April 20, 2010 –
St. Augustine, FL
IN THE PAST WEEKS, I have made many lists in preparation for this trip—lists of things to take, lists of things not to take (even lists of the lists I have made). But I strive for simplicity, so at this particular stage of readiness, I am down to only one list—Clif Bars being at the top. (I especially like the chocolate brownie and carrot cake versions. In fact, I have seriously considered contacting Clif at Clif Bar & Company to ask for a sponsorship. A Clif Bar bike jersey would be quite nifty—a yellow one, please, Clif. Secretly, I hope to keep a list of all of the Clif Bars I eat on my journey, with a review of each flavor.)
After Clif Bars, I’ve listed items like tent, sleeping bag, camp stove, extra tire tubes, more spandex, blinking reflectors, spare bike chain, panniers (a cool name for saddle bags), iPod, rain gear, and assorted toiletries—down to my Chamois Butt’r (and we all know what that is for). But during my check-in call with my unofficial coach (and official brother-in-law), Jean Francois Weiss, I learn I have forgotten to include one of the most important items on the list: good shoes. Not just comfortable shoes, but great shoes. (I make copious notes while Jean waxes poetic about my many choices and considerations—but I am the guy who has been training for weeks in the same shoes I’ve worn every day for the past six months. It takes me a minute to acquire the proper head space regarding the importance of obtaining the right shoes. Sorry, JF. I think I’m there now.)
Jean Francois is a real long-distance cyclist—and a mountain climber. In fact, as I go for my training ride to Starbucks (13.2 miles), JF is tearing up 60 miles of tarmac in northern California for his warm-up—while plotting his route up the Matterhorn for his 70th birthday. No shit! (My idea of training includes a Clif Bar, a grande cafe Americano, and a chat with anyone who seems interesting and wants to talk. JF says I’m breaking my rhythm, stopping and starting like this, but how else am I going to communicate with humanity? And that is really what lies at the heart of this whole matter, the ride, the slow crawl across America—the desire to talk to people, to engage in meaningful dialogue, to turn my back on the pull of the interstate.)
After my talk with JF, I realize my epic journey of pedaling will require a pair of Happy Feet, and it occurs to me that, once again, I have launched into an enterprise with my eye on the big picture and not on the details. God is in the details, it is said, and in my 53 years I have sped by many defining details as quickly as cars zoom by me when I’m pedaling away on my Surly Long Haul Trucker. I am beginning to think this bike trip may help me sort things out. There is something to be said for the repetitive cadence of the rotation of my pedals—a rocking, elliptical motion that becomes the backdrop to my every thought as I move slowly along the road.
Now, with my new shoes (after some serious Internet searching I pared my options down to Merrell or Keen shoes—the Merrells won) double-knotted for extra security and my spandex swishing with each step, I am ready to embark upon my journey and, hopefully, to slow things down so I can see the details that have eluded me for so long in my life.