Climb Every Mountain

Battling a headwind up Market Street, I arrived back home in San Francisco on Sunday, July 3. It had taken me 2 months and 2 days to cycle across the United States. The following evening, the city of San Francisco threw a huge firework display in my honor šŸ™‚

I had originally bought the maps to do this trip 21 years ago. Better late than never is definitely true in this case. I would have missed the kindness and hospitality of countless strangers across the United States, the friendship of the other cyclists I met along the way (special mention here to Don, Dan, and Bill, Paul and Lena, Tom and Jacy, and Marian and Lukas, all of whom defined this trip for me), and the spectacular landscapes. Mind, I would also have saved myself the frustrating headwinds, sauna-like temperatures, and seemingly interminable climbs. But I’d do it all again in a flash.

One of the reasons for finally undertaking this trip was to make sense of some things that have happened to me in recent years: In particular, the life-threatening injuries after a mentally ill homeless man attacked me with a hammer in San Francisco three years ago, and a diagnosis of leukemia last year. In the end, I’m not sure I made sense of anything. But it doesn’t matter; I learned something more important – to live day by day, and to believe that everything is possible.

Before signing off this blog, I want to thank you for reading and to let you know how much I appreciated your comments and well-wishes. Very especially, big thanks to my partner Paul for his support, understanding, and for the mother of all chocolate eclairs when I arrived back. Hopefully, the pictures of Colorado will inspire you to go cycle up a mountain too!

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Queen of the Desert

Unleashing my inner Daenerys, I’ve been crossing the vast, open, uninhabited expanses of Utah and Nevada. In the desert, settlements can be 70 miles or more apart, which means carrying all my water and food with me. Temperatures have been in the high 90s Fahrenheit (35+ degrees Celsius) and sometimes over 100. In Nevada, I’ve been climbing at least a couple of passes every day, usually over 7000 ft, and occasionally with strong headwinds as I’m heading west. Good job nobody told me about all this beforehand, as I’m not sure I would have believed I could do it – especially with leukemia – but here I am, halfway across Nevada and doing great! I guess it’s true – you’ve really got to try stuff. Here are a few pictures to give you an idea. I call it “Cycling Elevated”. Enjoy!

 

In the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, On the Trail of the Lonesome Pine

The flatlands of Virginia gave way to lush rolling countryside, with lots of upsies and downsies, as Bilbo Baggins might have said. I couldn’t decide whether I’d stepped into the Shire or a painting by John Constable, the 19th century English landscape painter. He would have had a field day here (sorry for the pun).

A few days ago, I fell in with some retired military guys, also cycling the TransAm. They were going to stay the night at another church that offers hospitality to cyclists passing through, and invited me to join them. The congregation even cooked us dinner – complete with vegan dishes. I felt humbled by their generosity and faith.

In anticipation of a climb of over 3000 ft over the Appalachian mountains, I had jettisoned my shoehorn a couple of days ago, but regretted it when I noticed that one of the guys was carrying two folding camp stools strapped to his panniers. Aware that my red blood cell count is lower due to the leukemia, I wasn’t sure whether I would have the oomph to climb to 3000+ ft on a heavily loaded bike, but I needn’t have worried. The day was cool and misty, and the climb seemed endless, but the scenery was spectacular. We were cycling a 27-mile stretch of the Blue Ridge Parkway, which threads its way along the backbone of the Appalachians through Virginia and North Carolina. The Virginia Dept. of Public Works must have read my previous post because the verges were pristine – not a can, bottle, or Trump sign in sight.

Tenterhooks

Friday was my appointment with the HemaOnc (hematologist/oncologist). That day was big in my calendar, as I would then know whether my blood is within the acceptable bounds of wonkiness to cycle across America. TheĀ HemaOnc wanted to see me two weeks before I set off so that he could “adjust” meĀ if needed. He didn’t elaborate on what he meant by “adjust”, but I assume it would involve some form of chemo to knock back the leukemia. Some folks in the leukemia family like to know everything, but so far I’ve been more comfortable knowing only what he tells me.

Beard groomed, hair trimmed, and looking good, I take myself off to the HemaOnc. I have a theory that I’m less likely to be “adjusted” if I look good. Nonsense I know, but I do it all the same. I check in for the bloodwork. The receptionist can’t find my appointment. No cause for alarm; I often experience this. America over, receptionists always look under Mc instead of Mac. But he genuinely can’t find my appointment. Hah, I have the printout. Nothing like being able to prove you’re right. A Scorpio thing, some would say. More likely a Man thing, I think.

Bloodwork done, I glance at the numbers. Half of theĀ figures are in the Abnormal column. I shouldn’t be surprised, but it’s sobering to see. I don’t know how to interpret the numbers, and IĀ tell myself not to worry; the HemaOnc will reassure me. But the receptionist announces that the HemaOnc is out of the office and won’t be back for another week – and by the way they’ll need to do the bloodwork again. Kindly intended, he tells me that they won’t charge me for today’s visit. “Thanks”, I say nicely.

Always look on the bright side! I packed up the bike today and shipped it out to Yorktown, Virginia, where the ride startsĀ on the east coast. Whether I start on May 1 as planned is unknown. I’m set to see the HemaOnc on April 25. Fingers crossed!