I am writing the draft of this from 35,000 feet, somewhere over Wyoming if the flight tracker is correct. I'm finishing it here in Banff at the International Hostel while I wait out some rain. I am full of nerves and anticipation, like a kid on Christmas morning.
I want to say that, so far, this has been a fantastic day of travel. Brian Land got to my house about 4:00AM and we were off to Greenville. I really like flying out of GSP, it’s so convenient and easy. Today affirmed that even more. A very nice attendant gave me a hand with my very large bike box (actually two boxes taped together) and I appreciated the help. The ECR is so large that it was not feasible to get the front tire in the same box as the rest of the bike, so my friends at Sycamore Cycles taped two boxes together. I did drop my tent and some of my other gear in the box that held the front tire. At the check in counter, I was braced to have to argue, that though it was two boxes taped together, there was only one bike inside and I should only be charged once. After a short wait, he asked for $150, their standard bike rate that I was expecting. He apologized for the wait saying that the computer wanted to charge me $400 and it took time to correct that. I was very grateful for his efforts and glad everything was smooth with check in. Even security was a breeze (another plus of GSP).
Flight left Greenville on time. Had plenty of time to get from Terminal B to Terminal E at Houston Intercontinental and still grab donuts and coffee. We pushed from the gate on time at Houston and once airborne, the captain announced that he thought we’d be 20 minutes ahead of schedule arriving in Calgary. I haven’t flown United in years (been loving some Southwest), but I would not hesitate to fly again if today is the standard experience. As long as my bike arrives intact, I’ll not hesitate to endorse United Airlines. [edit: bike arrived fine, but TSA did open it up and rummage.]
Flight did arrive a few minutes early and Canadian customs was quick and easy. I grabbed my giant boxes and rolled them to the Brewster counter to check in for my shuttle. I had over two hours before my reservation and, without asking, the lady asked if I wanted to catch the coach that left in 10 minutes. She made the change and I was on a bus rolling towards Banff. The pessimist in me says that if today went so smooth, tomorrow or the next may be disastrous.
As I ponder what I’m getting myself into, I toggle between feelings of excitement and being overwhelmed. I also worry I left something important behind. I have been reminded by many people, including myself, that this is going to much more difficult that the coast to coast journey. Occasionally, doubt creeps in as I do believe this may be the most difficult physical and mental undertaking of my life. Am I in over my head? But I am extremely thankful that I have an opportunity to embark on an adventure like this. I am also thankful for the support and encouragement of friends, family and strangers. So many people have sent texts and messages of support and had had at least 5 offers from people willing to get up at 3 AM to drive me to the airport.
One of my favorite childhood memories was playing the Oregon Trail game in school. Sure, hunting bison was fun and I liked dodging boulders on the Columbia River but what really drew me to the game was the sense of discovery and exploration. The west, even to this day, is wild. You have to be gritty and be able to sustain yourself. You have to be a problem solver, adaptable and resilient. You’ve got to be okay being uncomfortable. When people ask why I’m doing this, sure I like riding bikes. But I can do that anywhere. I want to embrace challenges, explore and discover neat places and meet and interact with interesting people. The bike and this trail is just a vehicle for me to do all these things.
So here’s to the adventure. Antelope Wells, NM is the destination but that’s just a place. Getting there is not important. Who, what and where in between Banff and Antelope Wells is what will define this journey. Isn't it always the in betweens that define us anyways?