map. I printed out over a dozen Google maps that covered our route. Then I marked the places we stayed on it and connected them using the routes recorded by my Strava app, then I added photos. It looks like this.
I took it to an Adventure Cycling event at a local REI store on December 2 and taped the unwieldy paper map to a store display. It turns out there was a fellow at the event who had done the Southern Tier about the same time we did it. He saw the map and showed me a very cool app on his iPad called TrackMyTour. I realized it would give me the opportunity to create an electronic version of the wall map to share with everyone. It took days of looking at Strava tracks, receipts, Google searches, Google map closeups, date-stamped photos on my iPhone, consultation with fellow riders, etc., to put it together. I entered over 400 geographical points from our ride. While the app enters them with date and time and location while a person is on a ride, the data has to be entered by hand after the fact so it took a while.
You can now see our whole 63-day trip in less than an hour, so pull up a chair, get out the popcorn, and take an armchair adventure. I highly recommend that you view it on a device with a large screen so you can see the photos better and read the text.
Click here to start with us in Ocean Beach, San Diego CA on September 14. Then use the single right arrow in the left sidebar to click your way through the trip and finish with us in Saint Augustine FL on November 15.
Yesterday, I rode at home with my Babes-on-Bikes friends, the ones who rode with me incessantly while I trained for the Ride to Awareness. Before I met them, I biked from home to a doctor’s appointment to get my body fat and Vitamin D checked since I’ve been working on them for the last eight months. By the way, the tape that used to run in my head about no riding on roads or in cities has finally turned off. After city riding in San Diego, Phoenix, El Paso, Austin, Baton Rouge (at night on a bridge over the Mississippi River), Biloxi (in fog), Pensacola (during rush hour on a narrow bridge), Tallahassee (up hills in pouring rain), Gainesville, and St. Augustine, I’m thoroughly inoculated (but still careful).
It was brisk, crystal clear, sunny, and there was a little wind. Our primary colored jackets shined bright and crisp in the gorgeous weather.
Our general plan was to go to Mt. Vernon, then stop at the National NAMI office on the way back. My friend, Jenn, and I had both made calls the days before to try to make it happen. Jenn was pretty insistent on doing this, though I had my doubts about connecting with NAMI National since Ride to Awareness was not successful at reaching them before or during the ride.
At the end of the ride, Nadine, Jenn, and I were the ones left to proceed on to NAMI in the heart of Arlington, VA. I was all psyched to see how the hill up from the Teddy Roosevelt Island parking lot would feel after doing mountains out west when Jenn invited us to try a route back via the Iwo Jima Memorial. On the way, I finally crossed the George Washington Parkway at that place I always thought cyclists were CRAZY to cross it. We wound our way up, into, and through Arlington, passing Arlington National Cemetery on the way, and got to the NAMI office before 2 PM, where a NAMI staff person greeted us exuberantly outside with, “Wow, you must be the Ride to Awareness riders!” (Clearly, it was a good idea to prime the pump rather than just drop in.) Jenn, Nadine, and I were ushered into the NAMI conference room and were quickly joined by about ten NAMI folks so I told a few tales from the trip, how essential all the training rides with the Babes-on-Bikes were to my successful completion of the ride, and how everywhere we went, as soon as we started talking, folks would tell us about themselves, their siblings, relatives, coworkers, and/or friends who were struggling with mental illness. It was rare to meet someone who had no mental illness connection and one such person who we met in a Florida state campground gave us a $50 check on the spot.
One of the introductions made at NAMI was to Mary Giliberti, the Executive Director of NAMI National. When I heard Mary’s name, I knew it and I knew precisely why I knew it. While pictures were being taken, I turned to Mary and said, “I know a Mary Giliberti.” She replied, “There is only one.” I said, “Did you send your children to MathTree?” (MathTree is the company I started in 1999 and sold in 2014 that offers summer math camps for children.) Do you know what it’s like to see the Aha moment pass over a person’s face? That’s what I witnessed as Mary put it together. Her children had attended my camp! Though we’d known each other for years, we’d never met until yesterday! After 3000 miles, riding an extra 50 got us to the top!
Soak dried lentils for an hour or two in ample water.
