Dan and I loaded up a pick up truck with seven bicycles and drove across the country.
Quit my job and left everything and everyone I ever knew back in Nashville. The original plan was to travel until about September, but once we hit California we decided it probably wouldn’t get much better than this as far as places to live, so we’re trying to get jobs and a real apartment now. We rode bikes so many ridiculous places all across the country. I met a lot of really cool people and saw a billion amazing things. Of course I meant to document everything along the way and that didn’t obviously didn’t happen. You can see a few pictures on my instagram (@glittergravel – also search #drinkridedrive2013 to have dan’s pics from the trip included) but the majority of the trip and the things that happened will live only in my memory, and you know, I kinda wanna keep it that way.
I do want to share some things with you though, because I feel like traveling with always teach you something, even if you’re only out for a short period of time. Here are some things I learned.
- People are really fucking awesome. I slept on so many floors of people I’d never met before and was greeted with the most generous hospitality. Thank you SO SO much to everyone I had the pleasure to meet. I look forward to everyone coming to visit me here in Cali so I can hope to extend the same treatment to others.
- The most stressful part of traveling long term is not knowing where you are going to sleep on this particular night. In the abstract, just going with the flow is fun and spontaneous, and most nights it was a blast figuring out what was going to happen as the day unfolded and being open to whatever came our way. But sometimes you’ll have nights when you’re really tired and when you’re trying to get to dispersed camping in a National Forest but you’re not sure what kind of permit you need to even be there, much less to camp there, and the ranger station is closed, and you drive 20 miles up a narrow, winding mountain to get to the place where you think you can camp, but when you get to the intersection you need to turn at, the road is closed unexpectedly so you have to drive all the way back down the mountain, and decide to keep on pushing to find that little chunk of BLM land where you can camp for free, but turns out that BLM land was a farm that’s fenced in to the road so you can’t camp there, so you decide to drive ahead to mojave desert, but then there’s a windstorm so you can’t stop, and you’re forced to drive for hours and hours and hours before caving in to get a motel, which you could have just done before you went into the national forest. WHOA. But making strict plans only sets you up for shit going wrong, so whatever, when I travel again it’ll be the same. Like I said though, usually it’s fun and it feels good to be free and able to go with the flow.
- Don’t trust your iPhone and always call ahead. That gas station is closed. That restaurant moved locations. They don’t sell beer at that market that’s close to the bike shop you’re visiting, only the grocery store five miles out of the way. There’s no parking at that hotel downtown so you’ll have to find another. The closed restaurants always happen when you’re really hungry. But the restaurant next door that didn’t show up on your phone IS open and the bartender is cool and the food is way better than anything else you’ve had on the trip so far. And the hotel you found next door that DOES have parking also has free breakfast for the same price as the other hotel. When things go wrong, good things usually come from them, so don’t stress about it. On the same note, it’s often most useful to ask people for recommendations instead of your phone. People like you know the cool places to hang out or get food or put up a hammock. Your phone is a machine that is not to be trusted.
- Ride bikes every day. The most fun days were the ones where I got to get out and pedal a while. We tried to do this often, but couldn’t manage every day. Next time, I’d like to do much less driving and much more riding. Or hiking or exploring or dancing or adventuring or sitting around getting drunk. Driving long distances will take you places but is very taxing. Ride bikes every day.
- America is beautiful! It was so interesting seeing the terrain change as we made western progress. My favorite stop was White Sands National Monument. You walk a mile through giant gypsum sand dunes to camp. It was so unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. Truly surreal. Sand is awesome for fat bikes, too, obviously! And it’s right next to a missile testing site and we got to hear two explosions right after we crawled into the tent. Can’t wait to go back. Transitioning back into wooded forests as we got closer to the coast felt like coming home again. I’m so happy here with all the green.
- People are awesome! I know I said that already, but really the people are what makes traveling great. Never be afraid to talk to strangers and bring beer where ever you go.
- You don’t need all that shit. Yeah, we loaded up a truck with a bunch of shit (pretty much all of our worldly possessions, actually). Turns out really all we needed was the bikes, tent, sleeping bags and sleeping pads. Food was useful, but let’s be honest I didn’t need as many pairs of shoes as I brought. I only wore half the clothes I brought. Next time will be much more minimal.
Didn’t make it to portland or seattle or minneapolis or the northeast or the midwest. But those things will come. Hopefully now I can find a job before I run out of the money I saved. Anyone wanna hire me for administrative work in the Bay Area?
I do miss Tennessee and all my friends. I miss the diverse camaraderie I had with the people I know back in Nashville. It’s hard not knowing where the closest grocery store is or which restaurants are open late close by. It’s weird not knowing that the road you’re turning on is actually a not-bikeable major highway. It’s weird not having a bar up the street where I can feel safe and welcome and drink cheap, or a local bike shop for that matter. It’s weird not knowing which mountain bike trails suit my riding style. It’s weird not knowing any neighborhoods or the history of where I am. The cool thing about this trip, though, is I’m kind of used to that now. It’s great now that I’ve stopped because I can finally settle into a groove and start really learning where I am. I don’t know anyone here yet, but next week I hope to show up to a billion group rides and start making connections. Hi everyone in Oakland and San Francisco! I live here now! See you soon!