Sunday, May 19, 2013

1 year later

1 year later

I am now running a little bike shop right off the  (transam) route in Draper Virginia.  The Junction at the Draper Mercantile, hadn't opened when Abi, Micheal and I rolled through my hometown of Pulaski County.  

It was through a cyclist touring the U.S. by bike named Moon that I became aware of the Junction much later. Though he got a late, start his determination was clear.  I rode with him one sunny October day to Draper where I poked my head into the doors of the Junction.  The rest has worked out magically. 

I have been able to help out a number of wonderful folks on the trail already and am loving every minute of it.  Well maybe there are a few minutes that I wish I was out there.... but then I realize I am exactly where I need to be.  Helping visiting cyclists in the mountains I'm proud to call home. 

The TranSlam opened my eyes to the impact that a simple-simple-simple act of kindness could do for the heart.


Sunday, November 11, 2012

71- The final 25 miles..... Only four months later

So I haven't been able to bring myself to write about the last day of my trip, perhaps its because it means it's actually over (Unlikely, I make each day a adventure you know) or it's the fact that I have to now have to try to voice what the trip meant to me.... Or even tougher, to wrap my head around what I learned from the coast to coast ride. Until now.....

Well here it goes.  I woke up in Seaside after a restful nights sleep at Neil's house. I showered in the guest bathroom which smelled of incense and bathroom cleaner. The guest room that Abi and I stayed in was his daughter's old room, complete with old fliers from high school events still pinned on the cork board.

Neil was a wonderful wonderful host, as adventurer himself, he always has a story to share about a trip, or a sight or sound he remembered. My favorite story he told us was a hilarious coffee horror story. He attempted to order a cup of Folgers coffee in India and ended up with a cup of hot coffee grinds. He showed the man how he wanted his coffee by preparing a liquid form, with one or two scoops of grinds rather than a whole cup full. The man took a drink of Neil's creation and immediately dumped it out, immediately handing him another cup of moist grounds.  Neil reluctantly took it and drank/chewed his cup of "coffee."  He said he was radiating for the rest of the day from the caffeine. Neil's laughter and the ways his eyes lit up made the story so very memorable.

Neil, you rock!

Oh yeah, the last day... well I packed my panniers for one last time.  Rolled up my tent, which I hung up in his garage to dry over night. I couldn't help to think with each thing I put away, "this is the last time i'm going to use this on this trip."
 Jolly was loaded and I was all suited up for the last day of riding.  Neil was packing for a trip of his own. He had his backpack loaded in the trunk of his Suzuki, and was gathering his bike gear as Abi and I left.

It was a cool and overcast Oregon day.  We rolled silently to the Sea Side beach where we had decided we would take our ceremonial tire dip photos (There was no good place to do the dip in Astoria). The tide was low, as low as it goes.  It felt like we rode a mile on the packed sand until we finally reached the water.  There was a lady going for her morning run with what looked to be be some tiny bread of a lap dog chasing behind her. (I didn't know those little dogs could walk, as most of the people I see with them have them in strollers or in designer dog bags).  We waved her down and asked her if she would take photos for us.  Abi and I laughed afterwords because she probably had no idea how important the photos she took for us were to us. She snapped a quick set of photos with my camera. Then Abi and I took each others photos, standing there with a grin on our faces and thumbs held high. Perhaps the most memorable photos of the trip?

Thumbs up from Team Turtle 

We then made the long trek back to the bike path.  The wet sand made our already heavy bikes heavier.  We stopped and tried to beat and bang the sand off of our wheels, it didn't work... We both rolled along  with the sand grinding and scraping with each revolution of the wheel. I don't know about Abi, but riding past all the people on the path made me feel like a champion, I doubt any of them really knew why two hobos on bikes were smiling so much. We were sooo close!!

We decided on taking the most direct route to Astoria, riding on the shoulder of 101.  Never mind that it was a busy (and now sunny) morning. I stopped and let Abi ride ahead, as I did oh so often along the trip.  We rode along 101 with traffic whizzing by.  We saw touring cyclists riding the other direction that presumably  starting their tours down the Pacific coast. We screamed, hooped hollered and yehawed at the top of our lungs, seeming to be out of our minds i'm sure. We had made the trip to Astoria the day before in Neil's car, So we recognized each landmark and knew exactly how far we had to ride till we reached the end.

The bridge going into Astoria was a experience to say the least. I'm thankful I made it across it alive, man it would have sucked to get squished in the last two miles of the trip. I rode as straight and as attentive as I had the whole trip, the whole time with a steady row of cars and trucks squeezing past.

 And just like that we were there. We had made it to Astoria after biking over 4250+ miles from the Atlantic.  We still had to to find the "official" end of the route, The Astor Column.

