Post Ride Blues, Winners of Road Kill Count, Being Forrest Gump

Post Ride Blues

I wrote Thursday’s Day 68 blog through tears and snot at 1am. It was Day 68 – the last day of the ride, and I was unexpectedly overcome with heartache. My adventure was over and I missed it already. Crying was extremely cathartic.

I also felt conflicted. On the one hand, I was elated to be home. I missed my family, my friends, my dog, my town, and my routines. I was so appreciative of all that people had done to welcome me home. On the other hand, I longed to continue my adventure.

Another lesson I learned on the Ride is that people like to rally around a journey – their own and others’. The first day after the adventure, I received emails from many of you expressing blog withdrawals. “I’m going to miss the daily ride updates.” Me too…

Are we like Forrest Gump?

My brother reminded me that when Forrest Gump reached the ocean, he turned around and ran to the other ocean. Forrest morphed his journey multiple times throughout the movie, but he was always on some journey. And the journey gave him a purpose for his life.

Aren’t we all like Forrest? Don’t we need to be on a journey, don’t we crave purpose in our work and our life? Going to a job each day just to collect a paycheck is never as fulfilling as going to work to accomplish something. “Accomplishing something” is the journey, not the destination.

Here’s what I’ve resolved. My ride was a journey. When I reached the Atlantic Ocean, I reached a destination, but the journey is not over. It is just ready to be morphed, like Forrest Gump’s. Stay tuned…

Counting Road Kill

When I saw the first road kill on Day 1 of the Ride, it occurred to me that I shared the same fragility with animals who braved the journey on the open road. Life can end so quickly without notice. Then I observed the second road kill, and the count was on.

Counting road kill served two purposes over the past 9 weeks:

  1. It continued to remind me of this vulnerability.
  2. It kept me focused.

I became fascinated by the types of animals that attempted to cross the road in various regions of the country. As Alan, my Nevada biking buddy, will attest, I literally got off my bike on numerous occasions to examine road kill. In the open range, it was cows, coyotes, wild cats, and deer. In Kansas and Missouri, turtles, snakes, and armadillos. In Ohio and Pennsylvania, raccoons and possum. In New Jersey, mosquitoes. (Here’s a picture of my favorite animal, my dog Elwood!)

As the road kill count (RKC) reached 500, I threw it out to you to see what you thought the final RKC might be. I received guesses that ranged from 800 to 11,000.

The Winners

The final RKC was 2,058. Della and John Schneck (pictured) from Effingham came the closest with their guess of 2,222. The following 10 people submitted the best guesses. Thanks for being a part of the adventure! I’m sending them each a copy of my new book: 

  • Della/John Schneck
  • Marj Kondo
  • Alan Klaassen
  • Grace Riddle
  • Wendy Pitnatella
  • Ellen Coyle
  • Jeff Christiansen
  • John Waterloo
  • Jeff Furnia
  • Sandi Pilon

Tell me what you love about your job and I’ll send you a book.

Didn’t win the RKC contest? Here’s another way to get a copy of my new book: tell me what you love about your job.

I’m not suggesting that you have to or even that you do love your job. If you gripe about your job, you’re not alone. Everyone complains about their job. I’m challenging you to describe something that you love about your job. Why did you choose your line of work? What do you look forward to in your job?  If you’re currently unemployed or retired, what did you love about your last job?

Tell me about what you love and I’ll send you a signed copy of my new book, Moxie for Managers. Email me (ann@lifemoxie.com) the following:

  • Job title
  • What you love about your job
  • How your boss influences your success
  • How you influence others’ success
  • Your picture

By popular request, I’m changing the original deadline (which was Sun. July 24) but the other rules outlined in Blog Day 59 still stand. Send me your virtual interview before I reach 1,000 interviews and I’ll mail you a book.

