I started my cross-country kNOw THEM America Bicycle Trip in Astoria, Oregon on May 10th. I am now in Great Falls, MT having come 947 miles from the Pacific Coast across the Continental Divide en route back to Boston, where I expect to arrive in late August. Patty was with me and cycled the first 4 days, Astoria into Portland, then decided to rent a car (my mother always says Patty is the smarter one of us!) and was my ‘support vehicle’ for the next 10 days. I was then joined by Chris Stix from Walla Walla to Great Falls and am looking forward to next cycling to Fargo with Michael Bloch. See the route I’ve traveled so far and follow my weekly updates as I ride through Fargo, Minneapolis, Buffalo, and Albany.
This trip is the combination of a lifelong “bucket list” dream, a desire to undertake this incredible adventure while I’m still “young” and healthy enough to do it, and a kNOw THEM challenge to my own preconceived notions of THEM, those who live differently than I do and have political views other than my own. Most of my kNOw THEM activity has been international work in conflict areas and countries that are traditionally difficult to access and understood only as adversaries in the West. This trip is a fantastic opportunity to get past THEMification in my own country!
Some of my initial surprises and learnings include:
– How challenging on-the-job training/getting in shape has been, rather than starting this fully conditioned! For the first 2 weeks, cycling took most of my energy, but I’m now feeling fitter, and while challenging, I’ve actually been ENJOYING the climbs and mostly beautiful, low traffic roads.
– How vast and different parts of the country are – from the beach on the Pacific Coast where I “dipped” my back wheel, up the majestic Columbia River Gorge, over the Rocky Mountains and Continental Divide, and now the beautiful plains.
– How open, receptive and friendly people in other parts of the country and smaller communities are, rather than being suspicious and guarded around an “outsider”. I feel like we Northeasterners living in more urban settings have a lot to learn about hospitality.
– How much fun it is – I was initially looking at the trip as a difficult challenge and didn’t appreciate how wonderful the incredible people, gorgeous scenery and hours of solitude would be. It also feels great to be in better shape than I’ve been since forever.
– How, though I think of myself as relatively ‘fearless’ traveling to places people tell me I’m supposed to be afraid of, it turns out I’m petrified of trucks, strong crosswinds, steep downgrades and bridges, as well as heights (and dogs chasing me). It has been incredible learning and personal development working on getting past all of that F.E.A.R. – caution is great, but these are largely False Expectations Appearing Real – That said, the 15 miles of riding the shoulder on Interstate 84 in Oregon is definitely among my high points of fear and low points for stretch of cycling!
I’m posting other reflections, learnings and experiences to Facebook (if we’re not yet connected please send me a Facebook Friend request — https://www.facebook.com/dick.simon). I’m also sharing images on Instagram, from political signs to portraits of the people I meet to beautiful landscapes, and tweeting along the way. Follow me at https://www.instagram.com/dicksimon/ and https://twitter.com/dicksimon
In summary, all is great, I’m loving and really grateful for the experience, thriving (not just surviving), and taking it as it comes.