I must be insane! The same thoughts have kept popping up into my head about my upcoming trip ever since I planned it roughly six weeks ago. I am so conflicted. On one hand, what I am doing is significantly outside the realm of what “normal people do”. On the other hand, compared to most long-distance cyclists, my plan is actually rather tame.
My upcoming trip involves cycling (or attempting to, we’ll see how it goes) 600 miles over the course of six days, starting at Niagara Falls, New York, and ending on the East Coast at Portland, Maine. I am actually joining my friend Clay for half of his 1250 mile journey, which he started in Chicago. So, while I am taking this cycling thing to a whole new level, I can’t help but think about the fact that there are plenty who do trips that are way more elaborate than mine.
This map represents an approximation of the route that I will be taking. There are a few things that are still up in the air, and we may improvise a bit. But we are certainly planning to head northeast through the Adirondack Mountains as opposed to taking the most direct route through Saratoga Springs. It will add a few miles to the trip, but we will get to see places like Old Forge, Saranac Lake, and Lake Placid.
Last year, I joined my friend for one of his journeys, but chose a much shorter segment, from Bozeman, MT to Jackson, WY. This 230 mile bike ride took me through Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park, and at this point is still the longest and most exhausting bike ride I have ever done.
This year, I took on a much longer ride for reasons that are somewhat personal. I grew up on Long Island, just outside of New York City. However, I moved away when I was only eleven years old. Still, at face value, it always seems odd to people when they hear that I am from New York and have never been to Niagra Falls, as well as countless other places in the region. In fact, there are nine states I have never been to, and Vermont is one of them. In about a week’s time, my number of remaining states to visit will be down to eight!
I can’t fault myself for having not been to these places. After all, it takes many people until nearly the age of eleven to start developing an individual identity, and for many it takes even longer to develop an appreciation for travel to places of natural beauty. I remember taking the ferry from Orient Point on Long Island to New London, Connecticut several times as a child. While I remember the smell of the salt water, I do not remember appreciating the scenic coastal town in front of me.
After months of what still doesn’t feel like enough training, I am ready to take on the longest bike ride of my life, and see many of the places I “should have” seen as a “New Yorker”.
I feel anxious. Will I make it? Did I train enough? Will it rain? Will it get windy? Will some other hazard emerge? Or, will the lower elevation and relatively easier terrain (for the first half of the ride along the Erie Canal) make it feel easier than my normal cycling around Colorado’s Front Range?
Whenever I plan to do something major like this, there is also always this tug of war that goes on inside my head. Maybe this is normal. I don’t know. On the surface, I understand what it means to go outside of one’s comfort zone, and do something unique. There is a greater risk and a greater reward than sticking to activities that are easy and familiar.
Sometimes, particularly when doing something major, a part of me gets this nagging feeling of guilt inside my head, like I am skipping out on some kind of responsibility. It’s strange, and I don’t know why it occurs. In a way, it bums me out that this feeling occurs at all. I know that life was meant to be lived, and the world was meant to be explored. Yet, in the back of my mind this feeling just occurs, making me feel like I should be doing something boring, like work, or house cleaning.
I wonder if others get that feeling too. I wonder if we’ve been conditioned in some way to feel guilty about taking extended periods of time to do something for ourselves. I’m glad I’ve learned to work through this feeling, preventing it from costing me countless opportunities over the years. Still it would be nice to silence it altogether.
Sometimes we need to push ourselves, or be pushed, to truly figure out who we are. Perhaps this requires the right level of insanity. Last weekend, I attended two weddings, one in Breckenridge, CO, and one in Chicago, IL. They were on back-to-back days. This is, in some ways insane. Yet, I did not do anything out of control, that could land me in jail or on a hospital bed. Perhaps I have already found this proper level of insane!