My Thoughts About Why I Cycled Solo Across America In 2008
"Why did you go alone?"
I have been frequently asked this question and
it has always had an element of absurdity to me.
My best response has been:
"Wow! I did not know you wanted to come along with me.
I'll bike across America with you. Just let me know when!"
Seriously, who would actually go with me? Some friend?
In my entire lifetime, I know just one person who has talked
about bicycling across America with earnestness, and this man is in
his upper 40's with a wife, three kids and a demanding job that will keep him years away
from attempting to achieve his dream. (Go Chris go! You will do it someday!)
I have interacted with a few others - just a small handful really -
who have given casual lip service about desiring to ride across the country. That's it.
I realize some asked this question from a concern for my own safety. Fair enough.
However, I already had plenty of solitary riding experience over the years.
As a single man in my 30's, I am long past the strategy
of waiting for someone to accompany me on an adventure.
Just a few things I have done alone:
Drove across the country at age 23 after graduating college,
completed many rewarding hikes
and bicycle rides in the mountains,
enjoyed great vacations, succeeded in a three-day kayak trip in New Jersey, erected and owned a
tipi and started my own businesses.
Come to think of it, I would hardly have accomplished anything in my life if
I waited around for the illusion of the "perfect condition" of someone to partner with me.
Sitting around and twiddling my thumbs as
I wait for someone else to muster the courage to make things happen is rarely my style.
I usually declare to the world I am doing something, encourage others to come along, but in the end, I go.
I do not wait around.
Thoughts On Riding Partners
The benefits of having a riding partner are obvious. One has added safety with
someone looking out for you. Companionship can go a long way toward improving morale on harder days.
When I cycle with others, I tend to ride harder and dismiss my aches and pains
to keep up with everyone else. There is laughter too. And memories.
Someone to celebrate with at the end.
Cycling tours were too expensive for me and have various advantages
and disadvantages. However, I knew that personally
I needed to ride at my own pace and on my own terms.
With a large group of riders with planned stages each night, that was out of the question.
I have become quite used to being my own boss for the past three years, and
I needed to think for myself as I decided my route and included factors such as seeing a friend or
visiting a particular town.
The fact that I was intent on riding in February and March across the southern tier
of America was enough to cancel out most rides, as most trek across the nation in the summer.
I wanted my experiences to be more natural, based on how I felt physically
each riding day. Showing up in towns
by myself and seeing the people and places I
encountered each day felt more authentic. I did not want to be secluded
with a group of riders who stuck together
each day with a touring company or sponsored charity ride.
Chemistry With Others
As I said, this matter was hypothetical for me, because I had no one to go with,
but I nonetheless thought a lot about riding with others on the trip.
If I went with someone, would we have enough personal chemistry to make it?
Would we able to get along day in and day out, as we interacted and rode with
each other? Would we get along at night whether via camping or lodging?
Would either of us have any
that would drive the other nuts? Would we both like to watch TV?
Would either of us snore? Would we have any inadvertent or misunderstood selfish habits?
I am convinced meltdowns inevitably happen for anyone who bicycles across America.
Add two or more people to the mix and it is a sure recipe for someone going nuts and people at each others' throats!
Yes, there is a risk and reward to everything in interpersonal relationships,
but this is something to think soberly and clearly about when cycling across America.
Does the person(s) you are riding with have the same general routine as you? Are your cycling
regimens similar? (Will one of you want to ride 80 miles per day and the other just 30?)
Personally, I like riding first thing in the morning when the sun initially rises.
Wasting time sleeping in is abhorrent to me. I believe
in riding with intensity in the morning
and then reward yourself with some rest and relaxation in the latter part of the day.
In the evening, I am already preparing for the next day's ride and sleeping early.
I could not tolerate drinking or staying out late by a cycling partner. For me, these are good things to know about myself.
What are your "cycling values" and idiosyncratic things that would be important factors in choosing a cycling partner?
(Written July 3, 2008)
-This article was written by Steve Garufi who bicycled
across the southern tier of America in February-March 2008.
You can read his trip reports of all 45 days of his
journey here: 2008 Bike Across America.
His personal web site is www.ColoradoGuy.com
and his myspace page is @SteveGarufi.
Photo Above: The wide open road (Highway 78)
east of Julian, CA
in the Vallecito Mountain range.