Sailing through Kansas

Today is the 6th day of my trip and with unpredictable and severe weather looming overhead I'm taking a break from riding for the day. My body could use the rest and the blog could use an update!

Dad stayed with me for two nights, and we saw a couple of the 8 Wonders of Kansas before we parted ways in Kanopolis State Park. The Geological Center of the U.S. was impressive for what it is, and Mushroom Rock State Park was also interesting, though I'm glad I didn't go out of my way to ride there on my bike. As expected, it was another emotional goodbye to Dad, and I about hyperventilated with anxiety as I rode south on hwy 4, and he drove north to go back home. But one mile into it I was fine and instead of fear, that incredible feeling of freedom took my breath away, and I was back.

I rode 77.8 miles on day one and it was very pleasant. Variable tail-winds, mostly flat roads, and a big shoulder all day. It was cool and sunny and pretty damn perfect.

I had every intention on my first night to camp at a primitive, free site at the Cheyenne Bottoms Reservoir Wetlands but somehow I ended up staying with a bunch of nuns on their beautiful farm west of Great Bend, KS. Heartland Farm has been around for almost 25 years and the five Sisters who live there raise alpacas and chickens, as well as hold art workshops for kids and host a number of volunteers to help out throughout the season. They are also new to WWOOFing and they currently have one Buddhist WWOOFer and another volunteer staying with them for a few weeks. The Sisters spoiled me rotten with my own private cabin complete with composting toilet, hot shower, double bed, and kitchenette. They even had vegan peanut butter cookies that they baked fresh in their solar oven that day to celebrate Earth Day. They entertained me with a card game of peanuckle as we swapped stories that evening and we shared a big group hug the following morning before I departed. I hope to go back someday and return their gracious hospitality. Thanks, Sisters!

The next couple of days were more challenging, facing merciless head-winds, side-winds, and rollers of all sorts. On day two I road 76.5 miles to Cedar Bluff State Park, which was totally out of my way, where I paid too much for a bogus campsite that contained a dismantled deer carcase. The facilities were mostly locked and the ones that were open were clogged with poo and trash and therefore deemed unusable by me. I don't mind not showering or going to the bathroom outside, but for $20 you'd think the park would be maintained. It was beautiful there though, so that at least made up for the cost and the 16 miles of hilly sand rollers going in and out of the park from the highway. I don't suggest riding there on a bike. Just don't do it. Also, I'd recommend camping at the north shore instead of the south shore, apparently it is more popular and well kept.

I stayed in a park in Ness City on night three, only making it 35.6 miles that day due to the strong head-winds as I traveled south on 283. That night I learned my tent was indeed waterproof as a freak thunderstorm popped up out of nowhere. It's amazing how secure a tent can make you feel when you're inside of it, knowing what's happening on the other side. You kind of feel invincible.

After that rough third day I decided it would be a good idea to plan my route according to the weather from then on, if possible. I've had to alter my initial course a little, cutting out a couple points of interest, but since I'm unfortunately on a time schedule I can't afford to dilly dally in Kansas. I want to give myself as much time as I can to get over those mountains and check out the sites in Colorado. Kansas is beautiful and vital for the beef industry, but I think someone should totally dig a big hole in the western half of Kansas and fill it with water because this part of the country would make for excellent sailing. It would sure smell better. The weather here would be perfect and the winds vary in direction from day to day so you could really go places. I've almost convinced myself it would be a good idea to design a sail for my bike. If I did that I probably wouldn't even have to hardly pedal. Oh snap, light bulb! Hello sketchbook!

My fourth night I stayed with the Allen Family in Scott City. I hooked up with them through my Mom's co-worker, Chris, who has a brother that lives there. Considering we were strangers, the Allens were very kind to let me intrude on their lives with little notice. After a hot shower, laundry, use of their kitchen, and a safe place to set up my tent, I couldn't have asked for more. Jeff, Marie, their good friend Tucker, and their four children (with Kool-aid mustaches) were wonderful hosts, giving me lots of advice about the weather and geography of the area. Jeff even hooked me up with a place to stay in Lamar, CO! They are a great family, you could totally feel the love in that house. They went out of their way to accommodate me that night, and made sure I was safe even after I left their house the next night. Thanks, Allen Family!

