“I’m going to bike across Florida,” I said to my wife, Julie, after walking in the door from my class one evening a few weeks ago. “Can you take Yosemite out for a walk,” she responded. Our five-month-old golden doodle was wearing her out and it seemed that taking him for a lot of walks was the best way to improve our chances of getting a full night sleep. Now wasn’t the time to seek permission for anything.
When I returned from exercising the dog, I tried again. “I need a long ride. It’s too hilly here for a first long ride. And cold. You said I should try something a little shorter before committing to ride across the country. Let’s go see family after Christmas, and I’ll ride across Florida.”
In Julie’s familiar, funny, but all-too-real way, she nailed it. “Why don’t you ride around the cul-de-sac for a while, and then we’ll talk,” she said. “Like all the other middle-aged guys in the neighborhood,” she quipped as she put dinner on the table.
I instantly got the point. After becoming a little obsessed with cycling on our trip out west over the summer, and buying a new bike, I hadn’t done a lot riding. At least not as much as I had intended. My longest ride was just 25 miles. And despite my best intentions, I had only ridden twice in November. I wasn’t feeling well and wanted to see what was going on before I engaged in a lot of exercise, I told myself. To Julie, I’m sure cycling looked like a brief obsession that ultimately fizzled out, with an expensive bike collecting dust in the garage as my only trophy.
It also didn’t help that I hadn’t competed in any of the rides/races I put on our family’s schedule through the fall. Ride after ride had been planned, then came, and went. Virginia, the mountains, and the coast. I had intended to do a lot of organized rides in the fall. They just didn’t happen. I had good reasons for not doing each one. I knew I wasn’t ready. I didn’t want to fail in front of my kids. But I also knew that I was running out of time.
The cycling obsession had come about over the summer. While traveling out west, I had gotten a spark of a dream to bike across the country. Like everything else that I’ve done, I knew I didn’t have the patience to take a traditional approach to tackling the overwhelming challenge. If I was going to bike the United States, it had to be next summer. Otherwise life would get in the way, or worse yet, I’d lose interest. 2019 had to be it.
With less than six months until the 3,400 mile Bike Nonstop US race start date, I knew time was of the essence. The realty of the situation was sinking in. I thought, “How could I tackle biking across the country next year, without at least doing a 100 mile bike ride this year?”
I wanted to do my first “century ride” before year end, and the familiarity (read as, warmth) of Florida seemed like my best shot. Julie still wasn’t convinced. “Why would you want to do that,” she asked. “Do you really want to spend a day on a bike? And for what end goal?” I began to question it as well. I have some time off for the holidays. Why spend it in pain, I thought. Then I spoke with a friend.
“It’s a great plan,” Kevin said, after hearing my cycling idea. “But you can’t do it. After 60 miles your muscles will just shut down. You don’t have the strength to pull it off.” After the conversation with Kevin, I hung up the phone, and yelled out to Julie. “Now I have a reason why I’m going to bike across Florida. Kevin just said I can’t do it. We are going to Florida. If you agree, of course.”
“You need your 50-year-old check up anyway,” Julie replied. “Get your doctor to sign off on all this bike stuff and we’ll talk.” A week later I came back from my physical. The doctor’s letter read:
The patient is in great health. He is fit for the cross country bike ride – Bike Nonstop US and at no risk to participate.
He said although I was physically fit to ride across the country, I probably needed a psychiatrist for wanting to. We are headed to Florida.