“What should we do this fall?,” I asked Sarah recently. Our youngest had just left for college. I’m at a break in my career. I was itching to do something big and not squander this unique window of time. But what?
Travel, to put it mildly, is difficult right now. Most of the things we would have done are off the table.
My first idea: Buy an R.V. and explore the United States. Sarah loved this idea. Loved. But apparently so do a lot of other people. In fact, it might be the worst time in history to try to buy an R.V. And to be honest, the thought of sitting for hours everyday on my butt behind a windshield was not that appealing.
My wife, however, was already scouring the Internet for sprinter vans. The image of us sitting on lawn chairs at a Good Sam R.V. park located conveniently along a six lane highway and close to a Cracker Barrel popped into my head.
I needed a plan B, and fast.
The next day, I made my pitch. “God willing,” I offered up tentatively, “we can always drive around in an R.V. when we are older. Maybe we should do something this fall that we may not be able to do in our 60’s or 70’s, like a big biking trip across the country.” That last part hung there, in the air, like a trial balloon.
This won’t be a news flash for many of you, but I love bicycling. When we moved back to Minneapolis four years ago I ditched the car and became a full time bike commuter. And there was something about that experience – being out in nature everyday and in tune with the weather, avoiding traffic, interacting with people, staying fit – that hooked me. And the idea of a long distance trip slowly formed.
And now it hung in the balance.
Sarah laughed and shook her head. “I knew you’d never agree to drive,” she said. And then she added, after another pause, “that sounds pretty interesting.” I’ve said it many times, but I’ll say it again, my wife is amazing.
And we were off – planning routes, buying gear*, doing a six day test ride. Everything checked out. We are nervous, but ready.
Our plan is to spend the next five weeks riding a big chunk of the U.S. Eastern Seaboard. Thankfully, we will be following an established “Atlantic Coast” route created by the Adventure Cycling Association, a non profit that promotes bike travel and has established a network of routes that criss-cross the country. Their maps are excellent and take a huge amount of the planning and logistics off our backs.
We’ll be joining their Atlantic Coast route in Virginia, heading south. Our ride will be completely self-contained, with our camping gear, clothing, etc., on our bikes. Once we drop off our rental minivan at the airport in Newport News, VA, we are on our own. We plan to camp, stay in hotels and AirBnB’s occasionally, and utilize Warmshowers.org as a way to meet more folks on the ride.
The Atlantic Coast route ends in Key West, Florida, but we won’t make it that far before our Thanksgiving return. I tend to push the mileage, so having no set end point will help me try to slow down and enjoy everyday instead of pushing a mileage goal.
I plan to post updates along the ride, as time and Internet access allow. I hope you follow along!
*Thanks to Greg at Farmstead Bike Shop for gearing us up and offering fantastic advice! If you are in Minneapolis, I’d highly recommend Farmstead.