After five solid days of riding, I've made it 305 miles to a cozy little town near the western border of Kansas. Tribune has a population of around 800, and with one blinking-red stoplight and country music sounding from every street pole, it's atmosphere is welcoming and quaint. The people here are very nice and helpful as they are used to cyclists passing through. Apparently there is an annual summer event called Bike Across Kansas where hundreds of cyclists take over all of these tiny towns I've been to. They swarm the highways, nearly blocking traffic, and at night they fill every piece of lawn space they can with their tents. Truckers, I hear, despise them and will do what they can to ignore their presence by nearly blowing them off the road. But the event does bring in a lot of needed business to the small towns so I think overall they are appreciated by the locals. So far, most of the traffic has given me ample room, but I've been severely blown around by a few mad truckers who hold a grudge. I brace myself every time just in case, and I try to wave at everyone and smile to be nice and make friends, if only for a second.

I totally splurged last night and hooked myself up with substantial shelter to avoid the storms. It's a good thing too, because there were tornadoes in the area and it hailed for a little while. I don't know how well the tent would have held up. For $30 I stayed at Colleen's Cottage here in Tribune. It's basically an overflow of the antique store she owns in town so when walking inside, it's like stepping back in time. It's adorable and clean and with three bedrooms, two baths, a parlor, full kitchen, dining area, and living room, it's big enough for a family, but I lucked out and had it all to myself last night. Pictures don't do it justice, but if you're ever passing through Tribune you should consider staying here. It's the cheapest place in town for lodging and I bet it's the cutest too.

Tomorrow I have almost an 80 mile ride ahead of me, but with ENE winds it shouldn't be too bad. I'll cross the border into Colorado and I hope to make it to Lamar by late afternoon. I was warned about the vacant landscape from here on out so I'll be on the lookout for the Rocky's in the distance. I've lined up a couchsurfer in Pueblo for Monday night, and that's as far as my plans have taken me.

My spirits are high. The trip has been great so far, I've already met some amazing people, and I can't wait to see what's beyond the horizon next. I can't put into words my appreciation for the care and support that I have received from family, friends, and stangers alike. You're all amazing.


105 Pounds of Home

Ok I'm all packed up and ready to load up my bike! I weighed all my gear and without food it comes to exactly 59.4 lbs. My bike weighs about 35 lbs, plus maybe 10 lbs. for food and water, for a total of about 105 lbs.

I had a very emotional goodbye with my mom this morning, we cried and hugged and cried some more. I can't help it, I'm terrible at goodbyes. But we both know I'll be ok, it's just hard when you don't know when you'll see someone again. I'm glad my dad will be here any minute to pick me up for our half-day road trip to Lebanon, KS. We'll camp over night and then I'll have to say goodbye all over again to him in the morning as I ride away alone.

I hope to keep my blog updated more often, so check in every once in a while if you'd like to know about my progress.

I'm so excited I'm nauseous. I mean I'm totally about to spew.

T-Minus 10...

