“We would accomplish many more things if we did not think of them as impossible.”
I have never played a down in my life, but I love football. College, yes, but the NFL is my real game. I even managed to keep my fantasy football team, the Fermundadogs, at 2nd place in the league while I biked cross-country. When it comes to football writing, look to the esteemed Mr. Peter King, Sports Illustrated writer and weekly author of the Monday Morning Quarterback. He’s concise, honest, fair, and knowledgeable. I have read the weekly article for years and always looked forward to a little Wi-Fi on the bike trip, so that I could catch up on what King had to say. As a tribute to PK, I’d like to finish this era of Writing on my Bike in MMQB style.
10 Thing I Think I Think After Biking Across America
1. I think that people ask me what surprised me the most on this trip. The answer is the people. A friendly group from the campsites across from my won in Hole-in-Rock State Park inviting me over for breakfast. A stranger reaching over the counter to pay for my day’s end milk and Gatorade in Death Valley. A nice couple making me a turkey sandwich after I had lost my wallet in McKee, KY. Kindness was the one constant across America. I left slightly jaded and returned with a new sense of what people are really like. Incredible.
2. I think that I saw way more people from other countries having fun in America than Americans. I met people from all over the world vacationing in the US. Foreign tourists were, in general, more talkative, less stressed and looked to be enjoying an adventure in America. Americans were rushed, stressed and yelling at their children. I looked it up. Average paid holidays and vacations in the US? 16. France, 30. UK at 28. Denmark, Finland Norway and Sweden at 25. I’m just saying.
3. I think that when buying gear for this trip, I was constantly asking myself three questions. Is it 100% waterproof? Will it withstand the beating of two months of travel? Can I afford it? This approach worked well. I never sent anything home.
4. I think that I spent too much time and money in convenience stores. They are just so damn convenient. Coffee, Gatorade, 2/$1 candy, Donnettes, fountain soda, cheese danish. You name it, I craved it. It was all just too hard to resist after miles of pedaling. Don’t judge me.
5. I think that traveling by bike is a pretty interesting experience. Masochistic, definitely. But I had a chance to see the plains, mountains, valleys, canyons, deserts, and hills that make up America pass under my pedaling feet. It was a unique and interesting experience.
6. I think that I am extremely proud of the amount of money that we earned for the National MS Society. So many people took the time to give to a worthy cause. I got emails on my phone every time someone donated. It was great when they came through in the morning hours. I would climb onto my bike, still sore from the next day, and check my emails one last time. I’d look up at the road ahead of me with a smile thinking, we are really doing it!
7. I think that, if you haven’t visited Utah yet, you better get out there. The rock formations, canyons, mountains. It is the most drastic landscape that I have ever traveled through. There is enough to see in the Beehive State to last a lifetime.
8. I think that this country isn’t as dangerous as we feel it is after watching the nightly news. I was alone for most of this trip and never once had a legitimate fear for my safety. I never came into contact with a poisonous snake. I came very close to two black bears and they were far more curious than vicious. As for the people, I know there are some crazies out there, but I found people willing to help everywhere I went. The jerks were few and far between.
9. I think that I gambled and it paid off. I had relatively no business thinking that I could bike cross-country, but the idea just wouldn’t go away. A lot of people thought that I was an idiot for doing this ride, and I don’t blame them one bit. I decided to take a chance, invested and worked hard to make it happen. I have some great memories. I met some great people. I raised some cash for a good cause. I learned more about this country than I ever thought possible.
10. I think that the world is not flat. If there weren’t mountains than there were hills. If there were no hills, there was a canyon. Outside of the canyon, there was a sandstorm. If there was no sandstorm, there was a headwind. If the wind wasn’t blowing, than rain fell. If it wasn’t raining, it was hot and humid. And if it wasn’t hot and humid, there was a dog trying to chew my leg off. There were no easy parts of this trip. Everywhere I cycled, I found challenges. I got through it because I wanted to be there. My rule was: ride what’s in front of you.
Mr. Starwood Preferred Member Travel Notes
Top 10 Towns:
1. Colorado Springs/Manitou Springs, CO- Pike’s Peak makes a nice backdrop. Head just outside the city and find a playground of red rock. Old Colorado City has a nice feel and great food. Manitou can be considered a quasi-suburb, with its Western feel and vibrant people.
2. Telluride, CO- Yes, it a little expensive, but has the look and feel of a great ski town. Telluride is squished inside of a little box canyon, with mountains guarding each side. The locals told me that the ski mountain gets that heavily sought-after champagne powder. The free gondola is a nice local feature. The Steaming Bean coffee house rocks my world. I met a lot of former New Englanders in town.
3. Farmington, MO- It should be a stop for everybody biking across the US. Al’s Place was the most unique and meaningful hostel stop on the trip. It made me feel like I was part of a fraternity, the fellowship of the wheel. Also great food at 12 West Bar & Grill. Appropriately-named Trans Am Cyclery offered good service and a cheap tune up.
4. Danville, KY- I found this town while off-route trying to find a legit bike shop. My stay was short, but it’s just a really nice town. The people at the visitor’s center were nice and helpful. The locals were all friendly. It’s home to ritzy Centre College, one of the nation’s top liberal arts schools.
5. Ridgway, CO- Ask Simon and James. I liked this town immediately. Just an attractive Western town surrounded by picturesque mountains. It was expensive, but had a great grocery store. Orvis Springs was a mile out of town.
