I am very proud to tell you that I have completed my life changing journey from Oregon to New York! I am so thankful for your faithfulness in following me. It has been so encouraging to me to have a community of friends rooting for me and praying for my safety. I wish i could explain all the emotion i was feeling on my last day on the road. In the last 30 miles of my trip i found myself reliving all the loudest moments of my trip. I could feel the warm California sunsetting and the taste of the ocean from surfing with the Reveleys. I could picture my great uncle Dick’s smile as he destroyed Silvia and i at cards. I could taste the amazing pulled pork bbq sandwich i had in Austin. I recalled how comfortable the bed felt at the Week’s house in Jacksonville. I laughed as i remembered all the questions that the Pratt children had for me. Every experience was rushing back to me and cycling through my mind as i put away the last few miles of the trip.
I wish so much that i could of had Jeremiah Wilson waiting in NYC to capture on film my entrance. It would of been so moving to have a video of my start and of my finish. I crossed over into NYC via the George Washington bridge landing me on Broadway in northern Harlem. I know this term is quite exhausted but it truly was like no other place on earth. The seas of people and culture bubbling and overflowing into the streets, the sound of a million different things happening at once. I stuck out like a bad hair piece with my bright rain gear and fully loaded bike. I soon found that in NYC there are basically no rules if you are on a bike or walking. People cross the street whenever they please and once one person crosses it is like a dam bursting as the crosswalk is engulfed in color. The only thing more unpredictable than the pedestrians are the cyclist, they are completely unbridled blowing through red lights, weaving in and out of traffic, and picking tight lines through crowds of people. At first i could not believe it but having been in the city a few days i am afraid i am beginning to enjoy it! i love taking my bike out and exploring the area, you get such a rush from riding neck and neck with taxis and busses. New York is so vast and i am so excited to have this opportunity to experience it from such an intimate point of view.
I am going to be living here for a couple of months with my good friends the Freys. I was so blessed to get some work with a catering company allowing me to afford living in NYC. I should be returning to Oregon in late May. It is so strange to be done with the trip. In a lot of ways the last four months have been some of the most challenging and demanding of my life but they were also very simple in the sense that i knew exactly what i needed to do every day. I just woke up and rode my bike until it got dark. I was working to a clear goal and it was very fulfilling. Now the trip is over i have to find new goals to work toward and new ways to progress. On the road it was very easy to see progress all i had to do was look at how many miles i rode that day. It will take some adjusting but i am so glad to be done and to have accomplished what i have.
I am not sure how to end this post, i am hesitant to say goodbye because i know i will miss sharing my life with all of you. I want to give a big thanks to Shawn Hayward for creating this site making it possible for me to share my trip in this way. What a blessing it has been to be able to share, all of you have played a part in this trip and i only hope that i was able to provide you with some entertainment, some laughter and some inspiration! Thank you so much for reading and following me!
I am very sorry that i have been so unfaithful to my blog as of late. I have been putting in long hours on the road. The heavy rain has made these last couple weeks rather uncomfortable but the miles have flown by! I have New York in my sights and i think that has given me a lot of drive. I had the joy of staying with a family in Myrtle Beach South Carolina A while back. Lesa and Curtis opened up there home to me for a night and got me out of the rain. It was a blessing getting to know them. Thank you so much Curtis and Lesa for your amazing hospitality! Since Myrtle Beach i have been blazing a trail north. Tearing through South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, and i am now in Maryland! These eastern states are small! The bad weather has pushed me into some pretty interesting camping situations. I have stayed in a few abandon houses and a rundown lumber yard. I have met some great people over the last few weeks on the road and i have gotten to share the story of my trip with a lot of them.
I was so blessed to spend a night with the Pratt family in Burke VA. a few days back. I got a hold of my friend Nathan Pratt via Facebook and he totally hooked me up short notice with a couch at his family’s place. It was so fun it reminded me so much of my childhood. Nathan is 1 of 11 kids so the house was full of kids running around. They were all very curious about my trip. they had some great questions like: where is your car? are you homeless? do you like Spy Kids? Do you get scared at night? I had one very memorable conversation with Nathan’s younger brother Andrew who is 6 1/2 we were talking about legos, movies and camping when out of nowhere he stops me and says, “you know bears can smell blood right?” It was so enlightening i now have that in the back of my head every time i am setting up camp. I really enjoyed my time with the Pratts.
After leaving the Pratts i spent half a day in Washington D.C. taking in all of the sights. There is so much there, i did not realize how many amazing museums there are in D.C. I wanted to get out of town before the lights went out so i was only able to go to the monuments and the Smithsonian museum of natural history which was so amazing! I could of spent all day there. I got some really great pictures and was able to find a place to camp outside of town.