I’m packing up my gear and it’s hitting me. That sense of bewilderment that makes you hesitate to go is provoked by that quiver of innocent anticipation. I’m getting a little emotional and these last few hours at home seem very real and precious. I don’t want to sleep them away but I know I need rest. But first a quick post on the bloggy blog. 
I just want to say thanks to all my family and friends who are supporting me on my travels. Without your love and encouragement I don’t know that I could do this. Most of all I want to thank my seriously amazing parents. When I tell others about my adventures the most common question I get asked is, “How do your parents feels about this?” They are always surprised when I tell them that my parents are extremely supportive, and I find that odd. Why wouldn’t you support your kid for what they are passionate about, whatever it may be? That’s like being disappointed if your kid makes the track team. I mean c’mon, those kids are hurling themselves like 20 feet into the air with a pole, and running full speed purposefully towards barriers deliberately placed in front of them to see if they can jump over or crash face first. There is potential for serious injury there, no? People see this sport and most others as acceptable and healthy, and children are often encouraged to participate, which is great! But going for a really, really long bike ride or hiking up a mountain or sailing on the ocean is no different. There are risks associated with everything we do; feeling that fear, running off that adrenaline, and accomplishing a goal you worked hard for are all more satisfying when you know you’ve conquered that uncertainty too. That’s what makes it fun. 
But not only do my parents support me emotionally, they go that extra step beyond hoping I make it and do everything they can to make themselves involved. My mom, for example cycling that first 500 miles with me last summer and my step-dad sagging for us with gear, food, and encouragement, was not a request on my part. They offered. It was my mom’s idea! Just like it was her idea to take me skydiving one day (I told you, seriously amazing.) And then without hesitation they welcomed me back home when I needed to transition between travels and waited patiently for months for me to figure out my next move. Not every kid would be supported like this, and at age 26, most people would probably not want to temporarily move back in with their parents. But I love living back at home and I try not to take advantage, I contribute to the household. This however, this pattern of traveling and then transitioning at home and then traveling again needs to stop. I can’t just come back home all willy-nilly when I run out of money or something scary happens. 
My next move (that Mom and Jack have waited so patiently for) has now arrived. Tomorrow I leave for a long bike ride to Colorado. My dad is stepping in this time (again, his suggestion) and he’s giving me a 260 mile head start with a father-daughter mini road trip in his classic 66 Chevy Pickup Camper Set. He said I could pick any place to drive to within 300 miles from home, so I chose the tiny town of Lebanon, KS, because it’s the exact geographical center of the United States. I thought it’d be fun to start my ride from there, which makes it about an 800 mile ride to Creede, CO. It’s really nice to begin each trip with a generous send off from each of my parents. But this time my departure feels different, and I think it’s because I know that after my summer job at the dude ranch is over, I’m not coming back home. This traveling thing needs to either be a permanent lifestyle, or I need to settle down somewhere on my own. Since I prefer to take my chances nomadically (at least that’s how I envision myself) I’m thinking about heading south from CO in October to avoid the winter on my bike. I’ll have to learn to do the transitioning while I’m transitioning. 
So, not to boast about how freakishly righteous my parents are, but I just have to express my everlasting and sincere appreciation for everything they’ve taught me, and for giving me space to develop and grow into who I am with constant encouragement and support. You don’t get to pick your parents, so I just feel super lucky to have the ones that I do. So again, many thanks. 
If you are reading this and are not one of my parents, this was probably really boring for you. Sorry about that. 


Going Uphill

It took four trips over the last week to the bike shop but my bike is now merely an extension of my body, and it feels so good. Like getting excited to climb another hill, good. Like BRING ON THE MOUNTAINS good- I know, crazy. But it's reassuring knowing that I'm now technically correctly placed on my bike. I've always loved riding, but today on my ride home from the bike shop with all the tweaks complete, it was a whole new experience. And I'm getting really amped for this ride to Colorado.

The new handlebars are two sizes narrower than the old ones, making my arms parallel with each other and spreading my shoulder blades apart as they should be. This should dramatically reduce the tension in my upper back and make it easier to relax. It also helps relieve my wrists of sitting in that crooked shape on top of the bar, and hopefully the ulnar nerve won't be kinked anymore. The longer stem helps me feel less crowded while riding, giving my core further extension while making my whole body slightly more aerodynamic. I rode a day with the shifting set to the friction setting before getting them replaced and I have to say I prefer it. Friction shifting is much quieter and less jumpy during gear changes, but I went ahead a got the new shifters and cables anyways since they needed to be replaced. So with those now installed I can switch between the two methods as I please. And the gears that were well worn and skipping are now accessible. And lastly, with my seat shifted forward a bit it's easier to push through with my quads rather than through my heals, thus making climbs noticeably easier and dare I say enjoyable.

