December 16, 2012


There are not many people that I would, without hesitation, take a bullet for  (aside from the obvious family and close friends). But, there are 141 lives that I would have no choice but to protect - my students.

In the wake of the Connecticut tragedies, which happened just over an hour from my home, it had me thinking - could I take a bullet for my students, just like those brave teachers and faculty did? I never thought about it until now, that as part of my job description not listed in the fine print, is to protect each and every one of their precious little lives.

Which reminds me of one scary night I had on the AT, just before I thru hiked. Rocket and I did an overnight, out-and-back hike; it was the week between Christmas and New Years, and, though there was snow on the ground, it was an unseasonably warm night. We were up late into the night chatting in the shelter, giggling like 5 year olds. Without warning, someone popped out in the front of the shelter, shined a light on us, and disappeared swiftly into the night. We never saw the person behind the light, never heard the crunch of snow underfoot, and never saw foot prints the next day. My reaction was to play dead (as per the dumb advice of Rocket) and immediately I buried my head into her shoulder and pretended nothing was happening. My heart raced like a greyhound chasing a fake bunny. To this day, we cannot explain the weird incident.

You're wondering why I'm meshing 2 unrelated things. My point in telling that story is, my typical reaction is to freeze in fear. If ever faced with what those poor Connecticut people endured, I know whole-heartedly I would push fear aside and face up to whatever I had to, to protect those lives. I hope I never, ever, have to face death within the 4 walls of a school, but I know I wouldn't give it a second thought. The children come first.

You're also wondering how this is related to cycling or adventure.

I learned a new acronym recently - YOLO - you only live once. Who knows what life has in store for any of us, so stop dying and start living.

true story

December 8, 2012

Biking, it is!

This is the time of year that makes me think about thru hiking. At this time 4 years ago, I was preparing for the Appalachian Trail - testing gear, buying gear, shopping for mail drop items, and dreaming about what life would be like on the trail. I can't believe it's been that long since I hiked, and how much living has happened since then.

I often think about hiking another long trail, and I haven't come up with something that tugs at my heartstrings like the AT did. I had this inherent feeling for a long time that told me I had to hike the AT. Will I ever thru hike the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT)? Probably not, but never say never. What about the Continental Divide Trail (CDT)? Doubtful. I think my long distance hiking will be sections well under 2,000 miles.

A gargantuan reason why I don't think I could spend another 6 months in the woods is because the aftermath is ugly, and I don't think I could do that to myself again. Mentally, I was a wreck and it felt like forever before I recovered; post-trail depression hit hard. I was a bitchy pain in the ass to deal with. It's unanimous among thru hikers, there's just no way to ever convey what we go through emotionally, and why we feel the way we do once it's over - it feels like the death of a best friend. For some reason, my TransAm ride didn't emotionally destroy me in the end - maybe because I kept telling myself I couldn't come home an angry mess again. Recently I talked with a friend who hiked the AT last year. He told me he put on his boots that he summited Katahdin in, and immediately cried. I know exactly what he was feeling.

The proudest moment of my life

As much as I yearn for my time on the AT, I will continue to travel via bicycle. I love that it's so accessible and a tour can start right from your front door. I'm not discounting my love of long-distance hiking, I will always have a passion for it, but, well, you get the point.

I think about the TransAm often, and miss the fun that I had, and realize how lucky I was to make such an amazing friend and travel buddy. It's awesome to be able to pick up the phone and say, "Hey, remember the time I pulled over to cry because I was so exhausted, and remember the time we ate brownie sundaes bigger than our heads, or remember the time we had to swing hammers to construct a bed in a teepee, and hey, remember when you went to pedal away and fell in the middle of the street because your tire blew right after we ate lunch at 8 am in that weird restaurant, and took gravel naps, and got chased by that coyote that could have chewed our asses off, and when I taught you how to shit in the woods, and how we used to pretend our loaf of bread had just come out of the oven because the sun was baking it to death on the back of your bike, and, and...?" and giggle as the conversation leads to more current things in our lives. Damn I miss that trip.

Next summer should bring more bicycle adventures, and I have a few ideas brewing. Stay tuned, if anyone is out there still reading my nonsense.

Cheers. Now go have an adventure, 2-wheeled or otherwise.

Photos: A recent section hike on the AT with my thru hiker friends. (Rocket and I hiked the whole trail together, and we befriended Beav somewhere in Virginia). And yes, we call each other ONLY by trail names still.

Angry Beaver, Rocket and me (Storm)

October 5, 2012

Critical Mass, and the Best Surprise

Last weekend, I rode my first Critical Mass in Baltimore. When Andy first mentioned it a month ago and asked me to join, I thought, "What the hell is critical mass?" He told me to just come, it would be fun, and so I agreed - after a little research to see what it was.

Critical Mass started in San Francisco 20 years ago, so my first ride was on the 20th anniversary. It started as a loosely organized mass ride of cyclists of all types. The purpose: fun, and a middle finger to cars. It now happens all over the world, and is typically on the last Friday of each month.

So I packed up my car and took off for Baltimore, having no idea that the best surprise EVER was waiting for me. When I got to Andy's,  he immediately ripped Beast of Burden off of my car, and then insisted I sit on the couch - he was being rather pushy and I couldn't understand why, but after 10 minutes of chatting, I finally sat. Next to a big puffy blanket. And 2 feet poked out and attempted to wiggle under my butt. And then McKinley sprang up from that blanket! (On the road when her feet were cold, she would wedge them under my butt to warm them, so her thought was I'd immediately know it was her - I didn't. It scared me, and I thought an animal was under there.) I screamed, then had the pre-cry face, and couldn't stop hugging her. Confused? Yes. But excited as all hell? Absolutely! They had been planning my surprise since the minute I agreed to ride the Crit.