Today i rode through Baltimore, i was very tempted to through up my 49er flag but decided it would of only caused problems. They are still celebrating there every car still has the raven flags up, they are very proud. Honestly Baltimore was a pretty sketchy place, it is the only place i have been so far where people have rolled down there windows to vocally express their anger with me. I saw snowflakes for the first time on the trip today it was exciting for about five minutes then i wanted it to stop! Luckily it was only around for a half hour or so. I am in Bel Air tonight and Philadelphia tomorrow! Friends, I am proud to announce that my trip is nearing an end! I will most likely be in NYC by the 5th of March which is exactly 4 months since leaving. I will be sure to put up a closing blog once i get to New York. I can’t believe this season is coming to a close. It has been so life changing! My next blog will be from New York!
Hey everyone just wanted to give you a quick update. As of yesterday i am officially back on the bike heading to NY! I ended up taking about a week and a half off to spend with Rob and Judy Weeks in Jacksonville FL. It was so amazing, Rob and Judy were the best host and they spoiled me so bad that i almost could not leave! During my stay with them i got to visit so many great areas. Rob took me to Saint Augustine the oldest city in America, this had been a big destination for me since day one. We also got to visit Saint Mary Georgia which is actually the second oldest city in America. I also spent two days in Orlando FL where through a very generous donation from the Weeks i was able to spend a day at universal studios! I had such a good time with them and i was so blessed by their hospitality.
I was planning on leaving on my bike from Jacksonville when we got back from Orlando but i found out that Rob had to go to Atlanta on business. Now Atlanta is quite a ways inland and no where near my route but I have always wanted to see the city and my good friends from Oregon Brett and Jill Yoder had just moved there so i decided i had to tagalong. I rode with Rob to Atlanta where i met up with Brett and Jill and had the joy of spending a few days with them. It was really good to spend some time with fellow Oregonians, we talked about old times and i told them all about my trip thus far. It was great catching up but it was coming up on two weeks and i really needed to get back on the road. The only problem being that i was 400 miles off route! Fortunately the Yoders took pity on me and drove me part way. If i push real hard i will be in Charlestown SC and back on track for NY tomorrow! It is already starting to feel a lot colder as i am getting further north, apparently it is still winter i am trying not to think about how cold it will be when i start getting close to NY. Anyway just wanted to fill you in on where i have been the last two weeks, it is back to business as usual now so keep me in your prays as i continue this great adventure!
Amazing weather and high spirits have allowed me to cruse through Florida. I have had so many great experiences this last week, Florida is home to some wonderful people. A few days back I rode into the town of Madison FL where i stopped in for dinner at a Pizza Hut. While there i was approached by Cindy who recognized me as a bicycle tourist and asked me about my trip. After some conversation Cindy offered me a place to spend the night and asked if i would not mind sharing the story of my journey with a reporter she knew from Tallahassee FL. I agreed and was later joined by Garin who took down some information about my trip and the reasons behind the journey. I must admit i enjoyed the attention and was excited for the opportunity to share my trip with a wider audience! The next morning Cindy’s hospitality allowed me a shower, breakfast, and coffee! I was able to visit with Cindy and her daughter for a bit that morning before getting back on the road. A big thanks to Cindy for her hospitality and company!
Later that day i pulled into Lake City FL to grab a bite to eat at a subway. As i was leaving i stopped to talk with Christopher who had noticed my bike and was interested in my trip. After some conversation Chris explained that he was a filmographer and needed to put together a short film for a project and asked if i would like to be the subject. Slightly mystified by this sudden inflation of attention i paused and them gladly agreed to help Chris out with his project. While Chris was getting his camera ready i was approached by a lady who was just driving through the parking lot. She rolled her window down and asked about my trip after telling her the details she asked if i accepted donations and then proceeded to bless me with a cash donation! Chris and i worked for about a hour taking a few action shots and putting together an interview. The whole experience was a welcomed interruption and really made my day. I am excited to see what Chris does with the footage and i will be sure to post it on the site.