First Virtual Interview: Cathy Goodall

Cathy was one of the first people to send me her virtual interview. Cathy works in professional technical education at Walla Walla Community College in Walla Walla WA. Here’s what Cathy shared:

  1. What do you love about your job? “I love the variety of work. I perform many different tasks usually involving processing paperwork, and I get called upon to troubleshoot or find out things for folks, so it is challenging and rewarding.”
  2. How does your boss influence your success?  “My boss understands me, encourages me, and trusts my judgment with decision making. She is always looking for ways for me to more fully demonstrate my strengths. She challenges me to create goals and examine what drives me, and she is genuinely interested in seeing me succeed.  Because of her support, I feel empowered to tackle whatever comes my way.”
  3. How do you influence other people’s success?  “I try to model my boss. I really listen to what others are saying, ask clarifying questions, and am not quick to react. I try to be sensitive to how I can be a positive influence in their life. I encourage and connect people to others who may be able to further them towards their goal.”

Stats on the Morphed Journey

Interviews: 109

Lessons learned: 41

Decrease in property value as a result of parking the RV in front my house for 4 days: 26%

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Day 68 – Cycled 4,240 Miles and Touched my Tire in the Atlantic Ocean!

Today I rode to the Atlantic Ocean and back on the grid. While I am overjoyed to be home, my heart aches that it is over. Undeniably, this ride has been a seminal experience in my life.  

Today’s Route – Annandale NJ to the Atlantic Ocean

Rob, Chuck, and I rode 78 miles from Annandale NJ to the Atlantic Ocean in what was supposed to be a pleasant, last ride on The Moxie Ride. Instead, it was like everything else in NJ – intense.

Hottest Day Yet

At one point my Garmin read 116 degrees! I felt like I was riding through a campfire – the humidity was thick and the sun was scorching. Every 5 miles we stopped at a gas station or the RV to refill our bottles with ice cold water, which we could not drink fast enough. It was so hot that when I left my bike leaned up against the RV during a water break, some of the blacktop literally melted onto my tire. And when we found a sprinkler system at a park, we had to run through it.

Calamity of Errors

The easiest thing about today was the mileage. 78 miles felt effortless. It was the calamity of errors that made today a disagreeable, tough day on the ride. Individually, manageable; collectively, maddening and wearisome. First, the humidity and heat at 7am that didn’t cease until 8pm. Then Rob’s flat tire before we even left the campground. From there we navigated through NJ traffic and confusing routes, got lost 3 times, fixed my chain that had fallen off, worried about Chuck who got overheated at mile 50, cycled for miles on milled-for-repavement roads, and scratched furiously the bug bites from mosquitoes that gnawed on our skin at 17 mph (tough NJ mosquitoes!) causing our arms and legs to itch insanely.

Welcome Home Committee

Shout out for the Riddles 4! Our great friends and neighbors, the Riddles, waited eagerly and enthusiastically to greet us at the ocean when we arrived. They brought champagne, ice cold water, food, and Welcome Home signs. After a calamitous day, their cheerful faces were food for the weary soul. Because of their genuine and selfless joy and applause for me, I celebrated, for the first time all day, the significance of reaching the ocean.

Interviewing Chuck

When Chuck arrived at the campsite last night, Justin put a microphone in his face. Chuck laughed, “I saw this coming.” Chuck has been a Systems Engineer for AT&T since 1982. What he loves about it is the brain power he has collected over the years. He knows people he met in 1982 who he has worked with on various projects, and he still collaborates with them regularly to solve problems.

Stu, the Firefighter

When Stu arrived at the campsite last night to drop off Rob, Chuck, Jack, and Carly, Justin turned the camera on him. Stu said, “Can’t believe I didn’t see this coming!” Stu is a morning cyclist with us, a business owner, and a firefighter. When we asked him about being a firefighter, Stu said he loves that it connects him profoundly to the community. And as the Captain, he works to influence his team’s success by modeling for them a positive and collaborative approach.  

Lessons Learned

As my friend Caren said, it’s been such a big day, that it’s taking a while to wrap my head (and my soul) around it. Thinking about the lessons I’ve learned over the past 9 weeks has been tremendously helpful as I process the end. Here are a few more lessons I observed today to add to the list I started on Day 61:

