AFTER THOUGHTS, by Steve
Well, it has been two full weeks since I arrived at my mom and sister’s house in Apple Valley, California, a large high desert town of roughly 75,000 residents. Apple Valley is immediately adjacent to the towns of Victorville and Hesperia, with a total population for this southern Mojave Desert region probably in excess of 250,000 humans. Depending on where you live, this may seem like a lightly inhabited area, but when compared to the locales that I’ve called home for the past 28 years, this place is huge, overrun with cars, honking horns, sirens, masses of people (many of whom are angry, upset, or depressed), along with all the other trimmings of traditional American high density regions carved out of the convenient status quo. I’m out of my element. I come here only to see family. Then, I escape once again to the magic of distant rural existence.
This page is a place where I intend on discussing things on my mind about the trike trip to get here. I am typing in mama’s dining room on September 28th, as she quietly reads on her sofa. Daily temperatures still hover only 3 degrees shy of triple digits, and the house is 75 degrees Fahrenheit inside at 9:30 AM (windows wide open last night to cool off). These “after thoughts” will appear in no particular order, being typed as they pop into my head … makes things quicker that way, something I enjoy with all the writing I do. It’s more fun too, not having to worry about organization. As I continue to leave the traditional mindset of the masses behind with each passing year, month, and week, it seems apropos to engage the freedom of spontaneous expression more often. I have already spent too much of my life in the box of the ordinary. Part Two is different.
Onward! What am I thinking about the Coast to Cactus Tricycle Expedition? So much that it will never all be written, yet hopefully a scant few of the high points may emerge here. These thoughts are my own. I have invited Glen Aldridge and Gary Bunting, my cohorts on the CCTE, to also write what’s on their minds, and when I receive their material, it will also appear on this website on their own dedicated pages. Without further ado then, and in no particular order, here we go:
This journey began about 5 weeks earlier than my 2009 ride to Death Valley, on August 26 instead of October first. What a difference that made! It was a trade-off, where I had longer days of sunlight, yet the temperatures for pedaling all day long were clearly more of a challenge this early. There was no snow on the CCTE, as there was on the DVTE, but water consumption was way up from significantly more perspiring. Late summer is also a time of regular afternoon thundershowers in the mountain ranges, and I got a few heavy drenchings along the way, and one 15 minute hailstorm to boot. The later in the year you ride, the cooler the temps, which translates into more comfortable riding, making for slightly faster progress, all other things being equal. The flip side is the shorter days, so you ride only 8 hours, whereas with the CCTE, I could ride for 10 hours or more, and even though the heat was turned way up, those extra hours tended to overshadow what was possible with cooler days of fall.
What is my opinion about trike trailers at this point? Well, I have most definitely firmed up my thoughts on that little issue! If you have read my Silent Passage story from 2009, you may recall the significant drawbacks I encountered with a trailer, things such as: substantial compromises with vehicle maneuverability, tremendous additional pressure on the knees, feet, and lower body joints from pulling the added weight, and the natural human tendency to bring along way more than is truly necessary. I did not pull a trailer this time. It was the right choice for me. I will never pull a trailer behind my trike again …
Pulling a trailer is like SCUBA diving without fins (I was a diver in the 1970s). You make progress, but it is labored and slow compared to without, most especially on even the slightest incline. This journey was like putting on a large pair of fins, allowing total maneuverability in very tight places and speeds not thought possible before, along with an ease of motion I welcomed. On the DVTE, I was absolutely convinced I could not do a cross country trek without the extra room a trailer affords, so prior the CCTE, I had to figure out the puzzle of getting what I needed onto the trike itself. It didn’t seem possible initially, but my determination not to pedal another ungainly 10 foot rig this time kept me seeking solutions (such as Radical Design’s 40 liter side seat pods that held my tent, sleeping bag, and mattress pad). Not only did I successfully figure it out, now that the trip is over, I realize that I can go with even less next time!
