Moab, Utah

Video

A few weeks ago, my good ol’ buddy and roommate, Patrick Glover (pictured to the far left in the picture header above), had a week off in between jobs. I’m someone who does not do well with planning things ahead of time, and who likes to “go big” with most things I do. Patrick is more extreme in both dimensions. We had one week, and we knew we had to go big.

Our loose talk about what to do ranged from bumming around Southeast Asia, to trekking around the Karakoram Mountains in Pakistan, to riding bikes from San Francisco down to LA. In typical Coleman / Patrick fashion, the time had come where it was the day before we were supposed to leave, and we still had very little idea about what we were going to do.

Thankfully, his girlfriend, Sandy, aka “planner extraordinaire” came through and planned our entire itinerary in about 5 minutes. The next day, we were off, driving nearly 2,500 miles roundtrip in Patrick’s barely-running patched up car to Moab, Utah, for a real sufferfest. 3 days of road biking, 1 day of mountain biking, 1 day of trail running and zero showers.

We experimented with a GoPro camera along the way and threw together this 10-minute film of our trip.

San Francisco! And FAQs

It took me 6 months to bike from San Francisco to Tampa, but less than 10 hours to fly back!

Here’s a picture from my seat as we soar over the Sierras. The valley there is where Hwy 395 runs through, near Bishop, CA, near Mt. Whitney. Home sweet home.

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But first, I had to disassemble my poor ol’ bike and stuff it into a bike box to ship separately:

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And by “I”, I mean my helpers. I did very little but watch helplessly as my dad, Aunt Michele, and most of all, Uncle Mike, stuffed my too-large bike into a too-small box over the course of 2 or 3 hours. I like this picture, because it demonstrates how I felt watching it go down. It’s like they’re stuffing the remains of my best friend into this tiny dark box, while parts of her “body” still lie spewed around the area, such as the naked wheel in the bottom left of the picture. In the end, I had to wrap this remaining wheel in pieces of cardboard, bubble wrap, clothes, tape, and multiple garbage bags and check it onto my Southwest Flight.

But I’m back! Wow, it’s kind of surreal being back in San Francisco. It’s 6 months to the day since I slowly biked over the Golden Gate Bridge, facing the vastness of the country and 6 months worth of biking. Now that I’m back, I have to remind myself that it ever happened.

I just added a page of Frequently Asked Questions here: https://bikingwithcoleman.wordpress.com/faqs/

The most important question that I’d like to highlight is: What’s next??

The immediate answer is that I’m going to Costa Rica for a month. The longer-term answer is, once I get back, I plan on coming back to the San Francisco Bay Area. I would like to find a new project to direct my built up productive energy toward. I have a few vague ideas that I’ll dabble in, but I also would love to work on something with a small group of people I know. If anyone has a project that they could see me being able to provide help with in any way, or know anyone who could use someone like me, I am very open to hearing about it.

Let me know if you have other questions, since I’m sure I’ll add to the FAQs over time.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Nothing says Thanksgiving like turkey, sweet potatoes, and family!

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(And yes, I did bake that sweet potato casserole)

Wow, do I have a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. It’s amazing that 6 months ago, I was chilling with my roommates, laughing at the fact that I had already planned the end of my longer-than-normal bike trip with a post-ride meal of Thanksgiving dinner. And now it’s here!

I debated for a while about this post. I have so much to be thankful for and so many people to be thankful toward across the vastness of these past 6 months, that a limited text entry would fall far short of the true gratitude and love and thankfulness I feel toward you all. And it’s inevitable that I won’t cover everyone with the limited time I have to write this, but please believe that this only covers a fraction of those I’m gracious toward. In the end, I decided I would write this, since today IS Thanksgiving after all, and it would be an appropriate bookend to the acknowledgments section from before I began the trip. But I owe you all so much more than this, and I hope to be a friendly, positive presence in your lives.

Continue reading

The sun sets on a grand adventure

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The above was taken on the night I reached the Gulf of Mexico and completed my goal of swimming in the 4 largest bodies of water touching the states – the Pacific Ocean, Lake Superior, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Gulf of Mexico.

