Friday, May 05, 2006

The Holy Trinity of Transcontinental Bike Riding

. Friday, May 05, 2006

Food is the most important point of the Holy Trinity. You were ALWAYS HUNGRY and even the lamest food suddenly became palatable. I estimate that I ate 6,000 – 8,000 calories per day. That’s about the same as a pro in the Tour de France eats every day. As I have pointed out in previous posts, Wandering Wheels typically provided two meals per day – breakfast and dinner.

I’ve never really been a big breakfast eater, but I soon became one after all this riding. I was typically one of the first in line for breakfast. Partly because I was so good at packing my stuff quickly every morning. Partly because I’m a food ho’. Typical breakfast fare was found on the menu. Scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, oatmeal, cold cereal, and yogurt were typically always available. The quality of the food was pretty decent considering it came out of a mobile soup kitchen, and they were serving more than 60 people. You had to be a little careful not to overeat at breakfast because there’s nothing worse than starting a 100 mile bike ride with an overstuffed stomach. You might grab an extra bagel or a banana and stuff it in your jersey pocket to eat on the road.

Lunch was often the meal that we were “on our own”. On short days, we would be at our final destination before lunch time, so we would cruise around town and find a local restaurant to eat at. I don’t really remember eating at any fast food or chain restaurants. On longer days, it was up to the individual when and where to stop. You usually stopped when it was most convenient and not necessarily when you were hungry (but then again – you were ALWAYS HUNGRY). Lunch sometimes consisted of an assortment of snacks and junk at the local Ma and Pa convenience store. Other times, we would find a local restaurant and sit right down in our bike clothes. It was always a conversation starter for the wait staff and fellow restaurant patrons when they saw us come in the restaurant in our bike clothes and waddling like a penguin in our bike shoes. Sometimes a group of our fellow riders would have already stopped at that same restaurant. They’d ask us, “Are you with them bikers riding cross country?” Sometimes we’d hop right back on our bikes after lunch and ride at a fairly easy pace. Other times, we’d hang out at the restaurant after our meal and just relax.

Dinner was always one of the highlights of the day. Towards the end of the trip, the girls in the kitchen would let us write up the menu. We’d try and come up with goofy names for the menu items. Just like breakfast, we had typical dinner items on the menu. You could go up for seconds only after everyone had already gone through the line and assuming there was still food leftover.

Sleep was the second most important part of the Holy Trinity. I was amazed at how well my body was able to recover after all of the work and torture I put it through. Despite the fact that most nights were spent on a 2” thick foam pad, I never slept so good in my entire life. Even though we got up early (sometimes as early as 5:30), I never really felt “sleepy-tired”. I had sore muscles for sure but never felt tired. And it’s not like I went to bed at 8:00 every night either. I typically went to bed around 10:00 each night. Some people, myself included, would sometimes take naps during the afternoon, especially on short days.

There were some night when it was hard to sleep, primarily because of people snoring. Chip was my roommate every time we were camping. He seemed fine early in the trip, but starting snoring like a chain saw once we got east of the Mississippi. Maybe it was the altitude? Schools were typically big enough that you could find your own little space away from all the other snorers. Churches, because they were smaller, sometimes it was hard to find some piece and quiet. One place in Indiana, I literally slept outside on the front sidewalk under the stars. But I would have to say that it felt great to sleep in my own bed again.

Access to a good shower was the third, and final part of the Holy Trinity. A good shower was more valuable the gold. It was great when we stayed at a school because they always had great showers. Good water pressure and lots of hot water. It was BETTER THAN SEX!!! Besides the times we were staying at schools, there were some other times we were fortunate to have access to good showers. We stayed at a couple KOA’s and a couple YMCAs that had good showers. There certainly were a fair amount of places where we were stuck with an ice cold shower at a public park. But still, it felt SOOOO GOOOOD after a hard day’s ride.

Some of you are wondering, “What do you do for a shower when you’re camping 50 miles outside of East Bumfuck?” Wandering Wheels had their own portable showers. It was pretty crude and simply involved hooking up a garden hose. It also had a small water heater attached to it, but it provided only lukewarm water at best. That was an added perk to being one of the first to arrive at the final destination. The shower would sometimes be set up on the church’s front yard right in the middle of town. We certainly weren’t naked while taking showers on the church’s front lawn. People would typically change into a bathing suit prior to “hopping in the shower”. Still, it felt weird trying to discretely wash one’s nether regions in front of a bunch of people. Almost everybody took their shower soon after they completed their ride. It made no sense to take one in the morning because you were just about to ride a bike for several hours…DUH!!!