Triking with only the trike is so very much worth the effort to reassess what is truly necessary on a long journey! I cut way back on redundancy for starters. As an example, instead of bringing along a small flashlight in addition to my mountain climber’s headlamp and the headlight on the trike itself, I cut out the flashlight. Didn’t need it with the other two. It was a little thing, yet when I multiplied this principle to the rest of my packing, it all added up to less need for space. I substituted a much smaller first aid kit this time, but still brought 4 shirts – only need 2 really. I was also weighted down with too many food bars, as there were plenty of convenience stores even on my remote route that I could have cut back there too.
This is all a “live an learn” affair, taking small steps with each walk until a higher level of efficiency is reached. I felt sorry for Gary during the 11 days we rode together as I watched him encountering precisely the same trailer issues I found unacceptable. His Catrike was lightweight, but it became like an unwieldy serpent with the trailer every time when maneuvering in tight spots. Trailers mean extra weight, which translates into additional body stress. Gary’s painful knees eventually knocked him out of the journey at Klamath Falls. Would this have been different had there been no trailer in tow?
On trike journeys, I tend to pull up to markets and park right on the walkway near the front door, which often can necessitate the need to back out. With just the trike, I can easily turn it around or pull it out backwards, a feat not at all possible with a trailer. At one small ma & pa store in the micro berg of Fort Klamath, this was the case, and Gary requested my assistance in steering his trike while he pulled back on the trailer. It was a frustrating little exercise, especially for Gary when I misjudged his direct steering, and the fender hit a trash can.
Speaking of Gary’s knees, gearing came into play also. When I pulled my trailer two years ago, my crankset was fitted with 24-36-50 rings, and I had an 11-34 mountain cassette on the rear. On the CCTE, I changed the front to 26-39-52. Those two additional teeth and no trailer in tow allowed me to ascend mountains faster and with less effort. Gary ran the same numbers I did this year, except his crankarms were 165 millimeters and mine were 170. I believe if he had run a 24 tooth small ring that his knees would have fared considerably better, and may have gone the distance. If you choose to pull a trailer, please give yourself the edge and run a 24 small ring on your crankset (or a 22 if your total weight is extra heavy, in the vicinity of 375-400 pounds). Two teeth doesn’t sound like much, but it makes all the difference in the world on uphills, where your body is really pushed to the max.
Okay, here’s a really big one: NEVER ride a trike for anything but short day rides without pedal bindings! I cannot begin to express sufficiently the difference this has made for me. On the DVTE in 2009, I used standard pedals with straps to hold my hiking shoes to the pedals. Elsewhere in my writings, and in Silent Passage, I go into great detail how this unfortunate decision truly messed up my Achilles tendons, toe nerves, and blood vessels of the feet, so I won’t elaborate here again. This trip, I used Shimano SPD binding pedals with high quality cycling shoes that lock onto the pedals, and I am amazed at the contrasts. My Achilles tendons ended the trip just as normal as the day they left three weeks prior. Only on my longest days during the second portion of the trek, where I really pushed the mileage envelope, did I experience the troublesome hot spots on my feet. The circulation in my feet was superior this time out, which kept me in the game from start to finish. Your feet will bring you down eventually without some pedal binding system like SPD. What works for errands around town does not work for the long haul. Please learn this the easy way. Spend the extra money and do it right the first time so that your first experience is not marred as mine was two years ago.
I also recommend a size up in shoes from what is worn on the street, and if the shoe manufacturer has it, even an extra wide width. I like all the room I can get in the toe box. Not only does this allow my toes to breathe and remain cool, it keeps them from striking the fronts of the shoes, preventing blisters, and making it easier to move the feet around in the shoe to alleviate hot spots.