And yesterday, around 5:30 p.m., 173 days and 10 hours, 6,660 miles upon leaving San Francisco, I pulled into my Aunt and Uncle’s house in Lithia, Florida, to officially complete my journey! With about 54 and a half hours to spare until Thanksgiving.

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Yes, yes… that last one is me riding down the street helmet-less while drinking down some champagne.

It has been a long, LONG, LONG trip. To sum it up in one sentence, it was “The most fun that I never want to have again.” As the miles ticked down yesterday, I started putting some pressure on myself to come up with a meaningful “I finished!” post. Perhaps come up with a “What I’ve learned” part two, from the second half of the trip. But in the end, the intangible wisdom that I’ve gained from the trip comes across as clichés. Reading a text blog is an ineffective way to communicate the full gravity of what I’ve experienced.

Because of this, the one thing I really learned is that you can listen to advice from your elders or mentors, you can search for inspirational quotes, study historical teachings, or read the musings of wise men all you want, but nothing comes close to being as effectual or defining as authentic, raw life experiences. All of the clichés I have spouted over the past 6 months are phrases we’ve all heard before and generally hold to be true. Yet the meaning they hold for me is deeper now. So rather than continuing the cliché train, I will just remind you all that at the end of the day, the meaning and learning that you can extract from books and observation (and this blog) is limited. Go out into the world and roam.

There are a few end-of-the-trip takeaways that I will share. These are not so much validating the truth of often heard words of wisdom, but rather, it is what I’ve gained from this trip that I hope will persist once I am back in San Francisco:

  • I have gained an increased confidence in myself to overcome obstacles and successfully complete dreams that may seem daunting and far-fetched at first
  • I have gained some “Positive Discipline” – it’s a term I’ve made up. Where I imagine negative discipline is when you are able to take orders from someone, or are disciplined enough to not do something inappropriate, I consider positive discipline to come from within. In the absence of external stimulation, positive discipline helps you to push yourself through pain to your self-defined goal
  • I have gained a re-orientation to the things in my life that are truly important. Family, love, having enough to eat and sleep, friends who you feel comfortable around, etc. etc.
  • I have gained a deeper empathy and understanding for folks from all walks of life. I have met and had real, raw interactions with a diverse set of people – North American people at least – I still look forward to broadening my experiences with people from all over the world in the future
  • I have gained an appreciation for the innate goodness of people. Rather than the fearful perspective that one is alone in a dark, evil place, full of neighbors who are out to get you, I have experienced the contrary: a world of friendly, helpful individuals who have nothing but positive intentions and will go far out of their way to be kind. Especially toward those who they meet face to face. On my last ride, I heard a beautifully true statement, which is the best counterargument I’ve heard for “Ignorance is bliss” and pro argument for education of all types:

“Ignorance breeds hatred”

There have been many others of course, but for the sake of elevating the purpose of the above, I will leave it at that.

I’m sure you all have unanswered questions about the finer details of the trip – What was my favorite part? Did you ever think about quitting? Do you regret the trip? What’s next? Would you recommend someone else embark on such a trip? – I want to hear any and all questions you all have! I will compile the questions into a FAQ section. It will be instrumental in helping me reflect on this experience and will be a goldmine for 40-year old Andrew looking back and trying to remember the trip, as well as preventing me from having to have the same Q&A session with everyone individually… Not to say that I won’t answer questions when I see you all in person again! I’m sure I’ll always love talking and reminiscing about it. I can’t believe I’ve actually made it to Florida…

