Closing Thoughts

I’m back in San Jose, where the humidity is low, and 90 degrees F is still not sweaty weather.

Within days of my return, I gave away my Adventure Cycling maps on craigslist. While this made it harder to review the route of my trip, I wanted to get the maps to someone who could use them while they were still relatively current.

Nike Track Shoes
These were the replacement shoes that I picked up in early May after being on the road for about 2 weeks.
shoes after ride
And this is what the shoes looked like when I got back. These were track shoes, never intended for walking. To save every gram of weight, the soles were low-density plastic – not very durable.  The spikes have worn flat, and some of the aluminum cleat sockets have come off.   I’m pleased with these shoes; they were sufficient for the task.  My present food poisoning is making me wax philosophical.  When my physical body finally wears out someday, will I be found to have been sufficient for the task?

After being in sparse motel rooms and campgrounds, home now seems crowded with a lot of stuff I don’t need.

The nausea and stomach upset is still lingering slightly with me. I’ll likely be updating this post over the next few days.

[Sunday 7/23} This morning, I woke up at 5 am local time, equivalent to 8 am where I was. Washed the clothes that I brought back, and hung them up to dry outside. Went to church with Merrianne. Then we did some grocery shopping. When we got home, I tried to rest, but found I was not really able to because of the unsettled feeling in my gut. So, might as well get some stuff done. I trimmed one of the shrubs in front of our house, and put away more of the things I brought back.

  • My weight when starting this trip: 155 lbs.
  • Times I weighed myself on the trip: 0
  • Weight upon return: 139.4

Lost some weight due to the exercise, but certainly, the food poisoning must have contributed. I’m trying to stay hydrated. Ate a plum from our tree this afternoon, and also some cherries, 2 bananas, and some pasta. Didn’t throw up, which is a good sign. Contrast this with the Transamerica ride I did about 30 years ago, where I gained 4 pounds on the trip (though it could have been muscle). Interestingly, both times, I ended up at about 140.

Fun facts and figures:

