What’s New with Me?…A Novel.

Can you visualize the insanity that has been happening in my brain these last few weeks as my departure date looms?  I have had so much to think about and straighten out and confirm and just DO that I feel like I’m losing it.  Want to hear all about it?  OF COUUURRSE you do!
Where can I start?  I think I’ll begin with my front rack.

So.  I biked over to Brand’s about three weeks ago to make sure that the front rack I wanted would be compatible to my bike and I am so glad that I did because GUESS WHAT?  MY BIKE (of course) needs a special rack!  Because Evelyn has a suspension front fork I needed to special order my front rack.  Can you imagine if I hadn’t checked about that that day?  It would take a week for my rack to arrive, IMAGINE if I hadn’t checked on that until shortly before I left!  I’m sure you can, so you can understand how that just notched up my panic that much more.  Byron (the manager) reassured me that it would be in within a week and I need not panic (although that didn’t stop me).  I had decided that I was going to keep my bike basket on the handlebars because with the rack I ordered I wouldn’t be using that space at all and anything extra to hold shit would be that much more helpful.  I’m trying to tell this post in chronological order so we’ll come back to the topic in a few minutes, stay with me here.

Next order of panic was all the last minute items I was making sure I had that were coming in the mail.  I was very intentional in not ordering anything less than 2 weeks before my departure date and I am so glad because I would have perhaps completely lost my marbles with worry.  The last thing I ordered was the trunk for my rear rack where I planned to keep my electronics.  I was super pumped about it until after I’d placed the order (in the last week of December) and read that it was shipping from Hong Kong and was estimated to arrive AFTER FEBRUARY 28TH.  FEBRUARY. 28TH.  I am leaving February 5.  THIS WOULD NOT DO, no it would not do at all!  I sent off an e-mail to the company pleading with them to let me pay for faster shipping or some alternative but I never received a reply so I was left to wring my hands until it arrived.  THANKFULLY (oh god so thankfully!) it arrived within about two and half weeks and I have never been so happy to see a package in the mailbox.  It fit everything SO perfectly!  Solar charger, camera, battery recharger, wireless keyboard (because I won’t be taking my laptop with me and will be blogging from my phone but could NOT picture myself posting blogs via touch pad lol), etc etc etc.  It’s just the right size plus has enormous side pockets that even fit my water bottles should I want to shove them there; this worked out perfectly because at that time I hadn’t decided yet to keep my bike basket and was wondering how exactly I would strap my water bottles to the contraption that is Evelyn the Bike.

My friend Caitlin gave me a blanket that is very thin physically but very sturdy warm material so I am bringing it with me.  As I posted earlier this month I was now needing to figure out how exactly to organize my rear seat up and after much fiddling and rearranging bungee cords I figured it out.  [For more details you can flip back through posts to see the photo]

Sam, the Guitar

I have two guitars that I have been trying to re-home because I couldn’t bring them with me much as I wanted to.  My very first guitar, Sam, was a very sentimental item close to my heart.  When I found out from Kerry that the local guitar shop was buying back guitars I was ecstatic and immediately brought it to them.  What I WASN’T prepared for was realizing how much Sam really meant to me as I was handing her over.  Sam was the first guitar I ever bought, I learned to play on her.  She is a Fender and not a great one but she was beautiful and had lovely sound.  She didn’t have a single scratch on her and was always shining, waiting, calling to me to come play with her.  Whenever I was lonely, whether it was in my studio apartment in Illinois (I got yelled at by my downstairs neighbor for this), whether it was playing guitar with my dad, writing songs at the local church in Long Island where I attended years ago, writing my own songs that would allow me to play in a bar in Urbana, IL (my hometown) before I moved to New York, playing in the front yard with the little girls I love during the summer making up songs about the family dog, or just me singing and strumming.  She has been with me through many heartbreaks of all kinds and played loyally while I cried through songs that meant a lot to me, even though I am kind of a shitty guitar player.  I understand that I’m rambling but what I’m trying to potray is quite simple: I loved her and she loved me.  So when I handed over her to the man behind the counter I was not prepared for the suddenly tears that burst upon me.  I cried as I signed paperwork, handed over identifications and accepted the cash for her.  I cried as I touched her strings and smooth wood one last time and I sobbed as I walked away.  The employee who helped me was actually choked up because I was crying so hard and he gave me a hug and told me how proud he was of me (he knew about my trip).  I will never forget sitting in the car and crying so hard for about 20 minutes after leaving the store.  All the way home I wondered if I had made a mistake, if I could have shipped her (I couldn’t it would have been over $100) or something else.  Should I turn around?  What to do, what to DO?  I eventually talked myself to logic, reminding myself the reason that I had had to sell her in the first place but it wasn’t easy.  One day in the future I will have a new guitar and it will also be lovely but I will always remember Sam, my first guitar love.