Guest Post by Uncle Mike

“Biking With Coleman”
It was a great selection for the name of the blog. Although biking with Coleman is adventurous, “Camping with Coleman” is really where the adventures are hidden or “Eating with Coleman” for any one who has seen him kill a buffet.
My adventure with Coleman begins here:
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Georgetown, Georgia at the Sans Boutique and Suites.
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We started out on a chili morning, over dressed, and expecting rain.
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We pushed along for 58 miles or so till we found our perfect place to camp. A state park looked welcoming, so we welcomed ourselves.
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Across the clearing into the woods, over logs, under branches, through the brush, and my first bike failure. Can’t stop now, loosing daylight and have to get set up. Got our camp set up just before dark, fixed the bike, at which time Coleman comments “it wouldn’t be touring if nothing broke”.
The camping begins. Coleman cooks up gourmet mac and cheese with pink salmon for dinner. Then a lot of hours to enjoy the mosquitoes and the great out doors, and a raccoon checking us out.
In the middle of the night we get a visitor. At first, raccoon came to mind. Then it was startled off and the pounding of its hooves indicated something larger and heavier than a raccoon, possible a wild hog. Of coarse now I am wide awake waiting for what’s next, and Fearless Coleman, oblivious that we even had a visitor didn’t even stir.
Morning comes and we pack very quickly with the incentive of sparrow sized mosquitoes having us for breakfast making us move on before having our breakfast. So, out we go to find the park closed and the electric gate won’t open. Luckily we spotted an opening in the fence just big enough to fit the bikes through. Down the road we go.
Here is where I learn why planning is out. We planned on going to Jekyll Island but we could not get the ferry to Fernandina beach, so we plot a course to Amelia. We ride through a couple of towns where everything is closed on Sunday.We find an open pizza shop, Coleman orders 2 large 16″ pies.
Here we find out the bridge is closed going to Florida and we are told we have to back track.
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Back Track! NO Chance!
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Across we go!
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Arriving in Florida was monumental.
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Our next stop, 18 or so miles to the campground on the north end of the island. We get to the campground just as they are closing only to find they are sold out and we are out of light. Now what? Well, Jill and Sandy (Volunteer park hosts) to the rescue. They have their RV and two tents set up on a site they get for volunteering, offer us their tent, which we hesitated all of a fraction of a second to accept, and it’s even right next to the showers. NICE, and just Colemans price range, freee. One warning came with it, the four resident raccoons will go through your stuff.
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How bad could four raccoons be?
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11 to 15 raccoons later and a sleepless night chasing them off, I learn that Coleman is oblivious to anything outside of his armored hut, which isn’t even his this time, but no matter, nothing disturbs him, nothing. I spent hours picking up his stuff from around the camp site before giving up and dragging his bags and pieces into the tent with us. Finally, the raccoons do a final tour of his bike and can’t find anything interesting. Now’s my chance to get two hours sleep. Sweet Dreams!
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Day 3. Its a short ride to the condo for some well deserved R and R, after all we did travel 120 miles in two days. Not much to say except a huge thank you to Kim and John for three magnificent nights of sleeping.
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Day 6. Off to Jacksonville to visit Lexy and Zach.
A short 30 mile ride and all you can eat buffet.
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Just when the dishwasher thought he was near done, I load up 3 plates and Coleman shows up and loads 8 plates. Yes he ate them all. We had a good time visiting and spent the night on the floor in Lexys dorm.
Day 7. Off to St Augustine.

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We got a tour of Flagler College, then hunt for a place to stay. Nice ride in the morning followed by steady light rain into the evening. Found a county park, very small with a resident county worker on site. Time to knock on a door and ask if we can pitch tent in his yard. A polite rejection and directions to another park on the ocean side of the road, we are off. Found the park wide open, not one tree. Two pavilions and a bathroom with running water, a plus.
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No tents tonight, don’t want to attract attention and its too dark to look for a better place. Change into dry clothes and utilize the bathroom to clean up. Out comes the stove for gourmet mac and cheese and pink salmon. We each find a dry place on the floor by the concrete picnic tables and lay out our pads and sleeping bags. The soothing sound of the ocean just 100 yards away; we should sleep like a bear. NOT! A speeding car running through the lot woke me up at 1 am and at that point the ocean just would not stop. Coleman, oblivious to all of it. His reaction to the speeding car, roll over to the other side. Get up at sunrise damp, salty, sticky, ready to ride. Note to self, concrete does not make a good sleeping area.
Day 8. Early start gives us a chance to do a lot of miles. Destination, unknown, not planned, just south down the coast.
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Nice morning, overcast followed by a flat tire for me, and more showers and a wet ride till we found an abandoned gas station to get out of the rain and locate a destination to camp.
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In the gas station we find a German couple touring on Harleys hiding from the rain as well. Exchanged stories and off they went, to the corner and straight back with a flat tire. No fear, Coleman loans him his bicycle pump for a work out to blow the tire back up. Ten minutes of pumping and a test ride to find the tire has a bulge.
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We stayed long enough to help them get a tow truck out of there and left us with half hour to find a place to camp in the rain. Into the forest we go, find the best spot yet, set up camp in the rain, get settled in and the rain stopped. Perfect. Quiet, comfy, nothing but woods.
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I slept like a bear. Coleman stirred and heard visitors and didn’t sleep well. I guess only one at a time sleeps well.
Day 9. 40 mile ride to grandpa’s house we go. Lots of time, hot, humid, slow easy, uneventful ride with the reward of a shower at the end.
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Had a nice time with Harmon and an awesome lunch at Eaton’s Beach on the lake. We got some laundry done and relaxing with Harmon, Cooper, and Bradley.

