Selling Off the Last Four Years of our Lives

I’ve been slowly packing away our things in hopes that the job of packing away everything we are keeping isn’t so overwhelming when it finally comes time to clear out the apartment. We’ve been trying to sell off as much as possible and find good homes for other items before we start making trips to the local Goodwill.

The biggest amount of work and some of the hardest decisions to make have been selling off most of Hannah’s vintage bicycle collection (at least the bikes we have stored locally) and while it was hard to part with a few of them and we were happy to see others go, it has been a fun experience meeting other bicycle collectors who have been stopping in to purchase (and sometimes just to look) at what we have.DSC01615 For example, this lovely Pre-war Rollfast that is ready for a ride as soon as the sun comes out. This one we’ve decided to keep.

I finally had to part ways with a long term project on an old Schwinn Black Phantom that was not really recognizable when It came to me. It has since been sand blasted and given an antique white powder coating of fresh paint. Newer rims and tires were added but laced to the old 3-speed hub. It was time to admit that having accomplished only that in the past four years of intending to work on it meant it needed to go to a new home. A buyer from Delaware was happy to pick it up and give it a new home, with a complete Frankenstein restoration, in his collection.

So, as bikes are cleared out of the storage unit we make space for some other things we don’t care to part with just yet. Hannah has been working on packing away her large collection of books and I’m working on finding new surroundings for most of our furniture.book packing

The apartment is so spacious without the dinning room table and some part of me is now wishing we had sold it off earlier as it left behind a great space for yoga or current bicycle projects. It is also our main space for packing and organizing at the moment is is always a mess.

missing furniture

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Not wanting to leave somewhere you don’t really want to be

Despite the fact that I’m really looking forward to going on the cycling trip, I can’t say I’m unconflicted. Now is not the first time I’ve felt this way. It happens every time I move.

I’ve always moved for good reasons: I’ve outgrown a place and am not happy. Or I’ve picked a place with a new opportunity, and I have things to accomplish there instead.

I don’t think there’s a perfect place in the world for me, and I deeply believe that wherever you are, it matters most what you build there.

Despite the fact that our time here always already had an expiration date, I made an honest go of it. I built.

So while I look ahead, I’m also mourning:

Mourning the friendships I’ve made that I just won’t be able to maintain without regular in-person time together. Mourning the projects I could have started here, or the goals I could have tackled with others. Mourning leaving my team. Mourning the life that I started to build that I could very well continue, if I wanted, if I could.

I am not done here. I am not done with this. I still have things to accomplish.

Maybe it comes down to this: even though I don’t love Lancaster, I am not unhappy here.

But I am also not fully happy here.

I am. I am not. More than I want to stay, I need to go.

I am not fully happy here, for reasons as obvious as my work life, as trivial as a waitress who asks “would you like a drink awhile?”, as subtle as feeling like brushing against the fences of friendly but closed communities, as concrete as the lack of cycling infrastructure, as cumulative as the number of rainy days. It was always going to be a stone to rest my feet on before the next hop forward. I still am not done here. I still am not ready to hop.

And yet, I am so ready to go.

If I could split myself and lead many lives on many paths, I would, oh, I would. In part, we’re talking about a bright new future, but with the loss of another potential future, also bright.

They are both real and true. The need to stay. The need to go.

Planning for this trip isn’t just sorting through things to put in my panniers. For me, it’s also an emotional sorting.

Possible Route Planning

Part of the planning for this trip has included the “we’re not planning too much” realm of thought. It seems half of the bicycle travelers we’ve met use this same thought process and the other half have everything planned to the gills! Since we want to go everywhere and see everything and visit all of our friends and family and make as many new friends as possible, we have reason to wander to every region of the USA. As time is flying past us and we realize it’s only five weeks until we start this ride, we’ve decided that we should probably have some sort of goal in mind, at least for the first month or two. After studying the eastern half of the USA (and only that parts of it that are likely to be warming up in April (so…no New England yet) we’ve decided to head to Delaware and meet some friends who are going to be camping at Cape Henlopen State Park at the beginning of April. This gives us a five to seven day journey (we might be really, really slow) with good friends and a great campground at the end of our first week. After that we’ll mosey south along the coast and look for a ferry to take us back across the Chesapeake bay so we don’t have to back track up to northern MD and PA again. From there we hope to ride towards Washington D.C. to stay with relatives and then make our way to the northern section of Shenandoah National Park and ride the Skyline Drive south. Eventually we’ll pick up the Blue Ridge Parkway and make our way further south while trying to decide where to head after that based on weather, money and whether or not were having a good time. This decision was made mostly because Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway are considered one of the most beautiful roads in the country. Hannah is from Nebraska and has never seen this part of the Appalachian Mountains, despite my having visited it many times as well as having hiked the whole thing during my AT thru-hike in 2002. This part of the country is well worth every trip back and I look forward to seeing it from the bike this time.

