Pack to School pt. 3

June 2020: a week into my restarted tour and I had just made it out of the most brutal ride across Texas ever.

I describe this portion of the ride at the loneliest of the trip. I was figuring out how to ride through a pandemic so I resorted to avoiding major cities and really just riding and camping. While I had been using the Warm Showers network before COVID, I didn’t feel comfortable putting great people at risk as I traveled across the country, so I really committed to avoiding people at all cost on this leg. The total trip from Texas to Minneapolis was scheduled to take about a month and I had about three weeks left before I made it to my destination of Marco’s house. From Marco’s house, we would canoe into the Boundary Waters for a few days of fishing and relaxing.

I had planned most of this route before I got on the road again and I found that I could stop at a lake pretty much every day through this portion of America. The first one was Broken Bow Lake in Oklahoma. I had planned my first rest day here since so many of my friends recommended it from previous trips there. I camped at Hochatown State Park and had a site right on the lake. After I crushed my 124 mile ride there which signified my escape from Texas, I immediately went for a swim with all of my clothes on, happy that I had overcome the first physical challenge of being on the road again.

I added a fishing pole to my rig because of all the lakes and the Boundary Waters trip in Minnesota and I tested it out for the first time here. After a few casts, I hooked a big one just as the sun was setting. Unfortunately it broke my line. If it had been a keeper, maybe I would have had it for dinner, but I had plenty of other food options to keep me fueled in case my fishing didn’t work out. I took a rest day the following day and did my usual activities – overcaffeinate, do some sight-seeing, and finish with a beer at a local brewery. Just as I had returned my empty flight to the bar at Beaver’s Bend Brewery, I heard a familiar voice and thought to myself ‘no way’. Jarrod Hockett, of all people, was standing there ordering a drink for him and his partner, Stephanie. We had played club frisbee together in 2014 and I really hadn’t seen much of him since. He and Stephanie had moved to Texarkana shortly after that and then further into Oklahoma and I had moved to California in that timeframe. They were expecting their first child soon and were out for a baby moon before the big day. It was nice to reminiscence on our frisbee days together but it also made me realize how small the world could be. The chances of crossing paths with them were slim to none since our plans had drastically changed due to COVID and neither of us weren’t supposed to be in Broken Bow in the first place. It was a good sign for the road ahead.

I was officially on the road again from this point on and it was pretty much sixty miles a day for the foreseeable future so I wasn’t really worried about the biking I had to do. I had a variety of campsites along the way, ranging from public camping (free) in a conservation area, to a fancy family friendly camping resort with a pool. The free campsites always worried me the most. There’s this enigma that paying for a campsite means security and I always preferred to have that sense of security. In reality, there isn’t much guarantee that you will actually be safer one night or the next. I’m thankful to not have any stories where my safety was in concern at any campsite.

Biking 60 miles a day doesn’t take that long in reality. On a good day, you’ll average about 12mph with stops and a slow days gets down to 10mph so the days range from 5 to 6 hours. This leaves a lot of time for other activities and on this leg I enjoyed swimming almost every day, taking my time in new towns, and generally just hanging out at campsites.

Once the adrenaline settled again, I started to feel the loneliness that life on the road can give you. It’s this weird feeling where you’re on the most amazing trip of your life, but it’s hard to share it in a relatable way with others. Instagram stories become one-way postcards where you send them, but don’t expect a response. Of the few people I interacted with, I gave them the same spiel of how I ended up here. It was almost impossible to find the next level of conversations that I dreamed of when I first envisioned the trip.

Looking back on it now a few months later, I think I’ve come to really confirm that happiness truly resides in yourself and only you can decide how to be happy. This may sound cliche, and it even does just writing it down on paper, but these moments just hit me sometimes and I finally understand this concept that has been in front of me for so long. I think it’s necessary to understand the impacts of social media within this conversation and how it affects that interpretation. Having seen people do similar things and watch their stories evolve on Instagram, it’s almost as if you expect to the same thing happen to you in the same manner. But there’s no way that can be true and it requires hard work and reflection to understand what you are doing for yourself. During this portion of my ride, I wasn’t caring for myself as I needed to. When I was hanging out at campsites, I was constantly scrolling feeds, expecting some miraculous feeling to overtake me, but of course it never came. What I should have been doing was stretching, applying more sunscreen to my nose, writing more, and calling more friends to hear their voices. It takes discipline to do that though and maybe I let go of mine too much during this stretch. I wish I had been bold enough to talk to more people at campgrounds instead of waiting for them to come ask me about me and my bike. Of the small blurbs I did write, all of them referenced the conversations with people and their stories. Like my conversation with Bruce whom I met at Lake Wilhelmina in Arkansas. He has been coming to the same spot for over thirty years of his life and was waiting for his family to arrive for their annual family reunion. Or my conversation with Mike and Kim who bought my hamburger at the Dairy Dream near Lake Fort Smith, Arkansas. They traveled to that restaurant from Oklahoma once a year to enjoy what they called the best hamburgers in the country and I was blessed to be able to enjoy it with them.

So all this to say I learned a valuable lesson to embrace the community that is with you physically and I can’t wait to tell you more about the one I have found here in Iceland. While I can’t say that I have perfected putting my phone down, I am doing it more often and really just leaving it at home or out of sight when I am having in-person conversations. They are much more valuable when you focus all of your attention on them.

One thought on “Pack to School pt. 3

  1. I remember setting off on my first bike tour (badly documented at and thinking about all the times I’d heard “Oh the people you meet along the way are the best part of the journey” and really not having that experience at all, due to taking an obscure route, not stopping a lot, and mainly, shyness. I found I really valued the time to just be alone in the woods. The most memorable parts of the trip for me nine years later are the parts where I was furthest from anyone else, struggling to get my bike up a hill and wondering where the hell I would be able to find water.

    Anyway, just wanted to throw it out there that it’s possible to be an antisocial bike tourist and still have a great and valuable trip.


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