  • I have an amazing family and unbelievable friends. Rob and Chuck took the day off of work. Jack and Carly took the day off of summer. The Riddles held on to the end to celebrate our arrival at the ocean. Other friends were planning on being there had we not phoned them to go home on account of being so late. My mom called me first thing this morning to double gush today. And numerous friends – old and new – texted and emailed throughout the day with “Congratulations!”
  • Petulance is just a mask for unidentified emotions. I was petulant from the moment I woke up today. Grouchy and snappish. I didn’t decipher it until much later that it stemmed from the reality that today was the last day of the Moxie Ride. Instead of joyously celebrating a huge accomplishment, I was busy being intense and irritable. I can’t imagine what I would have been like had Rob and Chuck not been cycling with me to laugh about the calamities, and if Jack and Carly had not been with us today to cheer at each break in spite of the less-than-exciting hours they spent in the RV.
  • I love having people cheer for me. Whether it was comments on the blog, emails, texts, phone calls, cards, or the Riddles at the finish line, I absolutely loved the applause. It kept me writing and riding for 4,240 miles. Knowing how much it nourished me, I will look for ways to joyfully, genuinely, and selflessly applaud others more often.
  • I’m stronger than I ever imagined. As I’ve shared in previous blogs, I did not start this ride as strong as I am now. I became strong not by training for the ride, but by doing the ride. The mountains I scaled, the miles I rode, the wind I battled, the monotony I fought, the fears I overcame, the excuses I conquered. All told, I astounded myself.
  • I’m glad I didn’t wait another 20 years. I waited 20 years to do this ride. I have no regrets about what I chose to do instead over the years. I’m just elated that I didn’t wait another 20 years and risk any future regrets.

Day 68 Stats

Day 68 miles: 78.17 miles

Total miles: 4,240.73 miles

Day 68 ascent: 2,552 feet

Day 68 descent: 2,713 feet (my current elevation is 78 feet- a far cry from my peak at 11,300 in Colorado)

Total interviews: 108

Final Road Kill Count: 2,058
(Added only 12 today. Here’s my theory about the low road kill count in NJ these past two days. There just aren’t any animals left to run over. They’ve been eliminated by urban sprawl, toxic waste, or intense drivers. All that’s left are carnivorous mosquitoes.) (I’ll announce the winners tomorrow….stay tuned!)

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Day 67 – Made it to New Jersey, 1 Day to Go, More Lessons Learned

Bittersweet Anticipation

One more day to go. It’s bittersweet. I’m excited to have accomplished what I had always wanted to do. I’m sorry to see it end. I’m enthusiastic to reconnect with people, my life, and my work. I’m sad that my days won’t be consumed with the wonder and discovery that comes with cycling through new towns and meeting new people. I’m thrilled about producing more each day than a road kill count and a blog. (I can’t say that I’ll miss counting dead things…) I am eager to incorporate into my life the myriad of lessons that I’ve learned. And I will keep asking my question: “What do you love about your job?” and documenting my discoveries for all of us.

Today’s Route: New Tripoli, PA to Annandale, NJ

Today was a great second-to-last ride. I rode 57 miles up a few more Pennsylvania hills, through many towns, over a bridge, and into New Jersey. Justin and I had a hard time finding a “Welcome to NJ” sign, so we improvised with a license plate. I then rode up and over the Musconetcong Mountain (I added a few pictures for those of you who still think of Newark when you think of NJ.) It was jungle hot again today, with temperatures at 100 degrees with humidity to match. As I climbed almost 4,000 feet in this humidity, I sucked down water before it boiled in my water bottle.

Tiffany, the Farmer

On one of my breaks, we stopped at a farm stand and met Tiffany who is a farmer at Central Valley Farm. She is responsible for planting, harvesting, and selling the farm’s fruits and vegetables. What she loves about it is being outdoors and knowing exactly where her food comes from. In addition, because she loves to nourish people, she loves to teach them about the food. On the farm, she feels like she’s part of the family, and she has contributed to their success by helping the farm become more organic.

Ed, the Garbage Collector

On another break, I noticed Ed sitting in his waste disposal truck. I intentionally suspended my assumption that garbage collectors couldn’t possibly love anything about their jobs, and instead approached the truck with curiosity. Ed has been a garbage collector for 18 years and what he loves is his customers and the relationships he has created with them over the years. In addition, his boss fosters a team mentality at the company and rallies the team to want to be number one. And when new people join the company, Ed loves mentoring them on how to be successful and enjoy it. Throughout our conversation, Ed beamed with personality and authenticity, and once again I was thrilled that I had suspended my assumptions.