Enter the steepest  climb of the trip. No lies, no exaggeration, the road to the top of that stinking hill in Astoria was the steepest chuck of pavement I believe I have ever seen.  I stuck Jolly in the lowest gear she had, slid up on the nose of the saddle and made a mad run at it.  I eventually had to stand off my saddle cranking my loaded bike side to side. Success! Man I love climbing....  Abi made her best run at it but her gear range proved to be too limited to keep making  forward momentum.  She hopped off and pushed her way up.  We rode the twisting road the rest of the way to the Astor Column, all the time with wooden gliders flying over head and the sounds of ooos and aaahhs from people throwing them from high atop the column.

We leaned out bikes against the benches at the base of the column and made out way up the spiral stair case to the top. We climbed with a purpose and with relative ease, though our legs did feel the result of thousands of cycling miles.  The view was amazing, almost too much to take in. The Pacific coast, the trees behind us to the East.  The ocean rolling rhythmically, waves breaking and repeating. We snapped some of the last photos of the trip and eventually (and reluctantly) made our way back down.

At the base of the column Abi received the 9,000th comment on her "devil-goat day" t shirt.  This time the comment came from a Mary Washington Grad, and not a fearful random person who was sure Abi was a devil worshiper. And with that comment- a big big trip, big country, big world made small again.  A Virginia Native and a alumni of the same college Abi has just graduated, talked to Abi about the things she remember from her years there (and the devil goat day of course).

After the Virginia party ended we made our way back on our bikes said goodbye to the Astor Column and to the picture perfect scenery.

ZOOOOOOOOM!!! back down the hill we had just labored up.  We went straight to the bike shop at the base of the hill, where we dropped our bikes off to be packaged and shipped back home. There I found the UPS truck that had my replacement cell phone (as you may recall my old one grew legs and ran away). I said good bye to Jolly, and Abi said bye to the U.S.S. Adventure. We were bike free. we walked first, to a thrift shop to find backpacks to carry some of the stuff we didn't ship with our bikes.  With no suitable backpacks found there, we then went to the JcPennys and found back to school supplies displays,  A harsh moment for Abi I am sure. As her adventure was coming to a end and it was soon going to be back to academia. Well anyways we both bough a snazzy bag.

We stuffed our belongings into our new packpacks and wandered around town.  Turns out with out bikes touring cyclists look, smell, and behave much like homeless people.  We walked slowly to the bus stations were we purchased the passes that would take us to Portland later that day.  Then we found a bench by the ocean to relax on.  As I recall neither Abi nor I had much to say. I think we were both fighting off sadness that it was really over. She napped on the bench as I watched the seagulls fly about and the trolley go dinging past.

It came time to board the bus so we made our way back to the station. The buses came and went and eventually Abi and I were the only ones sitting there. Along came our bus to Portland and we climbed aboard. The bus stopped at every little hole in the wall in between Astoria and Portland to pick up another interesting face. I wondered about all the stories they had to share, but I was too sleepy to bother starting a conversation.

The winding road made the speed of 45 mph in a tour bus feel like a wild ride in a Indy Car.  I was green in the face by the time the we got to Portland.

Abi and I both had our flights scheduled a few days out, so we had time to kill in Portland, (my wonderful Aunt Becky and Uncle Peter were a blessing and purchased my ticket back home, thanks again yall!)  Every other town we stayed in was a little warm and welcoming place that was excited to host two worn out cyclist. Well Portland was not so little not so warm.  Big cities tend to make me a little anxious.... okay, a lot anxious. Pair that with not having eaten much that day I can turn into a bit of a grump.  Well Abi and I wandered around Portland the bike capital of the U.S.... with out our bikes..... after having finished a huge bike tour, grumpy hungry and stressed. Is this how its really going to end?  We struck out on the hostel..... we were turned away into the cool Portland night, "sorry we are full, try a hotel or something"

We hiked across the city looking for a vacant room. Passing restaurants and shops. My hunger building with every step (i was too stubborn and too grumpy to eat).  We eventually found a vacant room at a hotel just outside the conference center. The very first thing we did was order not one, but two Pizza Hut Big Box deals. We ate pizza till we couldn't take another bite and called it a night.

The next morning we woke up with out our bikes for the first time, only two empty pizza boxes on the floor and our new backpacks stuffed with clothes and electronics.  We checked out from our oh so fancy hotel (not so fancy) and made our way towards the trolley stop where we could ride to the airport. The convention center was barricaded off at every corner due to the fact that The President was coming later that day for some uhh Presidential stuff I assume.