My friend Ryan likes hills. He helped me and my Mom train last spring for our summer tour and during our training rides he'd take us over every hill possible from point A to B. He also rode quite a bit faster than us so he would glide up the hills with ease, turn around passing us on his way down, and ride back up as many times as he could squeeze in until we made it to the top. Or sometimes he'd zig-zag up the hill to add twice the distance, just for kicks. Maybe it's because he lives on Summit Street (coincidence?) and it's grade is like 17% on all sides and so he's had a lot of practice. One time after and 80 mile training ride he made us ride that 17%, half mile hill all the way to the top where his house was. Again, this was at the end of the ride. My Mom refused, we were already exhausted, but I had to try. I was delirious when I crested the hill, my lungs felt like they were ripping through my skin for air, and I'm amazed I didn't throw up. We never did that again, but he does it all the time. He probably rides up that hill to celebrate things.

I thought he was crazy, but now I think I get it. He also made riding look really easy. Like he was putting forth zero effort, but easily exceeding 20 mph. My Mom on the other hand, made it look agonizing but she insisted she was comfortable. I think it all has to do with your cadence and what muscles you use for momentum. Ryan's cadence is very fast with less resistance, while my Mom prefers to ride at a slower cadence in a lower gear. She's like a freaking rocket down hill though, I tell ya. I used to ride somewhere in the middle I think, because I know I used my calves a lot. But now the motion of pedaling feels more natural, almost like someone's pushing down on my knees for me. It's awesome, and I've noticed my cadence is a little faster without trying any harder. Maybe one day I'll make it look as easy as Ryan does! Maybe one day, when I grow up to be a real cyclist.

You want to see another guy who makes riding look way too easy? Check out The Man Who Lived on His Bike, here:


I wonder if he got arrested for being naked. I wonder if he's single.

And if you want to be inspired to conquer your own hills, check out my Mom's blog about weight loss and living healthier each year:


Way to go, Momma!


Professional Bike Fitting

Last Monday my bike and I went in to be professionally fitted to see what could be done to fix my nerve problem. Turns out I was riding “too short.” I was also told that I was pushing forward when pedaling and using my calves and ankles too much rather than pushing through with my quads. My seat was moved forward about an inch (which is a lot) and a longer stem now replaces my old one. So my body is now siting directly over my feet instead of being slightly behind them and my core is more extended. My current handlebars are also 2 sizes too wide, which explains the tension in my upper shoulder blades, as my shoulders measure 34” wide and the handlebars are 40”. New tape is also going to be applied and it has an extra gel layer inside of it. Because my new handlebars are a bit shorter than a standard size, the tape will be wrapped thicker near where the placement of my hands will be and taper out towards the ends to provide even more padding. I was sent home that day with my bike to test ride the two major adjustments to my core while the handlebars were being ordered.
At only mile 18 my left hand went numb again, but this time it was a bit different. Instead of the fourth and fifth fingers being affected it was my whole hand, but it only lasted a few minutes and it didn’t happen again for the rest of the ride. I really tried to focus on what muscles I was using to propel myself and I found that the more I used my quads the faster I would go, and with less effort - what do ya know? But it was easy to revert back to my old pedaling habit because my mind would naturally drift to other things or I’d have to search for a good spot to pee for the umteenth time. I swear, I have a bladder the size of a blueberry and I really do have to pee about every thirty minutes, I timed it. Sometimes less. This is all the time, not just when I’m riding my bike by the way. However I’ve gotten pretty good at designating well-hidden roadside pee spots, but I don’t even want to know how many random drivers by have seen my va-jayjay. It’s unfortunate though when riding through a heavily populated neighborhood. You can’t just pee in someone’s well-groomed bushes next to their mailbox, behind the air conditioner on the side of their house, in the middle of their front yard in a low-lying pine, or in the shade of their wooden fence (as if the shade makes you invisible (it doesn’t)). So you ride, clenched, fanatically searching for any kind of public establishment with a bathroom. Finally you find a place, but then you have to lock up your bike! Doubled over and about to explode, you stumble with your lock during those waves of intense pee sensations and do the potty dance on your tip toes like a drunk ballerina all the way to the toilet. I bet that’s funny to witness. Unfortunately I’ve always been the star of those episodes. 
Today I was supposed to go pick up my finished bike but I instead got a phone call from the bike shop concerning my gears. I had mentioned on Monday that my gears were shifting funny, and they assured me it was simply due to a dirty chain and that with a good cleaning the shifter would be happier. But upon further investigation my shifter was actually skipping gears. For every one click, it would shift two or three, which is particularly hazardous and annoying when going up a steep climb and your feet lurch out of the straps because your gears decide to shift down 3 for no reason. So there are two solutions; switch it to friction shifting, which means there wouldn’t be any more “clicks” and you’d have to shift gears based on feel, or get new shifters altogether. The new shifters are of better quality than my current setup and they come complete with new cables and guides which is great because mine are a bit rusted. Plus, with new shifters I’ll be able to switch to the friction setting as a backup plan out on the road if the shifting mechanism fails again. Since I’ll be totally on my own this time I figure it’s worth the hundred bucks. 
When I get back on my bike tomorrow it will be like new, and I’m so excited! It really needed to be adjusted and have a proper tune up so with this checked off my to-do list I feel a lot better about this trip. 



