Even at the time I knew I was engaged in a transformative experience. I had never (before or since) done anything so large by myself; and when you’re on a solo bike tour you’re really by yourself. As in: you generate your own power. You speak fifty words all day. And you have to save your own ass. (Especially if you don’t have a cel phone, as I didn’t at the time.)
I had never before ridden my bike 50 miles in one day. So almost every day I was taking the longest bike ride of my life. This was no kind of physical feat at all. I basically trained as I went: every day a few more miles, a little faster, a little more oblivious to weather and traffic. I think back on the mild conditions I endured (only two days of very light rain), and I realize I do more (and harder) riding in worse weather almost daily now.
Also: the State of Oregon goes out of its way to make this bike ride easy. You can download really comprehensive maps, updated now every year it seems (at the time I was using a map from the mid-90s); the route is pretty thoroughly signed; and cyclists have guaranteed camping spots at State campgrounds (with hot showers!) for about $6/night. I would have no reservations about doing this with my family in tow, although it would take a lot longer than six days.
I also knew at the time my life had reached an inflection point. I was unemployed and in the middle of a divorce. Both of those things were pretty much my own damn fault. I had a lot to think about.
As a thirty-year-old I didn’t perceive my life in decades. At that point my entire “adult” life (roughly: the period when I mostly paid my own rent) was less than one decade old. 1992 wasn’t just ten years away, it was half a life away. In the previous ten years:
- I found an academic subject that actually interested me (anthropology)
- My parents moved to San Francisco, my first real experience with a Big City (and commercial airplanes, and pickpockets, and travelling alone…)
- I graduated college
- I moved to Oregon
- I did all of grad school
- I had a couple years in which I grossed more than $10,000
- I lived in Southern California
- I changed careers to web design
- I paid off all my debt
- I got married
- I got my first dog
- I got divorced.
As a forty-year-old “decades” is kind of becoming my default unit of measurement. More and bigger things — in fact most of the Really Good Things in my life — have happened to me since 2002. Like:
- Getting hired at Curiosity (the first job I was really good at)
- Meeting Jenny
- Putting my first dog to sleep
- Buying my first car worth more than $2000
- Getting my first puppy
- Freelancing — and making enough to support two people
- Getting married and not feeling like “ohGod ohGod how do I get out of this”
- Living in China
- Landing the best job I’ve ever had
- Buying a house
- Selling a house
- Making brand new people
But in a lot of ways, that one week ten years ago will always be the “halfway” point of my life. I had just started climbing out of a deep, ugly hole. I had a lot of personal growth ahead of me, but a certain template for my personality was set by May 6, 2002. This week was, for me, like the first fifteen minutes of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. It was the brief period when (metaphorically speaking) I acquired my bullwhip, battered fedora, and fear of snakes. After that week I had become The Kind of Guy Who Likes Riding a Bike 400 Miles, Sleeping on the Ground, and Eating Mostly Pancakes.