Portland ended up being much kinder in the day time. We found our way to the airport, then found the gates where our flights would be boarding  We then  hoped back on the trolley to explore.  My first stop was See See Motorcycles- a shop that is turning out some really cool bikes. Drooooool city. Then we checked out a three story book store, a few record stores, and a  few bike shops.  We hiked across town to the Rose Garden which was ahhhmazing, then to the authentic Japanese garden (also ahhhhmazing).  Portland was very kind, very fun and had lots of cool people. I do believe I will go back there someday soon.

It eventually came time to say goodbye and head back to the airport for my flight back to Virginia.  It was on a crowed train car that Abi and I exchanged a awkward half hug and then we parted ways.

As it turned out I was on the wrong train route but I realized it in time to hop off and get on the correct one.  I found my way to the airport again and got some sushi and waited on my flight.  As most of you know my idea of being on time is being 15 min early.  So my idea of being early is pretty silly. I waited and waited and finally it was time.

There I was 6'4'' Thomas Hash carrying a pannier, faded by the sun, still with a plop of bird poop on it from the first day, wearing a tattered flannel shirt that I stole from my dads closet before the trip, complete with camo crocs boarding the plane....Oh yeah did I forget to mention the giant straw hat that replaced my helmet for the last week of the trip, oh yeah and the handlebar mustache and grungy beard from three months of not shaving. Where was this bearded beauty sitting you may ask?

The first class hobo 

That's right lil ol country boy from Dublin VA, was flying home in style. The fella I sat beside was some Ryan Seacrest looking guy that was talking to his Partner on the phone about his music contract opportunities in Tokyo (not making this up).

Have I mentioned yet that I have never so much as stepped on a airplane prior to thas first class flight back home? I was scared out of my wits.  We took of and I was wondering who would speak at my funeral if the plane was to go down, and I was picking who I would make alliances with if I was lucky enough to survive the crash.  Well I made it through the flight luckily and lived to tell the story.

After a layover in Chicago, a flight delay and gate change I was back on Virginia soil by 10am the next day.

I hadn't slept a bit since Portland and man was I happy to be back on the ground.  My Dad was waiting for me there at the airport in Roanoke, with a smile that I love so much to see.  (Love you Pa!)

And just like that I undid all I had done, back home. Back to the routine. Same sights sounds and people that I had left. To say the first month back was a harsh transition would be a understatement. I couldn't sleep in my own bed anymore, my dog was scared of me (I think it was the silly hat), and I missed my Babigale (whom i had spent every moment with for close to three months.

Over the past few months I have re-acclimated myself back to the "real world" but my routine now includes allot more star gazing, sitting out side and pondering life (along planning with my next adventures).

I have now realized just how much I learned while riding my bike across the United States.

The first is patience, it requires a great deal of patience to travel that slowly. But I learned that though the end goal may not be visible, working towards it in small manageable goals will get you there.

The second thing I learned was the value of simplicity.  Yeah yeah hippy talk I know. But having just what you need and nothing else is a good feeling. The less variables there are, the less there is to go wrong.  A bike a tent and a stove is alright by me. I came up with a way to avoid getting into overly complicated and stressful situations. I call it my KISS method or Keep It Simple Stupid. Try it, it works!!

The third thing I learned is to TYG or trust your gut.  Intuition is a powerful thing that I believe to have helped me quite a bit. Listen to those little feelings that tell you something may not be right, or that are telling you to go for it.

Fourth- (Not sure how many there are going to be) The value of hard work and community.  I had dreams of finding a distant land unlike that which I have ever seen, where I would find happiness like minded people and bikes...lots of bikes. While the scenery was very different all along the way, the communities remained small and the people honest and hard working.  I realized that I wasn't going to find a utopia out there, in fact I found just the opposite.  I found that there is no place quite like home, in my case no place quite like Southwest Virginia.  We have beautiful mountains, which host a plethora of outdoor activities, wonderful people who genuinely care about each other, and opportunities a plenty.  There are hundreds and hundreds of Dublin Virginia's in this world that are driven by people that love their homes and want to do the best to make it welcoming to others.  There is hope after all.

Lastly I learned just how many good people there are. It was truly amazing at the amount of hospitality and geunine kindness I saw from folks that did't know me from Adam. One of those good people joined me for the whole trip. I am thankful to  have met Abi through this trip.  She was a genuine joy to share the trip with and I learned allot from her.  She made for some good laughs, (okay allot of good laughs) and a bunch of great memories. Love yah Abi!! p.s remember when you spewed water all over the table?

Those Vans...

 I know that I will remember this adventure for a long time and I hope that the stories of my trip will be the catalyst for others adventures.

What is stopping you from going after your dreams? Dream, plan, and go for it.  Don't be afraid to pack your bags and roll.


