Journal Entry # 10
Thursday 28 August 2001
I know that this journal entry has been long awaited, but it is hard when I am attempting to adjust to the real world again. Below is a recap of the last days of our trip. Photos will be posted soon so please keep checking and thanks for your patience. Most of all though, on behalf of the M.O.B. I would like to thank each of you for your continued support before, during, and after our trip. Without your donations, thoughts, prayers, e-mails, phone calls, and encouragement this trip would not have happened. A special thanks to Leah Volm who designed, managed, and kept the web site up-to-date while we were out on the road. She was a great behind- the- scene help to me before the trip also. I could not have made it through the stressful days before the trip without her. Leah you are truly a great friend. Thanks. But without further delay...The final entry...
Tuesday 14 August 2001
The tires have been dipped, the champagne has been drank and the MOB has finished infiltrating the United States Highway System. All in all it has been a great trip. We all experienced many different emotions and have learned a ton of different lessons over the course of the past 58 days. Because of that all of us are going to write a concluding journal entry with our closing thoughts. First off I will fill you in on the events that have passed since I last wrote.
After writing the last journal entry I went back to the bike shop to find the high school kid at the bike shop "diligently" working on switching out my rim....He was about 1/8 done...needless to say I wasn't too pleased since he had been working on it for about 3 hours already. Utilizing the patience I have learned on this trip I headed down to Macadoo's to have lunch and write in my journal. It was pretty good food, but the service was awesome. Of course the people didn't believe it when I told them what I was doing showing up in spandex. One person said something along the lines of, "That's crazy! No one would do that!" Well, yes we are crazy...but that is what makes this so incredibly fun!
I headed back to the shop after eating and found a nightmare... The kid left for a Doctor's appointment and because doctor offices "always run on time" he ended up not coming back because he went from his appointment to cross country practice. Man, I love dealing with situations like this! So I started calling every bike shop in the area to try and figure out a way to get my wheel fixed as soon as possible so that we could still finish our journey by Saturday.
After calling many people I found a shop in Roanoke (about 35-45 miles away) which guaranteed to get me up and running by morning. The problem at hand was that I could not ride my bike because half of the spokes where on my rim and the other half where transferred over to the new rim. To top it off the kid mechanic was not going to be coming in until the next day at 9. Thankfully I have a friend from high school who lives in Roanoke. Donica is an amazing lady and a great friend. She worked out a way to get me to Roanoke (yes I cheated) and then took me to the shop the next morning. As I waited for my ride Eshette, a worker at the bike shop was gracious enough to open his apartment to me. I got to take a real shower and we hung out with one of his good friends and eventually went out for Chinese. He is an amazing God-fearing man and was a great blessing to my trip. Thanks much!
The rest of the crew biked on to Lexington and we planned to meet at a hostel near the base of Vesuvious (also known as the 4 mile hill from hell). We had heard about how incredibly steep and horrible this hill was since the beginning of the trip so there was much anticipation in our minds as we approached this challenge. We thought we were tough after biking so many miles, but small doubts existed in our minds as we pondered the possibility of being beaten up by this hill. But by planning to stay at the base of the hill we were confident that we would crush the hill with the temporary burning sensation in our legs being the only reminder of the hill.
The next day after I got my wheel fixed I headed out of Roanoke at 1:00 to attempt to arrive at camp before dark. Despite the 75ish miles I had to travel in 100 degree heat I was fairly confident that I would make it. Of course this was positive mindset before I left and had two flats in about 500 ft. After biking a mile from the bike shop I got a flat and thought nothing of it. We have found that most of our flats occur while we are in cities because the roads are so dirty. After changing the tire and traveling about 500 ft I got another flat, now I knew something was up since I checked the tire and rim to make sure nothing was poking through still. I checked the two tubes to find that the holes occurred from the rim, but could not find any thing that would cause the problem.
