Fighting with My Fear
One of my biggest fears going into my cycling trip across the country was that I wouldn’t be able to handle the solitude.
I knew the days would be filled with countless, desolate miles of pedaling, but I was worried about how my mind would cope after the day’s ride when I was alone camping.
My First Night in the Woods
After my first night alone in the woods, I knew it wasn’t the nights I had to worry about. The day’s ride would had me so worn out I was begging for a bed.
It was lights out as soon as my head hit the towel. I didn’t bring a pillow, for space saving reasons, but a wadded up towel worked the same.
*And everyone knows the most important item a hitchhiker can carry is a towel.
When morning came on the third day, the loneliness crept in. My mind was still partly asleep and my body was stiff and sore from the previous day.
My knees ached and thoughts of home filled my head. I didn’t want to get on a bicycle again. It was easy to overwhelm myself with thoughts about how isolated I was from everything, with nothing but a few bags and a bicycle.
More than once I wondered if I had gotten in over my head. Maybe I wasn’t cut out for a life of adventure.
I broke through the angst with a phone call home, some breakfast and a shower at the campsite bathroom that was included with my fee.
How the Morning Starts
The morning was starting to turn around and I was about ready to break camp and load the entirety of my possessions back onto the bicycle when I noticed that my tire had gone flat overnight.
The flat-tire predicament had been continuously plaguing my trip and something had to be done. I decided that I would take a day off to see if I could determine what was causing my incessant flat problem and give my untrained body a chance to recover.
All of the knowledge I had of fixing flat tires had come from watching YouTube videos, and my ignorance left me feeling inadequate to fix the situation.
I checked the inside of the tire for sharp objects and felt along the rim to see if there was anything there that was causing it to deflate. I turned up nothing.
I speculated and wondered a number of different things that might be the culprit, but after investigation I always came up short.
After finding no discernible problem, I patched the tire again and inflated it, hoping that it was all just a very bad streak of luck that was over now.
A test ride into town with the bike not loaded down with 75 pounds of equipment was refreshing.
I felt nimble, I wished this was what it was like as I was making my daily rides. I felt like I would be able to ride twice as far.
Exploring the Area
I picked up some food in town and explored the area a little bit. I had set out on this trip because I wanted to see things, but had become so concerned with flat tires, self-doubt and coping with the solitude that I was forgetting to enjoy the experience.
Exploring the area lifted my mood, and shortly after I made it back to the campsite, another cyclist pulled in with his bike loaded with gear.
Meeting with A Cyclist
Any shyness I had was immediately outweighed by my need for connection. This was the first cyclist that I had come across on the road and I needed someone to commiserate with.
This was also my chance to ask someone else, who likely knew more than I did about the tire problems I had been having.
I ran over and introduced myself. His name was David Woodruff and he was cycling his way from Canada to California for an app developers conference.
I was blown away. Canada was so far. Still in my first week, this guy was a legend to me.
He told me stories about the people that he had come across so far in his trip and said that everyone he had come across has been kind so far. While I was only in the beginning, I had similar sentiments.
David told me he was planning to take a day or two off to rest here and use the time off to head back to the town at the local library to work on an app he was developing.
Part of me wanted to cling to him. I had found some company and I didn’t want to head back into solitude.
There was nothing stopping me from changing my route, but I knew that come morning our paths would head in different directions. We sat next to a small campfire and talked about life until time slipped away from us and it was really late.
So engrossed in our conversations I almost forgot to ask him about my tires.
He wasn’t sure what was causing my tire issues, but he was certain that my problems weren’t normal. He suggested that I was carrying more weight than he was and that could be contributing to the problem.
He also pointed out that my bike pump didn’t have a pressure gauge on it so there was no way of knowing if I was pumping my tires to the proper pressure.
He let me borrow his pump with a gauge to pump my tires up to the recommended levels and then we both were lights out.
Author Bio: Sterling Stowe is a 26-year-old Colorado native and journalist with a passion for the wild. Follow his solo bicycle trip across the United States in his blog: America at 10 MPH