Thursday, June 30, 2016

Drop City, Arnold Swiss-zenegger, and Old Man Warner

Day: 4 (Louisa, VA to Charlottesville, VA)
Average Speed: 10.9 MPH (it was hilly)
Miles Cycled Today: 45.7
Miles Cycled Total: 202
Mood: Thankful (to be alive)

Wooden Tricycle Outside of Cambia Community (my host for last night)

 I once read a book by TC Boyle called "Drop City." It's a meandering novel that depicts life inside (and outside) of a commune. I remember reading it and thinking how cool it would be to get a first person glimpse into that lifestyle. 

And last night, I got my chance. 

The Cambia Community, yesterday's host, is an intentional community in Louisa, Virginia. It's egalitarian, meaning that they share income as well as responsibilities in order to keep it running (but there is no one leader). Cambia is small in comparison to other similar communities, but they are still one of only fifteen registered egalitarian communities in the country, according to Claire (one of the hosts). I might be getting some of these facts wrong as I'm working from memory... there are many different types of commune systems, and the simplicity of each type seems awfully complicated to me. 

They are accustomed to hosting people who might experience a bit of culture shock, but were kind enough to allow some photos:

 From bottom left clockwise: Gabriel, Claire, Gil, Ella, Bree, Shawn's feet, and adorable Avni

This is why this trip is already the coolest thing I've ever done. First of all, these people took me in- no questions asked. They held their dinner for me (and I was way late). They asked nothing of me and offered literally anything they had. As I set up camp, I listened while they shared past experiences about parenting with one another for at least an hour or two in a "heart circle." 
The incredibly witty Shawn gave me a tour of the property, which is far more extensive than what's pictured. There's walking trails throughout, a beautiful shed in progress, and homemade furniture at every turn. There is no plumbing system per say (hence the outdoor facilities in the picture below), but there is a potable/non-potable water system, which I don't quite understand. My dad was the plumber. Not me. 
I had a fitful night's sleep due to the lack of sleeping pad (I intentionally didn't pack one) under my sleeping bag... but that's something I'll have to get used to. 

Gil, another host, was ringing the breakfast bell as I was packing up this morning. I assumed it was meant for the others... not me. I was wrong. They had to come and get me as I was still packing up, and were obviously waiting with food in front of them until I joined. I thought I was being polite by not assuming I was invited to breakfast... they thought "Hurry it up Jimbo!" We held hands at breakfast for quite a while before digging in to pancakes, fresh fruit, and peanut butter. 

While it's not a lifestyle I'm going to be partaking in on a long-term basis anytime soon, I see the draw. It's complexly simple, it's carefree with careful planning, and it's welcoming. Locks on the doors at Cambia? Nope. They made it quite clear that anyone is welcome. 

Today was a short (but hilly) ride to Charlottesville, VA. Knowing it would be short, I didn't push myself. I travelled slow. Don't get me wrong... I'm sore as hell right now after just 45 miles. Just a few miles in, I ran into another cyclist heading the other direction, obviously completing the same trail in the other direction.

This guy was from Switzerland, and he was planning on finishing his tour in Yorktown tonight... 150 miles from where we were. That might not sound like a lot, but he had just biked 250 miles in 29 hours. Taking the occasional 20 minute nap.

Holy shit. 250 miles. No sleep. Another 150 to go. Imagine you're motivated to bike across the country, and you're proud of the 50-60-70-80 miles you can get through in a day. And then you meet this guy. 

He started his tour on June 4th and was going to end in under a month. 

Just when I was starting to feel good about myself, I met Arnold Swiss-zenegger. 

He warned me of the dogs in Kentucky, which I had read about several times. Then he warned me about the dogs 1/2 mile down the road. Then he scoffed at how much gear I had. Then he and his glistening 800 pound calf muscles rode away into the sun.

I will say this: He was Swiss. They're not known for their personalities. Dry. As. Dust. And hell, if my visa were about to expire, I'd probably bike faster too. So there. 

He was right about the dogs down the road though. These two look friendly enough, but moments before this picture was snapped, they were out for blood. Nick, their owner, saved my life and filled up my water bottle. 

Then both dogs licked me.

The biggest scare of the day, however, was not dog-induced. It was the eight miles leading into Charlottesville.