Cotton is my fabric of choice in life. I like the feel of this natural material, and the fact that perspiration washes out each time in the laundry, whereas synthetic material becomes ever more obnoxiously fragrant with extended use over the months and years. Cotton breathes well too, and is cool. I debated this question extensively prior to this trip, knowing full well that lightweight cotton, if it gets wet, takes longer to dry than lightweight nylon clothing. My cotton long sleeve Columbia shirts are very lightweight and cool, and so are the lightweight Carhartt canvas dungaree pants I wore, which were far more sturdy than a nylon counterpart – there was no discernible weight advantage of nylon. The disadvantage of cotton came on the days I was drenched by sudden thunderstorms in the mountains, where the pants and shirt got soaked before I donned rain gear. Sure, my cotton clothes dried, but it took far longer than nylon would have. The hat I wore under my helmet, an Outdoor Research Sunrunner, was nylon, and it dried in nothing flat. Had I been wearing nylon clothing, I would have dried much faster. Nylon is standard gear for the masses of serious outdoor enthusiasts nowadays, so next trip, I will be giving it a try for the first time. The best way to know what works is to actually try it in the field and form your own opinions.
Rain gear is the next topic. I have a $300 Sequel rain jacket made specifically for serious outdoor enthusiasts, ultra lightweight, rainproof Gore-Tex, a pro-level jacket that stuffs well in my panniers. It remains my top choice, but the rain pants I had were a $27 special from a northwest department store chain called Bi-Mart, which, while they are totally rainproof, are bulky, heavy, take up too much space in my bags, and nearly impossible to put on over the lugged soles of my mountain cycling shoes because the mesh insides catch every shoe lug (not a good thing when the heavens have opened up without notice and it seems like you’re triking under a shower head). Next journey I will find the lightest cyclists’ rain pants I can, with smooth insides so I can quickly slip them on over my cycling shoes. I have a pair of windproof and waterproof Torrent motorcycle gloves that have worked perfectly now on the past two treks, so will continue with them. What have I learned? Don’t cheap out. Get the lightest and best rain gear available, just like I learned on the DVTE with my sleeping mattress …
The sleeping mattress I used on the first trek stuffed small enough, but it was heavy, designed primarily for car camping folks, and made of heavy duty nylon. Just like getting rid of my trailer helped with many issues, keeping things ultra lightweight is the key to easing one’s physical woes on overland journeys. Experienced cyclists will tell you this, yet rare is the person who learns the lesson without first going out and crumbling under the weight of over-packing. First hand experience is the best teacher!
I am absolutely convinced at this point that going light, which translates into fewer injures and increased speed, is the only way to go. Sure, any of us can take day trike trips or weekend jaunts heavily loaded and get by with it, but when the days and weeks keep on piling up, not to mention the vertical mountain ranges that have their pinnacles in the clouds, this is a recipe for disaster. You know those hot spots that you sometimes get under the fronts of your feet from pedaling too long and/or hard? Well, the greater your overall vehicular weight, the more those get magnified … even if you know all the pedaling tricks like easing up on the power stroke while pulling back after its completion each revolution. This holds true also for knee viability. More weight equals more knee stress. You can’t ride a trike long distances for weeks with injured feet or knees! Ask Gary … or me two years ago.
Being on this path prior to the CCTE, I changed certain things, one of which was the sleeping mattress. I acquired a ThermaRest Fast & Light mattress, the most expensive one they make here in the USA. Was it worth the price? Some folks on the REI website questioned its durability, but after using it for this trip, I have full confidence in its capability to go the distance. It weighs nearly nothing and stuffs to a tiny dimension so that it can be placed almost anywhere in your cargo bags. Yes, it is most definitely worth every penny, and if you carry out this type of assessment on every item in your bags, pretty soon you’ve saved many pounds overall, which means less injury, easier travel, and more fun each day! Pedaling across the landscape can be challenging enough … no need to make it any harder than it has to be by adding too much weight.
