Hey guys. We thought we'd all share our thoughts from the trip, so below you will find the final blog posts from myself (Dan), Maj, Alex, and Dry Bones. Please enjoy. And thanks for all your support and motivation. We love you all.
For a while when I looked back on the last stretch of the Bandcycle ride I felt unsatisfied. I felt like I had come so close to completing the almost impossible goal of riding a bicycle farther than most could imagine, only to have my trip halted in the most painful way. After talking to friends and family about what went down on that crisp morning 60 miles outside of San Diego, CA I do indeed feel the satisfaction I thought had slipped through my fingers. A remarkably explosive clavicle, an excruciating 45 min van ride to the hospital, and a subsequent surgery contained more pain and anguish, and required more mental strength than finishing those 60 miles.
A few days after I escaped the doldrums of the hospital I stood waiting on the beach. staring out at the pacific ocean and anticipating the arrival of my riding partners, Dan and Alex. When I saw the look of disbelief on their faces upon seeing the Pacific Ocean, the feeling of accomplishment really hit. We did it. We made the journey and I could not be more proud of myself and my comrades.
There were very difficult times on the road. Being in such close quarters with anyone for that long can be trying in many ways. The passive aggressive looks and quips were so abundant I thought we were all going to implode into a hailstorm of unsaid thoughts and feelings. In the end, the trip, and what came along with it, was one of those experiences that made me think, wow, if I can get through this, I can get through anything. I learned a lot about my personality, my mental and emotional boundaries (or lack there of) and about how I can succeed in my life. My strengths so far seems to lay in keeping a van full of boys from killing each other while riding bicycles across America. There are aspects of the trip I would change if we set off on another journey. These things are really only logistics that were unforeseen before we put rubber on the road and peddled like maniacs. In the end we came out as a family. We came out with a much better understanding of our friends, ourselves, and what we are capable of.
So this is about the fifth time I have tried to write my final bandcycle post. I've read the rest of the guys' time and time again. They're really good and make me feel pressured to succinctly sum up what I learned or gained from the trip . No matter how hard I try, I can't do that. Maybe I'm still processing and given more time I'd be able to clearly lay out what bandcycle was/is to me. Or maybe there's just too much to ever be able to sum up.
I would like that say that I have some kick ass people in my life that made this project possible and helped me to realize my dream and vision. I am so grateful and lucky for all you guys for continuing to believe in me, push me, and refuse to let me quit.
I learned when to lead and when to follow. When to stand up for yourself and when to let go. When to sacrifice the micro-goals for the sake of the macro. How to maintain focus and not lose perspective. How to keep yourself from thinking about how many miles you have left to get to the coast when your legs don't feel as though they can even finish the current day's miles. How to change a flat in a sandstorm. How to peel peppers. How to do a little 500 style bike transfer. The real definition of irony. And although it took some time afterwards to recognize it, I learned the importance of keeping one's mind from being concerned with things out of one's control. I put the rest of the guys on the trip through hell with that one. All I can really say is that they are all solid dudes for putting up with me and the fact that we're all still friends only proves that these kids are the real deal.
We saw incredible scenery, unforgettable sights, and met amazing people. We rode hard, played hard, and fought hard. At the end of the day I wouldn't say bandcycle means, bandcycle taught me, or anything of the sort. Bandcycle is a feeling. It's a sense. It's a minivan reeking of sweaty boys, dirty camping gear, and clothes that haven't been washed in weeks. It's cold chamois butter before a long ride, whiskey around camp fires, nature valley granola bars, slow leaks- in both tires and air mattresses, but most of all it's the unspoken understanding that through it all we're in it together. When all is said and done, not much else matters.
I write this post from the dreary industrial graveyard that is Cincinnati. Snow is falling outside my window, as winter creeps into the Queen City.
I can only speak for myself, but Bandcycle was exactly what I wanted it to be, and what more important exactly what I needed. I've fallen back in love with the bicycle, got back in touch with some old friends, and I'm left with a deep impression of just how big this country is. We climbed mountains, flew down canyon roads, learned Navajo from Navajos, hung out with ski bums, cowboys, and hitchhikers. We herded cattle, ran over snakes, got lost, got found, got rained on. We laughed around campfires, fought over routes, rode through freezing mornings, and boiling deserts. I think we had a good time. I know at least I did.
Trips like this stick with you. Going into it I had this vague idea that I was going to feel changed after the trip. There would be a great enlightenment where I cry at the end like that English guy on the Food Channel. This was not the case. But that's not to say I don't feel different. If nothing else I know I can ride my bike really far, and riding bikes makes me crave Coca-Cola. I'm no longer such a passionate proponent of city living, loneliness can be empowering. I'm also left with a renewed feeling that life is an unpredictable adventure that's best lived by the seat of one's pants. Until we ride again.
Stay Gold Readers
I write this several months after reaching San Diego with the Bandcycle team. In the time between, the parts of Bandcycle that I perceive as important or memorable have changed. The technical aspects - learning to use a camera for the first time, setting up camp at night, fixing flat tires - that weighed heavily on my mind at the time, are gone now. What has stuck and influenced me, are the people and communities I encountered along the way.
When we drive or fly across the country, the landscape is a blur; the hills, forests and billboards stream by us in loops like a record on repeat. But at the ingestive pace of a bicycle, we are able to absorb the particular details of rural landscapes and towns that set them apart. Burlingame, Kansas is home to the Santa Fe Cafe and a wide downtown strip that looks like it’s been frozen in time since the end of WW2. Quemado, Arizona has a diner frequented by actual cowboys who have climbed straight out of a Cormac McCarthy novel, unaware (or uncaring) that most of the country lives in an age a century-and-a-half removed from their own. Bloomington, Indiana is paradise.
The purpose of Bandcycle was to “discover” cultures across the country, placing emphasis on the musical scenes we encountered along the way. And while the music was wonderful - at times, transcendental - we all realized it is only one lens of a myriad through which we may view and discuss America’s varied and innumerable cultures.
Each family, each house, is different from the rest. And there are millions of houses in the country. This was the great insight Bandcycle gave me. We stayed with self-sustainable farmers in Illinois, 22-year-old mothers in West Virginia who wanted to wrestle us, 22-year-old guys on an Indian reservation in New Mexico with encyclopedic knowledge of hallucinogenic drugs, the art-filled house of a Princeton engineering professor, and several places in between.
Most of the bands we spoke with talked about community. And I think it is community, above all else, that defines a place’s culture. Communities allow people with varied lives and divergent interests to feel united and comforted by a group of people who may not believe the same things, but eat at the same restaurants, drive up and down the same stretches of road, and hear the same rumblings of thunder from passing storms.
Ultimately, this slow journey across the country left me with a sense of isolation. I was allowed admittance into so many communities, but only briefly, and only as a visitor. I grew up in Ohio, and long ago departed the community I knew as a child. It’s been a decade since I last felt a part of a community like those I witnessed so often on our journey, and I sometimes wonder whether these fashionable, media-centric careers the Bandcycle team is pursuing will ever allow us to find a community, a culture, of our own.
If not, we can always head back out on the road.
- Dry Bones
Pop Culture Reference for Google: Lewis and Clark
Distance Biked: 35 miles
Distance Biked to on Trip: 3047 miles*
* This is Dry Bones here. The cyclists argue that I/GoogleMaps was gypping them on miles some days. They claim to have ridden 4,000 miles, or somewhere near that vicinity.