The ride from Andy's to the meeting point was, I realized, the reason that motorists hate cyclists. In the interest of time, we rode like wild, uncaged beasts for 10 miles. We barreled down city streets, weaving in and out of cars at red lights to get to the front. We hauled ass the wrong way down one-way streets. We hopped on the sidewalk to cut a corner or two. Never the way I ride - I respect the rules and act as motorist - but holy crap was that ever so fun! It also made me realize how much I miss riding with a cycling partner that I'm so in tune with. McK and I rode wheel-to-wheel in draft style, as per usual, and we giggled and chatted about how much we miss riding together. It sure is great to have someone to talk to and point out the debris. She even threw out the "Hitler Arm," a hand signal we crafted for when there's a very, very long stretch of debris or pot holes. It immediately brought me back to the TransAm. I miss it.

Critical mass was some of the most fun I've ever had on 2 wheels riding that slow. There were 700 cyclists clogging the roads, ringing bells, and whooping and hollering. I think the ride back to Andy's was even more fun at 2 am, whizzing through the crisp, fall air at 20 mph. And then McK snapped a chain. It's never a legit bike ride if something doesn't go wrong.

September 15, 2012

Wagons and Bicycles

Just when I think I live in assholeville (as far as cycling conditions go), a 3 year old girl shouts at me from the blue wagon her dad is pulling her in. She excitedly shrieks, "HIIIIIIII BIIIIIIKE" as I fly by. Right back at ya, kid.

And that is total redemption for the 2 guys who screamed, "Get out of the road, asshole!" 

It's not always bike friendly around here, however, there are moments that make my heart smile. Thank you, blue wagon-rider, for making my day. 

September 13, 2012


So many of you left comments, and I received each and every one of them. I didn't have time to respond individually, which is why I'm dedicating a blog post to all of you kind souls.

Thank you so very much to everyone who left kind words; the small gesture meant so much to me. Some days I wanted to kick my bike, and when a happy comment would pop up in my email, it always made me smile. And to those of you lurkers who never left a comment, thanks for following along.

With gratitude,

September 4, 2012

What is a Cyclist?

When I first crafted the idea of cycling across America and started this blog, I wasn't even close to being a cyclist, and never thought I'd ever consider myself one. A cyclist is someone with a lean body wearing an ugly outfit on a road bike, riding at lightening speed. If you didn't fit that description, then you were not a cyclist...or so I thought.

Well, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that there's all types of cyclists: there are those fast people on lightweight bikes, and there's mountain biking enthousiasts, or day riders on beach cruisers, or bmx punks, or those who, like myself, travel long distance on a bicycle - not that I don't like to move fast, but I like the travel part of cycling.

I wear bike shorts, paired with an awesomely ugly jersey, tank top, t shirt, button down, wool shirt or a wind breaker. My legs may be lean and muscular, but I don't have a typical cyclists body. I love my inefficient bike sandals. I want to ride lightening fast, but prefer a steel frame. I carry a frame pump and have a heavy Brooks saddle. My handle bars have a double wrap. Sometimes I don't wear gloves. I wear fast sunglasses, and I wear fun neon sunglasses. Beast is outfitted with a bell that just begs to be rung; I ring it with such joy. I will own a road bike one day, but right now, Beast is my pseudo road bike; I ride it hard, pretending it's a feather weight. And I have bar-end shifters that click loudly into place.

My name is Patrice, and I'm a cyclist.

Photo: Beast and I in Sisters, Oregon

September 3, 2012


Some fun facts and stats:

4,000 miles biked

86 days on the road. And around 10 of those were rest days.

10 states, 11 if you count the 2 miles through Tennessee to get into Virginia.

0 flat tires, though I had to change a few tubes from snapping or bending  valve stems. McKinley had 7 or 8. Stupid stock tires.

1 rear tire replaced in Berea, Kentucky, from a gash in the sidewall. My tire never actually went flat.

1 hard crash. Result: an awesome  knee scar.

3 chains

0 broken spokes

2 pairs of spd shoes - Keen spd sandals are amazing!

2 pairs of shorts that are totally falling apart

3 or 4 cries, from utter exhaustion or saddle sores

Countless laughs

And 1 new lifelong friend. That apparently is my twin. And I wish didn't live 2 weeks away by bicycle.

I thought this trip would be a quest for the best ice cream, but as it turns out, it was a quest for the best chocolate milk. Sorry to disappoint you, Lucy. Almost daily, I drank a bottle of the brown stuff, testing all of the local brands along the way. Contrary to populated belief, Nesquick is not the tastiest; my favorites were Highland, a local dairy in Missouri, and Borden, which carried further east into Kentucky. They were creamy delicious, since they are both made with whole milk. Yum!

My favorite convenience store ice cream was the Toll House chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwiches, ringing in at 20 grams of fat. Double yum!

Best meals: veggie lasagna, one by ws hosts Jeff and Bettina, and the second by Beth and Garry, containing ingredients from their farm in Kentucky.

Favorite beer: Moose Drool, from Montana

Best coffee: Mojoe's in Damascus

Favorite self-made roadside sandwich: tomatoes and cheese on whole wheat with mayo and fresh cracked pepper. My mouth is currently watering. 

Favorite thing about bike touring: meeting the locals in small town America.

Will I tour again? Without a doubt; I can't wait to see what turns up next on the bucket list. Stay tuned.

Lastly, I'll probably keep this blog going for a while. I think I'll write only TransAm thoughts, or about other cycling adventures, since this is a cycling blog.

It's the journey, not the destination, so go on a journey, no matter how long or short.