On this trip, I had about 108 liters of cargo volume on the trike. This consists of an 11 liter Arkel trunk that sits atop the rear rack that straddles the rear wheel, a pair of 54 liter Arkel GT-54 panniers positioned on each side of the rack below the Arkel trunk, a pair of 40 liter Radical Design side seat pods that rest on either side of the recumbent seat, a 1 liter Radical Design frame pouch that hangs from the left wheel frame outrigger, and two 1 liter FastBack tool pouches that attach behind the seat on the FastBack water reservoir bags. In addition to this, on my flag/light pole is a FastBack tire pump holder for the RoadMorph pump.
I carried 248 ounces of water on the trike (about 7.5 liters), 200 ounces of which was contained in 2 Camelbak water reservoirs of 100 ounces each, with 48 additional ounces in two 24 ounce bottles located on the mainframe between my legs. Due to the extra hot weather, a few times along the way I ran this supply down quite a bit, once coming into Lone Pine California with only about 15 ounces remaining. Since I modified the CCTE route at Canby, California, I will not know whether this supply could have seen me through the northwestern Nevada desert, or if there would have been sufficient water re-supply points en route to handle the extreme heat. As it turned out, I realize that the alternate route through Susanville and Reno that I rode was sufficiently hot air temperatures to really exhaust the water supply. On hindsight, it was a wise decision to alter the route.
Eating enough food is hard to do on a trike expedition. Depending on the day’s mileage and time spent pedaling, a trike pilot can burn 5,000 to 7,000 calories a day, perhaps even more like the day I cranked out 122 miles. I downed all kinds of food that day, including two full packages of calorie/fat rich trail mix, and never would describe myself as full. This type of trek allows eating as desired … and I still lost about 15 pounds by the end. That averages out to a 5 pound loss each week.
On the DVTE in 2009, I had a portable toilet seat and aluminum stand in my trailer due to the remote route. I never needed it. This trip, I left it home, ate a lot more food on the way, but always found some sort of public restroom frequently enough that I was fine. Number One I can do darn near anywhere, but Number Two has additional requirements of course. I learned to leave the portable seat home.
The Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires were aired to 75 PSI at home the night before I departed. They were checked and aired again at the end of the first week, and one final time at the end of the second week. Tires naturally lose a small amount of air over time, but it is minuscule. The maximum rating for these tires is 70 PSI (5 Bar), but Gary advised airing them to 75, well within the acceptable safety factor according to his engineering background. This allowed less rolling resistance, which is great for ease of pedaling and speed, and ensured that they never dropped to far below 70 PSI over the course of each week.
Inside each tire I ran EarthGuard tire liners, an added layer of super tough flat protection for the tube, in addition to the 5 millimeters of extra tread protection built into the Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires themselves. I didn’t stop there however, running Kenda Q-Tubes instead of standard inferior bicycle tubes that are very prone to flats. The Q-Tubes are heavy and bulky by comparison, and require more storage space when rolled up, but they are well worth their weight and size. I rode 980 miles, through all kinds of roadside debris, with no flats. What kinds of debris was out there?
Well, you name it and it was alongside the road. Truckers’ tires that explode and delaminate are everywhere the entire distance, pieces of rubber impregnated with steel cords that eat standard bicycle tires and thin tubes. I attempt to avoid them, but circumstances happen every day where I ended up riding right over some of these little rusted wires. Having the best tire/liner/tube setup was very reassuring! Glass is everywhere also. Most has shattered to somewhat round and blunt pieces, but there is some that is still in sharp shard form, like broken brown beer bottles that are a regular occurring companion on the roadways. Once, I ran right over the top of one really nasty beer shard, even though I tried to miss it, but it did not breech the Marathon Plus super tread. One piece of metal angle iron, which I mistook for a piece of black rubber tube because of the sun in my face, squarely hit my tread. Still no flat. Other items frequently occurring are nails, metal screws, fish hooks, sheet metal, wood, rocks, hubcaps, and other stuff that surely gets your attention.