Bike route 76 does not claim to be safe, and as I rode just outside my destination, there were a couple of angry honks from cars (please... for the love of God... never honk at a cyclist who's following the rules of the road). At one point, an elderly man followed patiently behind my bike waiting for a passing zone... then he rolled down his passenger window and rode beside me. He opened our conversation by saying "Are you suicidal? Or just plain f***in' stupid?" I informed him I was the latter. He had not said all that was on his mind though, and it became intensely awkward as his Anti-Me editorial seemed to have no end. Bear in mind, he's ranting about safety while riding side by side, staring at, and ranting at a cyclist. I'm just glad I gave his wife some new bullshit to listen to for the night. She's probably tired of hearing all the other rants over and over again. 

Old Man Warner had a great exit line though... and I quote verbatim: "I do not believe you are intelligent enough to be riding the bicycle that you are on." And then vroom! he was off- with his Trump bumper sticker staring back at me. 

A sign just like this one was about 500 feet from where he ranted... I hope he saw it:

Here's the thing though... and I really, really hate to admit this: He was right. 

After that exchange, the intensely busy two lane road narrowed. There was absolutely no shoulder. There were sharp turns and steep hills. And I was legitimately scared. Like really scared. I stared in my rearview and needed to suddenly unclip my shoes from the pedals and dump the bike three times. There was no way for traffic to safely pass me-- a pickup truck slammed on it's brakes and fishtailed when it saw me. Not his fault. Nor mine. I walked up a big climb (and even walking wasn't safe) not because I couldn't bike it, but because it could've been a disaster. I don't have the words to express how dangerous and unfit for anything other than cars this road is. Interstate highways, with their wide shoulders, are much, much safer for cyclists than this road will ever be. 

This is a road that has no business being on a bike trail. I don't scare easy when it comes to biking in traffic, but I was white as a sheet. My sweat beads had nothing to do with the ride. Here's a text I sent to my host for tonight and her response (mind you I haven't met these people and I'm trying to sound classy... but notice I used four exclamation points. And I rarely use exclamation points). 

I set up my tent in their lawn and sent them a pic to let them know I was there... but this was all done in a daze. I was seriously, seriously shaken. And that's hard for me to admit. 

Another short ride planned for tomorrow, followed by my first major climb the next day. Hopefully, I never see a road like Route 53 again. I'll take those 211 type-roads any day over that. My God. 


"Hmmm... I'd like a ham on rye, hold the mayo, and a learner's permit please..."

I was only bummed that they didn't share a common "take a number" system.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

A Fat Ass, a Cocktail Party, and a Slaughtered Chicken

Day: 3 (Richmond, VA to Louisa, VA)
Average Speed: 12 MPH
Miles Cycled Today: 74 (20 of which were entirely pointless)
Miles Cycled Total: 156
Mood: Refreshed

Found this Graffiti in Richmond

Last night, I went to bed sore. Like really sore. My feet and legs were totally not used to the added weight as I never trained with anything heavier than a 6 pack of beer on the back of the bike. I trained without weight intentionally against all advice. It helped me maintain the illusion that 80 miles was no big deal. I probably would've given up before starting if I did any sort of training with 40 added pounds... 

Imagine waking up one day, and your ass is 40 pounds heavier. That's exactly what it must feel like. 

Now, I feel every hill. And there haven't really been any major (or minor) hills at all yet. And until later in today's ride, this part of Virginia is flatter than a flute that thinks it's in tune.

Yet somehow I woke up this morning feeling 100%. Add to that the great coffee and conversation from my host Rachael, her mom Leslie, and host dog "Loki," and the start to the day could not be better.

 She even gave me a set of earbuds to replace the ones I left behind, and I used them immediately. I've never cycled with music before because I want to be able to hear traffic, but WOW. What a difference it makes. I listened to Ben Folds on shuffle and smiled for the first 20 miles. Even his slow songs are motivating. 

Although she offered me breakfast, I refused. I never eat breakfast. But less than 1/2 mile in, I stopped and chugged a can of RedBull, downed a PowerBar, and sucked up an energy gel (that's some weird shit... but it works). 10 miles later, I hit up a Subway. And while I was there stocked up with some pretzels, peanuts, a couple more PowerBars, and some Mentos. I'm gonna have to learn to start eating breakfast. 

