Who are you?
I'm Jamie-Lee. I'm 28 and I live in Philadelphia and I work at a place called the Kelly Writers House, where I do various coordinating and administrative tasks and teach a creative writing class and am a teaching assistant in various other courses. I just received an MFA from Bennington College.
My boyfriend is Aaron. He's older than 28, also lives in Philadelphia and works as a public defender. He likes bikes.
Why are you doing this? And what is it exactly that you're doing?
I'll start with the second part first. We are biking from Philadelphia to San Francisco. (Here's our tentative route.) And why? Well, why not? Aaron has wanted to do this trip for as long as I've known him - 3+ years - and after hearing him wax so poetically about it for so long, I got to thinking it'd be a great thing to do too. So, in my typically noncommittal way, whenever Aaron mentioned biking across the country, I'd chime in, "I'll go," with a shrug of the shoulders. He'd respond all giddy-like, "Really!? Would you really consider going?" And I'd shrug again: "Sure! What am I doing?" Eventually, we had a more detailed pow-wow about the whole thing, talked to our respective employers, dumped a ton of money into fancy touring bikes, and here we are.
Are you biking back too?
No, that'd be crazytalk. We hope to make it to San Francisco by the end of August, 2011, leaving July 1. We'll then fly back to Philadelphia, just in time to be thrust back into our busy jobs. I'll be starting another semester of teaching, TA'ing and working at the Writers House and Aaron will have a big, long trial, followed by preparations to transfer to his office's appeals unit. Seems like this is a good time for a break!
Will you wear a really big backpack?
No, that would make a very sweaty trip even sweatier. We'll have panniers. For more info, see my entry on packing.
How much did you have to train for this?
It might be easy to assume that our whole lives have been one long bike ride leading up to this. Not the case, especially for me. After having been a 40 or so mile a week runner for a few years (with annual marathon training tossed in), I spent the winter doing 2-4 spinning classes a week and continuing to run about 30 miles a week in preparation for a 10 mile race. Following that, I spent about 5 weeks biking outdoors 5 days a week, doing hill intervals and a few longer (50+ mile) rides, along with weight and other strength training one or two days a week.
Aaron's been doing his own combination of running and biking - cumulatively less than me (boys don't have to work as hard, the jerks), but he's biked quite a bit in the past. He's got tours to Boston, Toronto and Bar Harbor, Maine under his belt, along with many, many long rides.
What if you realize you hate each other halfway through?
Aaron thought it would be apt for me to mention that this is the last question on this FAQ page that I formulated an answer for. Hmm, what if we realize we hate each other? We joked with a friend a few months back that we might not speak for a good portion of this trip if one of us pisses the other off. If I end up being the pissed off one (and let's be honest, that's how it'd go), I'd vent right here on this blog: "Day 34: Still haven't spoken. It's been three and a half weeks. What an ass."
Joking aside, I think this trip will serve as an excellent exercise in putting differences aside. Well, I hope so, at least. Another thing: as readers of this blog, you're all obligated to take my side in any conflict. Glad that's understood.
What if you don't hate each other? Is Aaron going to propose to Jamie-Lee when they reach San Francisco? Swoon!
Aaron is not going to propose to Jamie-Lee when they reach San Francisco. Aaron knows better. Aaron has been asked by several people where in San Francisco he's planning to propose when they make it there. Jamie-Lee has instructed Aaron to respond as such: "Alcatraz. I think it's a great metaphor."
Don't you people have jobs?
We do. See above. Our jobs were kind enough to let us take all of our earned vacation, plus a "loan" on vacation we haven't accrued yet. We get these 2 months off - paid! - but we won't have any time off for about another year after we get back.
Where will you be staying?
Mostly we'll be camping. Sometimes in campgrounds, sometimes in quiet out-of-the-way spots we find, sometimes in people's yards. The yards will come into play when we use a cyclist-friendly website called warmshowers.org (yes, that really is the name and no, there is nothing kinky about it). It's a "hospitality site" for bike tourers who need a place to stay. Those who volunteer as hosts offer accommodations ranging from a spot on their lawn to pitch a tent, use of their shower (hence the name), and sometimes even extra bedrooms and a meal. We've already hosted some cyclists here in Philly - 2 Canadian college students who were riding from Raleigh, NC to New York City. Hopefully we won't meet any crazies. There are crazies out there, you know. But I can't imagine that a site called "warmshowers.org" would attract any of them.
