When I first thought of doing this cross country bicycle trek it was meant as a way to discover myself and begin a new chapter in my life. As such I was very receptive to relocating or staying someplace for a short time. I had no real plans on this trip. Anything went.
As I look back now a couple of things served as a catalyst for taking this journey:
1. The accidental death of my father in late 1994 while he was riding his bicycle.
2. A breakup with my girlfriend of seven years a few months before my dad's accident.
3. I was not married or had children yet so I was free from any responsibilities.
4. Although I was only 33 at the time, I felt as though time was quickly passing by and that I still hadn't lived life.
During the trip I never used any of the Adventure Bicycling maps as I simply made up the route in the morning before I left or the night before. In fact, I've always loved getting lost on purpose and tell everyone that's it's impossible to get so lost that you can never find your way back home.
As I bicycled from state to state one question kept popping up from the various people I met and it was, "Aren't you bored riding by yourself?" My response would be something along the lines of absolutely not, I'm talking to you and there are so many things to see, hear and smell along the way. Things that you could never do if you went by car. Unlike a car, I could pull over anywhere and check out the sites, relax... I would even moo at the cows as I passed...
Me, the shyest guy in the world was talking to people everyday and enjoying it! This was a liberating trip to say the least. Everyday after I had finished a long leg of the journey all I could think, was of how worthy I am.
Enough of that. So what happened to me and the rest of the trip? I loved Chicago so much that I decided to stay for a year. I felt invincible and I knew I could make a go of it. I already had made friends here and people in Chicago were so friendly. In the grand scheme of things a year is not much time and I knew if it didn't work out that it wouldn't be that long.
Once I made the decision to stay I was able to get a job and an apartment within a few days. I then went back home and arranged to have my belongings that were in storage brought over. I had found a beautiful large studio/convertible apartment on the 24th floor in the Printer's Row section of Chicago just south of the Loop for only $720.00 a month. A complete bargain compared to New York or New Jersey rents. The apartment had a 24 hour doorman, indoor pool and fitness room, which I never used :-(
I reconnected with Greg who I had met the first day I arrived and we did plenty of bike rides during my stay. In fact Greg and his wife Ellen were so kind to invite me to their home for Thanksgiving as it was the first time I had ever been away from family during that holiday. Although he now lives in Washington state and I in Maryland we still get together and ride. We did Seattle to Vancouver, BC in 1999 and Bike Virginia in 2004 and hope to do many more as time allows. Greg is now the president of the Skagit Bicycle Club.
Meanwhile my friend Doug lived around the corner from me and we would routinely get together with groups of his friends so I was always in good company.
After the year was up I decided to return to Jersey where I remained for a few years until my move to Maryland in 2001 to be with my current girlfriend.
That bicycle trip, which lasted only three weeks back in 1997 has forever changed my life as it allowed me to reach my full potential and discover the real me.
Thanks for stopping by to read my story. I hope that it encourages you to go out on your own and discover what the world has to offer. Seriously, don't even give it a second thought. Just go ahead, live and explore.