Rachael, who is a nurse, even said "I hate to sound like your mother... but you need to eat breakfast." And as I know from working in a school... never, ever, ever disagree with the nurse (Love you, Tamara!).

Better yet, I found another host for tonight who lives a perfect distance away. I'm prepared to camp anytime, but it's great not to have to. 

The mapped out and approved bicycle map that I'm using thinks it's doing cyclists a favor by having them avoid the busy city of Richmond, but I disagree... I'm using Google Maps for this leg since it brings me right through the heart of Richmond. It's a lovely city. 

Diggin' this Coke Sign

Probably shouldn't have stopped for this brewski though... it skewed my judgement. And when I went to go put my right saddle bag back on, I didn't clip it in properly. About ten miles later, as I neared a (thankfully) red light, it fell off. Now this might not seem like a big deal, but suppose you're at a cocktail party, precariously balancing a full martini in your left hand, and your rather large right ass cheek falls off unexpectedly. Here's how I'd imagine that would play out:

"Lovely party, isn't it Martha?"

"Why, yes Todd. Quite lovely."

"Did you read the Wall Street Journal today? The article about the Dow Jones and the expected stock gains for Chamois Cream?"

"No, Todd. And pardon, but I'm unfamiliar with Chamois Cream... can you enlighten me?"

"I can Martha, but it's quite crass. The plebeians of our society call it "Butt Butter" and it's meant to prevent saddle sores on long bicycle rides."

"My, my! That's dreadful!" 

[Martha's right ass cheek drops to the floor... she falls to the left, spilling her martini everywhere. The entire party watches in stunned silence as Martha staggers to get back up, but while overcompensating for the lost weight of the ass cheek, she falls to the right. Eventually she manages to get up, and adjust her glasses. Her lipstick is smeared all over her face.]

"How's the NASDAQ doing, Todd?"


That's pretty much what happened. Luckily the light was red, so traffic wasn't moving when I fell into it... but I'm sure I made for some lively dinner conversation.

By the way... one thing about Google Maps when you're on a bike... it finds the fastest possible route, but not at all the safest. Where I live, there's a busy road called 211, where all the big box stores are... it's totally legal to ride a bike there. But is it smart? Hell no. The Goog took me that way. And I was blaring my music the whole time. 

On the bright side, I found a Best Buy where I could re-buy the sweat proof earbuds I left in my car. The associate at the door, Matt, was super nice and insisted I bring my bike in the store. He asked where I was heading, and gave me the incredulous look when I said San Francisco. I also got the hairy eyeball when I told him I was riding with headphones. "That's not safe ya' know..." blah blah blah. You know what's safe about this trip? Nothing. Why stop at headphones? I stay to the right. Cars try to avoid me. If I'm gonna get hit, I'd rather go sailing through the air listening to the french horn opening of "God Only Knows" by The Beach Boys than hear my bones breaking.

Oh yeah... while we're on that topic everyone seems to be concerned about whether or not I packed spare tubes for the tires. I'm dumb, but I'm not that dumb. YES. I DID. I might not know how to put them in the tires... BUT I BROUGHT THEM!!!

Virginia is beautiful, and the rolling hills are perfect for cycling. Just plain fun. I had a great ride today and ended it by meeting my new host family- in an egalitarian community. They offered me a delicious freshly slaughtered chicken upon my arrival:

More on that tomorrow. Great people.


Hanna-dle Bars:

Get it?

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Incompetence, a Ticker Tape Parade, and a Damn Good Hot Dog

Day: 2 (Yorktown, VA to Richmond, VA)
Average Speed: 12.3 MPH
Miles Cycled Today: 82 (20 of which were entirely pointless)
Miles Cycled Total: 82
Mood: Wearily Optimistic

Put away that sunblock! Lose those shades! You're starting your tour off in a downpour! That's right... it hasn't rained in a whole damn month because we've been waiting for you to arrive down here in Yorktown, Virginia.

Susie and her parents, who were gracious enough to host me last night, dropped me off at about 9:30 this morning. It's hard to tell from the picture below (my starting point at Victory Monument), but that rain is really coming down (I'm not just wearing that yellow gear to be stylish):


Lucky for me, I'm prepared. Not only is my rain gear ready to go, but see that nifty bag on the back? It even has it's own raincoat craftily built in. It was a huge selling point for me when selecting the bag.