Since the formation of this trip Jacksonville FL has been a huge goal, it marks my connection from the west to the east and it is a statement of the commitment i have to the trip. It represents just over 3500 miles, 3 months of travel and 3 hours of time difference from my home. In addition to these achievements i am blessed to have a wonderful place to stay while in Jacksonville. The Weeks family are longtime friends dating back to my mother’s childhood. They are housing me while i take a generous pit stop to recharge before heading north. I am trying to take a little time to allow the weather to improve on the north coast before i continue. I must say Judy and Robert Weeks are making it very hard to leave! Their hospitality is on a unprecedented level, their goal is for me to gain 20 pounds while i am here and for me to become a gator fan. Winter here is an absolute joke, blue skies 80 degree days. Over the last few days i have enjoyed exploring the area. I took a trip to Saint Augustine the oldest city in America! It was so full of history and culture, it made me miss my OSU archeology team and all the hours spent in the lab. I am loving this time off but every day the road calls a little louder. Missing everyone back home, thank you so much for the prayers, gift packages and donations! (rip 49ers)
since leaving Austin it seems like the miles have just been flying by! I guess making it out of Texas has given me a second wind. It was such a long state, there were times when i felt like i would never get out and just end up setting up residence. When i enter Florida tomorrow i will have seen four new states since leaving Texas!
Louisiana was a breath of fresh air… figuratively more than literally! Lots of green trees, swamps and water. It was especially nice for camping, i would just ride until it got dark and then pull off on some country road and sleep in the woods. As i mentioned in my last post i got pretty creative with where i slept. The people of Louisiana were amazing as well, i was given food, drinks and even offered part time work at a local dump! The people really were something to write home about and it brought me to this realization, “there are no bad people… just bad dogs!” It is true the south has some very unfriendly pooches i was chased numerous times each day. I was finally pushed too far the other day coming through Mississippi when two man eaters flew from their confines and descended upon me with great aggression. I kept hoping the angelic boxer would appear and liberate me but he was no where to be found. The bigger of the two bit at my bags and the other busied himself ripping a pair of gloves off of my bike and was about to consume them when his owner finally turned up and called the dogs off. He told me the dogs were not use to bicyclist but i retain that they were very use to it, they seemed to know exactly what they were doing as if they had preformed this same act many times over! This was the straw that broke the back i am stopping in at the next Walmart and buying myself a toy lightsaber, fight fire with fire!
The most random and amazing thing happened while in Louisiana. I was in the town of Deridder getting breakfast when I decided to check my Facebook. I saw that someone had commented on my welcome to Louisiana picture so I responded. A few minutes later my good friend Justus Mayo from Corvallis commented on the photo informing me that he had just moved to Louisiana. When I told him where I was he answered back, “you want to get lunch!?” Justus was living just a few minutes north of Deridder! He ended up coming to pick me up and I took the rest of the day off to catch up with Justus. He gave me a bed and a warm shower! It was such a blessing.
New York is slowly getting closer, i am not saying i see the light at the end of the tunnel yet but it is finally starting to feel more like a tunnel than a cave. Having just passed the 3,000 mile marker I am more than half way there and getting very close to Florida which has always seemed so far away. I am on Dolphin Island in Mobile Bay. It was such a beautiful ride today, to reach the island i had to ride across this huge bridge something like 3 miles. Tomorrow i will be riding the ferry off the island to Fort Morgan. This whole area is thick with Civil War history, earlier today i rode by the house of Jefferson Davis. It was nice meeting back up with the coast today after being in land since San Diego. The future is bright my friends, spirits are high, i am blowing through states and soon with the protection of my lightsaber these dogs will learn some respect! Thanks so much for the prays everyone. This picture is of Mobile Bay.
After three days characterized by rain and wind I rolled into Austin! I had been looking forward to this stop for a while. I had heard a lot of good things about the city and the community there. But most of all I think I was looking forward to take a day off.
My good friend Joel Bumgarner had set me up with a place in the city with his friend Cameron. I got into town and went to a coffee shop where I met him. We went to his place and I jumped at the chance to take a shower. That night Cameron took me out on the town and showed me the sights. It felt like I was back home in Corvallis OR. This could of been because it was raining buckets and the streets were flooded with college kids. Austin had an energy about it, similar to Portland in a lot of ways but very much it’s own. Streets lined with food carts, hipsters and troubadours trying to break from the shadows. I had such a good time the first night that I talked Cameron into letting me stay a few days, I ended up spending three nights there before Cameron told me I would need to start paying rent. I was able to spend a few days exploring the city where I took it upon myself to hunt down the all time best Texas BBQ. (La Barbecue) Austin was a great pit stop, I got to spend some time in a place that reminded me of home, I found a pair of cowboy boots priced at $1,500 and best of all I connected with an awesome guy named Cameron, who is currently single and the proud operator of a new up and coming food cart! (laddies!)
