It has been over a month now since I last packed up all my belongings into four bags and slung them onto the frame of my bicycle. Almost five weeks of time off with family, and it has been great. In Montana I was able to get the rest and relaxation that I so desperately needed, as well as get some work done. Here in Colorado I have been revisiting bits of my childhood and enjoying some amazing weather. Above all, it has been some fantastic time with family that I hardly get to see. But the life of a nomad is all about not staying in one place for too long, and so the time has come for me to move along.
Tomorrow morning I plan on jumping on that bike seat again and resuming the journey, beginning what will be the third leg of the trip, toward the left coast. A lot has changed in the past few weeks, and my setup is considerably different. With the cold weather that I could possibly be facing, some better gear was necessary to stay warm and healthy. The sleeping bag I have been using is only rated to about 30 degrees Farenheit, so that would not do. Luckily my aunt Karen’s boyfriend Kim happened to have an old bag that he wasn’t using, a much heavier bag that should be good to about zero degrees. I set up my hammock in their back yard and slept outside for about a week to test things out, and it worked well. There was at least one night below freezing, and I slept fairly well. Actually, the worst part wasn’t the cold but rather all the noise of suburbia- road construction, lawn mowers, barking dogs. I also picked up a fleece blanket to line my hammock to help add a little more insulation. In Montana I bought an insulating base layer shirt- a long sleeve shirt that is supposed to breathe well and wick away moisture but also keep you nice and toasty. The picture on the package displayed people climbing ice walls, so I hope that is a fair indication of its effectiveness. I’ve got some warmer gloves, a few more pairs of wool socks, and even a pair of army surplus Swedish wool socks, thick and heavy and great for sleeping in. To supplement my alchohol stove, the other day I built a small wood-burning stove from a tomato sauce can. It puts out a larger flame, burns longer, and the fuel is free. The downside is its size. Much harder to pack than my alcohol stoves. But I think the larger flame will come in handy. While here in the Denver area, I sold my bike seat, my prized leather Brooks saddle. I was excited when I bought the thing, as I had heard nothing but praise for those high-quality saddles, but in the end, after 3500 miles, my own personal experience did not jive with the stories. My ass wasn’t digging it. Nothing against the quality of the saddle; it just wasn’t the correct shape for me. So I put the thing on craigslist for $60. (I paid $100 for it). Within an hour I already had three people emailing, desperately wanting the saddle. Shit, I should have listed it for $80. So I used that money to buy a new saddle. I rode that for a few days, but it wasn’t quite right, and I actually ended up exchanging it for the model of saddle that I had before I bought the Brooks. It is the same kind of saddle that I rode over 2,000 miles up the Pacific Coast on last summer. I could have saved myself quite a bit of money (and pain) if I had just kept the one I had before and forgotten all about the Brooks. Oh well. You never know until you try for yourself. So now I have a brand new saddle as well.
So I am already for the cold, I hope, but the forecast for Colorado for the next week lists the high temperatures in the 60’s and 70’s. All these gloves and insulating layers, and I’ll probably just be wearing a t-shirt for the next few days of riding. But the nights, that will be a different story. Lows are down into the 20’s. I have a couch to surf for tomorrow night, and a place to stay a few nights after that, but there will be two days in between where I will probably be camping. We’ll see if I’m ready. I’m looking forward to camping at the base of the Rockies. It has been absolutely gorgeous here in the Denver area since I got here. A few days of rain, and a few days of chilly weather, but for the most part I have found myself going outside with long sleeves and regretting it.
One of the best parts of being here in the Denver area, though, has been the opportunity to revisit some of my childhood. I lived in Littleton for five years when I was younger, before my family moved to Knoxville when I was seven. I went on a few bike rides and rode past our old house, the elementary school where I went to Kindergarten and first grade, the creek where my brother and I used to catch minnows, old friends’ houses, and the parks and ponds where we used to go fishing. It’s so wonderful to get back some of my childhood memories, to think about places and details that I haven’t thought about in a long time. So much of my childhood memories were seemingly wiped out after my mom died, and I have had a really tough time trying to regain some of those experiences. Being in this setting did help me concentrate more and gave me some visual cues. Still, I feel there is so much more that I have lost and may never regain. Maybe I just need to spend more time here.
Starting up again after such a long break has brought back some memories of the beginning of this trip. The thoughts that go through your head are quite funny. Here I have already covered over 3500 miles; I traveled for almost three months to get to Montana, but yet I still get nervous about getting back on the bike. I start to think of excuses, of possible scenarios that could delay my departure. Even after all that experience, there still exists that initial fear of flight. I know that once I get going the confidence will quickly rush back to me and I will feel fine, but there is always that initial barrier of doubt to break through. It’s funny, I just started reading John Steinbeck’s Travels With Charley, and as I have been reading his account of getting ready for his trip around the country in a camper truck, I have been awe struck at how completely he has described me and everything I have done and dealt with so far. As he describes his own nature and his own feelings along his trip, I feel like I’m reading my own account. I keep thinking, what’s the point of me writing a book. He already related everything I have felt. He already met these people I am meeting on this journey. Why be redundant. It is an amazing feeling, though, to read his words and understand completely what he is relating, I mean to the very last detail. It’s a real trip. I’m excited to find out where he went and how the rest of his experiences compare to mine, traveling around the country 50 years prior.
Well, I best get to bed and rest up before my big day tomorrow. It’s only about 65 miles to Colorado Springs, but the altitude and the dry air really make a difference. I rode 60 miles from Boulder to my aunt’s house, south of Denver, the other day, and it kicked my ass. I didn’t even have all my gear with me. So tomorrow should be interesting. I am very excited, though, to be getting back out on the road, seeking adventure again, looking to see new sights and meet new people. I only hope it all goes as well as the rest of the trip has so far. One must have faith. Time to dust off my wings and take flight. I will post pictures soon, but for now, I leave everyone with a fun video.
Ice blocking with my cousins, Jess and Ryan-