Sea story: Preparing for the Climate Ride (2012)

South Padre Island, Texas, 30 March 2012.*

It was almost midnight. I was all settled in to my hotel room, but restless from sitting in the car all day. An hour later I was following the pencil beam of my headlight straight into the darkness. Swinging the beam to the east, I saw twenty-foot high dunes. Only one car passed me on Park Road 100. Six km after the lights of town ended, I began to wonder how long my light would last. With a toenail moon, it was too dark to chance getting stuck, so I turned around. Later, I learned that I was almost out of road anyway.
The next day, I lathered on the SPF 50 and rode the entire length of the island, all 20 km of it.

The end of the road

The end of the road

Where the road ends under the sand dunes, I met a retired logger from Wisconsin living in a trailer and we chatted.

Then I rode into the afternoon sun, getting back in plenty of time for the opening of the annual conference of the American Translation and Interpreting Studies Association (ATISA).

Translation scholar at the  Conference

Translation scholar at the Conference

Flat, smooth, hot. Very different from home, but isn’t that the point of going somewhere else to ride?

Brownsville and Port Isabel, Texas, 31 March 2012.

We had “lunch on your own” today at the ATISA Conference, so I decided to ride to the nearest Starbucks, partly to re-stock my packets of Via coffee. I stopped on the way out of Port Isabel for 6 kg of water (two 3-litre jugs), which I put in the panniers. This was about how a loaded touring bike should feel next summer.
My GPS put the nearest Starbucks in Brownsville, but when I got there, it had disappeared. So had the other one in the system.

 Starbucks in Brownsville

Starbucks in Brownsville

Discouraged, I had lunch at Luby’s Cafeteria, where the cashier told me that the two Starbucks locations had been replaced by a new one 12 km closer to Port Isabel and S. Padre Island, so I circled the town to get there.


On the way back, I rolled over 1,000 km for the month of March. My old record (January 2012) was only 746 km. I also rolled over a rattlesnake, but something bigger than my bicycle had already rolled over it much earlier.
I did not even miss the afternoon sessions at the conference, so deciding to take an 80-km ride in the desert was worth it. The South Texas desert is indeed beautiful. It reminded me of the suburbs of Muscat, Oman, which also have some hardy green things. I also appreciated being able to see the water towers over Brownsville grow large as I rode, giving me a sense of progress in the flat, featureless land.

Charlottesville, Virginia, 21 April 2012.

Since returning from Texas, I have logged another 300 km staying in shape. This week (Tues-Sat), I plan my final set of training rides: five 100-km (metric century) rides, spending each night at home. It should duplicate the riding effort on the Climate Ride (CR) and expose any problems with me or the bike that need attention. I plan to reward myself with lunch at five distant restaurants. That, too, should duplicate the Climate Ride.

Charlottesville, 24 April 2012.

First day of my “Climate Ride milk run”: 114 km round trip to Nelson County. Lunch at Vito’s in Lovingston. Excellent practice for the hills, because US 29 rolls endlessly for 56 km, with never a sight line farther than the next ridge, usually less than 500 m away. Now I realize why I find hilly country tedious. It’s not the physical challenge. It’s the fact that I feel like I’m not going anywhere. At least in the South Texas desert, Tidewater Virginia, or Miami, Florida, I can see where I am going getting closer for hours before I get there.
Front derailleur needed adjustment, so I could not head straight home. Warren at Performance Bicycles shared the secrets of my shifter controls, so I can change a cable on the road if I have to.
Came home and laid out the routes for the next four centuries. To bed early. Recovery is as important as the exercise.

Charlottesville, 25 April 2012.

Second day of the “Climate Ride Milk Run”: 92 km through Albemarle, Greene, Orange, Louisa, and Fluvanna Counties and back to Charlottesville. Scenic, gently rolling farmland with vineyards, and horses. Lunch at a wonderful, authentic French restaurant in Gordonsville, the Pomme.

Le Pomme

Le Pomme

The chef owner, M. Gérard Gasparini, was impressed that I had ridden from Charlottesville to have lunch at his establishment. I sent my CR card back to kitchen to explain why I had ridden such a long route to his place. He came out again, and donated my lunch to Climate Ride! I left a cash tip for the server and took his business card so I could mail in a check for the value of my lunch. Now that was the most surprising donation I have ever received.

CR donation

CR donation

Today was ideal weather. Tomorrow, thunderstorms and cooling temperatures, so three days of wet-weather training ahead.

Charlottesville, 26 April 2012.

Third day of the “Climate Ride Milk Run”: 100 km to Culpeper for lunch (It’s About Thyme on Davis St.) and back. Packed for thunderstorms and steady rain, but the day stayed overcast and dry, because the front went through more quickly than I expected.
Instead of wet-weather training, today was devoted to training for saddle sores in the field. What I thought was a burst blister on my butt surprised me going into Culpeper. After experimenting with various bandages, I found a large waterproof one that would hold in place, and rode the 50 km back much more slowly than on the way out. It turned out that using petroleum jelly as recommended may have been a mistake. It softened up the well-developed calluses on my butt, and one came off!

My objective was the restaurant in downtown Culpeper. Great stop for carbo-loading!

Lunch in Culpeper

Lunch in Culpeper

 I can still ride 100 km in seven hours favoring the sore spot, so this is not a show-stopper, but tomorrow, I expect to learn even more about what else I need to be ready for.

Charlottesville, 27 April 2012.

Fourth day of the “Climate Ride (CR) Milk Run”: only 25 km. I rode to the hospital for some prescription-strength salve to hasten the healing, and then ran errands around town, testing what I could and could not do. The wound is healing already, and I can pretty much return to normal around town, but I am going to call off the rest of the training week to make sure that my butt can stand the CR. I know the rest of me can.

Charlottesville, 1 May 2012.

The balm the hospital gave me was made by Elves from Middle Earth for healing dragon bites! In two days, the wound healed and I could ride normally without compensating. Today and yesterday, I ran errands and tomorrow I will roll out into the countryside for a short, sweaty spin. Have to keep hardening the butt for the next two weeks.

A serious moment to make you aware of how this Climate Ride has changed for me already. I started out selfishly needing to get ready for solo endurance riding this summer. Then I was delighted to combine that with a good cause (bicycle advocacy, in my case). Now that I am less than $400 from my fundraising goal, and as donations and well-wishes keep coming in from all over the world, I realize that I am riding not for me or the cause, but for my friends and sponsors. I feel humbled and encouraged by their support.
To all who donated, “This one’s for you!”

Victory pose after the Climate Ride

Victory pose after the Climate Ride

* – Reprinted from Climate Ride 2012 at my personal website. I have often been asked about how and why I started living and working on the road. It was not a snap decision, and I collected some good sea stories getting to that point. This is a chunk from one of them. You can read “the rest of the story” at

Trip update: The Spring Meeting of the American Translators Association Language Chairs in Alexandria wrapped up on Sunday morning. I spent two days with a friend from Charlottesville, and rode to the National Museum of the American Indian on Monday. Tuesday, I rode to Bowie, and spent the night with the very dear friends. Wednesday and Thursday, I paused in Baltimore, attending a rehearsal of the Handel Choir and going to the Walters Art Gallery. I am riding to Philadelphia now, where I have an appointment at the Italian Consulate for my elective residence visa. This time, I have all the documents for the visa, including a rental contract for a little place near the Adriatic Coast. Europe 2015 is coming together at last.

Next week, some links to sites about freelancing, which is a key element of being able to live and work on the road. Until then,

Smooth roads & tailwinds,


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