You could say I’m rather shy, or quiet may be a better way of describing it. Reserved perhaps, soft-spoken. Many people do in fact, make it a point to tell me I’m this way. As if I didn’t already know, as if it’s something I’m doing on purpose. The fact that people notice this about me only heightens my awareness of it, making it worse, making myself feel more awkward among others. This one little trait I possess defines me of who I am.  It is the one reason (in a nutshell) of why I’m choosing to live my life this way. I’m purposefully forcing myself into situations where I can develop traits that I lack, and expanding myself as an individual through trying times. But sometimes I need to be reminded of this.
Rather than labeling my timidness as a negative quality, I prefer to convince myself that it is a positive thing. I prefer the term observer. It’s not an excuse either. I can and often do spend hours sitting in silence, just looking around me, letting the chunks of light and dark seep into my eyes without forming shapes. Without opinion I sit transfixed, delighted to accompany the romance of color and sound (or lack there of). I am easily entertained by the meander of a young ant, roving aimlessly from stem to leaf to stem, covering ground but never touching the forest floor. I don’t need to say anything, I can just watch. Thoughts are automatically erased and I can breathe, damn it. I’m quiet, and I like being quite. I like what silence sounds like. I will often observe my surroundings this way when I’m in the company of others as well, and people sometimes consider my lack of contribution to the situation as me being introverted. But on the contrary! I’m really just taking it all in, trying to be consistently aware. Most of the time when I’m speaking with someone I’m focused more on the way their face is arranged rather than what they are saying. It’s hard for me not to be captivated by the way a face moves, or not get lost in peoples’ eyes. 
It’s been a while since I’ve written so I’ll back up a bit and quickly catch you up. I found myself home this past holiday season regarding a series of unfortunate events that I won’t bother going into. The ultimate decision being that I came home from my time at sea, as it was clearly necessary. During the last four months at home I have done some work for family to make some cash. I’ve been living at my parents’ house to avoid paying bills and rent (THANK YOU MOM & JACK) so that I could save everything I earned. Having a small financial cushion in the bank feels pretty good, like I could go anywhere or do anything I want (travel-wise). But then should I spend it traveling, it would no longer be a cushion, would it? 
A most delicious Boston Cream Pie
So (as much as I hate to admit it) I’ve decided to be normal for a while and get a job over the summer to make a little more cash. I'll be working as a pastry chef on a Dude Ranch located in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. I’m happy to have landed this job, because as far as working goes I appreciate being on my feet all day and providing a meaningful service to others who appreciate what I’m doing. I love to bake (I've been doing a lot of practicing lately, see picture) and I’m looking forward to further developing those skills. And in my free time on the ranch I’ll have the freedom to ride horses, camp, and explore the Rio Grand National Forest to my heart’s content. The position ends in October and by then I’ll really have some cash saved up to travel with as well as the current cushion I have now as my reserve for emergencies or over-the-top, on-a-whim expenses like getting the extravagant tattoos I’ve always wanted. The job starts in mid May and I plan to ride my bike there (YAY!!) so my departure date is creeping up on me fast. Though the ranch is only 800 miles from my front door I am going to give myself 4 weeks to get there, just so I don’t feel rushed and I can take my time and enjoy the ride. I’d like to give myself ample time to get lost, break down, and mosey as much as I please. This time I’m doing the whole ride alone and I’ll have to go through the mountains, so it’s likely to be a whole different ball game. I’m quite excited about it!