This type of road debris is no challenge when pedaling slower going uphill, or keeping a moderate pace on the flat, especially if there is sparse automobile traffic, which allows you to swerve out into the traffic lane if the debris is so situated that it cannot be straddled. However, if coasting down a mountain pass at 40+ miles per hour, items crop up very quickly, and swerving at those speeds may not be smart, especially if it is raining and the pavement is slick. Add to that those miserable rumble strips designed to keep sleepy drivers awake when they veer off the side of the lane, and swerving can have negative consequences, like skidding sideways 20 degrees off your line of travel (which happened to me twice on this journey). There is plenty to keep a trike pilot concentrating on the road ahead. The filthiest shoulders, or sometimes gutters, are found in large towns or cities with high volumes of traffic, but constant vigilance is always necessary.
In Carson City and Gardnerville, Nevada, and again in Victorville, California, I ended up riding several blocks on sidewalks, where these cities have created such a dangerous dynamic for human powered humans that it was just easier and less hassle to do the walk instead. Rarely do I do this, but a rare occasion will call for the action to keep me in a more mellow mindset. Just make sure the city has those recessed handicap access points at each intersection so you can ride back into the crosswalk.
I don’t want to spend too much more time discussing how to ride or equip a trike, as I’ve previously written volumes about this stuff, so I’ll come back in more specifically to this expedition. The CCTE was decidedly different from the DVTE in one aspect I have yet to address, and that is the number of trike pilots who participated. In 2009, I went solo from the start (with the exception of the first 20 miles, where my good friend Matt Jensen rode along on his Catrike 700 to get me fired up on my first such trek). This trip, I actively solicited team members on the Trike Asylum website. I figured having company on the CCTE might be a fun thing.
Turned out it was! Two fellows in my age range joined up, one from southern California, USA and one from British Columbia, Canada. You have likely read all about them elsewhere on this website and on Trike Asylum, so I will not introduce them further here. Both drove to Florence, Oregon, placed their cars in rented storage spaces, and met me at the Bicycles 101 store at 7:30 AM on August 26, 2011. I had been advised by some experienced cyclists earlier that you take your chances when taking off for hundreds of miles with people you’ve never met in person before. So, I spent a great deal of time getting to know these two fellows via emails and numerous telephone conversations.
Glen and Gary are as different as day and night in many ways, and both are fascinating guys. Glen is quiet and reserved, while Gary is one to voice his opinion about whatever situation might be occurring at the moment. Both men are helpful and resourceful, great choices to have along in the event of any problems. Glen arrived at the departure point notably unprepared, with a brand new trike he had never ridden as set up the night before by the local bicycle shop. He had sold his TerraTrike a few weeks earlier, and finally got a Trident Stowaway at the eleventh hour (after also looking at HP Velotechnik’s Gekko and the Azub brand). Gary, on the other hand, was totally prepared many months in advance. With his engineering background, Gary had his Catrike Road decked out to the max with every conceivable necessity imaginable. Being more prepared than Gary is likely not possible. Glen picked up some Lone Peak panniers and a top trunk just like Gary’s. Glen’s trike and accessories were predominantly blue with black accents, while Gary’s trike and accessories were predominantly yellow with black accents. Well, at least they were very color coordinated. My setup was predominantly red with black accents.
Glen did not have nearly enough cargo storage capacity when he arrived August 25th, the afternoon prior to departure. I gave him my older pair of Radical Design side seat pods, for an additional 25 liters of volume on the sides of his recumbent seat. Glen also did not have enough water on board, a situation for which we had yet to seek a solution. Gary had plenty of storage, in fact, way more than he needed with his Burley Nomad trailer. It made packing easier for him, but also robbed him of much needed maneuverability in any tight navigation situation, which happens regularly on a trike trip. Glen’s Trident is a high sitting trike compared to Gary’s Catrike or my ICE, both of which have their seats roughly 7 inches off the asphalt (great for cornering stability). Glen’s trike is much easier to get into, as the seat is about double that distance off the deck, however that ease of access also makes it less stable in corners.
