Pack to School pt. 2

During my 10-week COVID break, I didn’t really find the motivation to keep riding my bike. Riding loops through the flat fields of south Texas was not as appealing as riding on a one-way trip across the country. I didn’t step on a scale to know my exact weight difference, but I would estimate that I gained about 15 pounds during my hiatus. While it was good to spend some time with my family, living at home while you’re 29 isn’t the most ideal situation. My ability to decide everything in my life, from what’s for lunch to the entertainment for the night, was now a compromise situation with my parents. I longed for the road again.

After I had been accepted into my grad school program, I began contemplating what my route would be. The parameters I had were that I needed to be in Minneapolis by the last week in June for my annual camping trip with friends. Then, I needed to finish the trip by the beginning of August to fly to Iceland. I debated picking up where I left off in Louisiana and heading east to Florida to ‘ride across America’. I would have then started biking north to Raleigh where I would catch a flight to Minneapolis. I’d fly back to Raleigh to continue riding and finish in Boston. The other option was to bike straight to Minneapolis to avoid flying during the pandemic. From Minneapolis, I would have The decision of biking west back to San Francisco or east to Boston to finish the ride. I ultimately decided to go north to Minneapolis first since the Midwest is less populated and I could avoid major cities. I also chose to go east to Boston since there were cheaper, direct flights to Reykjavik. I was no longer riding around the perimeter of America, but rather riding across America, the long way.

I chose May 29, 2020, as my restart date since it was pretty much the latest I could start and still arrive to Minneapolis in time. On my first day back, I had planned to start big, just as I did leaving San Francisco in January. The plan was to ride 130 miles to Angga’s house. Angga agreed to meet me in the middle, then we would ride back to his house together. Although I hadn’t been riding consistently during my break, Angga and I did manage to execute this plan successfully a few weekends before. This time was different though because my bike was fully loaded and I had to battle against a headwind instead of a breezy tailwind like I had before.

When I was preparing to leave on the morning of, my dad asked me if I had something to prove from this journey. A bit confused of why he would ask me such a question before I left, the question stirred my mind that entire first day. Was this journey for myself, was it for others, why was I actually doing this? Unfortunately, I didn’t have an answer for the question at the time. Combining the emotional energy I spent on that with the less-than-ideal headwind scenario, I was exhausted after 90-miles into the planned 130 mile day. Angga and I decided to meet in Luling and he found me in the roughest condition he had ever seen me. I was completed bonked. I had a scary pain in my chest, and needed a good hour at the Sonic to regain my head again. We decided to try to push on, but quickly into the ride I realized that I wouldn’t be able to make it to the next town. We pulled over on the side of the road and the pain in my chest was getting worse. I told Angga to keep his distance, in fear that it was COVID. I decided to turn back to Luling and get a hotel for the night. Angga carried on to Lockhart and got a ride from his sister back home. Needless to say, the first day didn’t go as planned. I checked-in and quickly took a shower and was in bed by 7pm. I slept all the way through the night.

I woke up feeling better than I had before and the pain in my chest had subsided so I got back on the bike. The plan was to meet my friend Lindsay at a park in north Austin, about 50 miles away. Angga had graciously agreed to meet me somewhere in the middle of this ride too, but this time he rode with Cash. By the time they found me, I was in close to the same state as I was as the previous day. Completely done. The heat was proving to be too much so we rode to the nearest gas station and I ended the day early again. Lindsay had agreed to come pick me up and take me to the park instead. I covered 35 miles instead of the planned 50.

With my original plan of biking around the perimeter of America, I was following the good weather window around the country. I had planned it so I would hopefully never have to ride in over nintety degree weather. However, with my revised plan, I had to ride through the southern heat to be rewarded with cooler temperatures in the north. I hadn’t adjusted my mindset for riding through that kind of heat and I made the mistake of treating this leg as if I was still riding in cooler temperatures. My long sleeve collared shirt (Columbia outerwear) and reflective vest were not the right choice of clothing for this heat and it sucked the life out of me.

Lindsay picked me up that day and we spent the afternoon relaxing in the Greenbelt. I got some more sleep and awoke without the chest pain again so I flipped a coin to see what I should do. Heads you ride, tails you take a rest day. The quarter decided I would ride again. I checked myself for COVID symptoms before I left but I really didn’t have any once my body calmed down. I attribute the pain in my chest to anxiety of leaving again and mild heat exhaustion. This third day back on tour was the deciding factor though. I had to make it through this day to commit to riding the rest of the way to Minneapolis.

With an appropriate mindset of riding in the heat, I switched my clothes to an athletic long sleeve jersey and lost the reflective vest. I realized I needed to take more water stops and needed to hydrate way more than I had been. It worked and I made it 80 miles that day through the heat. I checked-in to a hotel to make sure I could keep this up. Mentally, I felt like I made it past the point of no return. My parents weren’t in convenient driving distance anymore to come pick me up and I only had 1 or 2 more big days planned before I could cruise at 60 miles a day with a few planned rest days.

Over the next few days, I had one of those big days planned, but I kept pushing it off and told myself I would do it the next day to catch-up on my route. I had planned to ride about 120 miles to my friend Austin’s house, but after waking up late that day and the fact that he could pick me up on his way home from work, I took another car ride. I made it 75 miles to Canton, Texas, and Austin drove me the last 45ish miles to his house. I was back on schedule. After a night of reminiscing on the good times we had shared together over the years, the next day I crushed a 124 mile ride to Broken Bow, Oklahoma. I had made it out of Texas and was officially on my way once again. That 124 mile day was a huge confidence boost for me after failing multiple times over the past week to make the longer distances I had wanted. I had no doubt after that that I would finish my tour.

When I first started my tour, I would always say no to people when they offered me rides. This was mostly because I had enough time to ride to my destination and I quit my job to ride my bike, not ride in cars. As my tour went on though, I decided that taking a ride in a car was acceptable to me if it meant that I could spend more time with friends. Those experiences were worth it to me and I realized just how important my friends are to me. I could always ride more miles if I wanted, but you can’t replace good time with good friends.

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