Two huge mental setbacks and potential actual setbacks:

I was informed about two weeks ago that it is illegal to use interstates by bike in Texas, California, Oregon, Washington and much of Arizona and New Mexico (unless there is no alternative way to get to where you’re going).  Needless to say this created an enormous panic in me.  Much of my plans were on the interstate in Texas as least until I could get to Route 66.  I went onto all of the social media pages that I was on that had to do with Bike touring and asked over and over again what I could do instead.  I was directed to a book called Bicycling the Pacific Coast, by Tom Kirkendall.  I promptly ordered it and paid for speed shipping hoping with all I had that it would arrive before I left.  When it finally came I’m reading it through and it says something along the lines of how terrible of an idea it is to bike UP the Pacific Coast due to the headwinds.  THE HEADWINDS?!  Something that I had stupidly not even considered!  I immediately entertained the idea of changing my route completely, like COMPLETELY.  Instead of heading up the coast I was like okay I’ll go east first then up the east coast!  …No, no, then I’ll be back in NY by May, what fun is that?  I’ll go up through the midwest!  …No, that’s too cold.  I tossed all these ideas eventually and headed to Facebook biking pages again asking about statistics concerning the West coast headwinds.  Finally someone told me that the headwinds begin blowing south around the end of April beginning of May (if I was lucky)  This means that I needed to bike my ass as fast as I could to get to Washington.  If I make good time I think I’ll make it to the Canada/U.S. border shortly after the headwinds start and will only have to endure them the last leg of the west coast.  Problem sort of kind of solved.

Remember the Bike Rack?

So I called Brands after a week to see if the bike rack had come in and halleluiah it had.  Here’s where a problem came in.  That was the week of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  It was the same week that my Advanced Bike Maintenance was scheduled there.  Day one of the class was putting together a mountain bike.  Day two was working on your own bike.  This was perfect because I was going to bring in my bike, learn how to put my front rack on and then leave it there after class to be shipped.  OF COURSE we had a blizzard that week so class was postponed to the following week!  So I brought in my bike that first week and they were gracious enough to put the front rack on for me and left my bike with them a few days later and just had to not know how to put on my front rack, hopefully it won’t be too difficult.  On the bright side Performance Bike just called me like an hour ago to tell me that my bike had arrived and that if I have any trouble putting on my rack they can help me for free.  SO THANKFUL FOR SMALL THINGS!!

Moving On and Out

I have been packing and unpacking my bags over and over and over again just so that I can document what I have, where it is, where it’s going and learn the speediest way to get to what I need.  So as the last items came in I needed to finalize the packing.  I also needed to make sure anything that smells like anything (toothpaste, soap, food, Clif bars etc) were all in odor proof bags because I WILL BE DAMNED IF A BEAR FINDS ME.  As you know bears are becoming my primary fear lol.  Part of this packing had had to wait until the very last days because of my clothes.  I had already gone through my belongings to donate what I didn’t need, shipped to my mom what I DID need to keep (sentimental items and the random clothes that I would keep) and thrown away what I didn’t but when it came to clothes I was waiting because I didn’t want to find my bags all packed and have no clothes to wear…which kind of happened anyway.  I packed all my clothes up and realized I had nothing to wear but the onesie pajamas I was wearing at the time.  I had to go back into my donation bags and pull out two outfits for Sunday-Wednesday lol.  I have a suitcase set, two large suitcases and a carry on.  My plan had been that my panniers would go in the large ones along with my tent, sleeping bag and extra supplies.  The carry on would carry my clif bars and bike basket.  So the first suitcase packed smoothly, perfect!  I’m searching through the house looking for the second one and IT IS NOWHERE TO BE SEEN.  Eventually it was discovered that it had been left somewhere on vacation and meant to be shipped back to me but that never happened!  Uh..okay but I need to have a second suitcase it was not an option to not have a second large bag.  I found a huge one in the basement that fit everything in it perfectly.  The only issue was that it’s one of those older ones with one hand on the side that you carry.  So I now have one large rolling suitcase, one small rolling carry on and one enormous 50 lb suitcase that I have to carry.  This won’t be a problem until I get to Austin.  Why?  Well because I’m taking the city bus to the first hosts house and will have to figure out how to get the suitcases on the bus with me.  I briefly considered taking a taxi but it was going to cost me $40 and that just can’t do.  But at least I have a suitcase, right?  When I get to Austin I will be donating the suitcases because I won’t need them anymore.

