Bicycle: A semi-regular eNewsletter

To my dear Aunt Mary:

Here we are, the Illini 4000. When I first decided to ride across America, it was little more than a fun tidbit to share with people. “What are your plans for the summer?” “Oh me? I’m riding across the country… on my bike.” It was cool, and people thought I was cool for saying it. Who really has a chance to say that? The doing it part is entirely different. Now, all of those people who I told with a calm smugness that I’d be pedaling my way from one ocean to the next are at home, sipping beers and playing video games in air conditioned living rooms. The hardest part of their day is getting out of bed before noon; by then, we’ve climbed 30 miles of mountains and we’ve got another 50 ahead of us and the promise of a hotter sun with every minute that passes. It’s hard, and we all know what that really means now.

I came into this trip thinking that it would be a great way to see America – to really get to know what’s out there. I wasn’t really correct in that regard. I’m gaining a basic understanding of what the topography of America is like and where certain cities are in relation to others, but this isn’t a sightseeing opportunity. Every stop we make mid-ride is another roll of the dice. When you’re uncertain whether you’ll be able to take another stride with momentum on your side, starting from a dead stop is really tempting fate. The exhaustion we’ve accrued isn’t wiped out in the time between the end of one ride and the start of another. Muscles still complain just as much as they did the day before and that lingering sense of uncertainty still resides in the back of your mind, asking whether you’re sure you need to climb this hill because you most certainly do not want to. That keeps you in the saddle. It’s one foot down, and then the other, and after so long your head drops just to make sure that your feet keep doing what they need to be doing to get you closer to your next sleeping bag. As it turns out, exhaustion trumps curiosity in the reptilian core of our brains that keeps us pedaling day after day.

That’s not to say that I haven’t been taking in my surroundings. While New Jersey was, as far as I could tell, a suburb of New York, Pennsylvania is a majestic expanse of rolling hills, mountains, fields and forests. The farmland surrounding Lancaster was breathtaking and the Amish people working on horse-driven plows and threshers were picturesque. Our very first mountain climb was appropriately shrouded in fog, giving the entire experience a sort of eerie stillness punctuated only by the incredibly fast moving traffic that has been a constant so far, no matter how far off the beaten path we go. We had really ought to do something about all of these cars in America. There’s nothing like gasoline smell and perpetual fear to ruin a perfectly beautiful scene.

So that’s what my trip has been so far. It’s been extremely challenging both mentally and physically, but I’ve proven to myself that I can do it. We had a team meeting last night in which a lot of opinions and emotions were shared, and I think I’ll try my hand at riding with some other groups from here on out. It’s been fun and extremely rewarding personally to push myself and redefine my own limits and now I think I’d like to spend some time exploring my role as a teammate and (if I’m lucky) maybe even an honorary member of the Lady Pack.

Comments (6)
  • Brad Topol btopol says:

    Don’t worry Jordan, it will only get better and easier. The first week is always the toughest. By the time you head over the Rockies your legs will be so strong you won’t believe how easy it is. Keep up that tough mentality but don’t forget to enjoy the ride. Take pictures, check out funny stores and signs, eat too much ice cream, and don’t forget to have fun. The best advice I can give you is to be the biggest goofball you can around your teammates. You’ll have a much better time and the hard days will pass by faster.

  • Jillian's Mom says:

    Great post – really paints a picture of what this journey has been like. I can’t even imagine how you guys get through each day and then follow it up with another one – true dedication and will power I think. Enjoy your day in Pittsburgh and I hear you’re going to the Cubs game tonight – GO CUBS!!! As for the Lady Pack – I hear they’re awesome.

  • Mary Russell mary says:

    Yay for supporting teammates!

  • Colette Whicker says:

    as your ma i have always said…calm seas never make great sailor….when this journey is complete you will be quite the sailor….i tip my hat to you as i always have…..i love your way with the written language….the end until next time!

  • Mary Chlopek says:

    Jordan! (picture the movie Frankenstein: He’s ALIVE!! — that’s me) Remember when I was trying to make you feel guilty for not writing? I take it all back — and now I’m feeling bad for fussing at you….on the other hand, I was so thrilled to hear from you! You sound like you’ve had a few bumps in the road, but on the bright side, you’ve no doubt perfected your flat tire recovery technique, right? I’m so proud of you and all your team and am very much looking forward to seeing you when you get out here. Keep up the good work, and I hope you feel the love I’m sending your way. Aunt Mary

  • jwhicker jwhicker says:

    Thanks everyone for the replies : ) Hope I didn’t paint too grim a picture – There are already countless hilarious and light-hearted moments to recall from the first week of the trip alone. The overlying feeling is often one of business, though, when those hills start rearing their heads and it’s time to get where the going is. Keep reading for some funny stuff (I promise!).

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