But the rain was more of an omen: here's what happened in just the first 6 miles. 

-I missed my first turn... not a big deal, except Susie and her father had to chase me down in the car and tell me... I pretended like I was just giving the bike a test ride, but I missed it. And they knew. It's more fun to pretend I'm competent.

-My bike computer, which tells me the speed and the distance I've travelled, wasn't working. Uh oh. That's not a luxury item... that's kinda necessary. So that needs to get fixed, and I can't figure it out because common sense eludes me. I assumed I busted the sensor or something while taking off the wheel... but Google found a repair shop just five miles away in the opposite direction. Perfect! 

Except they were closed:

Now at this point, you might be asking yourself why the nifty little raincoat for my bag that I was bragging about before appears to be caught in my spokes and brakes. That's because it is. It must've fallen off at some point due to the excessive speeds I was traveling at.

This item is a goner... and it took me 40 minutes of hacking with my Leatherman knife in order to get it uncaught. 40 minutes. When it was done, it looked like Spongebob had been given a ticker tape parade. The photo doesn't really give due justice to the absolute mess I made.

Back in NY, Hanna Googled another bike shop for me which was only another five miles away (still in the wrong direction) and pretty soon my bike was in full on repair mode:

Fortunately, the technician working on the bike was not that bright. And I say fortunately because it was the easiest repair possible... The magnet which calculates the wheel rotation needed to be nudged up about 1/300 of an inch... which I figured out. I nudged it with my finger after the technician tried everything else. We high-fived and almost hugged, which was awkward, but at least we were both incompetent together... I had to bike ten miles back to the starting point and re-begin. 

Of course, I left the maps I was using to navigate at the bike shop which I didn't realize until after I cycled the ten miles back to Victory Monument (that's to be expected though- I'm like Hansel or Gretel... one of those... probably Hansel... except on Sundays).

And did I mention it was pouring?

Had lunch in Williamsburg at a great place- Hair of the Dog it was called, I think. Damn good hot dog. They even filled up my water bottle!

Oh yeah... and I may have had a beer or two as well. 

The Capital Trail, which is designated solely for bikes, is incredibly maintained and made for a great 35 miles... I was so excited to listen to my iPod since I wasn't concerned about cars... except I left my earbuds in my car. 


Made it through day one and reached my new host at 8 PM. Exhausted. Sore (the 40 pounds added weight, believe it or not, makes a HUGE difference! Who woulda thought?). Sleepy. But ready for tomorrow. 


For about an hour on the ride today, I tried to figure out Virginia's State Motto.

"Virginia is for Lovers"???? 

That hurts my brain. I have so many questions about this. But in the end, I think it's creepy and it makes me want to shower. 

Doesn't Virginia's stand out as... I dunno... gross?


Monday, June 27, 2016

Whatcha Packin'?

Day: 1 (Pine Bush, NY to Williamsburg, VA)
Average Speed: 70 MPH
Miles Cycled Today: 0
Miles Cycled Total: 500 Training Miles
Mood: Happy!

Preparation isn't really my thing. I was a shitty Boy Scout. And hopefully, the "it all works out in the end..." mantra will see me through to the end of this trip.

Just over a month ago, the only bicycle I had was a Cannondale that makes for an excellent conversation piece in the garage ("Hey, Jim... over yonder beneath the large pile of scrap vinyl siding that you'll never use... just next to the pointlessly large Beetlejuice Halloween costume and to the right of those three identical Shop Vacs that are obviously never used in here... is that a mountain bike?" "Yes. Yes it is." "Why that looks like it hasn't been used in at least a decade!" Silence.)

Now I've got a Trek 520 built for touring and ready to go and 500 miles of training under my belt... still a far cry from ready for the Yorktown, VA to San Francisco, CA trip via the TransAmerica/Western Express bicycle routes.