Austin was hard to leave, in truth Cameron basically had to kick me out! But I am back on the road now closing in on Louisiana. Campgrounds and Rv parks have gotten too expensive in these parts so I have been getting pretty creative with where I sleep, fields, abandon logging shed, under a bridge, all kinds of great venues! As long as I can stay dry its a good night. I have had lightning the last few nights. Growing up in Oregon I did not know you could have lightning in the winter. But they have it here, lots of it, and it is often associated with wind and rain. It is true what they say about southern hospitality, the people here in Texas have been great they treat you like family. However they can’t understand why anyone would want to ride a bicycle across the country in the winter. That is what I will miss about Texas, the people… and the food! Not sure if I will miss much else, the place is too dang big, flat, dry, and full of fences. A big thanks to all of those who are following the blog and for those donations, they have been a huge help!
(pic is of my host)
Last weekend was the wettest and coldest that the Del Rio area has seen in apparently quite a few years. I was right in the middle of it. After spending some time at a bike shop in Del Rio for a much needed tune up I left heading northeast for Bracketville and then Camp Wood. With no where to stay in Bracketville I decided to head outside of the city and set up camp on the side of the road.
That night the storm rolled in. It started around 2am, wind, lightning,hail and rain! It was a rough night followed by a rough morning. I woke up to a flooded camp. I packed it up and headed to Camp Wood. It was honestly the hardest day yet because in addition to the nonstop rain I had made a pretty large mapping mistake. I had thought it was a 20 mile ride to the little town of Camp Wood where I could get food. I had a couple of carrot sticks and a handful of peanuts for breakfast and pushed through the rain. It was not long before I realized that Camp Wood was actually a 40 mile ride! I really should of stocked up in Bracketville but I did not and I payed for it. At 25 miles in I was out of energy, I found some old crackers and I had about a spoon full of peanut butter left. This was enough to get me back on the road. I said a prayer asking for somewhere warm and dry to stay that night once in Camp Wood.
The last 15 miles seemed to crawl by but I finally limped into town at about 2:30pm. As I was roiling down Main Street desperately looking for a cafe to finally eat, a man from across the street called out,”hello traveler!” This answer to prayer named Eddie informed me that he owned a small hotel at the end of the street and he wanted me to come stay with him free of charge. I was overcome by Eddie’s kindness and hospitality. He provided me a warm room, hot shower and even free access to his kitchen! Camp Wood proved to be a warm and welcoming community and it was hard to leave especially since Eddie offered to house me as long as I cared to stay.
The next morning was very cold and because of a ice scare Eddie insisted on driving me up the road to the next town. (I did not fight this) A big thanks to my friend Eddie!
Tonight I am staying in Wimberley TX. at the local EMS station that commonly host bicyclist. We are about to watch the National Championship go Irish… I guess. Tomorrow I will be in the great city of Austin TX where I will be taking a few days off. I am looking forward to checking out the city and resting up a bit.
It has all built up to this! Me vs this disturbingly large state. Texas is a land full of thorns, fences and windmills. For the last week I have been workig my way through west Texas via the 90 east. From what I have seen Texas is really what I have always expected, a fairly flat open road with a ghost town every 40 miles or so. The people are very nice, very country ranching type, honestly I was pretty surprised by how accurate the stereotypes proved to be, basically every one drives a big truck (usually a Dodge), everyone wears cowboy boots and big cowboy hats! It has been the first really noticeable across the board cultural change that I have observed. The folks here are small town country through and through, very conservative and maybe not quite over the result of the latest election. Although I am getting tired of the scenery the people really are great and seem to almost be living in another time. A few days ago I pulled over at a small general store to buy some produce. There was an older gentleman sitting on a bench in front of the store and when he saw my getup he asked me where I was headed. I told him I was crossing Texas and eventually to New York. The man paused looked me up and down then said, “You look too clean to make it across Texas.” I laughed, clearly I was not close enough for him to see the sinister mustache that I have been laying the foundations for. I convinced the man that I was plenty dirty and would make it across his state.
This last week I have been pretty isolated only having small patches of cell phone service. I have been really embracing the whole lone star aspect of the state feeling a bit like a lone star myself. I think I may of concerned a few of the locals the other day while I was taking a break outside of another small town store. I was sitting on a bench out front and because I had cell service I wanted to take the opportunity to talk to Laura before I lost service. As I was sitting there talking to her and snacking on some mixed nuts I began to notice a few people giving me some strange and slightly disturbed looks. What had happened was, while talking and eating a stray dog had came up to me and because I was eating he was very interested in me. I was using my hands free headphones to talk and was wearing a hooded jacket. So of course what everyone saw was this crazy guy talking to his dog saying things like, “hey babe! how was your day? I miss you! What are you up to tonight?” One lady finally made me aware of what was happening when she asked me, “how long my dog and I had been on the road?” It took me a second to process the scene then with a big laugh I showed her my phone and explained that I did not know the dog and was talking to my girl friend and not the dog! We laughed and she admitted that she had been a bit worried about me.