After standing in the 100 plus degree heat and finally flagging down a truck to take me back to the bike shop after I ran out of tubes I had become quite irritated with the situation at hand. As the mechanic and I examined the rim we found out that the rim strip he put on to protect the tube from being punctured by the spokes was too small and slipped within the rim allowing the sharp ends of the spokes to pop the tube. So after adding a wider rim strip and changing my tire I was off again...This time at 2:30ish so my confidence in arriving at the hostel before dark had drastically slipped away.
Meandering through the largest city I have encountered on this trip, I was surprised at the relatively few names I was called and the stares were not quite as long as I imagined they would be! I find it hard to believe that in the middle of Virginia that people would actually be used to seeing spandex worn in public but I have been wrong a couple times before!! :) The other fun part of biking through the city was that often I moved faster than traffic because they were tied up at stop lights and such. As I was nearing the outskirts of town I rounded a corner and my rear tire slipped from underneath me. After getting my bike under control and out of traffic's way I looked down to find....another flat. As I sat in front of Subway I started talking to a guy who does a lot of mountain biking and he was kind enough to let me vent to him about the rough day I had. Eventually I started talking to him and his kids about my trip while I was filling my water bottles...the funniest part were the obvious stares and eavesdropping that was occurring while we talked.
Soon I was back on the road and in a better mood since I had someone that could relate to the day I had and offered empathy. While buying groceries in Lexington (the last town before the hostel) late that evening I was startled when I heard the encouraging words "Hey faggot!" from my "great" friend Steve. Turns out that the guys got to Lexington some time ago but spent time at the bike shop getting Chris's chain replaced (it stretched the length of an entire link!) and checking e-mail. After riding solo for two days it was great to see the guys and it greatly lifted my worn and weary spirit.
As the threat of darkness slowly approached us we headed toward the hostel where we would devour the food we purchased so that we wouldn't have to carry any extra weight up Vesuvious hill. As we made our final turn onto the homestretch of our day's journey I once again felt my tire slip from under me slightly...Yes another flat... Heck some people have four flats the whole trip...Jason has four in one day....Oh well! (That was not my philosophy when it was all occurring though...I was quite perturbed and very frustrated at the day!)
After eating and showering things all seemed much better in my little world as I drifted off to sleep in preparation for the big challenge waiting for us the next day...But as it would happen Vesuvious turned out to be a big joke. We had all expected a huge monster but it actually was less work for us than the 27 mile stretch from Emminece to Ellington in Missouri. Ah well, with the big challenges past us we headed towards the "Cookie Lady's" house in Afton.
The "Cookie Lady," Joyce, is an elderly lady known around the world for providing hospitality to bikers and hikers that appear on her door step for the past 26 years. She got started in this after the first group came through in 1976 expecting to find a grocery store in town but had closed between the scout group of 1975 and the first run in '76. She then took it upon herself to provide food, water and of course cookies to these hungry bikers. She has seen over 11,000 bikers come through on the BikeCentennial or TransAmerican trail and has pictures of most of them! One of the most amazing things was to look at the piles of photo albums and see the many people who have passed through over the years and to see how things have drastically changed in clothing and technology. Even more amazing was Joyce's house. As bikers have passed through they have left many different souvenirs for Joyce who commented that she wished she could travel and see the country, but us bringing the country to her is as close as she will get. There are pictures and postcards from all around the world, a custom made tandem bike from the time of World War II, drawings kids have made and tee shirts left or sent to Joyce at a later time. To take part in the tradition the six of us signed and left my M.O.B. tee-shirt hanging over the couch in the front room. Joyce is an incredible lady with a heart of gold who has blessed many different people and can tell you a story about many of the items in her museum. I have come to the conclusion that if there were more people like her then the world would be a great place. Thanks for being so incredible and leaving such a lasting impact on so many people Joyce.