 Rob, Jack, Carly, Chuck, & Stu

Rob (my husband) and Chuck (my biking buddy) took the day off of work on Thursday to cycle my last day with me. And to surprise me, Jack and Carly (my awesome stepkids) took the day off of summer to cycle the last 2 miles with me. Until then, they’ll ride in the RV entertaining Justin and cheering us on during breaks. Another biking friend, Stu, graciously drove all of them to our campsite tonight for a last cook-out and s’mores celebration. With that kind of loving, it will be very easy to transition back from my suspended reality.

More Lessons Learned

I’ve been compiling a list of lessons I’ve learned over the past 9 weeks to help me process the end of the ride. Here are a few more to add to the list that I started on Day 61:

  • Bad weather never lasts long; good weather is all how you define it. I’ve been rain-delayed a few times in the mornings. And a few times I’ve had a storm come out of nowhere in the middle of the day and derail my ride. Each time, the storm never lasted more than a few hours. And as long as there’s not hail, lightning, or a dust storm, I always say it is a great time to ride.
  • Communicating expectations is the key to staying alive on the bike and in relationships. Cars hate cyclists because we can be unpredictable. I resolved early on to communicate my expectations clearly and relentlessly using my arms, not just my hands. Going up Carson Pass in Tahoe, I literally waved my left arm up and down to signal to approaching cars to watch out for me because there was no shoulder to shield me from them. And since then every time I needed to move into a lane, I emphatically pointed to where I was headed. Similarly, I discovered that whenever Justin and I hit a rough patch, inevitably one of us had forgotten to wave an arm or point.
  • While climbing mountains is gripping and volatile, the true test in life is persevering through the flatlands. (Thanks Kat for reminding me of this great lesson!) People have consistently expressed awe that I could scale the Rocky Mountains. It is true, cycling through Colorado was challenging and also my favorite state – it was breathtaking, intense, and romantic. But that’s not everyday life, that’s called “drama.” The true test for me was Kansas – the monotony of the flatlands. Mile after mile of cornfields and wheatfields, with no change in the elevation or the scenery. That took more perseverance than cycling up the side of a mountain.
  • Wind is a fair weather friend. At my back, it is my best friend, making me ride fast and look powerful. Totally exhilarating! But in my face, it is deflating and at times demoralizing. Making me push so hard for so little mileage. I much prefer scaling mountains to fighting wind.
  • There is hope for the next generation. Many people predicted Justin would not last. That he would bail instead of keep his commitment, especially when he discovered quickly how not-so-easy it is to work with and live with me. Justin proved them all wrong. Quitting never even occurred to him. (Killing me, on the other hand, is another story…). With Justin I got to know a young man who is passionate and optimistic about life and the planet, who looks for the good in others, and who is determined to make a difference with his work. Even Emily, Tony, and Matt, the three kids we met in Nevada who are Justin’s age, are not going to settle until they make a difference in this world with their work. Knowing people like this will be out there influencing change makes me a little more hopeful for the future.

Day 67 Stats

Day 67 miles: 56.51 miles

Total miles: 4,162.56 miles

Day 67 ascent: 3,566 feet

Day 67 descent: 3,980 feet (my current elevation is 163 feet. Hard to believe I was at one time at 11,300 feet of elevation at the top of the Continental Divide!)

Total interviews: 106

Road kill count: 2,046
(Added 28 today. Cycled through many towns today where animals either don’t wander or the street sanitation is intolerant of road kill…)

Destination for Day 68: The Atlantic Ocean

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Days 66 – Scaling Blue Summit, 2 More Days, 5 More Lessons

Down to my last 2 days on The Moxie Ride! Feels a bit surreal…

(Unfortunately, the Internet connection at this RV park is not strong enough to upload any pictures tonight. See tomorrow’s Blog for a host of great pictures.)

Tuesday’s Route: Elysburg to New Tripoli, PA

Rode 67 miles from Elysburg to New Tripoli, which is just outside of Allentown and north of Philadelphia. We are now about 20 miles from the NJ border and about to enter the 11th and final state! (How did that happen? How did 9 weeks, 4,100 miles, and 10 states just pass in a blink and a few pedal strokes?)