  • Total distance: 3843.9 miles (does not count rides from cars, walking, flying, boats)
  • Days away from home: 93 (13 weeks on the bike)
  • Sundays: 12
  • Sundays attended church: 11 (missed service at Huyneme)
  • People praying for me: [cannot be measured with existing technology]
  • Times used button shirt and long pants for church: 0
  • Named people met (those who were significant, but anonymous by circumstance or choice, have been omitted – total 302): Robin, Brian, Gordon, Ray, Rita, David, Issac, Don, Linda, Connor, Olivia, Nick, Marta, Felix, Sammy, David, Mike, Mike, Janice, Christian, Matt, Kent, Alesha, Salvador, Maria, Dustin, Deborah, Jeff, Paul, Don, Sid, Steve, Trevor, Griffin, Mark, Angelica, Gabby, Emily, Colleen, Shiloh, Sarah, Felicia, Kassia, Charlie, Daniel, John, Trolley, Rob, Ron, Jesica, Rome, Scissors, Odilla, Robert, Rhoderick (Erick), Jim, Cole, Bill, Kevin, Ian, Katie, Mallory, Jenny, Lena, Mag, Robin, Danica, Dylan, Lorenzo, Angela, Issac, Keanu, Valery, Elvin, Gretchen, Tara, Norah, Hal, Desiree, Denise, John, Seamus, Sarah, Soren, Louise, Mike, Wayne, Richard, Ken, Lamar, Willard, Phil, Andy, Miriam, Randy, Katie, Theodore, Kat, Patti, Eliane, Keith, Emma, Arnaud, Veronica, Ryan, Yee-Kahn, Lisa, Tom, Alex, Marni, Craig, Sylvia, Scott, Diane, Tony, Brian, Joyce, Allison, John, Ken, Darcy, Mindy, Bill, Janet, Devon, Dolly, Lieven, Adam, Rowan, Dwayne, Fabian, Donna, Ashley, John, Sandy, Richard, Ted, Russ, Wayne, Jane, Josh, Jack, Serena, Sergey, Yi-Yang, Roger, James, Nicki, Brian, Ross, Ferdinand, Cindy, Max, Larry, Leah, David, Ashley, James, Katie, Charlie, Alex, Charlie, Judy, Bobby, Connie, Mark, Marion, Kent, Jason, Scott, Helen, Lily, Jesse, Cassandra, Anaya, Claire, Sabra, Emma, Laura, Darius, Jeff, Juan, Ingrid, Brian, Leicel, Charles, Augustine, Jack, Missy, Kyle, Jim, Joan, Edie, Sabina, Arnie, Chris, Thomas, John, Johnny, Shirley, David, Stephanie, Shaun, Sharon, Johanna, Kaitlyn, Leland, Deanna, Diana, Ken, Bill, David, Bill, Julie, Kaley, Gary, Audrey, Luke, Doris, Jim, Ernie, Rodney, George, Mandy, Gary, Angela, Kantonio, Yolanda, Skye, Emmanuel, Kantonio Jr, Hilton, Aurora, Isaiah, Joanne, Jay, Don, Jordan, Kristyn, Debbie, Melissa, Viral, Shannon, Loyman, Jim, Alice, Neal, Field, Marcel, Aaron, Lester, Eddie, Rachelle, Connie, Tuckey, Brenda, Jimmy, Steve, John, Sarah, Cheryl, Jeff, Robby, Julie, Nick, Roger, Tina, Mary, Tech, Mike, John, Gary, Sydney, Steve, Judy, Wingman, Tia, China, Robert, Scott, Kaley, Hans, Sam, John, Terrence, May, Morris, Ron, Minnie, Cassandra, Paul, Matthew, Armando, Earl, Matt, Carol, Lisa, Ricky, Corrinne, Jim, Leon, Jerry
  • Days it rained: 16
  • Flats: 4
  • Avoidable flats: 4 (my own fault, using old tubes, or installing them wrong)
  • Sets of tires used: 2 (preponderance of caution – might have made it on 1 set)
  • Equipment that broke or wore out: brake hood, 4 tubes, handlebar wrap, shoes, water bottle, one pannier (repaired).
  • Times fell off bike: 0
  • Vicious dogs: 0 (some would bark and chase, but let up when answered in a friendly tone)
  • Items lost or stolen: 0 (having only the essentials with me helped)
  • Most interesting person (male): Juan (“Juan in a million”) (really tough to choose)
  • Most interesting person (female): Eliane (also so hard to choose)
  • Friendliest state: LA
  • Most diverse state: TX
  • Most rural state: MS
  • Best climate: CA
  • Most common convenience store food purchase: fruit popsicle
  • Most common convenience store drink purchase: Powerade/Gatorade
  • Usual drink in restaurants: unsweetened iced tea (“unsweet”)
  • Beer, wine, and other alcohol consumed on trip: 0 (not counting Turtle Soup which had sherry in it)
  • Most common chain restaurant visited: Wendy’s (for a Frosty and wi-fi)
  • Best food (unable to decide, candidates listed): Grandma’s Chicken, Sirloin Stockade Buffet, Red Beans and Rice Plate, AYCE Spaghetti, Lasagna special, Chicken Fajita Taco, BBQ Ribs, Turtle Soup, Boudin, Shrimp Boil.
  • Trail angels: 6
  • People who tried to give me money: 5 (and some of those had little for themselves to start with)
  • Hardest ride segment: steep grade after Superior, AZ
  • Longest day: 82 miles through desert into Safford, AZ
  • Most memorable day: through the hail near McDonald Observatory on the way to Fort Davis, TX
  • Hardest day: Day 1, Morgan Hill, CA – the only time I actually considered giving up.
  • Camping days: 18
  • Motel days: 58
  • Hostel days: 14
  • Days stayed with a friend: 2 (Linda, Robert)
  • Times tent was staked to the ground: 0
  • Times camp got flooded out: 0
  • Most common lodging: motel
  • Most expensive motel: $126, Dauphin Island, AL
  • Least expensive motel: $35, Lordsburg, NM
  • Most common large roadkill: Armadillo
  • Other roadkill, in approximate order of frequency: snake, bird, possum, turtle, millipede, raccoon, rabbit, javelina, cat, deer, squirrel, skunk, porcupine, coyote, alligator.
  • Sudoku puzzles carried on trip: 36
  • Sudoku puzzles worked on trip: 0
  • Books read: 0
  • Movies seen on the big screen: 1 (Guardians of the Galaxy 2 in Wickenburg, AZ)
  • Movies seen on TV in motel rooms: LOTS like Hunger Games, Divergent, Avengers, Riddick, and other science fiction while blogging
  • Times reserve water used on Southern Tier: 0 (it was used on the way from San Jose to San Diego)
  • Things I probably wouldn’t bring if I did it over again: large rag in front pack (useful for blowing nose in cold weather, not so much on Southern Tier), harmonica, rope, shampoo (use motel’s, or use soap, or just water), church clothes.
  • Things I was glad I brought, that other cyclists might not bring: calling cards with my contact info, clothespins, E6000 glue (shoe goo would probably have worked, too), hydrocortisone cream, Desitin cream, 3-to-2 pin plug adapter, bifocal sunglasses, piece of chalk.
  • Thing I should have brought: USB powered fan (for those few miserably hot and humid nights)
  • Calling cards given away: about 200 (2-3 per day)