6. Salida, CO- One of the few places I visited where I would actually live. Just a really nice town. The guy at the hostel was a bit of a tool, but the locals made up for him. Bypass the bunk house and head for the Budget Lodge. For $10 more you can stay in one of their rustic rooms and you don’t have to sleep in the same room with six strangers. It had boutique restaurants, art galleries and stylish hotels that I couldn’t afford. Super bike friendly. All of the locals knew and understood what I was doing and threw a bunch of high fives and thumbs up my way as I left town towards Monarch Pass.
7. Charlottesville, VA- Like Colorado Springs, it is quite a bit busier than the rest. Home of the University of Virginia. I liked how the campus was right in town. Jordan, Paps and I stayed in the Cavalier Inn, overlooking the campus. Monticello is just out of town, up a steep hill.
8. Springdale, UT- I know, I know. It’s a tourist trap. Just outside of Zion National Park. But it is a tourist trap with character. It sits in a sliver of a canyon, with the picturesque cliffs of Zion towering above. It didn’t have too many of the chain hotels and restaurants that come with tourist towns.
9. Ventura, CA- It would be higher on the list, but I didn’t bike through it. We stayed there after the trip was over. One of the best Main Streets that I have seen. Eclectic locals. I just didn’t like how the highway is right on the ocean, taking away from the beach feel that it deserves. It was here that Yvon Chouinard and his group of dirtbags began creating the most groundbreaking climbing equipment in its time, laying the groundwork for Patagonia.
10. Carpinteria, CA- I hadn’t yet decided where I would finish this journey until I started a talking with a nice young lady in a bakery outside of Hanksville, Utah. She said she was from Carpinteria and it was a nice town. I looked at a map later and it worked out well enough. Carpinteria it was. Another nice downtown with great food. Giannfranco’s has great Italian.
Weird Facts About the Trip that May Interest Only Me
Wow, people say, you must have like 10,000 songs on your i-Pod. Not so fast, my friend. My i-Pod became deceased in week 2. I never listened to music while riding throughout the entire trip.
Flat tires before Bazine, KS: 0 Flat tires after Bazine, KS: 7
Top 2 questions asked while riding with the Brits: Did you guys bike here from England? Do British people have the same money as Americans?
Top 5 Eats
1. Cosmopolitan, Telluride, CO- We were chatting with a nice girl at Orvis Springs on a day off. She said to come to her work when we get to Telluride and she’ll buy us sushi. Well we did. Clea showed Simon, James and I incredible hospitality. Above and beyond, the best meal of the trip. Fried balls of lobster meat, amazing sushi, great cocktails, even better wine. We had a blast. Thank you Clea.
2. Spotted Dog Café, Springdale, UT- I became an expert on buffets. May have even put a few out of business on this trip. The best kind of buffet is a breakfast buffet and this was one hell of a breakfast buffet.
3. Rusty Fork Café, Elkhorn City, KY- I spent a hungry night up in Breaks Interstate park and descended into Kentucky the next morning. Elkhorn City and a friendly waitress welcomed me with a heaping plate of biscuits and gravy, pancakes and perfectly cooked corned beef hash.
4. Barrelhouse 101, Ventura, CA- That’s right. 101 beers on tap. My favorite was the Weihenstephaner Vitus Weizenbock out of Germany. Get the brisket poutine. Or gamble and get the Gusher, a four pound beef patty accompanied by two whole tomatoes, sixteen slices of cheese, an entire onion and two pounds of French fries. If you finish it yourself, they buy dinner.
5. Simon and James’ Roast Chicken, Orvis Springs, CO- Yes, one of my favorite meals, we cooked ourselves. Well, Simon and James cooked and I washed dishes after. We were snowed in for the night, so we made ourselves at home in their kitchen. James and I hitchhiked into town to get supplies and three friends shared a feast. Great night.
Top 5 Accommodations
1. Cliffrose Lodge, Springdale, UT- I sat awake shivering in my tent during my first night at Zion, so I decided to take a ride around town and see if I could find a hotel for a day off. One of the managers at Cliffrose had a father with MS. When he heard my story, he rolled out the red carpet for me. Usually when fancy hotels gave me a discount rate for a night, they tried to hide me away from other guests that were paying full price. These folks were proud to help me out and made me feel at home. The hot tub and views of Zion were a great bonus.
2. Orvis Springs, Ridgway, CO- Sure, it snowed and it was cold and I was in a tent. But nothing beats hanging out in a hot spring with snowflakes falling from the night sky.
3. Rough River State Park, Falls of Rough, KY- My campsite was feet from the shores of the lake. I had a fire blazing while watching the sun set over the water. Some of the best spots were the cheapest.
4. Running Springs Hunting Preserve, Everton, MO- I stumbled down a gravel road after a long day of hills, expecting to find a cold bunkhouse. I found an oasis. Full kitchen, satellite TV and a hot shower. One of the most peaceful places I stayed on the trip.
5. Hite Ranger Station- One of the best campsites on the trip and Simon, James and I didn’t have to pay a dime. The rangers were nice enough to leave the heated bathroom open during the government shutdown. We dined on pasta with anchovies. I woke to find myself surrounded by some of the most beautiful scenery in America.
Put your heart into it. Don’t be afraid to get weird once in awhile. Thank you.