After enjoying cookies, lemonade and PB&J's we headed on to Charlottesville. In the front entry of Joyce's house there was a notice for free board at a generous man's house in Charlottesville that we hoped to stay at (because we like free!), so we headed into town. After calling Bill he invited us to come and stay with him and even offered to take us to the bike shop (I needed MORE tubes) and grocery store. John and I went a little overboard and shopped like crazy (don't shop while hungry) so we had a little extra food but that is MUCH better then not enough! So after gorging ourselves on a great meal we relaxed and went to bed as we had to do many miles to have a nice short day on Saturday, but we also wanted to see Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's house.
After riding a quiet scenic 3 mile trail towards Monticello we found out that the trail was "still under construction" and was blocked so that we either had to lift our bikes over the 5 foot fence or else ride back to where the trail crossed a service road and then take the main road up the hill. Dan and Paul elected to lift their bikes over the fence and off- roaded the 500ish ft to the entrance which was in site. I guess it paid off having the Trek 7200 Multi-Track Bike. The remaining four of us with pure road bikes elected to bike extra turning around and taking the quiet scenic trail back down hill.
Once at Monticello we became more of a tourist attraction than Jefferson's house as many different people started asking us questions about our trip. Of course they were the same typical questions..."Where you goin'? Where you'd start? How long you been gone? How many miles do you go a day?" and of course the all time favorite...."Why?!?!" It was kinda amusing and fun being the attraction while visiting a tourist attraction...The only problem is that people didn't pay to see us, they paid to look at TJ's house.
We eventually left Monticello at noon in the cool 100 degree heat work on the 10 miles that we had into our 100 mile day...eh... As usual we were biking somewhat apart from each other which never became a problem until we got split up because John and Dan didn't know which way to go while Steve, Paul, Chris and I performed our humane duty. (The details will be spared as it is kinda disgusting.)
We eventually got back on the road while running out of water a kind gentleman stopped and told us to stop at his winery to fill up on water and talked with him for some time. It was really cool, turns out that he and his girl friend have done some touring and both love biking. It was cool to be able to talk with people who could relate to what you are doing and what is going on during your trip. Not only did we get to enjoy nice cool water, we sampled some of the Chardonnay he was working on as the grapes would soon be harvested. As we left we exchanged cards and they were even kind enough to give us a bottle of wine! We threw it in the B.O.B. (thanks Steve) and headed down the road, excited to hit the beach and enjoy the wine...motivation...
Unfortunately we never caught up to John and Dan, later we found out it was cause they took a short cut and knocked about 15 miles off the route. They ended up taking the short cut cause they didn't have a copy of the maps and the route was not marked in a few spots (much unlike the rest of Virginia!) The problem with their shortcut was that it was a busy narrow road and they got buzzed and honked at most of the time. So as they reached the desired 100 mile goal of Ashland by biking 80ish miles, the rest of us trudged along looking for signs of our lost buddies. We ended up trespassing in the pavilion of a Baptist Church wondering where John and Dan ended up for the night while we ate, slept and water faucet showered our evening away...
The next day we awoke early in attempt to catch our long lost friends, and after checking my voicemail in Ashland after a refreshing 40ish mile ride we found out that John and Dan had NO mojo and were forced to stay in a hotel for the night... I am guessing that the soft bed and hot shower were more comforting than our picnic tables, but ours WAS cheaper! :)
As we headed out on our last day of really biking spirits were mixed. Well, at least mine were. I can't explain how excited I was to see the coast, but I knew that I would miss the biking and friendship that I experienced. Each person on the trip, everyone we met had an influence on the enjoyment and experience we had over the course of 58 days. But the people that I traveled with obviously made the biggest impact on me. It was crazy to think about how I and everyone I was with had changed... As noticeable or imperceptible the change was, it was affected by me, and vice versa.
The ride gave evidence to our approach to the ocean as the hills became smaller and less frequent. It was an eye opening experience to bike through the Revolutionary and Civil War battlefields. While living in today's world and culture it becomes very easy to take for granted all of the freedoms and liberties that we have. It is commonly known that many men died to provide these gifts to us many generations later, but it doesn't become real until walking on the fields where the ancestors of this country walked, fought, and died. It us a new and different appreciation for the liberties that we are given in this country.
