Slog Across America

July 21, 2012: Please read the update from Barbara and Jay below.

SLAAM Route - SD to DC

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July 21, 2012:  Hi everyone! A few people have asked us to write an update about our how life is, now that we’ve been home for a little over a month. We got home on Sunday, June 17. Merle, our friend who lives across the street, met us at the airport in Jay’s truck and drove us home. He and Linda (his wife) threw us a welcome home party and it was really super great to see all of our neighbors. San Diego, and especially our neighborhood, is THE BEST place to come home to. After we finished in D.C. in Thursday and spent Friday and Saturday being tourists with my family, it sort of seemed like nothing had happened—that we were simply on vacation but had weird tan lines. Being on the return flight, however, it started to sink in that we were FLYING HOME because we had RIDDEN OUR BIKES clear across the country. It was shocking to see, from the air, how vast the country is, knowing that we had seen it up close for so many weeks.

We both went back to work on Tuesday, June 19. After the initial flurry of laundry, putting our camping and bike gear away, and getting reacquainted with Orange Kitty, I’m sad to say it took only a few days to resume our boring little lives.

The first thing that struck me about being home was how weird it felt to drive a car. I felt like I had to pay so little attention (when compared to riding a bike) that I should have brought along a book to read.

The next thing was how much I missed being on the road. My office is in Mission Valley and overlooks a main bicycle touring route. I find myself staring out the window a lot at the bike route, waiting to see someone ride by with panniers on their bike. When I do see a cyclotourist, it makes me wistful. I’ve never experienced childbirth, but I think I am undergoing a similar post-partum experience. I’m forgetting how miserable the heat, headwinds, and hills were, and romanticizing the fun parts of our trip. I think if someone asked either of us to go on another cross-country trip right now, we’d both say yes. Well, except for the financial and other logistical aspects of it.

I’ve been asked by many people how the bike trip has changed me. Mostly, it’s made me realize that a lot of stuff that I used to think was important is really not. For example, running out of printer toner in the middle of a project is not a matter of life or death, it’s just a minor annoyance. Getting stuck in traffic isn’t a big deal anymore. We watch way less television than we used to, because a lot of it seems dumb now. I really like going to the grocery store, knowing that I can buy whatever I want (nothing’s too heavy to transport in a car!) and go home and cook it at my own house in my own kitchen that I love. We ate salad for dinner most nights right after we got home, and we’ve stayed on a pretty healthy diet since then. We haven’t regained any of the weight we lost on the trip. Mostly, the trip taught me that I can do virtually anything, and that even if something seems too big or too hard or too daunting to tackle, I can always take a small step toward getting it done.

One blog post I read on our trip compared hill climbing to shoveling a snow-covered driveway. The author said he never looks at the end of his driveway when he starts shoveling, because it is so far away and it looks like he’ll never get done. He keeps his head down and just looks at the snow carried away in each shovelful. He keeps working at a steady pace, one shovel load at a time, and eventually, he’s all done. That image helped me climb a lot of the hills in the last half of our trip and helps me still. When faced with a side yard that is more weeds than plants, or a hill, I just concentrate on what’s immediately ahead of me. I no longer think “I can’t do this,” instead I think, “This will be hard, but I’ll get it done.” I can always take one step toward accomplishing something, and then I can take one more step, and those steps add up.

I’ve ridden my road bike only three times since we’ve been back (my touring bike needs new gears an a new chain, so it’s hanging from the rafters right now). I met with my coach on Thursday to bounce ideas off him for my next cycling feat. Jay thinks we should train for a century (100 mile) ride. There’s one coming up September 30 and another in November. Maybe we’ll do that. I keep thinking I’m going to ride my bike to work (Jay’s done that twice so far, but then he got really busy and was working 16-hour days) but right now I’ve taken up yoga again and I don’t have a way to carry that on my lightweight road bike right now. FYI, the bike I’m riding now weighs about 60 pounds less than the bike I rode across the country. You can really feel the difference going uphill!