Send out an email to collect a bunch of cycling friends. Agree on start time and location. Lube your bike chain the night before and zero your bike computer, then get a good night’s sleep.
Mince 2 cloves of garlic and one medium onion. Cut up carrots and celery into circles. Saute’ all the veggies in olive oil in a soup pot. Take your time as this is what develops the flavor.
Mix up your favorite nuts and dried fruit into your own special trail mix. I like pecans, peanuts, raisins, and figs. Prepare a couple of water bottles with nice cold water and put them in your water bottle holders. Put your phone in your top tube box and add your back up battery and charge cord. Check your tires and add some air if needed. (They probably need it.) Get your cue sheet or get your directions set. Take your time as this is where the serenity of the day’s ride begins.
Drain the lentils, rinse them one more time in fresh water, and add them to the sautéed veggies. Crush up three or four Italian peeled tomatoes (canned are fine) with your hand and take out the hard part where they were attached to the vine. Add them to the veggies and lentils, then add water to cover all plus an inch or so. Add salt and pepper to taste. Go easy on the salt because the Parmesan cheese you’ll add later is salty, too.
Put on your bike shoes, helmet, gloves, and sunglasses. Optional: Start your Strava app or Garmin.
Bring to a boil and simmer for at least an hour. Stir frequently. Add water if it gets too thick.
Clip in and start stirring the pedals. Ride for at least one hour. Four or five is better.
While the soup is simmering:
Chop up a good bunch of fresh flat leaf Italian parsley and cut up some fresh basil.
Cut up a bunch of a dark leafy green vegetable of your choice, such as kale or escarole.
Make some croutons from the best bread you can find. Cut it into largish cubes, coat with olive oil, and put them under the broiler. Keep an eye on them. When top looks golden, stir the croutons so the uncooked side is up, and make the other side golden. Be careful! It’s really easy to burn them.
Grate up a nice bowl of Parmesan cheese.
While riding, stop as needed for:
Side trails that are promising for alligator viewing
Restroom and snack breaks
When the soup is nearly done, add in the chopped veggies and cook for about 10 more minutes. Then stir in the parsley and basil.
When the ride is nearly done, reminisce over the good time you had. At the finish, bid your friends goodbye and thank them for joining you.
Serve piping hot with a good smattering of Parmesan cheese and topped with golden croutons for crunch.
To keep on savoring the ride, go home and write a blog about it.
Last night, I slept in my own bed, my husband by my side and two dogs in their preferred spots – Ellie curled up in her new bed, and Bebe’, who became a new member of our family while I was gone, snuggled in her crate.
Camping was a challenge. It was nice to have the consistency of my tent because where it went up was different every night. The ground out west was hard as rock. I bent my tent stakes attempting to pound them in. I like a firm mattress, but the ground out there was over the top. I finally got some reprieve after our silty stay with the scorpions in Kent by using the cushions from BABS’ couch under my mat and sleeping bag.
Bathrooms were often challenging as well. Our first stop had no toilet or shower facilities at all and BABS got her first workout. At an early stay in Palo Verde, CA, the floor of the bathroom had just been painted and was still wet. I admit to pooping twice in the great outdoors, both times in Texas. I had to get coaching on just how to do this. (You lean up against a tree. Squatting is tough.) Texas is richer due to my fertilizer contribution. At Woodsy Hollow RV Park in Goodrich, TX, we were instructed not to put toilet paper in the toilet. That was a first. In Panacea, FL, there was a sign up in the bathroom: “This is a water saving toilet. If you have a large evacuation of the bowel, flush between deposits.” Then written in by hand were the words, “Female idams (sic) in the trash.” We came out of the rain in Tallahassee to a Motel 6 and the toilet didn’t work.
Showers were also varied and challenging. In Quartzsite, AZ, we had to put quarters in to get hot water. Out of the rain in Alpine, Texas, we got into a nice hotel only to find our shower had no hot water. That happened again at Bastrop State Park. In Kent, Texas, we showered with a Sun Shower.
It’s good to be home where the mattress is firm but yielding, the toilet works without complaint or restrictions, and the shower has consistent hot water. Still, it was worth toughing it out for the amazing adventure.
3,000 Miles of Adventure Cycling across the Southern Tier of the USA to benefit the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)