Tips and Observations:

  • The lodging listed on the Adventure Cycling Maps is always decent. It is not always cheap. Where there are many choices, the listed lodging is close to the best value.
  • Take off socks and shoes before pushing the bike across water.
  • Often, clothes can just be rinsed out in the shower at a motel or campground. No need to go to a laundromat every time.  In the desert, a wrung-out T-shirt will dry after being worn for just a few blocks’ walk outside.
  • Chase bank doesn’t have ATMs except in very large cities. Use Walmart or chain supermarkets to get cash back from a debit card without the ATM fees.
  • Long sleeves are cooler in sun.
  • Chapstick or vaseline was important for the dry heat between Southern California and West Texas.  On the eastern part of the Southern Tier, natural humidity makes chapstick unnecessary.
  • One set of non-rechargeable AAA batteries was enough to power my LED head light for the entire trip.  I would not bother bringing rechargeable AAA’s if I did such a trip again.
  • A neon yellow-green shirt makes you look like a contract laborer. It may also be less visible against foliage. Fuchsia pink may be more visible
  • If you use reading glasses, get decent quality ones for a tour. The $1 kind will flop around after a couple weeks. A name brand like Foster Grant will have spring-loaded hinges that last, and can still be found at a discount store for $3.  Bifocal sunglasses, sunglasses with a small reading lens built in when you look down, are super handy,  as it’s a pain to change glasses while on the bike.
  • Do a shakeout ride before the actual tour. Had I done this, I would have avoided two flats and having my gear fly off the rack.
  • Waterproof panniers may be inconvenient to roll up during dry weather, but more than compensate for it during wet weather. Totally worth it.
  • When the first big drops of rain fall, that’s the time to make sure all the electronics are in ziploc bags, and the front pack is zipped up.
  • Think about each thing that you’re bringing, what the impact would be if you lost it, and what you could do to recover. For many, their phone is their camera, gps, blogging device, and most importantly, their lifeline in dire emergency. If you have an Android phone, turn on location services. That way, if you ever lose your phone, you can track it from any browser by logging in to Google. And by the way, turn off two factor authentication on Google, so you’ll be able to log in if your phone is lost. The process for an iPhone is similar. The important thing is to do a test run before your trip. Ask a friend to take your phone to an undisclosed location, then try to log in on another friend’s computer to try to locate your phone. It’s also a good idea to put a sticker on your phone with your email address (or partner’s phone number, if traveling together), so that someone can contact you if they find your phone.
  • Google Bicycle Directions need a lot of work. Use them only as a last resort, or to go long distances to a general area. They are terrible in cities. Not once did I have a fault-free route.
  • As much as possible, avoid riding at dusk or night.  This was not a new learning from this tour, but when friends have had trouble, it was often because of darkness.  Especially watch out for happy hour, and Friday and Saturday nights.
  • Make backups of important data and documents.  I’m glad that I wrote down some things, because my cylcometer got waterlogged a few times, or jarred loose by road bumps.  I’m glad that I didn’t rely on the camera’s SD card as my sole repository for pictures and video.  Back up to the cloud, or storage that you carry with you.
  • At some times, there will be no electronic connectivity.  No power outlets, no internet, no cell signal.  Just be aware.
  • Where there is internet, there is generally wi-fi.  Don’t bother bringing an ethernet cable or phone modem.
  • Most people don’t mind having their picture taken.  Just ask.
  • There is no film cost to digital pictures.  Take a lot, even of ordinary neighborhoods or humdrum scenery.  Later, there may be interesting details that you missed the first time, like all the traffic lights in Texas being horizontal.
  • Respect local traditions and opinions.  Pretty simple, but crucial.  If folks are addressing each other with “sir” and “ma’am,” then do the same.  And don’t tell them they’re doing something wrong or bad.  Basically, don’t be a dick.
  • In the time of greatest hardship, try to remember to stop and take a picture or video (if it’s safe). I regret not having a picture of the brush I had to walk through in the swamp preserve in Florida. It was taller than me.
  • This trip through the South confirmed to me that underneath, we are all far more alike than different.  Except for that one time I wandered into a high-end restaurant at the Indigo, at no time on this trip did I feel out-of-place.  Not among the folks at a resort.  Not in the neighborhood around a very cheap motel.  Not with homeless people, who were often fellow travelers.  Not at a predominantly black church.  Not at a predominantly white church.  Not at a conservative Southern Baptist church, nor Roman Catholic, nor a liberal Episcopalian.  Not with folks who thought Trump was a “man-baby;” not with folks who thought, Finally, someone who speaks exactly what he is thinking.  People are basically good, and will extend astounding kindness.