Here’s a funny thing that just happened: On Wednesday, Jared (an east-to-west rider whom we met outside Chillicothe, Ohio on June 5) called us. He was in Brawley, 135 miles away from San Diego, with his new friend Tyler, another bike tourist. He and Tyler met in Arizona and Tyler convinced Jared to ride to the Grand Canyon with him, and they’ve ridden together ever since. They made it to Mission Beach on Thursday night and I went to pick them up in Jay’s truck. So they are staying with us while they decide how they’re going to get home (Jared to Pennsylvania and Tyler to Kentucky ). Having them here and sharing road stories really brings back a lot of little things about our trip. One funny coincidence is that Jay ate powdered sugar mini-donuts every day, and Tyler ate chocolate-coated ones. We’ve discussed Gatorade flavors and how much junk food you can eat and still function. And how the part of your brain that controls language doesn’t function well at the end of a long day in the saddle. Tyler said “The other day I forgot the word ‘hammer.’ I was like ‘What do you call that thing you pound nails in with?’” Jared’s ridden 3,600 miles in about six weeks, doing almost 100 miles every day. He’s tough!

We haven’t planned our next big trip yet, but I know for sure that we will do one. Externally, our lives look just like they did before the trip, but inside we are forever changed. Thank you to everyone who has cheered us on and let us know how proud you are of us and how we’ve inspired you. We’ll let you know the date of the next send-off!

Tyler and Jared

Some of you may have heard of RAAM---the Race Across America.  It’s an annual event where ultraendurance athletes race their bicycles from Oceanside, California (about 40 miles, or less than three cycling hours, from our house) to Annapolis, Maryland.  The top finishers ride 3,500 miles in nine days, averaging 20 miles an hour and sleeping about 90 minutes a day.  The athletes are supported by several coaches and other people, including a navigator, massage therapist, chiropractor, doctor, and nutritionist.  A car trails the rider to ensure his or her safety and to blare loud music or encouragement out the window when the rider is fatigued.  The top finishers will stay on their bikes almost the entire time---they change clothes while riding, eat and then brush their teeth while riding, and the men even pee while riding!

Starting April 15, 2012, Jay and I will be doing our own version of RAAM.  We won’t have any support crew and will carry everything we need in panniers secured on racks on our bikes.  Plus, we’re going to stop when we need to pee.  We’ll be lucky to average 13 miles an hour, so our trip will be one long Slog Across America.  But it will be fun and a grand adventure!  We’re taking 10 weeks off work and plan to average 65 miles per day, camp five nights per week, and spend a couple consecutive nights in a motel once a week to do laundry, reconnoiter, and rest. 

We will leave at 9:00 a.m. on Sunday, April 15 from Dog Beach in San Diego.  We’d be thrilled if you came down to see us off!  Our finish point is the Washington Monument in D.C., some time the week of June 17.  We will keep track of our progress on this website (my younger sister, Chris, is our webmaster).  Our employers expect us back at work on June 25. 

Thank you in advance for your support.  Sign up here to be notified of updates or ask us a question.  We hope to see you at Dog Beach in a few weeks!

Warm regards,


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A special thanks to our sponsors:

            Eisner Coaching            Cycling Coach Jesse Eisner (619) 962-3176 and
            Coach Darryl MacKenzie            Cycling Coach Darryl MacKenzie (precision bike fit)
(619) 303-7316 Direct (619) 987-7316 Mobile email
                Knickerbikers of San Diego County   of San Diego County
            Moonstone Empowerment            Danielle M Emhof, MPT, IMTC, Matrix Energetics Certified Practitioner
Holistic Physical Therapy and Wellness Services
(703) 627-1789
                        The Bicycle Touring Store
10920 Roselle St., Ste 103
San Diego, CA 92121-1529 phone: 858-622-9636, fax: 760-923-8313

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Notes from Jay

June 3, 2012 - I'm at the point of starting to reflect on our ride and some songs have come to mind. No particular order or significance, they just seem right to me.

More to come as the days wind down.

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