The Two Wheeled Experience

Ten miles an hour. My favorite speed for travel.
My commute to work doesn’t require me to take secondary roads but I choose to ride on them because the scenery is nicer and there is less traffic and what traffic does exist is moving at slower speeds. Many roads in Lancaster County, PA do not have shoulders and so riding a bike often happens in the right side of the lane, which is another reason to stick to the smaller, side roads. While these roads offer less traffic there is still a good amount of traffic during rush hour(s) but many drivers in this area give a wide berth, in my experience. Perhaps the Amish buggies and Mennonites on bicycles/kick-scooters have paved the way for today’s cyclists by traveling frequently on these roads and preparing the local traffic for the possibility of the right side of the lane being blocked as you crest a hill or come around a blind corner. Whatever it may be, my rides to and from work have been quite enjoyable and safe and also feel safe. I think feeling safe is a huge part of riding a bicycle on a regular basis and one of the biggest reasons there are not more folks out riding around, be it for recreation, commuting or running errands.
When I ride my bicycle or scooter through a town and someone is walking down the sidewalk, I can say “good morning!” or wave at them or at least smile. While I can do these things in my car the effect is rather dull since no one is even aware that I am trying to interact with them. In fact, it might seem truly odd. If you’re walking down the street and someone in a car waves at you or says “Hi” and you happen to notice you’re probably expecting to know them and once you find out that you don’t, they just seem sort of odd or perhaps confused about who you are. This experience on a two wheeled machine is very different. You’re face and eyes are usually exposed to others and it is easy to make eye contact. The car isn’t putting up a wall between you and others. You feel more connected to the ground and what’s going on around you and what your environment is like. Overall, you are not as detached from your surroundings. I like this experience and didn’t even know if was missing from my life until I started riding my bicycle to work.

Mounting my New Front Rack…or How I Don’t Do Math

We made a trip up to Oswald Cycle Works last weekend to pick up our new front racks. After buying a few other rack options and not having them work out I decided to suck up the cost and just get the Surly Nice front rack. Manufactured by the same company that made my bike I assumed it was meant to go on my Surly LHT and would surly fit without a problem.

When I first opened up the bag with the instructions and hardware I was thinking “Geeze! there’s about 4 pounds of metal here and that doesn’t even include the rack!” In the end most of it was not needed since my bike does have mid fork brazons and it wasn’t necessary to create an anchor on the fork (from all the parts they included) to attach the rack to. However, when I first started to read the instructions I saw this next to number 5:  “Calculate the number of spacers needed for attaching the offset sliding plates to the rack. Use this formula. (154mm – 110mm (1 x 1 fork eyelet spacing measurement)) / 2 -15 + 7mm.” At that point I crumpled the directions and started wrenching things together without the instructions. I don’t do math and I certainly don’t like it when it infringes on activities or hobbies that I consider to be fun and free feeling. Luckily I’m fairly mechanically inclined and had the experience of putting the rear rack on my bike last year. About two hours later I had the rack installed and ready for use!8492919068_998530927f_c8491818029_1a2ce006c9_c

Why Two Wheels?

In March of 2012 my car met its end. Well, it was fixable for about $1400 but that seemed like a lot of money to spend on something I wasn’t really interested in and quite frankly, didn’t even like. When I say I didn’t like it, I don’t mean it wasn’t the right car for me because it was outdated or wasn’t the right color or style…I mean I discovered that I dislike(d) cars in general. All of them. I knew this when I bought the car and on the day I bought it, I told myself it would be the last one I ever owned. So five years later, as the water pump was exploding and coolant was screaming out of the engine as I drove it to the salvage yard in exchange for $200, I was through with the car. Having made the decision to replace it with a motor scooter a month earlier, when I knew the car was reaching its end, Hannah promptly drove me to Trans Am Cycles in Lititz, PA where I purchased a 2010 Kymco Agility 125cc scooter for $1700.rding in lot Now, the thing to note here is that I had never ridden a two wheeled motorized vehicle prior to this day. Not once. Not even as a passenger. I had studied for my permit and taken the written test that is required for the permit but this test doesn’t require you to be able to actually ride a motor bike of any kind (most of the questions on this test relate to drunk riding. Just in case you didn’t know, this is a bad idea on a motorcycle.) In PA you must have a motorcycle license to ride anything with an engine size larger than 49cc’s. I used the internet to determine that I wanted a scooter over a motorcycle and something with at least 125cc’s which would allow me to travel at acceptable speeds on all roads except highways.buying scooter So, off to the bike shop we went and after riding it around in the parking lot there for about an hour I made my way home with an escort of friends in the car ahead of me and Hannah in the car behind me. I was scared but if you can ride a bicycle you can ride a scooter. For those that are wondering, we did take the MSF riding course (a free, two day course in PA where beginner or experienced riders can learn how to operate a motorcycle and be tested on their skills to get a permit without going to the DMV and taking the test there) a few weeks later to gain our motorcycle licenses.

After getting rid of the car and using the scooter to commute to work and run errands or go out in the evening I was getting pretty comfortable on it but still enjoyed riding my bicycle and as the weather warmed decided it was time to commute to work on that a few days a week. The more I rode the more I wanted to ride and often wanted to continue riding past work and keep pedaling all day. Of course this lead to the idea of touring and if you don’t have a car it seems fair to have at least one really nice bicycle that can also haul stuff around. Thus, a few months later I purchased my Surly Long Haul Trucker and we’ve been best friends ever since!surly lht