Monday, July 23, 2012

70- Rest and reflection

0 miles from Seaside to Seaside

Hind sight is 20-20. Looking back I'm not sure there is too much I would do differently on this trip. 20 short miles remain between me and the end of this cross country journey by bike. It's early monday morning and my bags are packed, my bike is clean and my plane ticket is waiting.

We took a day off yesterday to enjoy the ocean, prepare for our flights home and kick back a little bit. We took a car trip to Washington State, where we may or mat not have gotten stuck in the sand. Though Neils little suzuki is all wheel drive its ground clearence is not all that. We got pulled out by a big chevy truck, silly silly me.

Yesterday eveneing was spend visiting with Niel and Marcello, we walked downtown for dinner. We sat around and shared tales and we laughed till my belly hurt.  Marcello is a journalist form Italy, who is couchsurfing while writing a few peices about western culture (mainly music).  We then had a nice fire on the beach, took a dip in the Pacific and had a few drinks before calling it a night.

I am rested and ready to ride. Let's go live!

Thomas H

Saturday, July 21, 2012

69- Beach bum in training

50 miles from Tillamook to Seaside

Pacific, pacific. Climb descend, stop to look at the ocean, climb, descend, repeat until you reach sea side. i love the ocean. Who knew?

Abi and I have been talking about Sea Side for the past week.  We met a lady at a campground a while back who has a beach house in Sea Side.  She invited us to stay when we passed through.

Well we got there to find the drive way empty and the blinds shut. Luckily Abi founds a warm showers host in Sea Side who very kindly took us in on very short notice.

Neil (our host) is rad, our clothes are in the drier and I am a very happy Thomas.  20 short miles to go.


68- Hello?

71.232323232 miles from Grand Ronde to Tillamook

The camp ground in Grand Ronde was a interesting experience to say the least. Just as I was getting nice and settled in, juuuust about asleep, in rolls not one but two rv's full of loud.  Who shows up to a campground at 10:30?  They Loud's set up camp, cooked out, yelled screamed laughed and hollered into the wee hours of the morning.  I eventually got to sleep despite the racket.

I woke up to peace and quiet.  A Nice calm cool Oregon morning.  I went to check my phone that I left charging in the rest room. Door open, light on, no phone to be seen.  Bummer squared.

After asking my noisy neighbors, talking to the park managers and checking the bathroom about 15 times I pedaled west free of the technology that most of us are so dependent on.  Luckily for me I have taken the majority of my photos on a acctual camera and not my phone.

Phone you were a good one, i hope your new thieving owner treats you well.


Oh my beautiful ocean!! Abi and I stopped the at the first beach sign we saw and slowly walked through the sand to the big blue. It was a amazing to stand looking at the ocean that we just rode across the US to get to.  That being said, we still had 50 more miles to ride that day.  It was all I could do to get back on my bike.  But after all winners never quit and such.  So we rode on.

We reluctantly camped at the RV ground in Tillamook, this one was much quieter and i had no phone to get stolen. So two thumbs uP :)

A very phone free,

Thursday, July 19, 2012

67- Does this hat make by butt look fat?

82 miles from Coburg to Grand Ronde

Remember how I said Oregon is the Virginia of the west? Well todays ride proved that statement true yet again. I was having a hard time comprehending I wasn't out on a ride back home.

That being said, of course it is beautiful... it looks like VA!! The mountains have a nice blue color again. The freshly mown fields rolled out of sight and the smell of hay took me right back to Hedge Lane.

We are on the last map, with only a 150 miles till the end. Wow.

Abi picked me up a straw hat at the truck stop in Coburg this morning. It is truely a wonderful hat. Thanks Abi!

Im having a blast. There is a certain energy that I haven't felt since the first week. Pretty cool feeling.

Also we have started getting props for riding across the country. I was told by couple from Tenessee that I should be very proud of my accomplishment. And we even got our first high five from a fellow cylist. You have no idea how glorious that high five felt.


66- Cascade Classic

83 miles from McKenzie Pass to Coburg

We have the best timing ever. We just so happened to be going down the pass when..wait for it.. the Cascade Cycling Classic was racing up it. We got a great perspective on just how slow we are. We also realized it is very tough to come up with things to yell at the racers who are not the leaders... Go faster!! Uhh no thats not it. Great job!!! They know its not true.. Uhhh Keep it up?? nope.

Also people make nasty noises while riding. If there is only two riders its not too bad. A pack of 70 riders sounds like.. Well its not a pretty sound. Lots of snorting and hacking. Eww

The rest of the ride was very pleasant. We met a few friendly east bounders and had nice chats with them. 

Oregon is def the Virginia of the west. I don't dislike it.