Perhaps the best way I have prepared to ride my bicycle across the United States has been to convince myself its not a big deal. That everyone can ride an average 60 miles a day. That the 58-day adventure will pass as quickly as any other two-month period I have lived. That anyone could do it.
It took six weeks of consideration before I signed up in January for the trip. I felt uncertain about being away from home for so long and living off savings.
The ride begins March 3 in San Diego and ends April 29 in St. Augustine, Fla. Two guides from a company named WomanTours will lead me and 17 other women across seven states. I will be a part-time volunteer, driving the support vehicle every other day.
Perhaps thats why Im so casual about the trip whereas most of the women will pedal 3,064 miles, I will ride half that distance. Even so, Ive put in many hours this winter on a spin bike, conditioning myself for the adventure. Ive ridden the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic twice and try to hit the roads all summer long, but Im no cycling expert.
I now face decisions about how to step out of my life for two months. This has included subletting my apartment and finding a home for my car so the city of Durango doesnt confiscate it from the streets in my absence. It has required having my boyfriend promise to open any mail that looks important and store the rest, since it will be impossible to have a forwarding address. I also obtained his assurance that he will not let my nine houseplants wither away from neglect. (Even so, I admit I still have concerns for their welfare.)
Because of this trip, I have for the first time filed my taxes before April 15. I then put my tax return to use, replacing my 6-year-old cycling shoes for ones with a recessed cleat that will allow me to walk around more easily when I stop for breaks.
I also bought my first rain jacket designed specifically for cycling. Somewhat of a fair-weather rider, I stay inside when it rains in Durango or wait for the storm to pass. I can only imagine what it will feel like to pedal 60 miles over slick pavement in a cold drizzle. Should that occur, I am happy to say I will be wearing a blaze-orange Endura jacket that promises to keep me dry and visible.
Last week, I said goodbye to my bicycle and had it shipped to a bike shop in San Diego where it now awaits me. This task overwhelmed me at first as I considered whether to pay the airlines shipping fee, have a local bike shop pack and ship it for me, or let The Mailroom ship and pack it. I learned that the cost for all three options ranged from $100 to $115, including shipping, and that I needed to confirm with the airline whether it would have space in the cargo hold. A United representative said yes, they expected to have space, but they also made no promises. The bike shops charged for labor, but gave away the box, whereas The Mailroom sold the box but charged less for labor. I also found out that adding 1 inch to the boxs dimensions could double the shipping charge.
In the end, I picked The Mailroom and also for the first time disassembled my bike. This turned out to be quite easy once I had the right tools. I worried about my decision, but the bike did make it safely to San Diego, as confirmed by the bike shop to which I shipped it. So, I now am convinced I can pack and ship my bike on my own in the future.
Thus organized, I now am ready to ship out. The tour begins at the beach, where we all will start with the back tire of our bicycles dipped into the Pacific Ocean. From there, it seems, the only preparation that will matter will be how well our bottoms adjust to spending several hours a day in the saddle.