What will you be eating?
Shitloads of peanut butter. For real. But also whatever we come upon. The plan will likely be to eat something small first thing in the morning (Clif Bar, peanut butter, some fruit we got the day before, if we planned ahead), then to ride 20 or so miles and find a breakfast spot and eat eggs, pancakes, cheesy grits and whatever else our little hearts desire, then to ride that out and supplement as needed for the rest of the afternoon, perhaps by just eating smallish things every few hours (here's hoping for farm stands!), or by stopping for lunch at a grocery store or elsewhere. We'll then eat a big dinner at the end of the day wherever we stop. Dinner will either be at a restaurant, someone's house, or at our camp site if we can cobble things together with a grill, aluminum foil and the generosity of neighboring campers. Ice cream will be essential too. We also plan to drink lots of whiskey.
Things will inevitably get more complicated as we get further west into less populated lands. We'll have to be mindful about keeping food on us in case we don't find a town by the time we have to set up camp. We'll also have to be mindful of bears and other beasts. This sort of thing falls into the "I'm sure Aaron knows all about this, so I don't need to worry about it at all" category in my brain.
How much will this cost?
I wish we knew. Contributions gratefully accepted. Inquire within.
(This will depend so much on how things shake out in terms of where we stay, what we do, if there are major unplanned expenses, etc. I'll do my best to let y'all know when we get back.)
What will you do with the bikes when you're done?
I want to throw my bike into the San Francisco Bay in triumph at the end of the trip, but Aaron says he won't have it. Instead, we'll find a BORING bike shop in San Francisco, have 'em pack our bikes up, then go to a BORING shipping center and have them send the bikes to Aaron's mom's house outside of Philly. Lame.
Wait! Don't you have cats? What about the cats?!
Yes! We have two cats! As I type this, they are wrestlin' on the floor of my office. Their names are Alfie (the black and white guy) and Bones (or Tubby, as I call him - he's orange). They will be joined in our house by our fantastic pals Shannon and Sue, who are subletting for the months we're gone. Everybody wins!
How the heck will you be blogging from the middle of God-knows-where?
I have prepared myself with devices. I have an Android phone from which I can blog and also a Kindle. I will also blog from the occasional public library. My entries will probably not be all that long, and there might be gaps in time between them, depending on cell/wireless/3G service, but I'll do my best. My inspiration for this blog is The Mississippi Project, which was written in the summer of 2007 by my friend Gabe Crane when he paddled down the Mississippi River in a canoe with some buddies.
Will Aaron blog too?
Indeed! Aaron has access to update this blog, so he probably will on occasion - you can check the little signature thingy at the bottom of each entry to identify who's writing. But I'm a better speller, so that should tip you off too.
What will Aaron be doing while you're blogging away?
Well, right now, I'm writing this and Aaron has been down in our basement tinkering with our bikes, installing some sort of "tire guard" items to make flats less likely. This is pretty much what I expect the next two months to be like: I sit around bullshitting while he tends to the bikes, the campsite, etc.
What about the Twitter?
I'm on the Twitter. You can follow me: @jljosselyn. Also, my five most recent tweets show up on the right side of this blog. Look at them! Right now!
What if you don't make it all the way to San Francisco? Will you be huge failures?
In thinking about this trip, I'm trying really hard not to make it an All-or-Nothing endeavor. While I don't know a ton about cycling, camping, first aid, the United States west of Harrisburg, PA, tornadoes, bears, snakes, midwestern gypsies, cowboys, mountain lions, mountain gypsies, or many other things we might encounter on our adventure, I do know that there is a lot I don't know. In other words: we might be slowed down. We might get injured. We might run into the worst weather ever. We might get lost. So, we might have to reroute and end in Boise, or Pierre, or Jackson Hole, or, well, Harrisburg. I'm just hoping that nothing too terrible happens.
I'd really like to end up in San Francisco, for the record. I know it's a beautiful city - I visited when I was 12. Plus, if we wind up there, the last few days of the trip will be spent in the Sonoma Valley, biking from winery to winery. I'm not sure I can think of a better finale.
What if you die?
What if you die?
But really, we hope we don't die on this trip. We'll do our best to prevent that. I have a whole pouch full of Band Aids and gauze!