Seattle to San Francisco 1987

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Holding up the map of our 1200 mile journey at the edge of the Golden Gate Bridge.

This post is #2 in the series – My History with Bicycles

With my first tour under my belt & my new-found focus and success in school, for the summer of 1987, I requested Rome to Paris Cycling again .

Denied.

So, I opted for Seattle to San Francisco Cycling.

The program was a 6-week tour. We rode 1200 miles in those six weeks. We spent our first few days on the San Juan Islands getting to know each other & practicing riding as a group. We also did a ropes course, went on a white water rafting trip,  &spent our last few days in San Francisco.

The first trip taught me about the nuts and bolts of how to tour by bicycle and live in a group on the road. The Seattle to San Francisco trip introduced me to a whole new world – the Pacific Northwest. A landscape and a place that became the stuff of my “escape where I am from” dreams.

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The Oregon Coast

As a teenager, I was pretty sure I was living within the 7 circles of hell (one of them being the beltway). Later on in my life, I did manage to gather escape velocity and I moved to Oregon via bicycle. Not a coincidence.

These trips shaped my life in so many ways. Having been an educator, myself, I know that it is easy to wonder whether the kids are getting anything from your efforts. Some age groups are more gifted at inspiring these kinds of doubts in well-meaning teacher types.

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The Redwoods

I want all of the leaders of these bike trips to know that I was affected deeply by these journeys and your efforts to get me to connect to the land, to appreciate a different pace of travel, to teach me about bike mechanics & camping skills,to learn about finding ways to express myself with more virtuosity – they all worked on me & set the course of the trajectory of so many of my life choices (the best of them).

So, how do I remember all of this stuff? Mostly, because I wrote a lot of it down. I have been an avid journal keeper since I was 14. I have shelves and shelves of notebooks filled with the messy record of my thoughts, miles traveled, sights seen, boys loved and recounts of my dreams( both the ones during sleep & aspirational ones).

My basic format for bike trip journals became writing about how many miles we rode, descriptions of the terrain and what we ate. When you expend the energy required to move a full loaded touring bike, food is on your mind A LOT.

The more 15-year-old aspect of my journal writing was a disappointing focus on boys. The one from home, wondering if he would write, did he miss me? did I miss him? And then slowly the focus shifting into the present moment. As in, the boys on the trip.

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Early Morning Riding Team

So as it turns out, from Seattle to San Francisco, I got to be someone’s first girlfriend. It was a sweet romance of racing our bikes on the coastal highways, peering in the tidal pools of the Oregon Coast & running in the sand, hanging out in cheesy seaside resort towns, getting our ears pierced & being a part of a temporary tribe of bikers that lovely summer.

A poignant memory recorded in my journal was when we rode over the hill and could see the golden gate bridge. It was overwhelming, I remembered I cried from a mix of excitement and sadness of knowing that this new world of the bike trip life was coming to a close.

This trip solidified some values that I still hold, it is important to communicate clearly within groups that we call our community, nature is something to be cherished, appreciated and is worth fighting for. This is true about people,too. That biking makes me feel happy, powerful and free.

A slightly more serious version of me biking down the west coast - summer 1987.

Now I seem to be a “serious” cyclist – summer 1987.

I hope to be getting back to it soon. My 15-year-old self wants you to know that I am sighing deeply with the pain of not being able to get on my bike but, I am feeling warmed by the memories of my sweet biking days.

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My History with Bicycles

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This is the first post in a series.

It all started when I was 14. One day, my mom handed me a catalog of adventure travel for teens and told me to have a look and see if I was interested in any of the trips.

Given the poor choices I had made that school year, I was surprised she was making such an offer. Perhaps, she was looking for a little break from my eye rolling and heavy sighing. Whatever her motivation and whether or not she knew it at the time, her choice to show me that catalog led to an experience that l believe saved my life.

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I browsed through the catalog. Most of the trips included traveling in a van with other teens and participating in activities like kayaking, backpacking, rock-climbing, minstrel theater…and then something caught my eye.

“ROME TO PARIS CYCLING”

Ooh. la. la.

“This one, Mom!”

“No.”

A little disappointed, but not surprised by her response,I accepted her suggestion to choose something closer to home. I thumbed through the catalog again and found a 4-week cycling trip from Vermont to Connecticut.

She signed me up.

The trip was a self-supported cycling tour, which meant no support van and all the gear had to be carried in panniers on our bicycles.

To prepare for this wholly new experience, our next stop was Metropolis Bikes in DC where we picked out my Nishiki, a sturdy touring bike ready to carry the 40 pounds of gear I would strap to front and rear racks.

I arrived at the airport in Burlington,Vermont to meet with the group which included kids from all over the US. The group consisted of  nine 14-year olds and two counselors in their mid-twenties. We made fast friends. The photo below is my favorite because we look so happy. It was the message of the sign that brought us so much joy after a long climb.

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We rode from Grand Isle, Vermont to Hartford, Connecticut.We averaged around 30 miles/ day zigzagging across New England. We saw the New England country side from the seat of our bicycles.

We learned how to work together to move on the road safely and keep the group together. We learned how to set up our campsite and shop for and cook our meals on a camp stove. We learned how to change flat tires as they happened. It wasn’t always easy but it was exhilarating and we were in it together.

Saved my life? I know that sounds extreme. But, I really don’t think it is overstating the fact that my first¬†bicycle tour woke me up in every way that I needed to be woken up.

Before the summer of 1986, I was that kid whose parents were called into to discuss how I wasn’t living up to my potential. I actually had a competition with the boy I sat next to in Ms. Bartlett’s freshman English class as to who could turn in the least amount of homework.

After cycling 700 miles carrying my own gear, I was energized and felt a sense of myself that I had lost somewhere in those years of hormone poisoning. I made the honor roll, ran cross-country and track and began to contemplate my life’s purpose.

It changed everything & I found a new love, bicycle travel. Between 1986-1999, I went on 8 self-supported bike trips totaling over 10,000 miles.

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The YUBBIES say goodbye-circa 1986