FAQ

A lot of people have questions! Here I will answer some of them. If you have more questions that you would like me to answer here, send them my way, and I’ll do my best. This will work better if you limit your questions to the topic of my bike ride.

Homer Simpson nervous about asking questions. Homer Simpson relaxed in an inner tube.
Questions! Questions! My whole scheme down the… …I mean ask away.

Question topics

Questions about the route

What route did you take to cross the country?

That’s easy to answer! Check out my page dedicated to my route right here!

Did you mean to ride a route that kinda-sorta looks like your name?

That was completely unintentional. In fact, the sort of distinctive markings, such as the points of the M and the up-curve of the Y, are places where I had to alter my route on the spur of the moment. The M in Colorado happened because of flooding of the bike paths, forcing me to head back south and then back up north. The part of the Y that took me from Tennessee to Virginia happened because I was cycling a bike part up to a friend who couldn’t find what he needed in the small town he was in.

Did you have all your stops for the night planned out ahead of time?

No way! I tried for about the first week or two to have all my campgrounds planned out. But I quickly learned that the plan is meant to be adjusted. How I found a place to sleep each night depended a lot on where I was. On the Adventure Cycling TransAm route, it’s ridiculously easy. Look at their maps and pick where you want to stop, there’s usually a place to camp no more than 20 miles away. When I was making up my own route, each morning I would check out where the various campgrounds within about 60 miles were. Usually I would have a couple options and could still maintain the general direction I wanted to go. Other times there wouldn’t be any campgrounds, and I would just start cycling and trust that something would work out. On those days I would be sure to refill all my water bottles late in the afternoon, in case I would have to stealth camp. But usually something would work out. I would maybe ask a police officer or stop by the fire department and ask for advice, and they would usually help me out with a safe patch of ground somewhere – at the fire station, at the park, maybe someone’s backyard – where I could pitch my tent.

Questions about gear

About how much stuff did you carry?

All told, when I started off, my bike came in weighing about 90 pounds. Later, as the weather warmed up, I sent home some of my winter layers. I also managed to stop being so paranoid and sent home my big heavy U-lock. I still kept my little folding U-lock. I also gave up on carrying around my two-person tent, which I was using because I didn’t want to purchase a new one-person tent, and went ahead and splurged on a one-person tent. So maybe by the end I was down to about 70 pounds. Of course, this fluctuated a lot depending on how much food and water I was carrying.

How did you keep your phone charged?

Ugh… Do we really want to get into this? I could vent for hours about this. Keeping a phone charged is not easy. And I knew this before I started out. I knew it would be horrendously difficult. So I looked into charging options. I considered solar, compared and contrasted solar to the generator hub, and ultimately decided to get the generator hub.
Shimano Dynamo Front Hub
The excellent thing about this generator hub is that it works. It works fabulously. I have my front light connected to it, and I never once had to worry about charging my front light, which was an enormous load off my mind.

The miserable thing about the generator hub is that in order to charge your phone with it, there are a few more steps necessary. First, you need a usb port connected to your hub. Second, you need a cable to plug your phone into said port. Finally, you need to be moving at a fairly decent clip in order to actually charge your phone. Even more so if you’re trying to use your phone for the reasons that you even brought the darn thing with you – probably to look at maps.

And so when I first left and went north along the western coast with all its hills and wind, I had a hard time charging my phone because I just wasn’t going fast enough.

In Idaho I had a great time charging my phone to my heart’s desire.

In Utah I realized that my cables weren’t doing so well. Trying to charge your delicate electronics on a moving bicycle apparently isn’t ideal. My cables had a hard time staying plugged into the charging port on my phone. Both my cables and the charging port on my phone were not doing well. Even trying to charge my phone with a plug in the wall proved difficult, as everything had to be positioned just so in order to get a connection.

In Colorado I gave up and traded in my phone for a new one, along with new cables. Everything seemed to be just fine until…

Complete and utter usb port failure in Kansas. And that was the end of trying to charge my phone through the generator hub – which was still very happily powering my front light.

And so all phone charging was done with wall outlets and my external battery pack, which was also charged via wall outlets. Until my battery pack also decided to die.

Miserably enough, my days became very centered around charging my phone. This usually involved stopping at gas stations and hanging out there for a whole lot longer than I would have liked. In Kentucky, when my sister came to visit me, she gave me a super beefy external battery and a new usb port to plug into my hub. The battery pack was pretty amazing, but in South Carolina the charging port completely fell out of it. So I finally got around to connecting my new usb port and everything seemed to be working just wonderfully for about the first ten seconds of pedaling. Then my phone decided that the connected charger was incompatible with it. And so I bought one last little external battery pack and threatened the universe that I would switch my bike ride’s focus from raising awareness for blood cancer to promoting homeopathy if it didn’t just let me have this one, and then I had no more issues. I was just resigned to spending some time at gas stations or libraries or wherever I could plug in for a while each day.

Did you have a lot of flats?

