Pat and Sari's Honeymoon Bike Ride

Saturday, March 01, 2008 - Sunday, September 14, 2008


Coming down Paper Mill Rd

I know, I know, it's been over a week since we got back and still no closure. We had to put getting the house in order first, though - you don't know what it's like wading through 6 months of mail! But we've sorted out where everything is, put everything we were carrying through the wash, stocked up on some food, got reaquainted with the cats, and are feeling almost normal again. We've even been back on the bike four times so far - two grocery shopping trips and 2 fun trips, a 10-miler and a 25-miler, just so we don't forget how it's done. It feels very strange, though, to be riding the bike without all the baggage!

So, on to the recap. First, a summary of the trip by the numbers:

  • We were carrying 132 pounds of stuff on the bike, between the trailer, panniers, and suitcase. This is an outrageous amount of stuff to carry on a bike, according to most real bikers, but we didn't regret bringing any of it. There were some things we never used, like a water purifier, but having it, just in case we needed it, gave us some peace of mind. We also each carried a fanny pack and camelbak, which added 1-5 pounds each depending on whether the camelbaks were full or not. By the way, I apparently didn't make it clear what a camelbak is - it's a small back-pack with a 2-liter bladder that we fill with ice and water. It has a drinking tube that makes it very easy to sip water as you ride and insulation that keeps the water cool much longer than it does in water bottles. A full camelbak would last us about 40-50 miles depending on how hot it was, so we usually had to top them up sometime during the day. Pat's camelbak also had a little zipped pocket where we could stash things we'd need during the day - like the camera! That way, I could whip it out and take a quick picture while we were riding.
  • We went a total of 9,042 miles on the trip, officially. This didn't count some 30 miles or so of noodling around on the bike after we'd arrived at our day's destination, which we sometimes did, or on rest days. It also didn't count some 20 miles when our odometer wasn't working one day in California. We stopped at a bike shop and they figured out what was wrong with it and Pat got it fixed. Our starting total mileage on the bike was 9,181 and we ended at 18,254, so the bike thinks we went 9,073 miles and it was actually closer to 9,100.
  • The trip took us 28 weeks and 2 days, or 198 days, leaving on Saturday, March 1st and returning on Sunday, September 14th. 164 of them were biking days and 34 were rest days. We took a rest day each week, but there were some extras here and there - usually by choice when we wanted to stay with friends or family a little longer, but once when we were sick in Gold Beach, OR, and once when we had the bike break-down in South Hill, VA. We averaged 55 miles a day and 320 miles a week, but it varied between 18 miles (Seaside to Astoria, OR) and 91 miles (Kirbyville to Winnie, TX). Our average speed for a day ranged between 6.9 mph (when we went over three Allegheny Mountain peaks) and 13.5 mph (when we had a tailwind in Montana). We had our highest averages in Montana and Louisiana, and our lowest in California, Pennsylvania, Idaho, and New Mexico.
  • Our worst bike trouble was in VA when we had to replace the bearings on a sprocket. We also had to replace the front wheel twice, which surprised us - once in Arizona and once in Indiana - but the back wheel held out the whole trip. We replaced the tire on the back wheel 3 times, and on the front wheel once. There were very few flats, luckily, maybe 6 on the back wheel, about 4 on the front, and 2 on the trailer. We changed the bike chains 5 times or about every 1500-2000 miles (they're due again), and the brake pads 3 or 4 times. All in all, the bike held up remarkably well. My bike seat started to fall apart but I just got a bike seat cover for it, Pat's is showing some wear as well. I also had to get new shoes - the sole on one of them was coming off.

That takes care of the mundane stuff, for those of you who are interested. Now, as to what the trip was really about.

