Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Yorktown, VA to Charles City, VA: First Day and Understanding Kindness

Miles: 39.79
Inspiration: Metallica; Music from the Hearts of Space (NPR); This American Life (NPR)
Spirits: Excited; Relaxed
Seen on the road: Two vultures devouring a dead deer; turtle crossing the road

This morning I awoke to a sunrise like no other. I can't quite remember the last time I saw a sunrise, let alone one that tossed sparkling shades and hues over a clear, calm ocean. The things you start to notice when you don't have to make it to the office for those early morning conference calls:

After a quick shower and some improvised packing, I rolled my bike downstairs to check out of the hotel. That's where I met up with Catherine Sayle, a regular reader who graciously kept me company as I pushed my rig across the sand and dipped my tires onto the surf.

Catherine and I chatted for a bit, said our goodbyes and suddenly it was just me and the road.

Now, as someone who has never toured before I can honestly say that today was a total breeze. The weather turned hot pretty quickly, but I had done most of my riding by the time it got uncomfortable. It also helped that somewhere north of Jamestown, I met up with Sean, another bike tourist with his eye on St. Louis:

We chatted most of the rest of the way to Charles City where we parted ways. I'm hopeful I can meet up with him somewhere ahead.

The biggest realization so far on this trip is how much I have to learn about human kindness. Seriously. This is the kind of trip where a person is forced to rely on the kindness of strangers, where my safety and very survival is tied to how the “Other” perceives you as a person.

Case in point, yesterday afternoon I started to feel pretty uncomfortable because I just didn't know where I was going to be staying in Charles City. Desperate, I did a quick google map of the city and found a couple of churches in the area. Out of the blue, I called a Baptist church on Route 5 and explained that I was going to be coming in on a bike and that it would be fantastic if they could allow me to pitch a tent on their grounds. Without missing a beat, they said I could absolutely stay. And when I got to Charles City I entered a Citgo convenience store and mentioned that I was hoping to camp in the area. The owner immediately offered me the grass in the back of the store and a restroom in the back. This is precisely where I am currently writing this blog entry:

Now, I know that for some of you the fact that people have the grace and decency to be kind to a complete stranger is not a revelation. But as a recovering law firm lawyer with a history of being a materialistic, consumerist, elitist asshole, this was nothing short of that: a revelation. Getting off the phone with that Baptist pastor yesterday I got a bit choked up. I won't deny it. There was something so essential, so beautiful, so perfectly HUMAN, about a person doing something nice for someone else...it made me want to capture that moment, bottle it up and spread it every which way. Maybe that's what I will end up doing with the rest of my life in one way or another.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Communicating on the Road

In between moving boxes and planning this upcoming bike trip I actually signed up for Twitter. I'm hoping this will facilitate communication on and off the road and let everyone know what's going on with me in real time. FYI, my profile is “radicaljack.” Here is the link.

Also, note that I'm already on Facebook in case you want to add me as a friend.

Have a great week everyone.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Decision Time

After much soul searching I've decided to go ahead and start this bike trip after all. My ankle/leg is feeling much better and after riding over 60 miles during the past 36 hours I feel strong enough to get out on the road. I'll probably start super slow (20-30 miles a day) and try to extend it up to 50 miles a day by the second or third week.

Whether I make it to the Pacific is irrelevant at this point. What is important is that I am getting on that bike and trying my very best to get there. And if my very best turns out to be insufficient, I will just have to reach inside myself and find another way.

Monday, April 20, 2009

All I Have in the World

After all the pondering, all the planning, all the craigslist sales, and all the Salvation Army donations it came down to one single photo. Aside from (1) the stuff itemized in my bike trip post and (2) some coats and jackets I have to pick up from the local dry cleaners on Friday, this picture captures EVERY SINGLE THING I OWN IN THE WORLD:

Cool huh? :) What really gets me is that about half of what you are seeing consists of books and mementos (photos, letters, etc…).
For those of you who have followed this de-cluttering process, here’s where I came out on certain issues:

Furniture: sold most of everything I had and donated the rest. I kept certain things that I will be giving to family members later on this year (they can’t quite make it to DC just yet).

Clothing/linens: gave away 12 (that’s right, 12!) bags of clothing, linens, towels, etc…I still have a couple of bags to drop off this weekend.

Books: gave away approximately 80% of all the books I had. The criteria was simple: keep only those books that you consider to be small treasures. The rest can be shared with the world.

What about you, my dear reader? Are you thinking about doing something similar? If you have already started, what stage are you in the process? If you have completed the process, any advice on what to expect going forward?