Yes. I had a lot of flats. What’s funny is that flats tend to happen in clusters. I had a whole lot of flats in Utah. All the cyclists I met in Utah complained about constant flats. Other places weren’t so bad.

How many tires did you go through?

Four tires.

Questions about Be the Match

How many people did you sign up to be bone marrow donors?

This is a pretty difficult question to answer. The short answer is… at least 50! At most… who knows?

Why don’t you know how many people signed up?

Well, mostly because doing an awareness ride is really hard! My original scheme was to contact CrossFit gyms well ahead in advance, set up a drive, have the swab kits sent over there, and be there to execute the drive! Sounds simple, right? And indeed I was able to do this a couple times. But that took a LOT of emailing. Like, a LOT. Which is already kind of a challenge, but then there was also a whole lot of bike riding to be done, and let’s not forget all the challenges in keeping a phone charged. And then there was the immense pressure in getting to a drive on time, and trying to coordinate it so that the next one would be happening at a reasonable time… it just took a lot more logistics than I could realistically do on a regular basis.

And so I switched my strategy. I just went to as many CrossFit gyms as I possibly could. I emailed them in advance, but if they didn’t write back (which they usually didn’t – I’m yet to discover that magic email that would provide enough information so that they would know what I was trying to do, but not so much that it became tl;dr) I would just drop in anyway. What became apparent was that if I dropped in on a CrossFit gym with my bike all loaded down with my gear and put a good effort into the workout, then I would have that incredible bonding experience with all the athletes there and we’d chat and hang out and become friends! And then they would ask me why I didn’t set up a whole drive with them. But I would leave them with fliers and links and encourage them to set up a drive themselves! So hopefully they went on to sign up online, maybe host their own drive… all I can say is that I definitely raised awareness! I managed to do this at about 25 CrossFit gyms. So even if they didn’t end up ordering a swab kit, maybe next time they walk by a Be the Match table at the hospital or see an announcement for a Be the Match 5k, they’ll remember that this a cause they want to be a part of and sign up.

Questions about life on the road

What did you think about while riding by yourself for so long? Did you do a lot of self-reflection?

Ah, as mentioned in this post, this is the question that got me thinking about having an FAQ page in the first place.

Even on long empty stretches of road, there is a lot to think about. First, I’m constantly thinking about my bike. I’m listening for any strange sounds and constantly monitoring my tires. That includes constant vigilance of the road for any shards of glass or thorns. No, I never had any huge problems with my bike, but when you’re thirty miles from your next water source, you can’t help but focus on your bike’s well-being. Second on my mind would be the weather. I always had the sky to contemplate and scrutinize. Third would be my pace and when I should stop riding. Would I make it to my destination in time? Where would I sleep that night? How would I feel if I suddenly had to make camp on the side of the road in this area? What if I underestimated how far I could go, was there another place I could stay farther on? And that’s all the things I think about on an empty road. If there was any traffic, then traffic mostly occupied my thoughts. Oh wait, maybe I did have an epiphany. It’s that if you want to go soul-searching and have your epiphany, don’t go for a long bike ride.

…oh my gosh, I should have known! That answer had actually been given to me way early in my ride when I met the two Irish cyclists traveling from Canada to Mexico. Dave had said that his reason for riding was because he wanted to do something where his only concerns would be food and shelter and he would be too tired to think. Damn. He was so wise.

Questions about life after the ride

How’s the adjustment back to normal life?

Honestly, tough. Pretty tough. I’ve been through similar stuff before. Coming back from two years with the Peace Corps was tough. Coming back from two years in Thailand was tough. It doesn’t really get easier. It’s difficult to describe the feeling. Things that didn’t used to be important are suddenly important. Things that should be important don’t seem important anymore. It’s like there are many layers to life, and you always knew that, but it’s been brought up and made fresh and new again. There are so many different ways to approach life, so many perspectives, and each day we have a lot of choice in which path we’re going to take. Granted, some people have more choice than others, but I think we all have more choice than we probably realize. I think we usually think that we made our choices and for better or for worse, this is just how it is now. But that’s not true. Things can change at a moment’s notice. So what’s it going to be today? This question is pretty raw on my mind now. And maybe that’s just how I like it.

So… what are you up to?

T-shirt quilt in the making
My T-shirt quilt in the making.

Well, I have a few goals. There are rumors of hiking the PCT in the foreseeable future. Next year? Two or three years from now? We’re working on it. I’ve thought about going back into teaching, but what the hey, let’s go for something completely different and try to learn how to code. So these days I’m teaching myself as much as I possibly can, and then I’m thinking about going to one of those bootcamps and really pound some stuff into my head. I’ve always had a certain fascination with coding, but I kind of thought it was something that I missed out on. But, back to the previous question, that all comes down to a matter of choice.

I also discovered a desire to sew. Yeah, I’m baffled, too. Go figure. So I finally finished my T-shirt quilt that I started sometime last year. Then I made a whole lot of pillowcases and gave them away. Now I’m planning on making a couple more quilts.

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