We can now say we’ll remember where we were when we crossed the 1,000 mile point. Although at the time we didn’t know it.
“This is our first ferry ride!” Michelle exclaimed as we took the ferry across the Green River. It goes a total of 30 feet at about 3 miles an hour (it’s still fun going across, despite how short it is), but it was our first one! I was enjoying it. What I didn’t know however, was at that exact moment, we were crossing the 1,000 mile point in our journey! Yep, it actually worked out that we were on a short-but-sweet ferry crossing a river in Kentucky as we crossed our first big milestone.
So what can I say about our first 1,000 miles? Our first G? Our first K? Our first thow. Ooh, I like that. Thow it is from now on. I’m not going to use “thou” because everyone will keep reading it wrong and think I’m being way too proper/biblical, and we wouldn’t want that, would we? Anyway, back to our first thow.
It took us 48 days, one and a half states, and several hundred liters of water. If you’re good at math, you’ll see that 1,000 miles divided by 50 days is an average of 20 miles a day. Did you guess correctly? Good, I knew you could.
The first thow have completely surpassed our expectations in every way. We never thought we’d learn how to play a flute. We never thought we’d meet a person from Norway and a person from the Netherlands in the same week. We certainly did not think we’d get kicked out of a hostel for carrying a six pack of beer on the property. Smashing that six pack on the ground while everyone was sleeping? Yes. Just holding the unopened beer in the yard? No.
We’ve gotten to fly kites, float down a river on kayaks, mix hops into a beer fermenter, torch off screws on a coal truck, feed stray animals, sleep under a huge Osage Orange tree, taste 18 year old bourbon, and we even got to help clean a cave!
We have been taken in by people who love bikers, people who overheard our story and just wanted to help, people on warmshowers.org, by churches designed specifically for TransAm cyclists, and we even got to spend a day with Tessa and her mom Vicky at their farm in Bristol, Tennessee. We had some sweet tea and heard about what Tessa was like growing up, and got a first-hand tour of this artist’s playground.
Some of our favorite quotes from the first thow:
“I thought I would like it, but I just fuckin’ DON’T.” Denim, a hiker on the Appalachian Trail you can read about here., said when he was talking about hiking the Appalachian Trail.
“Did I pass you on Tacoma Lake drive, like yesterday?” Our waiter at Longbranch Vegetarian Cafe in Carbondale, Illinois, incredulous that we had biked in from that particular road.
“I’ve wrecked a truck forward, backward, and sideways. That’s about the only you can wreck ‘em, right?” David Ramey, an Elkhorn City Mechanic you can read about here.
“I peed on a midget once for ten dollars.” Tessa, a waitress at the WhistlePig Bistro said. Neither of us caught the context, but I don’t think there was one. I think she just said it.
The following is an exchange two cavers from the National Speleological Society had while we were following them back to the cave entrance:
John: “Can we go now?”
Steve: “No John, we’re waiting until we see the last Ranger come through.”
John: (5 seconds later)”Okay, we can go now.”
Steve: (sternly) “John, we aren’t going until we see the last Ranger.”
John: (5 seconds later)”There’s the last Ranger, can we go now?”
Steve: “No John, that’s a guy with a baby.”
“Do you guys have a gun? I wouldn’t be out there without a gun. If you need any protection, I’ve got all the protection you need with me in the house, so just knock if you have any problems.” Random guy near the Lincoln House in Kentucky who told us to pitch our tent behind his neighbor’s shed.
“You’re from DC, huh? …You democrats?” This was the same guy as above.
And as always, with the good comes with the bad. Don’t you remember the “Facts of Life” theme song? “You take the good, you take the bad, you put them together and what do you have?” Anyone? You in the back? That’s right, it’s the facts of life.
We have also popped a tire, gotten stung by bees THREE times (twice in one day), left a perfectly good solar charger and ipod charging cord sitting outside a post office and then forgot about them, had bugs fly directly into our open eyes when flying down a hill, experienced a 112-degree heat index, gotten rained on, slept on concrete while there is a monstrous thunderstorm ripping through our camp, found spiders the size of our hands inside our shoes, panniers, and helmets, and we have the absolute WORST farmer’s tans you can possibly have.
As we biked our way west across Virginia and Kentucky, we’ve gotten every type of reaction. We’ve gotten oohs, ahhs, hmmms and hawws. We’ve gotten puzzled expressions, pure excitement, immediate inquiries and middle fingers. The last one was particularly funny.
People have said “wow, that sounds so amazing!” and they have also said “I could NEVER do that.” People have also asked “how do you get off work for that?” or “what are you going to do when you’re done?” Then we laugh and tell them that we’re unemployed and that we have no idea what we’re going to do when we’re done. A particularly interesting question we got was “not to be too forward, but how’s your crotch?” This was 30 seconds into the conversation.
None of it bothered us though, because it’s too fun to talk to people who are genuinely interested/flabbergasted/bothered by what we’re doing. The best part of our trip by far is meeting people who want to know about what we’re doing. It’s entertaining to tell people what we’re doing and watch their reactions. We’ve come to expect knee-jerk reactions from people, and are surprised when people just shrug and say “cool” and walk away.
On top of experiencing things for the first time and meeting all sorts of people, we have learned a lot about America, bicycling, and ourselves. We are having fun and being entertained while at the SAME TIME we are learning.
By the way, people LOVE talking about themselves or their town, so maybe think about that next time you breeze through a town you wouldn’t normally think twice about. If you need directions, need a place to stay, need a piece of clothing sewed–anything, most people are happy to help and can point you in the right direction. They are happy to help and ask nothing in return! It’s like hot-ice! The best of both worlds!
Hopefully, these things are only the tip of the iceberg front bumper of the Chevy El Camino (kinda works, right?) America ByCycle has been everything that we have wanted and more so far. We are hoping that we can continue to provide content to the website, while at the same time experiencing this country for ourselves and with others. It has been an absolute blast putting it all together for you guys, and we hope to keep it coming as often as we can. Thanks for keeping up with us, and thanks for any of your help if you’ve given it to us along the way.
So here’s to another 3,000+ miles for America ByCycle! Pura Vida!
Michelle and Ryan