Short answer: 1) Adrienne. 2) Because I can…?
Long answer: In high school, our Spanish teacher (Sra Venatelli) showed us pictures of Machu Picchu after she visited. I didn’t know anything about Peru, or Latin America for that matter, but I knew I wanted to go there. Well after eight more years of school, the opportunity arose. A couple friends at Tulane, including Adrienne, were going to go just before graduation, and I wasn’t about the pass up the opportunity. After eight years of dreaming about it, you’d think there’s no way it could live up to expectations, but Cuzco and Machu Picchu far exceeded anything I could of imagined or garnered from pictures.
The problem was, after descending the mountain, I realized I just checked off my only non-career oriented life goal—cue dramatic music—now what would I do with my life?! I had been musing over and vaguely looking forward to Peru to for the preceding eight years! I needed a new adventure on the horizon. Sitting in our hotel in Lima, I told Adrienne, and this is how I remember the conversation going (very paraphrased and likely full of inaccuracies):
Me—I need a new life goal
Adrienne (with barely any hesitation)—You could bike across the country.
Me—What?! That’s crazy!
Adrienne—People do it all the time. You’d definitely be able to do it.
Me—I don’t think so…I mean maybe I could physically, but I don’t know if that even interests me, plus when would I have time—hopefully I’ll get a job pretty quickly after graduation.
I don’t think it was mentioned again, but four days later on the plane ride home, I think the seed had already started to sprout. By that fall I was buying my bike with specs in mind necessary for a self-contained, cross country tour.
Rewind—who is Adrienne? Two years before Machu Picchu, I moved to New Orleans to get my masters in epidemiology. I’d wanted to be an epidemiologist since I was eight (I seem to make a lot of these super long term plans…). I didn’t have a car, and I didn’t need one. NOLA is pretty contained, and I never needed to go more than five miles at a time, so I brought my bike and that was my only mode of transportation.
At some point I met Adrienne and we’d go on fun rides. I thought she was super hard-core (and still do) because she had just moved from Chicago where she commuted 20 miles round trip by bike year round. She helped build my confidence riding with traffic—a challenge when you’re just starting out. I remember going on 10-15 mile rides and thinking they were really long. I looked through some of the old newsletters I wrote to family and friends while in NOLA (the Crescent City Connection, remember those?!) to remember how I felt about our bike rides at the time. In November, just before our “epic” 140 mile bike overnight down to Venice, LA and back, we rode the ultra-flat Mississippi River Trail around 50 miles for practice. These 50 miles were, “a long day of biking”.
My second year in NOLA we went on my first real tour: NOLA to Pensacola, FL and back, 420 miles over 7 days. It was…freezing—record lows of 36F and 20mph winds, but it was so great.
So that’s a very short overview of who Adrienne is and how she got me into bike touring. Thanks, Adrienne!! I wish you were coming with me!
So why cross country? That I don’t really know. Because I really like biking? Because I can? Most likely it’s because I got the idea in my head….and once that happens, there’s no turning back!