  • It was inspiring. We learned that people everywhere are kind and generous if given half a chance. We loved meeting people who wanted to know about our trip and were thrilled when they found our trip inspiring to them. So many people told us they would love to do something like this, or had a long-time dream to do a similar trip (and I thought it was just Pat!), and they felt encouraged that we were doing it. We've had emails from people who have taken to biking more because of us - how great is that! We're also very, very grateful to all the kind souls whom we met who helped us out in one way or another - putting us up, paying for meals, helping us with bike problems, directions or road conditions, moving over or slowing down to pass us on the road. There were countless others who lifted our spirits, coming along just when we needed them, and others who were just delightful to talk with. Probably the best part of the trip was meeting all these wonderful people along the way. We also met a number of great people through email - people who found our site one way or another and wrote to tell us they enjoyed it. We appreciate all the support we received from everyone who emailed us - family, old friends, and new friends. It was great to have that feeling of connection with so many of you who were following us vicariously.
  • It was beautiful and interesting as well. We were awed by how stunningly beautiful this country is and how varied it looked from one state to the next. The trees, the flowers, the rocks, the mountains, the rivers, the lakes, the animals, the birds - everything was spectacular. We thought it would get monotonous, riding for hours, day after day, but it rarely was. Even in the Midwest where the predominant features were corn and soybean fields, there was enough beauty to make it interesting. We noticed that having really beautiful vistas or amazing rock formations would distract us from the rigor of a steep climb - I got to thinking of it as the beauty-to-hardship ratio - no matter how hard the climb, if the beauty-hardship ratio was high, it was a good day. We came to appreciate how privileged we are to have so much natural beauty here and how important it was to preserve as much of it as we can. The people who lived in some of the most beautiful and unspoiled places seemed to respect it the most - Idahoans were enormously proud of the wilderness that made up a good part of their state, for example, and the California coast was filled with people who absolutely loved its beauty. It seemed to work best when the land and the people had a good relationship. We also learned a bit of history, mostly along the Lewis & Clark trail, a bit of geology, a lot of wildflower names (thanks to Pat's daughter, Sarah!), and a bit about all the different habitats in the different states we were through. All in all, a fascinating trip.
  • It made us stronger in many ways. We certainly got stronger leg muscles. It was so gradual, we couldn't even tell really. But I remember grumbling about the hills somewhere in California, how they never ended, how tiring they were, and how it never seemed to get any easier. Then we ran into a younger couple who had just started their bike trip the day before - and they were having more trouble with the hills than we were! I stopped complaining about them right then and there, realizing that they really weren't as hard for us any more, I just hadn't noticed it yet. There were still some doozies ahead of us that were far from easy, and it was still tiring after miles and miles of climbing, but it was never as bad any more. We also got stronger in terms of confidence. At first, everything worried us - what if we lost our way, what if the bike broke down and we couldn't fix it, what if we couldn't find enough to eat or drink, what if the road or traffic was so bad we couldn't ride there? After a while, we hit just about every situation we could think of to worry about and we came through fine, so we stopped worrying and just went. I used to start off each day with a prayer - I'd pray that the hills wouldn't be too steep or too long, that the weather wouldn't be too hot, cloudy was nice but not raining, a breeze was also good as long as it wasn't a strong headwind, etc., etc. The stipulations got so long and particular that I finally had to laugh at myself and changed my prayer to just "please make us able to handle whatever comes today". That wish was always granted, every single day. It also strengthened our relationship. Being together that much day after day, and relying on each other for our daily safety and comfort, made it very important to communicate honestly and clearly. We learned what kinds of things upset each other and how to avoid them. We learned to get over bad moods and apologize for words said in anger or frustration. It always seemed like a waste of time to be annoyed about something. We came to appreciate each other's contribution to our journey more and more; we complemented each other's strengths, and compensated for each other's weaknesses. We had joked that when we got back from this trip, "the honeymoon would be over", but I think we'll just keep the honeymoon going. (For those of you who didn't realize it, we've been married for 22 years - this trip was going to be the honeymoon we never had. We have already survived building our own house together, so we weren't too worried that this trip would wreck our marriage, like many warned us.)
  • So, now we're home again, enjoying sleeping in the same bed every night, eating at home, and doing other things than just biking all day! Some habits are hard to break - I still find myself looking for photo ops when we're out on the bike, and it took a while before I remembered I didn't have to try to remember where the bathroom was when I woke up in the middle of the night! What we mostly feel is grateful - grateful that we were able to make this trip, grateful that we came through it safely and happily, grateful to all the people who supported us, both those who took care of things at home in our absence and those who helped us out on the road. We couldn't have had this amazing adventure without all of you. And now, I'll shut up - finally - I'll let Pat have the last word, followed by a quote from T.S. Eliot that seems very appropriate, and a few pictures by Pat's brother, David, taken as we were arriving home (he took the top picture as well), and by Rob, cousin Jeri's husband.

This trip has been my dream since high school. I am very grateful to Sari for helping make it come true. She was my enthusiastic partner on the trip and for the twenty-two years before that and I would not have made it without her.

And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
-- T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets 4: Little Gidding

The reconnaisance car spots the returning bikers on Rt. 352...

and passes them, unnoticed

Catching up with them on Rt. 1, they watch as we get under way again

Approaching the turn onto Paper Mill Rd.

Sari tries to get a picture of Rob & David taking pictures of us

We made the turn! Just one more hill to go!

The last hill! (our steep driveway)

The dismount, with Marsha, Pat's cousin, and Therese, our house sitter

Taking a moment to catch our breath...

and wipe the sweat off our faces (with Jim, Marsha's husband)

Pat gets a hug from his dad

Sari gets one, too

Dad looks the bike over

The hot & sweaty couple celebrate their homecoming...

and pose with champagne (OK, it was really sparkling cider)

In front of the giant map in Pat's parents' dining room - Pat's dad put the map
together and his mom applied the red stickers each day to mark our progress

Our bike's odometer, registering a total mileage of 18,254 miles