So my plans when I get to Austin are in theory, all planned out.  When I land I will be taking a bus to another bus and that will drop me off about a block from the host that I am staying with.  The following day my friend is coming from Houston and we will then go to the bike shop where my bike was shipped to from Brands Cycle here.  I will put my bike back together and do my damndest to put my front rack back on with the help of the bike shop down there.  I will then bring my bike back to the host’s house (her name is Courtney and she sounds amazing!  She’s bike toured the country solo as well which is why I’m super excited to meet her, whenever I hear about a woman doing what I’m doing I am desperate to get all the information I can) for the night.  I will set out on the road officially on Friday, February 7th, if all goes according to plan.  Right now we’re in the middle of a snow storm and we’re supposed to get more snow on Wednesday morning which is when I’m flying so …we shall see.  Fingers crossed for good flying weather.

Last night at Kerry’s Super Bowl party I met a woman named Emily who road tripped across the country recently and she told me about this App called Road Trippers.  I cannot rave enough about finding out about this app, like seriously.  It maps out where you want to go and you have the option to opt out of interstates (BINGOOOOO) which is the best news I’ve heard in forever (although I feel like I’m saying that a lot haha, I’m just being appreciative okay?) This will take a lot of stress off of me wondering how the hell I’m going to get from one place to another without getting lost because I can’t use an interstate.

Closing out this post a quick blurb about my going away party last week.  Kerry threw me a little going away party with the usual gang of friends in the area who go out to karaoke, including my friend Kathy who came out from the city.  It was so great to have one last night with friends who have been listening to me talk and talk and talk about this trip from the very beginning.  Kerry sang me a beautiful song called ”My Wish” by Rascal Flatts, that I had never heard before but will never forget.  I have since added it to my playlist and every time I hear it I think about Kerry who has been a significant constantly reassuring friend through this entire trip planning.  Without her support I think I might have talked myself out of it from the very beginning.

Kerry and I

Kerry and I

Just an idea of the song:

I hope that the days come easy and the moments pass slow,
And each road leads you where you want to go,
And if you’re faced with a choice, and you have to choose,
I hope you choose the one that means the most to you.
And if one door opens to another door closed,
I hope you keep on walkin’ till you find the window,
If it’s cold outside, show the world the warmth of your smile,

But more than anything, more than anything,
My wish, for you, is that this life becomes all that you want it to,
Your dreams stay big, and your worries stay small,
You never need to carry more than you can hold,
And while you’re out there getting where you’re getting to,
I hope you know somebody loves you, and wants the same things too,
Yeah, this, is my wish.

If you’d like to hear it you can click here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y3TeskgpWvE

I think I’ve covered everything that I can as of right now!  I know that was a lot to read and bless you for making it to the end of that novel haha!  I’ll be updating hopefully once a week whenever I can get to a public library or coffee shop with internet to post a new blog and plan out that weeks journey!  It’s upon us friends!  The day I’ve been working towards for the past 7 months!!  WHOOHOO! See you out there!!

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Oooh Packages!….and other thoughts.

So the last two weeks have been one package of gear after another after another arriving, ending with my business cards being delivered this afternoon.  I can’t decide what I’m more excited about!

1.  DandyCase Waterproof Phone Bag

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So I have a horrible habit of taking my phone in the bathroom when I’m showering so I can play music to sing along to.  I learned the hard way that this messed up your phone pretty fast.  I decided that since I have no idea when I’ll be able to buy a new phone I’d better be REALLY careful with this one so I bought this waterproof bag.  I’m kind of diggin’ it because I watched a few video reviews and it’s totally submersible!  The only downside is that I there’s no way to have my headphones plugged into it so… I might have to buy a second one for my ipod.  We shall see. Until then bring on the rain!

2.  Schampa WarmSkin Balaclava

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So, something that I really wished I had had on my trip to Bear Mountain was one of these.  I saw a lot of other bikers wearing them and, damn, on my way DOWN the hills my poor face was FREEEEZING.  I’ve tested it out once and was actually SO cozy I had to pull it down to my chin!  So hopefully in really chilly winter weather I’ll be ready!!