Jungle Heat

It was jungle hot when I started at 7:30am this morning and the humidity never let up all day. The temperature topped off at 101 degrees without even accounting for the humidity. I drank more water than imaginable and sweated every drop of it. Crazy hot today with more to come tomorrow!

Scaled Blue Summit

After climbing 5,075 feet of elevation today, I am finally on the other side of the Appalachian Mountains. I scaled the Blue Summit and crossed over the Appalachian Trail. The uphill climbs today reminded me of Utah and Colorado – a steady 5-8% grade lasting for a few miles until a crest and an insane downhill. A few more rolling hills tomorrow will have me on the descent to the Atlantic Ocean.  

Bicycle-Intolerant Roads

Western Pennsylvania definitely got most of the state funding for their roads, and eastern Pennsylvania clearly got short-changed. In no uncertain terms, the roads in the eastern third of this state are bicycle-intolerant. The shoulders are useless – tar and gravel, forcing me to ride in the roads which are laden with cracks, bumpy patches, potholes, crevices, and crazy drivers. We re-routed me at least twice today to get me onto a shoulder of some sort and out of the road with the already-feeling-like-NJ-impatience traffic.

5 More Lessons

In preparing for the end of this adventure, I’ve been compiling a list of lessons I’ve learned over the past 9 weeks and 4,000 miles. Here are a few more to add to the list I started on Day 61:

  • I don’t miss the chaos. Before I left I had spent the prior 6 months in self-induced chaos getting ready for the trip. Even before that, I had convinced myself that I must thrive in chaos because of the tornado that followed me. I take it all back. I have savored not living in bedlam and mayhem for 9 weeks. On the ride, there is no room for chaos.
  • I love being out of touch but connected. I was delighted to discover I did not know about the day the Casey Anthony verdict was announced. I loved not having a TV for 9 weeks. I loved not reading the newspaper (except for the articles written about me, of course!). It has been incredibly refreshing to be out of touch. But not being connected to people due to no cell coverage or Internet connection proved a bit frustrating. I actually resorted to using a payphone and a calling card in Glen Canyon UT (something I haven’t done that since 1998…)
  • The country is phenomenally beautiful. I knew this. It was just reinforced on a daily basis. The mountains, the trees, the fields, the farms, the hills. Driving I forget to notice. Flying it appears almost fake. But on a bike, I can’t help but notice and appreciate.
  • The landscape changes at the border. I was most struck by how each state is distinguishable from the last (OK, each state except for indistinguishable Indiana). The state borders seemed to be drawn intentionally to separate one striking landscape from another.
  • There is an underground RV society. I never knew so many people traveled by RV. The campgrounds are usually hidden, but overflowing with RVs of all sizes. I originally thought our 30-foot RV was massive until I saw the plethora of houses on wheels. I am grateful to have joined the club for a couple months to avoid sleeping on the ground for 67 nights.

What do you love about your job?

I’m giving away my new book, Moxie for Managers, until Sunday night. Just quench my curiosity for what you love about your job and I’ll send you your own signed copy. Email me: your job, what you love about it, how your boss influences your success, how you influence other people’s success, your address. If you are not working and/or retired, tell me about your last job. (See Blog Day 59 for a few rules I concocted.)

Day 66 Stats

Day 66 miles: 67.30

Total miles: 4,106.05 miles

Day 65 ascent: 5,075 feet

Day 65 descent: 5,216 feet

Total interviews: 104

Road kill count: 2,018
(Added 85 today. 2 more days of counting dead things. I’ll be sure to announce the winners of the contest on Friday.)

Destination for Day 67: Annandale, NJ – state #11

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Day 65 – Riding in the Appalachian Valley, 3 More Days, 5 More Lessons

I’m getting so close to the end that I just made plans with Rob and Chuck (one of my NJ biking buddies) to cycle with me to the coast in a few days – the last day of the ride.

Today’s Route: Coburn to Elysburg, PA
To beat today’s jungle heat, we left at 7am when it was a perfectly beautiful 69-degree morning. I started my ride while Justin went to get the RV checked (all good, just a fluke!). For most of the day, I rode on Route 45, a smooth, roller-coaster road with bicycle-loving shoulders and not too much traffic (but enough to make a dent in the road kill count!). And it took me through a valley between two mountain ranges, through more adorably quaint towns and Amish communities, and over the Susquehanna River. Still loving gorgeous Pennsylvania!