We continued throughout the history lesson and came across a reminder of television show from the past as we passed a replica of the General Lee. As we admired the '68 Dodge Charger the owner came out of the shop and talked to us about it. Soon he was like a father showing off pictures of his children with the original cast. He even played the horn for us.
Eventually we arrived in Council City were we stopped for food and were convinced to stay instead of heading on towards Jamestown for the night. The day had turned from a beautiful sunny day to one with the threat of thunderstorms surrounding us. The man who ran the country store in Council informed us that the storm was already pretty bad in Jamestown so when he offered to let us camp in his property behind the storm and give us the bathroom key, the decision was easy. Things worked out well though, because by knocking 20 miles off the day we were able to sit, relax and reminisce about the trip. Eventually the rain and thunderstorm that we had been watching all around us moved in and dumped on us. Once again the large tent that Steve and I brought proved to be a benefit as the five of us sat in the tent talking and discussing different beliefs that we held. It proved to be a interesting yet rewarding conversation. When it was all said and done and everyone went back to their respective tents, they left Paul, Steve and I with a hot tent filled with mosquitoes. As the three of us struggled to sleep while sweating to death we were quickly reminded of the horrible night in Carbondale IL. Eventually, after feeding the mosquitoes to their hearts content they left us alone so that we could sleep the night away.
Waking up we decided that we had just had our second to worst night of sleep to finish off our trip...eh, oh well. As we took our time to put away our tents and equipment for the last time, Dan headed to Williamsburg to go to church. The four of us went to Jamestown to do the "tourist thing" at a museum and recreation of the first English Colony in the States. It was very interesting to see some of the artifacts from the colony and also see the recreated colony and ships that brought the first people to the Jamestown Colony.
Leaving Williamsburg on the Colonial Parkway after picking up Dan, the crazy attitude and atmosphere which began several days earlier continued. The silly games that we have played since the beginning of the trip only got more crazy as we played follow the leader biking. The events included single leg biking, figure biking, and waving and yelling at everyone we passed.
We pulled into Yorktown with feelings that can not be explained, but only described as pure ecstasy. The knowledge that we were at the end of our trip across the country was one that I still find hard to believe. We saw Paul's sister, Annie and her friend Christin as we passed the Victory Memorial Center (Visitor Center about the Revolutionary War) and then headed into town and to the beach. The yelling and excited feeling only grew stronger as the final landmarks on the map were passed and the beach came into site.
Looking back, we really didn't do anything extraordinary. Yet it was the most incredible time that I have ever experienced. We pulled up to the beach, decided that this would be the spot at which we would end our trip. We waited for Annie and my mom to park, with anticipation brewing. As we stood watching the water crash against the beach, Dan began to play with the sand letting the granules run between his fingers. My mom eventually found a place to park and we dragged our bikes through the soft sand laughing at John attempting to bike the last few feet, but finding it impossible. We stood and took many pictures as we dipped our tires concluding our trip. Much of the time standing there I just gazed off into the open water remembering some of the amazing experiences that defined the trip.
Eventually the moment passed and the pictures subsided until I broke out the bottle of champagne that my mom picked up for us. We all took several pulls from the bottle enjoying the sweet bubbly drink slide down our throats after primarily only drinking water for the past two months. Holding the bottle as a trophy we proudly lifted it up for one more picture. Then after much nagging from my mom to go up to the Victory National Monument and finish our trip (that is where the maps had us stop) we climbed the hill into town (how fitting!) to gaze at the towering monument dedicated to all of the men that fought for our freedom in the revolutionary war so many generations ago. After traveling through the battlefields for the past couple days it was very suiting that the towering monument conclude our ride. After a couple laps around the monument we headed to the cars to load up our gear and go REALLY fast (engines are cool.)