3.  GoalZero 12301 Nomad 7M Solar Panel

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I decided that I wasn’t going to buy the solar charger I had previously talked about as I was told that it didn’t really charge well at all.  I also started reading different reviews and this brand GoalZero was said to be ultra durable and weatherproof.  You can connect it up to other compatible solar panels which is great!  It has a USB port along with two other forms of charging.  I cannot WAIT to test this out on my next ride!!

4.  Smith Optics SME OTG Goggles

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Along with wishing I’d had a balaclava my eyes were watering like a waterfall on the downsides of hills, and once the rain started, as I mentioned: it was pouring rain and I had to put my glasses in my pocket.  I was really picky about these without wanting to spend a zillion bucks in case they didn’t work.  What I mean by that is that I needed to find a pair of goggles that fit comfortably over my glasses.  Right now the glasses that I wear are small but my other pair that are apparently missing and presumed lost are the ones I want to bring on my trip.

*****

So the next 2 gifts were incredible.  I had them on my wishlist for items I need to still buy.  I checked the mailbox Tuesday morning to see a box in my mailbox and inside it were a set of 20 Bungee cords of different sizes and an AMAZING bike multitool.  I couldn’t believe my eyes when I opened the box and when I saw the gift note saying they were from my friends sister wishing me a wonderful trip I started crying.  The thing is, so I have all these plans and wishes for this trip.  It is one thing for your friends to like you Facebook page and follow your blog and say that they’re behind you but when you physically get to hold in your hands proof that people believe in you and wish you well in your dream?…Let me tell you, friends, it’s kind of an overwhelming feeling.  I will never need another bungee cord as long as I live….okay maybe I will but not for a long, long time!

The bike multi tool is AWESOME.  It’s the Topeak Alien II 26 Multi-Tool and seriously is the most intense tool I’ve ever seen lol.  Allan wrenches, box wrenches, Phillips and flathead screwdrivers, mini pedal wrench, spoke wrenches, a knife, a bottle opener, and several others which I like literally haven’t a clue how to use yet.  Good thing it comes with instructions for every tool on it.  I am so incredible grateful for the people who are starting to come forward saying they’d like to donate to my trip and help support me.  ❤ ❤

MY BUSINESS CARDS HAVE ARRIVED.  There isn’t really too much to go on about with these except that I’m super pumped because they are BEAUTIFUL and everything that I dreamed they would be =)  See for yourself!

See? Pretty!

Moving on.  Remember how in my last post I mentioned that my wrist was bothering me?  Well it still hurts.  A lot.  When I do anything.  Initially I’d purchased KT Tape and that seemed to help but then …it didn’t anymore, and it seems to be getting worse.  So I traipsed back to CVS and got an actual brace, which is glorious.  I then got on my bike a few days later and realized that, no, not even the brace makes it better.  I sound really whiny to everyone I talk to but IT HUUURRTTSSS when I bike!  So this puts a severe cramp in my training plans!  Two weekends have gone by (one of which wasn’t wasted as I had a friend visiting me) but this last weekend and this weekend could have been long trips and now can’t be. How am I supposed to be ready for mountains when I can’t practice going UP them?  It has me genuinely concerned.

Whew! Let’s Catch Up!!

Good Lord!  I’ve been MIA!  I have a lot to tell you and my updates.  I don’t even know where to start…

…Okay, I guess I’ll start with my bike.  I got my new bike!  Finally paid it all off!!  Wanna hear all about it?   Of course you do.  😉

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This is my new bike!  It’s a Diamondback Vital 2 or as I call her, Evelyn.  She’s a hybrid bike so she’s built for comfort AND the road but her tires are treaded and wide enough to also function well if I choose to go off path for awhile (duh).  

Along with buying Evelyn, I replaced the pedals with Shimano PD-M424 SPD Pedals.  For those of you who were like me a month ago:  They’re pedals that on one side are like a regular pedal and on the other side have clips for your clipless shoes.  (Confused yet?)  Okay so, clipless shoes are biking shoes with a little cleat the bottom that looks like this:

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(Thanks drivemybike.wordpress.com for the pic!) 

The way that they work is that little cleat in the bottom of the shoe clips to the cleat on your pedal!  (So why is it called clipless?) To get clipped IN you have to push down and your shoes snap to your pedal (meaning that you can’t just lift your foot off your pedal, you are stuck to your pedal) and to release you have to push down and then twist your foot out and you pop your shoe out. ) You don’t HAVE to use them with your shoes obviously BUT it makes biking a lot easier.  This of course is all hearsay as I haven’t seen the proof yet.  The bottom of MY shoes look like the center shoe.  