Friday, April 17, 2009

Taking the Essentials

As I recover from this infernal leg injury I figured I would take a quick inventory of what I am bringing on this biking trip. Whether it happens this year or next I can’t wait to take some of these simple living principles on the road. And it all starts with stripping everything down to the bare essentials.

As you review this please note that I am still finding ways to cut down on weight and save space. For example, I have found that putting stuff inside my hiking boots saves a ton of space. I’m also going to be servicing the bike every 3 weeks along the road, thus, no need for chain lube, degreaser, etc…On the clothing side, I just don’t think I can cut much more than what I have now. It would be different if I was heading out in June and I could guarantee that I would not need warm clothing until hitting Colorado. As it is, it looks like I will be dealing with some pretty fickle weather so I’ve decided to stick with the list as is. Any suggestions/comments very much appreciated.


[top left to right OR top right to bottom]
-Biking t-shirts (2)
-Biking shirts (1)
-Biking tights (1)
-Biking leg warmers (1)
-Biking shorts (2)
-Biking winter gloves (1)
-Biking winter socks (1)
-Biking socks (2)
-Rain pants (1)
-Biking gloves (1)
-Helmet cover (for rain) (1)
-Biking winter gloves (light) (1)
-Biking fleece (not pictured) (1)
-Goretex biking shell (not pictured) (1)
-Helmet (not pictured)


-Base layer (pants and top) (1)
-Second layer (1)
-Windstopper jacket (1)
-Jeans (1)
-Boxers (1)
-Goretex rain jacket (outer layer) (1)
-Shorts (1)
-t-shirts (2)


-Bike lock
-Sun screen (2)
-Tic tacs
-Camping flashlight
-Toilet paper
-Swiss Army Knife
-Tire pressure gauge
-hand-held tire pump (not pictured) (1)
-Glasses + case
-Sunglasses + case
-Emergency shower system
-Contacts and related
-Laundry cord


-Sleeping pad
-Eyeshades/ear plugs
-Sleeping bag (not included in photo)


-Collapsible Bowl
-MRS Whisperlite International cooking stove
-Steripen water purifier
-Fuel cartridge
-Camp soap (dishes, body, hair, etc…)
-Tire tubes (2)
-Bike maintenance (multitool, tire levers, tape, chain links, tire boot patch, tire patch kit)


-Laptop cord
-DVD drive
-Laptop USB connection
-Powermonkey external battery plus solar charger
-Camera charger
-Camera plus case
-Waterproof lightweight backpack


-Headband (1)
-Sandals (1)
-Hiking Boots (1)
-First Aid bag (band-aids, cortisone, Neosporin, etc…) (1)
-Insect repellant (1)
-AC Maps (3) (getting other maps via mail on the road)
-Yoga book (1) (super light cheesy yoga book with all the basic poses)

Saturday, April 11, 2009


I got a hint of hope following my doctor's appointment yesterday. The doctor had me bend, twist and extend my leg and ankle for a good 15 minutes before he sat me down and leveled with me. There appears to be no indication of any serious injury. The problem appears to involve a pretty strong case of muscle/tendon/ligament exhaustion. What I need to do right now is to get off the bike for a while and have enough time to relax the muscles. Here's his take on the whole thing:

While this gave me some hope I can't help but despair when I look at the calendar. At this point, I have come up with the following strategy:

Week 1= stay off the bike completely.

Week 2= get back on the bike and start training, adding miles gradually.

Week 3= if I still feel strong and there is no real sign of pain get daily mileage up to 20-30 miles.

Week 4= if I still feel good, get on the road immediately.

I truly hope this works. If it doesn't, what's the worst that could happen? Well, I would just have to postpone this trip till next year. In the meantime, there are plenty of other wonderful adventures left on my list. In the end, the sky will always be my limit. :)

Friday, April 10, 2009


After the awesome high of this past week I am suddenly finding myself sinking into the mother of all depressions. Somewhere around the 24-25 mile mark into a 60 mile plus training ride yesterday my ankle started to hurt. It was faint at first, but as the miles started to pile up it got more and more serious. By the time I got to my campsite I could barely walk. The pain was so severe that I had a friend come and pick me up this morning by car; there was just no way I could bike 60 miles back to DC.

What is truly scary is that I had the exact same thing happen to me about three weeks ago. At the time, I thought I was over-training so I decided to get off the bike for a week or so and that apparently did the trick. But now, I'm petrified that it could be something more serious.

So here I am, having some green tea at a coffee shop in Dupont, fighting against mounting depression and contemplating next steps. I have a 3:30pm doctor's appointment where I suspect I will be referred to a specialist. Given the time window I am working with, even just a recovery period of 3 or 4 weeks could potentially scuttle this trip. On the other hand, the last thing I want is to find myself in Kansas in the middle of the summer with a bum leg looking for a way back home.

