Why do I bike tour? And a few tips on creating your own adventure.
Location: Arlington, Virginia
Hello, my name is Forrest MacCormack. I’m 31 years old, live in Arlington, Virginia and work as a freelance photographer. Over the next two weeks, I’ll be on an adventure that will take me from West Virginia to Penobscot, Maine as I help a good friend move. After which, I will set out from Penobscot on a bicycle trip back home to Arlington. I’m not sure right now what my exact route or plans will be because of a few possibilities in my life that could change things. However, I believe as long as I am flexible and open to possibilities I can keep my dreams alive. I’m excited and look forward to sharing with all of you how my adventure unfolds.
At eleven years old, I would hop on my bike on any given day after school and take off on any suitable direction I could imagine. In late March, as the weather got nice, I often sat in school impatiently waiting for class to end so I could get out on my bike. Going miles away from where my mother would even dream I would go from home alone. Often I would wind up across town to explore an area I had seen from a car or school bus. Railroad tracks were a favorite. I’d make my way out of the subdivision I lived in and would often cross major roadways to get to my destination, guided only by my sense of direction. If I got lost I’d just backtrack. It was all about exploration, having a sense of freedom, rebellion, and simple curiosity about visiting a certain place on my own terms. Once I reached the railroad tracks I’d often place pebbles, coins, and anything else that was small on the tracks and wait for a train to come by. I often thought that the train conductor would report me to someone who would later come down the tracks and swoop me up, and get me in big trouble. The trains never even slowed down once they came to my pebbles and coins. The massive steel wheels running them over crushing them to powder and warping the coins into an even flatter state. I’d spend the five minutes after the train had gone by searching the rocks for all the coins I’d placed on the track, then take the warped coins home, pick out an interesting distortion of Abraham Lincoln, drill a hole in the center and wear it on a necklace. It served as a momento of my accomplishment and self-determination.
Bike touring today still holds much of that same fascination for me that making trips to the railroad tracks had for me twenty years ago. Biking has always been a powerful means of exploration for me, a means to test my self-discipline, and a way of creating accomplishment. Five years after my railroad excursions, I dreamed that one day I would pedal a bicycle across the USA. I would go on a real” bike adventures, far beyond the distance of the railroad tracks.
I came close to that dream in 1997 when I took my first major bike tour to Colorado. Not having enough time to take the required two months off to bike across the US, I decided to remain flexible and do what I could. So I pedaled to a friend’s house in Colorado. It took me 33 days and I traveled more than 2,000 miles. It was an incredible experience.
Often people have the dream of doing something, but get bogged down in the “realities” of the “I can’t do it because….” Be it hiking for a weekend at a nearby National Park, canoeing down a river, perhaps even going to another country just to visit. These self- limiting thoughts and perceptions can often steal all the initial enthusiasm of that desire and dream.
I believe in dreams. I also believe dreams can change. It is possible to maintain our initial dreams as long as one is flexible and open to possibilities.
I recently talked with a friend of mine, Chuck Tharp, of Chapel Hill, NC, who manages to accomplish at least one two-week bike tour a year. Chuck has a job as computer programmer with a major international company, a family, mortgage, and all the hosts of responsibilities and commitments that come with them.
I asked him what helped him to accomplish his dream of taking a bike trip every year. With work, he has engendered a supportive and communicative environment that allows him to discuss his needs with his supervisors. He remains flexible in taking time off. He once delayed a bike trip by one month in order to get a work project finished. In doing so, he let his company know that he cared about his work, and still was able to make his trip that year. He told me that it was a bit unfortunate because he was going through the state of Wyoming and had to put up with much cooler weather than he would have if he’d left a month earlier. Yet, Chuck still enjoyed his trip greatly. I believe part of a good life is appreciating the give and takes.
Watch this month to see how the “give and take” of Forrest’s adventure unfolds.