I was told I was going to fall a few times before I mastered using the clipless pedals and boy did I ever.  So imagine that you’re on your bike and your feet are like GLUED to your pedals.  What happens if you start to tip in a certain direction?  Yes, you are correct, you fall hard because there is LITERALLY nothing you can do to save yourself.  So this girl leaning up against the garage door managed to have one shoe unclipped and fall in the direction of the shoe that WAS clipped in.  Straight to the ground.  Hello scraped knee and elbow.  I’m just glad I didn’t bonk my head.  I had a concert to go to that night so I decided to not break a bone or two beforehand.  

Moving on… I am starting to face the horrible idea that I may have to push back my start date.  I was originally wanting to leave in January but I’m thinking that it’s not going to happen that early financially.  I’d rather work at my horrible job longer and have a little more food money saved up than starve sooner… sort of.  Some of the fears that I’ve managed to nail down so far go as follows:

  • Camping on public property and having to wonder who might approach my tent.  I know that this is going to just have to be something I get used to but I know that it’s a logical fear.  According to all the biker tour-ists I’ve spoken to this is a fear that gets pumped up a lot but in reality isn’t much of an issue.  I know how to prepare for it I just need to be ready.
  • Not having enough food and having to resort to eating meat.  This is a personal issue as a vegetarian that scares the daylight out of me.  I know that in terms of survival this is something I’m going to have to just be open to if it like literally comes down to me either dying or not but …still….

In the meantime of me worrying which isn’t going to help anything as much as preparation will, tomorrow is a day off (I refuse to say I’m celebrating Columbus Day which is utter bullshit)  and I’m determined to master these damn biking shoes so I can go on a nice long bike ride.  Until next time!  (Next time we’ll talk about bike saddles, helmets and lights)

 

Meet Me

Hi. I’m Maria. Do I look like someone who bikes everywhere? I guess I probably don’t haha. BUT I DO! Which is where my little story is going to start. About 2 years ago I started working a job where I was forced to bike an hour to get to work. I had no alternative way of traveling anywhere for the summer so I started exploring Long Island (where I live). By the end of the summer I had discovered that I love to bike ride! When my Grandmother died in October I stopped biking suddenly and didn’t start back up again until this past May when I decided to buy myself a little Roadmaster that was on sale at Wal-Mart. I told myself it was a great idea because I mean, come on, it’s not like I’m going anywhere outside of a few hours ride, right?

False. …I’ll get back to that in a minute.

In June 2013 I spent time at my friend Kerry’s house, as she was my safe haven when the house was crazy. While laying on her bed staring at the ceiling wondering how things had gotten so out of control so quickly I said ”I wish I could just take my bike and travel the country.”

Joking of course.

Kerry sat up, grabbed her laptop and said “Well…I mean…you kind of could if you really wanted to.” …and started Googling bike traveling and camping. We read a few articles about how it could actually be done, but in the end decided it wasn’t too safe and that was the end of it.

….Except that it wasn’t. From that moment, the idea was in my head to embark on a grand trip of freedom. All summer it was just a wish in my head that would never really happen. I was forced into taking an unpaid one month vacation so my employers could ”save money” (go to St. Martin for a month) and while I was home I realized that I really REALLY wanted to do this trip.

Society, ”They”, People, Parents, Peers, Family. These are all the ones that dictate our lives. We ”have” to go to school to be deemed ”mature, responsible adults” and after college we get a ”real” job. (NOT bagging in the grocery store, like that isn’t a real job. *insert me rolling my eyeballs*) Then we spend the rest of our lives working. Literally. Unless we manage to strike it rich and not have any worries but let’s face it, most of us don’t have that happen to them. We are ruled by the almighty dollar. It tells us if we are happy, it tells us if we are ”popular”, what we can wear, what we eat, IF we eat. We have been fooled into believing that money is 100% necessary to live a happy, ”successful” life.

I have made the decision that I do not want to live my life like that. I want to be happy in my life, doing things that I love, not being ruled by things that have no real rule of who I am and what I do and what I need to be free! When my Grandmother died she told me to have a happy life and do what made me happy and I have decided to take that to heart. So I am choosing to leave my job in January, take my bike, tent and supplies (after selling or donating my other belongings) on the Amtrak to Albuquerque and bike touring the entire country.

What do you think of that?