I don't know exactly where I got the idea to go on a massive bicycle ride. Maybe it was watching Forrest Gump and witnessing his determination to just start running. Maybe it was a blog I read awhile ago. I've read quite a few blogs belonging to bikers who just up and biked a great distance. Maybe it was my desire to take an adventure. I've always liked adventure. When I was younger I would take big bike rides around my neighborhood. My friend Scott and I even rode our bikes all the way to the mall once. Which was a big deal for us back then. And we were in a minority of students who would actually ride our bikes to school. I guess I like being on a bike.
My first thought was to sell my car in some far off land, buy a bike, and then ride it back to Nashville. I had this vision of selling my car in Arizona. Driving it out there. Collecting the cash and then buying all the bicycle gear I would need to ride back to Nashville. Take my time. Enjoy the vast and beautiful American countryside.
I've done a lot of International traveling. And I've done quite a bit of domestic traveling too. But hearing stories from Laura about her band's tours through America, seeing the country in an RV, stopping in little towns, and witnessing the many different shades of America, gave me a hunger for a similar experience.
I had been meaning to sell my car for many years. I wasn't driving it much and it was starting to not really match my personality or taste. So one sunny and beautiful day in Nashville (August 10, 2013 to be exact) I washed my car, grabbed my camera, and went to a scenic place to take photos of the car I had babied for the past 14 years. It took me about three weeks to sell the Supra. I listed it on Craigslist and on cars.com and had no shortage of offers. I had people who wanted to trade their cars. I even had a guy offer me residential land in California! And pretty soon I had a cash offer from a seemingly nice fellow in West Palm Beach, Florida. He had been looking for a Supra practically his entire life. And was thrilled to find one in excellent condition and in his price range. I negotiated and discussed the sale over email and over the phone for quite some time. He started to remind me of myself when I was looking for a Supra. So, naturally, I started getting excited to sell him the car. He wasn't sure when he could come to Nashville to buy the car, but assured me he would find a way. Then, on a Monday night, he sent me a text and told me he was going to drive through the night with a friend and would meet me at my bank in the morning. I couldn't believe his determination!
At 9:30 the next morning I got a text from my buyer letting me know he was 20 short minutes away. I quickly gave the car one last cleaning and headed to the bank. I was expecting to meet my buyer and his friend. But when I pulled up to the bank all four doors on a Toyota Prius opened and four men got out. Three young guys and a significantly older gentleman. As it turned out my buyer brought two of his closest friends (one of whom owned the exact same Supra as mine), and his grandfather (a Cuban immigrant). And, here's what got me, his grandfather was the one who was going to be buying the car. Grandpa drove through the night from Florida to help his grandson get his dream car. Such an awesome dude!
The transaction took place without a hitch and I gently waved goodbye to my second car. My buyer and his grandpa got in the Supra, his friends got back in the Prius, and they all took off for Florida. One big 24 hour road trip. I was told the only other stop they made in Nashville was at Krispy Kreme.
With cash in the bank I started preparing for my trip. There are plenty of blogs out there with all kinds of suggestions and ideas as to what you might need. And believe me, I've read most of them. I made huge lists. Did all kinds of research. And just started scouring the web and Nashville for everything and anything I might need. The first purchase I actually made was a tent, a sleeping pad, and an REI membership. Here's a picture I took to commemorate the experience.
However, one of the most important items I needed was a bike!
As far as my research showed there are really only two touring bikes to consider - the Surly Long Haul Trucker and the Kona Sutra. For some reason I gravitated to the Kona almost immediately. The only problem? They're rare. I called bike shops in Nashville, Knoxville, Chattanooga, Louisville, Lexington, and Mobile. No one had a Sutra in what I believed would be the right size for me (a 59 cm frame). There was a shop in Knoxville with a 61 cm, so I decided a road trip was in order.
I drove to Knoxville to visit Tennessee Valley Bikes. The dudes there were super friendly and very helpful. I rode around all afternoon on an assortment of bikes. My two biggest takeaways? Brooks saddles (bicycle seats) are amazing. And the Kona Sutra was definitely my favorite of the touring bikes. The 61 cm Kona Sutra they had in stock was definitely too big for me. And the 56 cm (or was it the 57 cm?) was definitely too small for me. So I decided I definitely wanted a 59 cm Kona Sutra.
After spending an amazing afternoon in Knoxville I headed home and started scouring Craigslist for a Kona Sutra in my size. And I found ONE for sale. In Portland, Oregon. I sent an email to the seller indicating my interest and asking if 1.) the bike was still available, and 2.) if it would be possible to ship the bike to an out of state buyer.
I got an almost immediate response from the seller indicating that, yes, the bike was still available, and, yes, the bike could be shipped for a price. I wrote back and started discussing my Pacific Coast bicycle tour with the seller. And thus began my relationship with Jake, the seller of the Kona Sutra.
Jake told me he originally bought the bike to do a tour himself. But after 10 days of bicycle touring realized he much prefers commuting. As it turns out, he commutes around Portland by bicycle (as does almost everyone else in Portland, I would soon learn). Eventually I decided my best plan would be to fly to Portland, buy the bike, and start a Pacific tour from there. I told Jake of my plan, and he agreed to hold on to the bike and wait for me to solidify details like booking a flight. Thank you, Jake.
I ended up booking my flight for September 10, 2013. And then spent a couple of weeks researching, buying, and sorting gear. As well as preparing for my adventure.
There's an organization called the Adventure Cycling Association. The ACA is the byproduct of a bicycle trip a few crazy people did to celebrate the bicentennial of America. In 1976 a group of people set off to ride bikes across America. And after the successful completion of their journey they founded an organization dedicated to bicycle travel in the States. One of the best things they do is publish a variety of maps with bicycle routes through America. They've got routes that cover something like 44,000 miles of bike friendly roads right here in the USA. I ended up buying maps for the Pacific Coast, the Southern Tier, and Great Rivers South (a route the criss crosses the Mississippi).
With my route nailed I spent a great amount of time focused on my gear. I decided the below list contained the most crucially needed things for a ride like I was planning:
I ended up having a few of these items shipped to Jake in Portland. And everything else I packed in a duffel bag for my flight. Actually, truth be told, this list (all revised and pretty) is the result of some last minute tinkering in Portland as well as some tinkering once I started my ride.
I decided it was important to me to bring a lot of my photography gear. It's something I'm truly passionate about and I figured it would be awesome to take really good photos while on my ride. It added a lot to my final gear selection, but I figured it would be worth it.
So there you have it. The beginning of my journey. Next up, the day of my departure to Portland.