In fact, on the first day, just prior to lunch, we all pulled into a sloped dirt turnout before proceeding across a narrow drawbridge, so we could all stay together. As Glen rolled in, at a speed of about one mile per hour, his Trident tipped over on its side with him in it, landing with his head towards the downhill side. The weight of his loaded panniers and his body on the high seat contributed to this somewhat embarrassing incident, the only injury being to his pride, I suppose. Bicyclist Matt Jensen helped him get out of the cockpit and right the trike, and then we pedaled the final mile into Reedsport for an early burrito lunch.
We all ate dinner together at Florence’s finest seafood restaurant the night before we left on this journey, a great way to bond and start forming our camaraderie. Gary is a talker – some of our prior telephone conversations lasted up to 4 hours, very enjoyable. Glen is an observer … until you get him going on something that is up his alley, and then he can talk a bit himself. I tried to just listen a lot that evening.
So what are the differences between a solo ride and one with companions? On a solo ride, I do what I want, when I want, and only have to ponder it within my own head. I have no one to bounce ideas off of. I’m on my own, rising or falling on my own merits. If I decide to ride all night, I ride all night with only myself to criticize me if something goes amiss. If I decide to camp in a tent every night, I do so. I leave camp each morning when I’m ready, waiting for no one. I ride each day until I’m tired or it’s getting late. I ride at whatever pace is comfortable for me, the downside to this being that I tend to really push myself sometimes, creating a situation where injury is more likely to occur. There is no one there to lend moderation to my insanity. I pay the prices I demand of myself.
With friends along, this all changes tremendously. Three guys have three different ideas on what a trike expedition should be and how it should progress. Gary was always worried that he would hold me up due to his physical condition. I told him many times prior to the trip to not worry about it, that just having him along would be so much fun that it wouldn’t matter if I kept a slower pace at times (although, on the downhills, Gary could sail past me when we were in full coast mode at 40 miles per hour, as his overall weight exceeded mine and he picked up more speed). I had plenty of time to get to the destination, as my presence at the Recumbent Cycle Convention at the Los Angeles County Fairplex was not scheduled until the third week of October. Riding with companions would be an exciting adventure in itself, something new that I looked forward to. I happily entered into this with no regrets.
Glen rarely expressed any thoughts of holding up the crew, although he did mention it a couple of times. My reassurance that it didn’t matter to me was accepted by Glen. Gary persisted on being apologetic throughout his time on the CCTE, and thought I was just being patronizing to him (I was not). I really enjoyed triking as a trio, with each of us taking our turns being the lead, middle, and follow-up triker. It kept things much more fun and exciting than just triking along solo mile after mile, day after day, week after week. Sharing our experiences was grand. I wouldn’t have missed it! Did our physical and psychological makeups put us all at different places in our heads and on the road? Sure enough! But for me, that was okay because having the company was its own unique reward.
As it turned out, this trio of trikers was not destined to last, however. During the afternoon of Day Two around 2:00 PM, Glen and Gary, who had been discussing needs at the Elkton Community Educational Center, 57 miles from the trip’s starting point in Florence, approached me for a talk after I had updated the Trike Asylum website from a public library computer. They wished to remain in tiny forested town of Elkton on the Umpqua River of the Coast Range for a couple of hours until the weather cooled a bit before going on to Tyee Campground, 14 miles farther on. It was warm enough in the sun to make the uphills mildly unpleasant. By 4:00 PM, the tall forests would shade us as we pedaled to Tyee. To this I readily agreed, as it made no difference to me, and I wanted them to enjoy the trip. So, we relaxed. Gary took a tour of the center’s butterfly pavilion, while Glen worked on his netbook wireless in the ice cream shop. I think those guys inhaled some ice cream when I wasn’t looking.