I will let Mike, the Singing Cyclist, close us out with this. Take good care, my dear friends.

– Roderick.

  1. Thank you for letting me follow you on your adventure, kind of odd but I was in Top of the World yesterday where I met you. If you don’t mind I’ll have some questions later for you?

    1. Hi, Scott! Sorry for the slow response. I’m shaking off the last bits of the food poisoning, as well as getting settled back into the home routine. I’ll be here, or on my email, both of which you have. Thanks for being such a faithful follower!

    2. You answered some of my questions in your last paragraph, I never believed we are as judgmental or different as is seen in the media , that’s good to hear.
      I believe you said you did this trip 30 years ago could you tell me what has changed good or bad and what hasn’t in 30 years?

      1. In 1988, the crossing was the standard Transamerica route, which started from Oregon in my case, went across into Montana, down into Colorado, then across to Virginia. So it never touched the South, not really. And in 2010, we did half of the Northern Tier. Both those trips are documented in links in the sidebar. Since the trip 29 years ago was in a different region, it may not be a fair comparison, but I’ll try to highlight some things. Warning, I’m a verbose person.

        Technology was different. Effectively, there was no such thing as a laptop computer, GPS, cell phone or internet. I know that these things existed in some form, but not at a price point for a consumer. So journaling was strictly by pen in a notebook. Maps were paper only. Contact with home was by a short land line call once a week at a prearranged time. Actually, most communication was one-way, by postcard. Photography was by 35mm point-and-shoot camera. None of the film was developed until I got home, and each picture had a cost, unlike today’s digital cameras. So I was shooting blind, and needless to say, there were few selfies.

        I remember a lot less homeless and unemployed. It was rare to see a young person dreading being unable to find a job and survive. Personally, I took 3 months off my full time job, and was not fearful of my job not being there when I returned. And if it wasn’t, I wasn’t concerned that I couldn’t find another almost immediately. Some stores in small towns were vacant then, but nothing like I saw on this trip.

        People randomly invited me into their homes in 1988, every few days. They were eager to welcome a traveler and hear about the road. In 2017, only one person (Mandy) made such an invitation, although many were helpful or hospitable in other ways. In 1988, not one person offered me money. This year, I got a lot of that.

        30 years ago, I would regularly meet unsupervised children in small towns. 7 years ago, I think we met one. This year, zero.

        I met far fewer cyclists on this tour, but that could just be due to the time of year, not a national trend. Of those I met, a lot more seemed to be traveling solo than 30 years ago. It could simply be that only the rugged individualists ride the Southern Tier at the unconventional time of summer.

        On the 88 tour, I met trail angels, but was never rescued from anything. There was extreme weather 30 years ago, like this year, but no one offered to bail me out of the rain or hail.

        I ran out of water once in ’88, but actually still had 16 oz left in my pannier. Other than that, two water bottles were plenty. On the ’17 trip, I effectively had 4 water bottles (3 on the bike, 1 in front bag), PLUS a reserve jug in the panniers. Twice I ran out of water, with one of those times being serious (just before San Miguel).

        Services were less available on the ’17 trip. The Southern Tier passes through many small towns which probably had a general store or functional motel at one time, but were now semi-ghost towns with empty storefronts and a few houses.

        The roads were generally worse on the current trip than 30 years ago. Whether this is just the region, or a generally declining national trend, I can’t say.

        30 years ago, it seemed that I met a lot of younger people (of course, I was younger, myself). But in small towns, even the hot girls would come by and strike up a conversation if I was sitting on a bench. And no, I was not particularly handsome or muscular or wealthy-looking. On this year’s trip, I was usually the initiator of a conversation. Most younger people seemed to be glued to their phones everywhere, and not open to conversation. Speaking with older people was a constant, still easy.