Day 10 off to Homosassa, 70 plus miles with the promise of a shower.

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We arrive with some daylight to spare and just before the rain started. Michele and my dad drove up and took us out to dinner. That made for a great evening.

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Then my friend Jeff put us up in one of his rental cottages. No tents tonight, another pleasant surprise. Thanks Jeff!

http://www.homosassariverretreat.com

Day 11, An easy 30 mile ride to Spring Hill

Thank You for the adventure Coleman! You are the man!

Florida! I made it!

Before:

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After… 5 months, 5 days, 8 hours, 6,200 miles, 2 million pedal rotations, 25 states and 2 provinces, 1 chain, 1 tire, some choice words of frustration to the wind gods, and who knows how many calories consumed later:

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I made it! I still have a couple hundred more miles of cycling to go though.

Community of Bike Tourers

I have met many other bike tourers on this trip, from the first timers, to a few seasoned veterans, such as the guy I met on day 3 who had been touring for 2 years and was on his way to Alaska. And the guy I met outside of Montreal who had been touring on and off for years, and had just started a trip across the continent to Banff, Glacier, Yellowstone, and Yosemite… In the winter.

But most of the epic tourers I’ve come across have been through stories I’ve heard, rather than directly meeting them. For example, the first three Warm Showers I stayed at up the Pacific Coast all told tales of the same German couple who were biking from Alaska to Patagonia… With their 6 month old daughter… Well, she was 6 months old when they started. But they had coincidentally stayed at the same three Warm Showers spots that I had. Another example – when I stayed with a Warm Showers host in Wisconsin, most of our conversation revolved around a South African man who had stayed with the host a few weeks or a month before I had. He had been touring nonstop for over 7 years, covering over 100,000 km. We spent most of our time together browsing his blog, http://ernestonbike.blogspot.com/ . I may have told some of you about him.

Anyway, one of the coolest parts of this trip has been being a part of this community of bike tourers. Along the Pacific Coast, we were always camping together at biker campsites. The four I biked with across North Dakota may have, no exaggeration, saved my trip. I’ve loved meeting friends of friends along the Northeast who have also done cross country bike trips.

Sadly though, until a few days ago, I had not seen another active tourer since Vermont, and had not seen another tourer who was more than a few hours removed from flying into the airport since parting ways with Casey and Zandi in Minnesota. This is partially because summer, the most popular touring season, is over. It’s also because I have parted ways with the most heavily bike-trafficked Adventure Cycling Association cross country routes.

But, on the road from Charleston to Savannah, I ran into a grandfather who was almost done with his San Diego to Myrtle Beach adventure. He was also shaming me by crushing 100 mile days since crossing the Mississippi, he claimed. He wanted to take a picture with his grandchildren in his arms on the beach at the finish to remind them that “No matter how old you are, you can always complete something epic.”

And then, a few hours later, sitting outside McDonalds, who pulls up on his beat up old Saartje than none other but Ernest!!!! From Ernest on bike fame, who I had heard legend of in Wisconsin! Meeting him was kind of like how a vertically challenged teenager who loved playing basketball would feel if he suddenly ran into Lebron James on the playground concrete basketball court in the middle of nowhere, South Carolina. If basketball were an obscure sport that few people played, I guess…

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Anyway, we ended up stealth camping together under an old abandoned gas station off the highway, spinning tales late into the night over our meager pasta meals.

Our humble shelter for the night:

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The spinning of tales continued into the next day at Waffle House. As you can imagine, after 7 years, this man had incredible stories. One for everything. And he was incredibly forthcoming and open to answering any and every question I had.