Scott from Penn State
A shout out to Scott from Penn State! I met Scott at the Sheetz Gas Station (yes, that is the actual name) when I stopped for ice cold water in the town of State College. Being an avid cyclist, Scott inquired about my ride and then offered me an alternative route around the insane traffic in town. Thanks to Scott’s benevolence, I safely rode to the other side of town on bike paths.

Of course I had to ask Scott about his job. He works at Penn State University (ready for this?) “on the guidance and control of underwater vehicles.” He also teaches occasionally for the mechanical engineering department in the areas of “dynamics, control systems, vibration theory, and finite element analysis.” (Holy brain power!) What he loves about it all is staying technically challenged and solving technical problems (instead of finding them). And he loves to bike to work.

5 More Lessons

  • Have a rock-solid support team. I could not have made this trip without Justin supporting my success on the bike every day, Cindy and Sue supporting my success at LifeMoxie every day, and Rob keeping the rest of my life in order at home every day. I’m sure I could have done it all by myself, but I couldn’t find a good reason to do so. They allowed me to experience the moment without worrying about a different moment.
  • Training happens on the ride. I was a little stressed before leaving that I did not do enough training. (Of course I blamed it on the NJ weather.) I discovered that the training happens in the saddle on the ride. I am stronger now than I have ever been, but there is nothing I could have done beforehand to prepare me for the day-after-day-after-day of riding up and down mountains. I just had to jump on the bike and go. (I will definitely apply this lesson to other adventures…)
  • Call mom every day. I’ve called home every day after finishing my ride. I always knew my mom to be my biggest champion, but there is something extraordinary about calling home and having her gush night after night after night. (Of course my husband does that too, but he has to!)
  • Talk to anyone, but suspend assumptions. I didn’t realize how much people would love talking about their jobs when I conjured up the “what do you love about your job?” question. And what surprised me most were my own assumptions about whether they’d want to share or whether they’d have anything worthwhile to contribute. And each time I intentionally suspended my assumptions, I relished in what I might have missed had I kept my question to myself. (This one I’m going to apply daily!)
  • I can tolerate a lot of dirt. I have lived in an RV for 4,000 miles, 10 states, and 65 days. It is small, dusty, disgusting, and disorganized, and usually has a few dead bugs on the floor. My toothbrush has dropped on that floor, and I’ve picked it up, rinsed it off and kept brushing. I’ve even taken a shower (in my biking clothes) outside using a garden hose when the showers in one RV park were broken. The bar is at an all-time low these days.

Day 65 Stats

Day 65 miles: 66.03 miles

Total miles: 4,038.75 miles

Day 65 ascent: 3,743 feet

Day 65 descent: 4,275 feet (wow! no wonder my knees were loving today – I went downhill more than uphill…)

Total interviews: 104

Road kill count: 1,933
(Added 108 today, including porcupine #4 for the trip! Scott the cyclist from Penn State was right – he predicted I would see at least 1/mile in these parts, if not more.)

Destination for Day 66: New Tripoli, PA (just West of Allentown, our last night in Pennsylvania)

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Day 64 – MacGyver Justin Saves the RV, 4 More Days, 5 More Lessons

9 weeks ago today we started the adventure, and in 4 days it will be over.

Today’s Route: Woodland to Coburn, PA

After having cycled about 80 miles every day for the past 6 days, today’s ride was a little respite for me. I rode 64 miles from Woodland to Coburn through Penn State University and over another 4,000 feet of hills and through another 4,300 feet of downhill coasting. The landscape is a little less hilly, revealing Pennsylvania’s own beautiful farms and majestic barns.

The Poorly-Placed Sign on the On-Ramp

I stayed on Route 322 because it proved a great road to cycle yesterday. 30 miles in, however, it turned chaotic. Route 322 merged with 3 other routes, and suddenly I found myself on the on-ramp for Interstate 99 with a sign that read: “Motor Vehicles Only.” (I’m wondering why they didn’t place this sign at the top of the on-ramp instead of half-way through it…) A little stuck, I continued cycling for about 500 feet when I saw a frontage road. I scaled the 2-foot concrete wall that separated the two roads, averting a ticket and being counted as road kill.