        On none of these trips did I carry a lock for my bike. Outright theft just didn’t seem to be an issue. Of course, a loaded touring bike is not an easy target. A thief would have to untangle the helmet on the top tube, then pedal away slowly on a heavily loaded bike. Also, the bike could belong to a homeless person, who would fight to the death to keep it.

        30 years ago, there was some novelty in being a visitor from another place. I could tell them what foods we ate at home, or what work was like. Today, due to the internet, most people have seen it all. Not much new to learn from an outsider. And the country is more cosmopolitan. In ’88, I was restricted to local foods, even in big cities. In ’17, I can get Ethiopian KitFo or Korean BiBimBap in Jacksonville, FL, no problem.

        It’s easier to find and get products today. In ’88, I had to go several days on tearing tires because I couldn’t find a bike shop with 700mm ones, and the locals that I asked didn’t know, either. Today, if I ran into that, I could find the nearest place on the internet, and even have it shipped express to my motel if I wanted.

        On the first trip, I carried traveler’s checks, a regular checkbook, cash, a debit card, and an ATM card from the relatively new First Interstate Bank. The latter let me draw money out of any bank’s linked ATM free (banks had not yet added foreign ATM withdrawal fees). The debit card was only good for paying for motels, and perhaps fancy restaurants. Almost everything else, I paid cash for. The concept of getting cash back from a debit card purchase didn’t exist, yet. On the second trip, I took only a debit/ATM card, and credit card, using the debit to replenish cash as needed. I used cash for small purchases. All motels took credit. On the third trip, I again took only a credit and debit/ATM card, but the difference was that all the stores seemed to take credit cards, no matter how small the purchase was. Strangely, on the 2017 trip, there were a few motels that would only take cash. Perhaps that was a regional thing. I’m sure that on all the trips, had I gone to classier acommodations, credit would not have been a problem, but I looked for the cheapest lodging around.

        1. I suppose region and time of year could have a large effect on some observations . Some interesting differences in 30 years, technology sounds like its a blessing and in some ways not so good, in some ways 30 years ago sounds better than today. I think you have a fascinating story , I like your perspective on what you see it seems clear . Thanks for the reply .

          1. It occurred to me just now that the reason people don’t run out to offer lodging anymore is that we have things like , for those who would like to host guests. In ’88, other than knowing someone through the human network, the only way to find guests was to approach them when you saw them.

        2. LOVE your blog and commentary on what was the same and different 30 years ago. Most interesting sociologically was the number of unsupervised children you met or saw 30 years ago versus this year! As well as the social interactions issue of people being on their cell phones and technology making people less interested in talking to a visitor. If you don’t mind, I would love to be able to share some of your blog observations with my students and ask their opinions on your observations. Both good and bad!

        3. Another thing I noticed was that small towns before usually had a general store, which was sometimes the gas station. This time around, it was either the gas station, or usually a chain store like Family Dollar or Dollar General. And the store might not be right in the center of town, but at the edge. And there were a LOT more Wal-Marts on this trip.

  2. I think your stats are incorrect with respect to the # of times you fell off of your bike. Weren’t you hit by a car in the South Bay? Anyway, thanks for giving me something to read every morning at work.

    1. I wouldn’t go to any of these places just for the food. Most of the things I found in the region could be found in the San Francisco bay area, if not Honolulu, although they would cost more.

      The precious part of the experience is sitting at the counter in a diner, or at a table in a small town restaurant, and talking with the locals. Get the special, which is usually something plus 2 or 3 side dishes for a good price. I found that people in the Louisiana / Mississippi / Alabama area like to trap wild pigs just like Pastor Gary, and use similar traps, except baited with corn instead of mango. They also dig a pit to cook it, but cook the pig above ground rather than burying it. My guess is that wood is so abundant in the area that it was never worth the effort to cook efficiently in an imu.

  3. Additional piece of equipment that broke: cyclometer. I left the bracket on the bike and the sensor wire snapped in shipping. I had gotten it at a flea market years ago for $1, anyway.

  4. Additional info: just got a fraud alert. Someone lifted my debit card number and PIN, likely in Jacksonville. I rarely used the card – the only places were to get cash, at Chase Bank (not in Florida), or Wal-Mart. It seems likely that someone photographed the card and PIN over my shoulder at the self-checkout. The person made a dollar purchase at a gas station, probably to see if the card worked, then multiple times tried to draw out $300 cash (and was declined). The locations were in towns around Florida, and I had already flown out of Florida by then.

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