Come 4:00 PM, after more ice cream and cooling in the air conditioning, our crew decided to remain in Elkton at the RV park on the river, so we triked another half mile and checked in at the office. After paying for our campsite, we returned to our trikes to find Glen’s left front tire flat, so he pushed his trike to the site while Gary and I pedaled. While fixing that flat on the picnic table, a loud and powerful hissing sound suddenly got our attention. Glen’s right front just deflated before our eyes! We remounted his left front, removed his right front, and proceeded to repair it. If that isn’t bizarre enough, by the time we had repaired his right front, the left front was again flat, and not from the repair we had just done either! It was yet a third tube failure.
Glen, who was already convinced prior to the trip by other bizarre incidents that had plagued him while trying to get a new trike, saw this as yet another sign that he was jinxed. Everything that could go wrong for him did. This was just the newest set of mishaps. The tubes were repeatedly failing not because of any puncture of any kind, either from the roadway, spoke ends, or wheel liner, which was obvious upon inspecting the tiny symmetrical pinholes in the tubes. The afternoon before we had left Florence, the bicycle shop inflated all his tubes up to 180 PSI to get the tires to seat on the Trident rims, a pressure far beyond any safety or material limit. What we were seeing was material failure due to this severe over inflation (that was our consensus at least). Glen had chosen a Schwalbe tire to replace the light duty tires that came on the trike stock. They weren’t Marathon Plus tires as Gary and I had strongly recommended, but they were a notch or two up from the original tires. We later learned that this rim/tire sizing issue was popping up with at least one other Trident owner who upgraded tires on the stock Trident rims.
At any rate, without belaboring this problem, Glen was very much worried about proceeding farther out into the wilds of the Coast Range from this town. I told him that we could call Hostel Shoppe, order in some Marathon Plus tires like Gary and I were running, along with some bullet proof Q-Tubes like I was running, and get him back in the ballgame again just by spending an extra day here. The damage was done however, and he didn’t want to chance more sizing problems, nor did he want to hold up the expedition by another day, or maybe two depending on how things went. He decided to return to Florence the next morning.
We were now down to a triking duo with Gary and me. Gary’s rig was so meticulously prepared to the Nth detail, and he had so much failsafe gear that we had no worries about the Catrike coming up short. We were both bummed though, because Glen was a really funny and decent fellow, and we missed his light hearted company right off the bat. Of course, a mile out of Elkton, about 35 minutes after Glen left, Gary and I were shocked back into the present moment with a huge and very long low gear uphill in the sun (late morning by this time), so it wasn’t until our camp that night at Tyee Campground that we could once again morn the loss of our short-lived triangular brother.
Nine days later, our triking duo was destined to become a triking solo. Gary’s knees were becoming increasingly inflamed on the killer mountain uphills each day, requiring him to take increasingly longer and more frequent rest breaks up the mountain sides. He was pulling too high of gears for the gross weight of his rig, and the knees were speaking loudly to him on a regular basis. This really hit home as we ascended the Mazama caldera of Crater Lake National Park on our 9th day out. It was only a 28 mile day, but it required nearly 13 hours to complete the ride. These are really steep and long mountain grades in this national park, relentlessly taking us up to more than 7,000 feet elevation, and the inclines sent Gary’s knees into their final state of shock and pain.
We had a huge dinner that night at the Annie Creek Lodge, and by morning, Gary was ready to tackle another day. Day 10 was downhill for miles upon miles at high coasting speeds, much of which was shaded, and then there were many more miles of flat, high gear pedaling, very easy even with his knee issues and full sun. We got in 40 miles, upping our total to 244 by day’s end, and it seemed a glitter of hope still remained, but on the eleventh day, after passing over Doak Mountain, it was decided. It was all Gary could do to nurse his knees the remaining hills into Klamath Falls, Oregon, not far from the California border. After a 34 mile day, Gary realized it was over for his first trike expedition, one that lasted for 278 miles, saw him conquer two major mountain ranges and the infamous Mazama caldera, and which was one hell of a feat in anyone’s book! The next morning, I set out alone just like back in 2009.