Another big thanks to Blake Criswell who gave me a home for christmas! I am currently in Del Rio TX and should be in Austin TX sometime next week. Happy New Years to everyone! On the 5th I will have been on the road for two months, over 2,000 miles and about halfway to New York! Thank you all for your support and prayers.
Last week I had the great honer of spending a few days with my great aunt and uncle in their retirement community just north of Tucson AZ. They where amazing host! I think I put on five pounds while I was there. The first night they took me to The Golden Corral buffet and took great joy in watching me clean that place out, that place had to of loss money on me.
So basically the life of a senior is pretty sweet, you play golf all day, go to fancy dinners with other cool seniors and then you play cards all night and eat ice cream! (wake up and repeat) Honestly it was great, I got to go to church with them and they showed me off to all their friends who could not believe my trip and had lots of questions. My favorite quote came from their friend Jack who took one look at me and said,”it should be a sin to be that young!” After church I was allowed to participate in the weekly sunday golf tournament! I had the privilege of being teamed up with their friend Clare. Clare and I really turned some heads, we did not end up winning the tournament but we put up some pretty good scores! I would lay down big drives and she would basically do the rest, I was not a lot of help once on the green. After the golf tournament I got to go to one of the community’s most prestigious christmas parties where I was treated like the guest of honor. Once again I was faced with tables and tables of food and it became clear that if I wanted to keep from offending anyone I would have to have a little bit of every dish that was there. By the end of the dinner I noticed that a small gathering of onlookers had gathered around our table to see this spectacle of consumption. I did my best to try everyones dishes and sample each dessert. I have never been much of a big eater but after about a week of travel things began to change. I am a monster! This really has been one of the most surprising things about the trip, everyone told me I would start to eat a lot more but I had no idea it would get to this point. Once the party was over we lost no time in breaking out the cards and ice cream and got down to business! Uncle Dick and Aunt Silvia make me look forward to being 80, they are really living and I was both encouraged and blessed by the time I spent with them. They are leaving on Christmas Day to go on a two month cruse with their friends to Australia and the surrounding islands!
Currently I am in Las Cruses NM. I am going to be in El Paso tomorrow for Christmas Eve where I am very blessed to be spending Christmas with Blake Criswell. Thanks again Renee Fisk for putting that together! Merry Christmas everyone, I hope you are all surrounded with family and friends who remind you that you are loved!
(Pic of Clare and I)
I stopped off to stay with my friend Ryan Lubkie and his fiancé who live in Leveen AZ just below Phoenix last week. It was so great catching up with him and getting the chance to see him in his new life as a school teacher in Arizona. Ryan and I played baseball together in little league and in high school. Later we both attended OSU and have played countless games of discgolf together. Ryan’s house was a welcomed break from the desert floor. In all honesty I may have got too comfortable there lol! I turned what was meant to be a two night stay into a four night stay!
In my defense I was coming off about a week of wondering around in the desert and running from mexican dogs. On the topic of dogs(I have met a lot thus far) I have to announce that I am getting a Boxer!(someday) I was passing through a small farm town a while back when I was spared from certain mulment and disfigurement. I was cruising with my headphones on as I often do when I am on quiet roads. When out of the corner of my eye I see a Boxer blow through a hole in his fence and make a line straight at me. My heart drops, with no time to do anything but brace myself for the impact of his teeth to my skin I lock my jaw. Just as he reaches me I notice that he is not really looking at me, rather it seems the beast is focused on what was behind me! I turn to watch the Boxer barrel full speed into the side of what looked to be an Australian Shepard who was in hot pursuit of me. I turned my head forward then back again to see the Boxer standing over the Shepard. It was wild, I swear when I looked back the boxer gave me a nod as if to say, “bro I got you!”I had my headphones on so I never heard the dog behind me and the whole thing felt like a terrifying silent movie. Anyway I feel the take home massage here was buy a Boxer!
In addition to being very comfortable and enjoying hanging out with Ryan there was another factor that caused my to stay an extra three days. I got hit with a pretty bad case of the class room flu. Both Ryan and his fiancé are grade school teachers and I think they brought home something my body was not ready for. I emptied my stomach numerous times and I think I slept about a day and a half! My host took amazing care of me, feeding me soup, pumping me full of gatorade and putting a xbox controller in my hand. Side note, Halo 4 is a cure-all!
In the end I was very lucky to have been at Ryan’s sick rather than in my tent. After much delay I was back on the road again and headed for Tucson AZ.
Here is a favorite pic from Arizona. If you are interested in more pics from the trip I have tons of great ones on Instagram @mcleaben