It is still a little difficult to fully absorb what we did. Each day was its own story, but the enormity of the entire journey, even after planning it and living it, still takes me aback. I feel very fortunate to be in a position to have enjoyed such an amazing experience. We had to overcome adversity and challenges every day, but they were of our choosing. Life’s challenges are often thrust upon you and a lot less fun and rewarding. I am grateful that life circumstances, and friends and family allowed me to do this.
As the last posting in my coast to coast cycling journal, it seemed appropriate to reflect on the lessons I have learned from the experience. Some light-hearted, and some more profound.
I learned that the film My Cousin Vinnie, which takes place in Alabama, was actually filmed in Georgia.
I learned that Alabama drivers really don’t like cyclists.
I learned that Missouri, Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia have a lot of armadillos. Most of them flattened on the side of the road.
I learned that headwinds suck even more than I thought they did.
I learned that it is most humid right before the sun rises.
I learned that cleanliness of your water bottles is really, really important.
I learned that DuBois, Wyoming really parties on July 4th.
I learned that eastern Colorado is way, way different than western Colorado.
I learned that Boise, Denver, and Wichita have really great bike trail systems.
I learned that, despite the amazing beauty and majesty of the Cascades and Tetons, nothing compares to the Rockies.
I learned that people in Kansas and Georgia are great.
I learned that Missouri has a lot of lumber mills.
I learned that the Missouri-Kentucky border is the only state border in the US that you can’t drive across (no bridge across the Mississippi).
I learned that rail trails are even more amazing than I thought. Time to better support the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.
I learned that afternoon temperatures exceeding 100 degrees are not a reason to not get out and ride.
I learned that I can ride a bike at over 12,000 feet of elevation.
I learned that Google, Komoot, Strava, and Garmin are amazing tools for route planing and navigation. But that they are not 100% accurate and they don’t always agree, and you need to pay attention and use your brain along the way.
I learned to not upgrade your equipment firmware the night before you leave on a big trip.
I learned to never turn your back on the ocean.
I learned to really pay attention to what you are riding on and through in construction areas and that tar is terribly messy and difficult to clean.
I learned that riding on an interstate, when legal, has its advantages. The shoulders are generous and far over from traffic and the constant stream of truck traffic creates a nice drafting stream.
I learned about modern bicycle tech. I’m now a huge fan of tubeless tires and chain wax. Going tubeless, which replaces inner tubes with a self-sealing goo, resulted in me not changing a single flat tire while riding over 3,000 miles. The three “flats” I had were really more of leaks that could be corrected at a convenient time by adding air and a little extra sealant. Before the trip, I started with a new chain and used wax, SILCA Super Secret Bike Chain Lube, instead of oil. As a result my drive train stayed clean and quiet the whole trip. The only needed maintenance was to wipe the chain with a paper towel and reapply the wax every 800 miles or so. I also learned how to ride with a smooth style to minimize the wear and tear on my body from daily long rides. I also learned that hot pavement wears out tires more quickly, as I ended up having to replace my rear tire after only 2,000 miles. I also learned that rear tires wear a lot faster than front ones, but that makes perfect sense if you think about how bicycles work and the fact that all of the power goes through the rear tire.
I learned the importance of properly defining “winning,” avoiding vanity metrics, and setting yourself up for true success. I’m planning to write a whole blog post on this, but I pinned a lot of my personal happiness on me being able to draw a continuous line across the United States and saying “I rode every inch of it.” That was a fragile and unnecessary goal that I lost when I got sick on Day 13 and had to sit out a section of Wyoming while I got through it and recovered. I was forced to redefine what winning meant for this adventure — still riding from coast to coast, overcoming adversity, all of the joys and experiences, all of the pictures and memories, and fundraising for my chosen cause, Pelotonia. This was a great metaphor for life, relationships, and leadership. Choose a definition of “winning” that sets everyone up for success and truly matters. Not one that just makes you feel good or is unnecessarily fragile.
I learned that the cliche of being able to do anything that you put your mind to is true, with two caveats. One is to properly define “winning” as discussed above. The other is the importance of having a clear vision of the path to success. Yes, Dave and I had the drive and belief that we had the mental and physical capacity to achieve this ambitious goal of riding a century nearly every day for six weeks. But I also had a clear vision (and plan) for how it could be done. Of course there were obstacles and setbacks, but we found ways to overcome each one. This is another metaphor for life that I will carry forward. If you believe it can be done and you have a clear vision for how you will get there, you can achieve the seemingly impossible.
I learned that “teamwork” is not a cliche — that a team can unite around a common goal and accomplish something that would just not be possible without each other.
I learned that riding at sunrise is just awesome and is well worth having to get up and out early.
I learned about the kindness of strangers and how one act of kindness can make a huge difference.
I learned that I really like to write and want to keep doing it.
I learned that there’s no place like home.