A Modest Plan - Four Legs on the Slow Road - CycleBlaze

August 8, 2014

A Modest Plan

Things we have: desire, dreams, and heightened senses of wonder and curiosity.

Things we don't have: anything related to patience or impulse control.

When all of this came about back in April of this year, we planned to fly to Austin, Texas in late March of 2015. The idea was to start somewhere that was warm in the early spring, but not a desert, and continue to the east and the north. We expected to head up the Natchez Trace to Nashville, then on to spend time with friends in Virginia, New Jersey, and New York on the way up to Maine. From there we'd hang a left, wind our way through the Northeast, embrace the flatness of the Midwest, marvel at the Great Plains, crank over the Continental Divide, stop for a bit in Seattle and Portland, and then continue on to Los Angeles. There we'd pick up our passports, catch a flight, and jump over to New Zealand and Australia to escape the American winter.

It would be the trip of a lifetime — and we knew this. That's why, just after we made the decision to go, we moved things up a week.

A few days after that we bumped up the start by another week.

And then another, because why not?

It would have been earlier still, but then we'd be camping in places where the water in our bottles would freeze at night.

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The second week of March 2015 held strong for a few months. But then in late July we went on a hike in the Columbia River Gorge that had us imagining all of the wonderful experiences (and none of the flat tires or leg cramps or headwinds) that come with life on the road.

I can't wait, we each said, with big eyes and stupid smiles and also some weird arm gestures.

That's exactly what it feels like. There's this pull that makes it seem like you're going to explode from anticipation if you don't leave tomorrow morning. Most everyone who has done serious traveling can understand and appreciate this sensation. But of course most everyone also has the ability to embrace the idea, imagine how leaving would feel, and then step back into reality and let it all pass. We are not most people. Throughout the afternoon we came up with half a dozen scenarios involving new places to travel and what we'd do to get there. Maps and charts and lists appeared on our computer screens from out of nowhere. We debated the merits of locations we couldn't have picked out on a globe without help. Our self-control had taken a vacation and left no hint about when it might return.

By the time evening had turned to night, one option remained: go to Austin in March as we had planned, but instead of slogging through the upcoming winter in the cold and rain and dark of the Pacific Northwest, fly to New Zealand and Australia and spend five months exploring there first. That's how, in just over 24 hours, we bumped up our departure date by almost half a year and found ourselves looking forward to a flight out of Portland that was just nine weeks away.

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Surely that wasn't too long to wait, right?

Of course not. I mean, that's the ideal amount of time to box up your life and get ready to take to the road. Who would try to shorten up a tight window like that?

Us, it turns out.

Because here's the thing: if you're going to sell or pack away everything you own and give up on the typical adult life, what does it matter if you leave a month earlier? In the overall calendar of a lifetime, a month is just a blip. And when your flight to New Zealand leaves from Los Angeles, and you live less than 30 days of riding from Los Angeles, and the family of your traveling partner lives in Los Angeles, and September might be the best month to ride in Oregon and California, waiting at home while that month passes you by seems like a stupid thing to do.

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We're nine days away as I write this. That's when we'll start riding bicycles, working from the road, and volunteering on projects that mean something to us, at whatever speed we choose, until we reach the point where another adventure starts to become more appealing. We have a long list of places we'd love to visit along the way, but journeys like this have a way of changing how you view the world and your place within it. We'll be different people a year from now, so it feels presumptuous to lay out long-term plans that stretch much beyond then. This makes the road ahead uncertain in many ways — and we couldn't ask for anything better.

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