Loving the Appalachian Mountains

A shout out to my good friend Jeff Brown for steering me in the right direction through Pennsylvania. Having been raised in eastern Ohio, he knew about the Appalachian Mountains. A few days ago, he suggested that I attack them from the north instead of the south. And now I am in love with the cycling in Pennsylvania! (Thank you Jeff Brown!) The Appalachians are stunning, the uphills are challenging, and the downhills are exhilarating. I’m not sure I would have felt the same if I had started this adventure on the east coast and headed west. I feel stronger than ever which is probably why these hills are fun instead of dreadful.

Justin “MacGyver” Flocco

After a break this afternoon, the RV choked (we’re not exactly sure why). “Clank clank clank” is the only sound it made as Justin tried starting it. As I was reminding myself of Lesson #2 from Day 62 (be intentional with flexible expectations), Justin pored over the RV manual for a resolution. He literally jumped up when he read about the emergency starter button. Discovering it next to the steering wheel, he pressed it, turned the key, and started the engine easily. Tomorrow morning, MacGyver is driving the RV to a service center on our route…

James of All Trades

On another break, I met up with Justin as he was interviewing James, an organic farmer and jack-of-all-trades in Center Hall, PA.  Not only is James a farmer, he is also a carpenter, a welder, and a blacksmith. James says that what he loves about work is staying busy, but from what I observed around the farm, what James really loves is restoring, creating, and inventing things. When he gave us a tour of his farm, he couldn’t help but proudly show us the contraptions he has invented, the tractors he has fixed, and the 1880 barn he has restored. One of the most positive, upbeat, friendly people we’ve met.

5 More Lessons

As my adventure is coming to an end, I am processing it all by identifying lessons I’ve learned. To add to the list I started on Day 61, here are 5 more:

  • Eat a little a lot. I don’t eat a lot, I eat something small, but I eat all the time – as in every 10 miles. I have discovered that in doing so I have trained my body to use the food as it goes in instead of store the food out of fear that I might not feed it again for a while. So I have learned to keep food with me at all times, and Rob and Justin can attest that when I get hungry and don’t have food within reach, I get ugly.
  • Listen to my knees. I didn’t do this trip last summer because of my knees. So for the past year I have worked with Steve, an amazing physical therapist, who has taught me about my knees, including how to rub the tendons around them to alleviate pain whenever it hits. As a result of listening to my knees, I have cycled 4,000 miles without Advil or other pain killers. Turns out my knees weren’t an obstacle to the ride; they just needed a little attention and TLC.
  • Keep some kind of journal. I have never kept a journal, until the blog, which has served as my journal for the trip. And yet there is so much that I did not put in the blog that I wish I would have documented somewhere to remember for myself. I am amazed at how the days seem to blend together, even on one of the more exciting adventures of my life. (No wonder the weeks and months fly by in the real world.)
  • Paper maps and clear directions are vital tools. In my car I rely on my GPS to get me where I need to go. As a result, I’ve become a bit road-stupid. I am crazy about my bike GPS (the Garmin Edge800), but it is not 100% reliable for best routes. So I have come to love reading maps again and asking people for specific directions. In a car a wrong turn is an inconvenience. On a bike it is more than frustrating.
  • Bring friends next time. Next time I ride across the country, I’m bringing some friends with me. I didn’t realize what a difference it would make until I had the joy of cycling with Alan through Nevada and Utah, Wendy through Kansas and Missouri, and Rob and Jeff through Illinois and Indiana. It was so delightful to experience the scenery, the road kill, the signs, and the funny moments with other cycling enthusiasts.

Day 64 Stats

Day 64 miles: 64.61 miles

Total miles: 3,972.72 miles (tomorrow will be 4,000 miles!)

Day 64 ascent:  4,091 feet

Day 64 descent: 4,377 feet

Total interviews: 103

Road kill count: 1,825

(Added 78 today, including a groundhog – new to the list. Groundhogs are so rampant that they must have been in other road kill counts, but evidently unidentifiable each time.)

Destination for Day 65: Elysburg, PA (more climbing through the Appalachian Mountains!)

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Day 63 – The Appalachian Mountains, 5 More Lessons Learned

There is no end to Pennsylvania’s rolling hills. Clearly, we have entered the Appalachian Mountains.