I'll send an update when I know more.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Life Starts Now!

One warm spring morning a few weeks from now I will make my way over to a beach in Yorktown, Virginia where the York River, the Chesapeake and the Atlantic Ocean meet. Once there, I will load up my bicycle, roll over to the surf and inhale deeply. After a couple of minutes of silent contemplation, I will turn around, get on my bike and start the rest of my life.

Next stop, the west coast.

That’s right, my dear reader. I have decided to bike across the United States, from coast to coast, on a bicycle. Yes, you heard (read) right. A bicycle.

I will be traveling completely unsupported, which basically means that I will be carrying everything I will need right on the bicycle itself. Save for the occasional motel stay, I plan on camping 95% of my nights on the road. And there will be a fair number of nights of camping; the trip will last between 3-4 months. Oh boy…

While the entire route has not been completely finalized, I’ll be taking the Transamerica bike trail most of the way. This trail starts in Virginia and passes through Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and Oregon. Here’s a map of the trail:

And here’s how the Adventure Cycling Association describes the route:

“This is still the greatest and most used route crossing America. This classic ride offers everything you would expect from a transcontinental crossing. You'll encounter all kinds of scenery and terrain, including ocean coastline, lush forests, high desert, mountain passes, snow-capped peaks, sweeping vistas, expansive plains, fertile farmlands, rolling hills, and wide rivers. You'll pass through small, out-of-the-way towns in America that still serve up some of the best home-cooked meals and fresh-baked pies.”

There is a chance that once I get to Colorado I might opt to take the Western Express trail that cuts across the deserts of Utah and Arizona before hitting San Francisco, California, but this will be a decision I will make once I’m on the road.

During this trip there will be tons of bicycling, reading, yoga training, hiking, meditating, blogging, kayaking, and miscellaneous mischief throughout.

More than anything, I’m hoping that folks I meet along the way will help me ‘discover’ the heart of this beautiful country we call America. I’m longing to have interesting conversations over a campfire in Kansas. I’m counting on the kindness of strangers somewhere by the side of the road in Missouri. I’m yearning to share the vastness of the desert stars with a family in Utah.

While side-trip possibilities are limited off the trail, I think it would be awesome to meet as many of you as possible. Do let me know if you are going to be near the trail and maybe we can meet up somewhere along the way.

Because I want to. Because I can. Because this will be an incredible adventure. Because I want to challenge myself in a way that does not involve billable hours, Asset Purchase Agreements and/or 2 hour conference calls.

Because, at the end of the day, I want to be able to look at myself in the mirror and know that I had the courage and conviction to embrace life to the fullest.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Progress So Far (Q1 2009)


I figured you guys would appreciate an update on how the war against the Enemy is going. The bottom line is this: the Plan, while still active and very much on target, is starting to run its course. Most of the goals I set out for myself last year have been met. I genuinely feel as if I am on the cusp of breaking free from all the physical/material impediments to “freedom,” however ephemeral that term may be.

Pretty soon, I won’t have any “thing” left to dispose of. At that point, I will have no choice but to look inward for additional ways to simplify my life.

Getting Rid of Consumer Debt/Student Loans
Start: Ongoing
End: September 1, 2009

STATUS: Now that I no longer have any consumer debt, the focus continues to be on paring down my expenses. Will continue paying off my student loans, though, I will probably rely on support from my law school when I start working again.


Sale of Stuff

Start: July 2008
End: December 2009

STATUS: What a difference a couple of months makes. After some tentative activity on Craigslist, I’ve been selling all sorts of stuff non-stop. I think part of the reason for the turnaround has been a completely new perspective on this process. The focus is no longer on making $ from these sales. With a few exceptions, I’ve marked down all of my items at far below market value. This ensures that things will be sold quickly and efficiently. I’ve also decided to give away part of my belongings to charity.

What I’ve come to realize is that, ultimately, it is the ABSENCE of stuff that I am seeking. Maximizing any monetary gains from these sales would be counterproductive to what I am hoping to find: simple happiness.


Selling the Townhouse
Start: October 1, 2008
End: September 1, 2009

STATUS: One word: nowhere. The house has been on the market for several months now and while I’ve gotten some interest, it doesn’t look like it’s going to sell anytime soon. The reality is that we are still in the middle of the biggest housing downturn in 70 years and potential buyers are just too cautious. I think I will wait through the middle of the summer and then explore my options. Let’s see what happens.


Leaving My Job
Start: December 17, 2009
End: December 31, 2009

STATUS: All I can say is that leaving my job was the single best decision I have ever made. Period.