Steve, Chris and I had our gear in my mom's Explorer just as it started to rain, but Paul had to dismantle most of his antlers before they could fit Dan and John's bikes on the rack with his. As the rest of us sat inside the vehicles staying dry we watched Paul take piece after piece off of his handlebars until he had a normal looking set-up allowing us to pack up and move out to find a hotel.
Because of the rain we decided not to go to Virginia Beach to celebrate, but would find the first hotel available and then go out for a nice dinner. We pulled off the interstate in NewPort News and stopped into a MicroTel to attempt to get a room. Little did we know that most of the rooms in the city were already taken as there were only single bed rooms open in this smaller chain hotel. Because there were no picnic tables readily available we decided to take three rooms for the 10 of us. We showered up and got ready to head to dinner at OutBack Steakhouse. We brought the bottle of wine that we were given from Cooper's Vineyard several days earlier, but were disappointed to find out that it was illegal for us to bring it in and drink it because it wasn't labeled. So we decided to save it for later that night since we didn't think they would run out of alcohol. As we sat down we tried to work our MoJo and get complimentary food or drinks for having biked across the United States, but we ran into the problem that we didn't look like bikers anymore. Because we weren't wearing spandex for a change (Paul liked that a lot!) neither the host or our waitress believed that we biked across the US. Even when my mom vouched for our credibility it was obvious that she didn't believe me because they did not display any levels of the rolled eyeball effect.
After gorging ourselves with appetizers, drink, and entrees, we headed back to the hotel to "party." Our party consisted of Steve, Paul, Dan, and I drinking and toasting the trip with the single bottles of champagne that Nicole sent for us. We toasted several different things, no more picnic tables, no more spandex in public, seats wider than the width of our hands, the Cookie Lady, Shane Dobson, basically the high points of our trip that were big enough to impact us after 4,217 miles. We then cracked open the bottle of wine and sipped that a little, but because of it's dry taste we ended up moving onto a couple beers and saving the wine for a meal. As we flipped channels we all slowly started to nod off and eventually went our ways to our respective rooms.
The next morning we devoured the continental breakfast at the hotel, I went with Chris to pick up the rental car that would take them back across the country, and we then packed up and parted our ways. At this point it still hadn't set in that we had biked across the entire country in under 60 days. As we traveled at amazing speeds down the interstate Steve a I talked about and remembered different events of the trip, slept off and on (more on then off) and wondered what Paul and Dan, and Chris and John were talking about. We wondered whether the same events and feelings were being discussed or if different things were remembered more than the events that we recalled.
The ride home was fairly uneventful, a stop in Washington D.C. Unfortunately George W. was in a meeting, but regretted not being able to congratulate us on the completion of our trip. (O.K. Steve and I talked about how George W. should congratulate us on our trip, but we never even saw him.) My perspective was much different though when I saw the homeless people sleeping in random spots throughout D.C. Before the trip I am certain that I would have looked down on the people sleeping on park benches, under trees, and next to sculptures in the parks, but instead I was impressed with their ingenuity and could easily relate with them as we often slept in similar situations and positions.
Continuing towards home it was interesting get used to being a normal person and not being asked tons of questions about our trip. It is kinda neat being average everyday people that no one notices, but it was also fun being so interesting to people for several weeks.
Now that I am back in real life I am again interesting to people as they want to hear about the trip. But that fame soon wears off and the celebratory that we once were becomes a thing of the pass. Not a day passes that I don't recall parts of the trip and realize how it has affected the way I now live my life. It truly was and is the best thing I have done with my life and is the single thing that I have done that I would recommend everyone to experience. No matter how well myself or anyone else attempts to portray how amazing a trip like this is. As Paul and Steve often say on their many crazy trips, "A picture is worth a thousand words, an experience...infinity..." Thanks for following along on our journey and I hope that I gave you a big enough taste of how awesome this experience was to make you do it yourself. If so make sure you call me so I can come with...
Jason, Steve, Paul, Dan, Chris, John