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  • I just passed 6,000 miles. He has biked over 70,000 miles!
  • I’ve biked through 2 countries. He has biked through nearly 50
  • I thought biking on these shoulderless roads was scary. He had biked through the megacities of India, where right of way road laws are unheard of
  • I have had close calls with trucks. He has been knocked over by cars and trucks many times
  • I pitied myself for the “suffering” I endured in the sand dunes near the Virginia, North Carolina border, struggling for a few miles. He had dragged his bike across 50 km worth of sand dunes in the African desert. Kenya maybe? It took him two full days
  • Here I am, thinking I should be a little on guard in the backwoods of the Carolinas. He had been hacked at and attacked by men with machetes in an alleyway in Mozambique
  • My parents worry about my safety biking in North America. He had been held at gunpoint on an empty open road in Iran, in an area known for kidnapping tourists for ransom. He narrowly escaped
  • I thought it was chilly biking through the frost-laden countryside of Maryland. He had biked through snow and freezing rain, crossing the Andes near 14,000 feet, being followed by stray dogs for 25 miles
  • I was frustrated biking into strong headwinds. He has been in winds so fierce that he had no choice but to wait it out on the side of the road in Chile. He couldn’t go anywhere
  • I have been hit by strong storms on this trip. He has survived huge hail thunderstorms and massive sandstorms in Africa that left him picking sand out his hair for days, even though he was in his tent
  • I imagined myself as strong for crossing the Rockies and Appalachians. He had crossed the Karakoram Range and criss-crossed the Andes multiple times, regularly going past altitudes of 14,000 feet, twice as high as my highest pass of the trip. And as high as my barely-completed struggle of a hike up Mt. Whitney in California last year
  • I fretted over my gear starting to fall apart. Ernest has gone through over 50 tires (not flat tubes, tires), and many wheels, spokes, chains, gearsets, ball bearings, etc etc etc.
  • I liked to think of myself as a badass for consistently stealth camping in the deep woods. Stealth camping is all he does, including under bridges, behind shopping centers on loading docks, on the mall in Washington D.C., on Lemon Hill in Philadelphia in the middle of a rainstorm overlooking boathouse row and the art museum. We think he was there the day before my 4 buds and I rolled into Philadelphia
  • I’ve been nervous about large animals smelling my food at night. He woke up one morning near Banff, in Canada, to find a massive grizzle near paw print right next to his tent
  • I have biked through some unique environments. He has struggled down the main “road” in Columbia, where the real mode of transportation is down the major river. He almost lost his bike when he tried riding through a swamp following a “shortcut.” A cowboy offered to have his horse drag him through it
  • I’ve run across interesting cultures, such as the Mennonites on horse and buggy in Ontario. He biked past bare-chested natives trotting along the side of the only road that went through a hundred mile wide reservation in the Amazon in Brazil
  • I’ve experienced incredible human warmness and generosity on my trip. He also has, being consistently invited in for dinner by poor Latin American farmers, brought in for tea everywhere around Turkey, given a new helmet and small laptop in Seattle, and on and on
  • I’ve been trying to get by on a minimal budget. About $20 per day for grocery food (I eat a lot), but that’s about it. He has been living on a tiny income, and is often without funds at all. He demonstrates how there is a very fine line sometimes between bike tourer and homeless vagabond
  • I survived some allergies. He contracted dengue fever in India or Malaysia
  • I’ve suffered some bumps, scratches, and bruises over the months. He has had some brutal falls over the years. His partner, who sometimes joins him to bike with him for long stretches, has fallen and broken her collarbone and her leg on separate occasions (if I remember correctly)
  • Ernest has criss-crossed Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Australia, some of Europe I believe, and now South and North America. See his blog for more and to see his worldwide route in more detail! And see his blog if you want to read about REAL adventure.

    If you hadn’t guessed already, I have abandoned my plans to return to San Francisco and will bike with him indefinitely as his apprentice of sorts through Cuba and East Africa and beyond.

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    (Just kidding mom and dad and Lauren about the continuing on with him. I’m stopping in Florida!) But regardless, it was a special treat to meet and share the evening and morning with Ernest. And it’s awesome to be a part of this tiny (but growing) community of long distance bike travelers.