Today’s Route: Knox to Woodland, PA

It was another roller coaster ride today. 75 miles of up and down. My “total climb” was 6,400 feet, just about as insane as yesterday’s 7,000. The one benefit of a roller coaster is that there is always a fast part after a slow part. Today I descended 6,600 feet. At one point I rode a 5-mile downhill (which means, I didn’t peddle for 5 miles and instead gripped the handlebars fiercely, focusing on not hitting any potholes at 35mph). Fortunately, from Knox to Woodland kept me on Route 322, a state highway which provided me with a clean, medium shoulder most of the way. All in all a fantastic ride!

Larry, the Goat Farmer

In Clarion, a sweet little town on our route, I stopped at the farmer’s market and met Larry, the goat farmer. As I was purchasing some goat soap, I asked Larry what he loves about being a farmer. He smiled and said, “I know exactly what goes in my goats so I know what comes out.” He proudly pointed out the limited ingredients and non-chemical products that he puts into his soap (like olive oil!). I tried it tonight, and let’s just say that Larry’s on to something great. Glad I got his card to reorder!

Jeremy and Brian, Seismic Drillers

We met Jeremy and Brian at the RV park in Woodland. They are seismic drillers for Destiny Drilling. Their job is to drill holes and find gas, oil, or minerals. They spend months to years in certain locations before moving on to another location in the country. What they love about their job is working outdoors and working with other people who love this lifestyle. They also love the competition – finding something before another driller does.

5 More Lessons Learned

In about 5 days I will reach the Atlantic Ocean – hard to fathom. To process the end of the adventure, I’ve been thinking about lessons I’ve learned over these past 9 weeks. Adding to the list I started on Day 61, here are 5 more lessons:

  • Everyone loves something about their job. People just need to be asked. And what question I ask makes a difference. When I ask, “Why do you love your job?” people sometimes respond, “I don’t.” But if I ask, “What do you love about your job?” People can always find something, and it’s never about money.
  • Dogs are a cyclist’s worst enemy. Dogs seem to lose their mind when I ride by. They become unpredictable, they bark territorially, and on too many occasions, they chase after me. I’m often relieved when we both (me and the dog) discover that the dog is still on a chain.
  • Walmart has everything you never knew you needed. Over the past 9 weeks, I have been to Walmart just about every week (which is about 8 times more than ever before). It is mind-boggling the things you can buy that you never knew existed and never knew you needed. We can poke fun at the store and its patrons, but I am grateful that I had one place to go when I had such limited knowledge of an area and limisted time to shop.
  • I can only appreciate how much I accomplish when I pick my head up and look around. For a while I was solely focused on the Adventure Cycling maps, which are incredibly thorough day-to-day maps. In so doing, I completely lost sight of my movement across a state, let alone the country. When we got an atlas in Colorado, I was amazed to see how far we had come. I went back and highlighted the entire route from city to city to really appreciate it all. (What a great lesson for life.)
  • S’mores taste better with melted chocolate. We’ve grilled dinner most nights on the Joe Webber, my mini-grill. And when the coals are still hot, I always bring out the s’mores supplies. I’ve mastered the art of easily melting the chocolate prior to roasting the marshmallows. It has changed my love for s’mores. I’ve since experimented with lo-carb s’mores (only 1 graham cracker), gluten-free s’mores (no graham crackers), and dark chocolate with almonds s’mores (my favorite!).

Interesting Sites

  • The Weinermobile (pictured above)
  • Another majestic church (pictured here)
  • Sign: “Buckle Up Next Million Miles” (pictured below)
  • Barn painted with: “Chew Mail Pouch Tobacco – Treat Yourself to the Best” (pictured above)

Day 63 Stats

Day 63 miles: 75.13 miles

Total miles: 3,908.11 miles

Day 63 ascent:  6,463 feet

Day 63 descent: 6,604 feet

Total interviews: 102

Road kill count: 1,747

(Added 46 today, including another porcupine – that makes 3 total: 1 in Utah on Cedar Mountain, 1 in Colorado, and 1 in Pennsylvania)

Destination for Day 64: Coburn, PA (more of the Appalachian Mountains!)

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