There are still many important things I need to do before I leave. I need to get professionally fitted to my bike and fix this whole nerve problem thing with my left hand. My hand has regained full function and mobility for everyday use but I can tell my ulnar nerve is still slightly damaged when I leave it in the same position for too long. Even after a short 30 mile ride it begins to go numb. Adjustments will be made to my bike so we fit each other better, which might mean ordering a new stem and set of handlebars all together. My weight needs to be shifted more to my ars and less to my wrists, and I should probably buy some of those padded shorts that real cyclists wear. I’m sure people don’t wear them just to look cool, because we all know the second anyone squeezes into a pair of the diaper-daunted spandex shorts their Awesome Meter spikes to ridiculous heights. Can the world handle one more? I also need to start seriously training again and get myself physically and emotionally prepared for this trip and change of lifestyle. 
Thoughts of my training and emotional preparations are what led me to my blog today. Lately I feel as though I’ve regressed back to my old self, or that all the growing I did during my time on the road has been buried again. I’ve dried out and shriveled back beneath the surface, hiding from the sun. It’s almost as if I don’t feel accepted here in modern society, where people are full of quick judgments and mindless talk. I’ve put myself in awkward situations and handled myself poorly, and I too can’t help but judge myself. When I was on my own I forced myself out there, to make bold decisions and speak before spoken to and make a real effort to connect with strangers and learn from my surroundings and experiences. And when I'd foul up I accepted it as a learning experience rather than regretting it and letting it consume my thoughts. When I’m home my shell consumes my speech. My home town is a vacuum that sucks my voice out. I revert back to the way people expect me to be. That person I was becoming on the road, if just barely there before, has faded into the reflection of hot air and turned invisible once again, like the way the hot distant pavement seeps with steam into the sky. I can’t see clearly, I can hardly focus. My body feels as if it’s in a whirlwind and I’m spinning haphazardly amid the moments. What I choose to acknowledge and ignore doesn’t make sense, and my motives seem confused. People look right through me, and I can’t engage. I can’t connect! So I am hoping that with my reentry into living nomadically I can again find and further develop myself and be happy with my progress. 
Yesterday, as I sat on my haunches in the wet forest without a care in the world except for a flimsy little ant, I remembered how effected I am by nature. With wide eyes I looked around and listened to only the raindrops fall through the leaves, just a few managing to reach my face. I observed the trees conversing, I was a witness without being watched. I didn’t have to do or say anything, and I felt more alive than I have in a long time. I studied the new curled buds beginning to bloom, so tender and vibrant. The little ant walked on top of the water drops that stood upon the leaves, skating over them with glee. They seemed permanent and solid, like dried globs of hot glue. The ant’s pace was steady but directionless. It seemed lost but without worry. The ant often retraced it’s footsteps, shamelessly circling, and eventually it would find it’s way to the next leaf, stretching across a gap wider than the length of it’s body. Almost flying through the air, the ant was so small it seemed to cling to the molecules of air surrounding the leaf itself. I want to have the same motion as that ant, content adrift the fallen drops from the sky, accompanied by a constant petrichor to the air.