Packing this thing was a chore. But I think I got it down to the bare bone essentials... which is as follows:


2 Pair Bike Shorts (3 different removable liners)
3 Cycle Jerseys (one of which advertises beer… Magic Hat to be specific)
2 Pair Underwear that do not look moth eaten like most of my other pairs
4 Pair Cycling Socks… yea there’s such thing as cycling socks. Who knew?
1 Pair Leg Warmers (no not the ones from the 80s… these are much sexier)
1 Long Sleeve Flannel
2 T-Shirts
1 Undershirt
1 Plaid Short Sleeve Button Down (for date nights...)
1 Pair Shorts for Sleeping (Hanna's suggestion...)
1 Lightweight Hoodie
1 Pair Lightweight Pants
1 Rain Outfit
2 Stuff Sacks
1 laundry bag cube thing (left this home... no idea why I thought this was a good purchase)
1 Pair Sandals
1 Pair Bike Shoes (with clips, but easy enough to walk in... I'll miss my Converse though)
1 Helmet with Rearview Mirror

1 Belt




1 Stick Deodorant (one of those new hipster Old Spice scents... my girlfriend complains it makes me smell like fruit.)
1 Stick Anti-Chafe Rub (eeeeww)
1 Tube Chamois Butt’r (not for toast)
1 Can Sunblock
1 Small Tube Face Sunblock (I have sensitive skin... and emotions)
1 Can Hair Goop (for date night... don’t judge)
1 Razor (2 extra blades)
First Aid Kit (hopefully I will be able to return this as I don't plan on opening it)
Acne Cream (my forehead breaks out when my helmet is on… it sucks. Makes me feel like I'm in high school again)
Small Shampoo
Lip Sunscreen
Tissues/TP (this item seems very stealable to me from restaurant bathrooms)
Caddy to hold this shit




1 USB Memory Stick (this has my curriculum for the upcoming year on it which I will tweak throughout trip... HAHAHAHAHA!!! Yea, right! But I'm bringing it anyway.)
2 Micro SD Cards with Adapter
Wall Charger with 4 USB Ports
GoPro Hero4 Silver
4 GoPro batteries with charger
External Hard Drive
Kindle (just loaded with "Set this House in Order" by Matt Ruff... reccomended by a friend)
YurBud Headphones (only brand that stays in my ear when sweating)
 iPod Nano 
MacBook Pro w/ case
External Battery/ Battery Charger
Solar Charger
Mini Tripod

USB cables for kindle/external battery, iPhone/iPod, GoPro, camcorder


Rubber Bands
Rim Tape
Black Tape (wrapped around bike post)
Chamois Cloth
Lightweight Towel
Shower Caps (for saddle/exposed electronics protection in rain... not to protect my perfect coif)
Bungee Cords
Mini Leatherman
Allen Wrenches
Tire Levers
2 Spare Tubes 
Air Pump (not pictured… on bike)
Proofride (for Brooks saddle)
Bike Lock
Ziploc Baggies
Chain Lube (rowwrrr... oh behave you chain!)
Map Set




1 Nemo Lightweight Single Person Tent (2 lbs... date proof)
Footprint for the Tent 
1 Heat Blanket
20 Degree Sleeping Bag (Trailhead Teton brand)
Water Filtration system (this sounds cool. But I have no clue how to use it.)


“Wallet” (Credit Card/Debit Card/Cash/License/PBA Card for when I get pinched for speeding)
Energy Gels
Note Pad
Post Bag
Corkscrew (If you think this isn’t necessary, then we probably don't hang out all that much.)
Head Lamp
Bike Gloves
2 Bic Lighters


3 Water Bottle Cages (but only 2 water bottles… go figure… 3rd cage is underneath)
Bell… like PeeWee Herman
Super-Dooper-Bright Annoying Headlight and Taillight (Cygolite brand) to annoy cars
Smartphone mount
Computer (odometer, speedometer, tripmeter, etc.)
Go-Pro Mount
Handlebar Bag-Orlieb
Storage Rack
1 Brooks B-17 Saddle (color: green)


2 40L Ortlieb Waterproof Panniers
Top Bag


95 Pound Slobber Machine (courtesy of Hanna)

I'm gonna fit her in the front basket... like Toto.


My co-worker Susie was kind enough to drive 8 hours down to her parents' house (and her parents are gracious enough to let me stay with them a night in preparation for tomorrow). Susie's good company- and doesn't mind me sleeping in the passenger seat.

Gave my bike a brief spin with all of the weight... feels great... feels like I have a really large ass though.