Day 101 – The Finish (March 10, 2021)

Night 00- Williamsport, Pennsylvania

Hey everyone! Sorry for the radio silence… I’ve been pretty reluctant to post in a while for a mountain of reasons, but as stated above, we are back home now. We were in quarantine because we had to fly home, but then we both were able to get tested and are both negative. With that, we began to spring our “secret” on a couple of unsuspecting friends and family. With the last bit of fun over and a bit of needed decompression, I can talk about what happened.

Before I get started, I would like to be upfront about the why we returned. While there isn’t one single reason, I was the one to pull the pin. Trust me when I say I am far more disappointed than anyone (other than maybe Russell), but I believe it to be for the best.

With that out of the way, so we go.

As we approached Del Rio, Texas, I was getting pretty beaten up. The roads were rough and it was the first time I had felt any consistent body pains. At that time it was my wrists. The highway leading into Del Rio was pretty bad. We gave Addison most of our weight so we could speed around the base due to the entrance moving without Googles knowledge. That may have been a mistake because our panniers absorb so much of the vibration. Now that went into our arms and legs. A worthy sacrifice for what turned into a week and a half of R&R. But I had some concerns in the back of my mind that I wasn’t ready to face. One being the ability to return if we really needed. Average vehicle rental was well over 2,000 dollars which would have emptied my food budget and flying seemed pretty sketchy. So, as you know, we pushed forward.

First flag was how much I was eating and needed to eat. It wasn’t bad, but I had this floating around my mind for hours and hours of riding. Some may compare it to hitting “the wall”, but I could push through well enough to not bring it up. Not yet…

The winds and cold between Las Cruces and Tuscon didn’t help my own morale, but I wasn’t asking for help. We just had to ride. Every time we got stopped by weather I was reminded of the cost of waiting. In addition, we were heading into a storm system that would drop 2 years worth of rainfall over the south west and California. The appearance of this wild weather was just the beginning. (Looking at you Polar Vortex)

In Tuscon we stopped in a Campfire Cycling and received some concerning information about the rockies. We had discussed cutting the trip shorter and shorter to avoid the freeze because at our current pace, we would reach any crossing point before they would thaw…in April. We looked at any route and the one that may have saved us would have taken 2 or 3 times longer because of the climbing and endless gravel sections, drastically limiting our average speed. Pair that with my own dwindling funds, and I had to make a call. So I decided to feel it out until the grand canyon. I may have been sitting on this stress because I didn’t want to ruin things for Russell.

It was a day or two after I last posted from the canyon that I finally told him. I was pretty beat up over it and that made me really not want to post. After a few talks we settled on “it would be a shame to come this far and not touch the Pacific.” So the new goal was to get to the coast in two weeks.

With the elephant in the room addressed, things just started happening. Like, things started breaking. Like my bike.

By the time we reached Needles, CA, I was out of tubes, my pump broke, my fender snapped, my shoes were disintegrating, my wrists were hurting again, and now, just as we were about the cross the border, my freehub was giving up the ghost. A bit of an issue because, for those who don’t know, without the thing that makes that clicking noise while coasting, I cannot pedal. Well, I can pedal, but nothing happens.

Some may recall that prior to the trip we both had different bikes. I bought my surly because my sequoia’s freehub fell apart and a replacement was weeks out and probably wouldn’t survive. The surly is built to be hardier and easier to fix on the road. Unfortunately my bike is from 2008 and it’s parts are not necessarily on every shelf. Add to that the explosion of bike sales due to the pandemic, parts are even rarer.

Now stuck in Needles and 3 days of the Mohave Desert ahead of us, I took a day, rented a uhaul, and drove 50 miles to Havasu to shop for parts. It took all day and I ended up coming out of it all with an entirely different wheel and 250$ poorer. This is why I had a wheel on the back of my bike in the beach pictures. My wheel was still good, but the salt shaker sized freehub was gone.

We may have cut the trip short, but the challenges kept coming. The last red flag was the polar vortex.

We had narrowly escaped the cold, but we were on the side of the vortex where the wind just wanted us to go south. Unrelenting cross winds and gusts with record breaking numbers made us really not want to ride. Even driving the empty box truck was treacherous in this wind.

So before heading into the desert, I contacted my uncle in Victorville to come up with contingency plans in case this new wheel failed in the middle if the desert. He was happy to help. See, I say “new wheel”, but it was pretty rough. Pretty bent and warped, Russell spent a good amount of time trying to tune it well enough to get us there. Good thing we had our uhaul bike shop because the wind just wouldn’t stop…. and it never did. So with little faith in my own bike and the worst cross winds of the entire trip, we skipped the desert. Matt drove out and grabbed us. Riding back with him we got to see every inch of the road we would have ridden and the shoulder wasn’t great. Meaning the northern wind would have been bashing us into the road as we fought to stay on the same few inches of crumbling shoulder all while hoping my bike didn’t fail…. I FORGOT MY FAVORITE PART!!! When we took the day off to fix my bike I didn’t ride it once. It was upside down all day and I simply took the rear wheel into stores with me. So when I went to test the new wheel I was a bit perplexed as to how MY FRONT TIRE WENT FLAT. So now I also only had one spare tube.

The trip may have only had a few days left, but it wasn’t done with us.

So we spent a day in Victorville to plan our flights and how we would allocate bike boxes and get the boxes to the airport in the morning. The wind never stopping.

We tried to ride away from Victorville and hoped the wind would die down as we shot down into the valley towards Los Angeles, but it didn’t. It took an hour to go 7 miles. So Matt gave us one last lift and dropped us off somewhere around the Mormon Rocks. From there we still had a full days ride, just no cross winds pushing us into traffic.

From here I think I could write entire daily posts, and I’d like to. We rode to the shore from here over the next two days and then had a day to prep for the flight at 8am. Russell’s parents picked us up in Philly and 3 hours later we were home….
Just like that. 4 months of riding was over. Over 4,000 miles. Only to be stopped by a lack of parts caused by a pandemic and record winds caused by a record polar vortex, the likes millions of people would feel the effects of.

I think I’ll leave it off here. I have so much footage and photos to go through. If you are interested to hear about the daily struggles between the grand canyon and Needles, I wouldn’t mind writing them now that the cat is out of the bag, but I didn’t know how to cancel this show and announce it before it actually ends. Now that it is over, I’m not sure what to tell.

I hope everyone’s doing alright. I’m writing this from a nice warm house just outside of Williamsport. No cold to keep me from writing this morning, just my own thoughts. This has been really fun, but journals are hard. I’ve nearly failed an English class or two because of journals, so this has been a pretty strange thing for me to do. Glad you stuck around. I’m going to go grab some coffee.

Have a great day everyone!

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