Would I have wanted to go solo from the start? No! I truly thought our experiences together were worth every minute, the happy and not so happy times all included. Gary and I hit some rough spots in our emotional roads, yet it was fruitful nonetheless. I am happy to have shared this time with these two special men, and hope our time together gave them some idea of what long haul triking is all about. So to Gary and Glen, who will eventually read all these words on this page, I say this: Thanks guys for coming along! I wish we could have done the distance together, but what we did do was memorable and worth it. Neither of you ever frustrated me by “holding me up” so please never give it a another thought Gary! The time with both of you was well worth the pace. I was happy as it unfolded. I may ride faster when alone, but that certainly doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy riding slower with folks to talk to! In fact, while riding as our group, I had no instances of hot spots on my feet, which, is actually a better way to ride from a foot health standpoint. Thanks again guys … be happy and always remember our most excellent adventure in the years to come!
One uplifting occurrence that would not be readily apparent ahead of time to someone contemplating a trek like this is the support received every single day from petroleum powered motorists. Each day of this ride, there were motorists of every possible description who smiled, gave dramatic “thumbs up” signs, called out “way to travel!” or extended some other very cordial momentary greeting that removed all the sting from pedaling even the hottest uphill section. These are folks who either ride human powered cycles themselves, are environmentally conscious, or just simply think that our odd vehicles are very cool indeed. Car drivers did it. Eighteen wheel truckers did it. Burning Man alternative humans did it. Every time it happened, I got this huge grin on my face, responded with an appropriate arm gesture of my own, and felt like a million bucks as I proceeded on. Yes, trike pilots do get very much noticed out on the open road, and truly do make long lasting positive impressions on those who find us fascinating.
As always, I loved the times on this trip where I could interact with roadside animals who found me a unique curiosity. I loved the llamas, horses, cows, hawks, eagles, squirrels, beetles, midges, ladybugs, and all the other critters who crossed paths with me. I loved the roadside flowers and little trees I could reach out and touch and smell, and the fluffy white cumulus clouds that floated just beyond my reach in the blue above. I loved the emotionally enlightening gains I made while pedaling the weeks and miles. I had a lot of time to think by myself from Day 12 on, and since I have been seriously on a path to inner peace and spiritual awakening for quite some time now, these days provided much time during my present moments to contemplate and redesign my life. Watching the madness of my world speed by day after day made me glad to be right where I am right now in my life with no regrets. Riding a trike on a protracted overland journey, while one of the most challenging physical and mental endeavors I could be doing, offers rewards far beyond lowly bragging rights.
This journey was a challenge on multiple levels. Yes, it began because I wanted to be with my mom and sister during their fall birthdays, yet it so much went way beyond a simple means of transportation for nearly a thousand miles. What would be considered a basic physical challenge by most people morphed into my journey beyond the box, a pathway out of my prison of ordinary cultural existence, into a quest on my path of personal serenity and harmony. It was a time to take stock in life itself, to assess where I am and where I am headed, and how I may best be a part of a universal life power of which we are all part.
He who returns from a journey is not the same as he who left. Again, as after the 2009 Death Valley Tricycle Expedition, I am truly a changed being. Only by radically extracting one’s self from the status quo in a very dramatic manner, can one genuinely make meaningful progress to greater levels of consciousness. Perhaps this is why the customary wise men have traditionally been pictured over the ages as going to the tops of mountains to contemplate existence and find answers. Well, I went to the tops of some mountains on my trike, but I didn’t stay there for long, rocketing down the other side with thrilling adrenaline coursing throughout my body. There’s so much more to be said here, but that’s my time for today. Maybe I’ll get ambitious this winter and write my lofty thoughts in a new book for those of you who don’t think I’ve totally lost my mind. The trike was simply a very basic and temporal physical tool for a far greater good, thus perhaps it’s time to explain my trike tracks for those who would listen. See ya’ next time my triangular friends … think outside the box!