Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A tragic and unexpected ending

My trip came to an abrupt end yesterday. A few months back, I met the only other solo female cross country biker of my trip. Her name was Jess, and she was headed West on the same route that I was taking East. We crossed paths essentially in the midpoint of the country in a parking lot in Texas, and had an awesome evening of beer and stew and story swapping of all the times people told us we were crazy for being women traveling alone. Anyways, we kept in touch and she hooked me up with some friends to stay with on Peaks Island just off Portland, Maine.

I took the ferry over to Peaks and set out to do a lay of the land lap of the island before trying to make contact with the folks I was going to stay with. I hadn't gone very far when a girl on a beat up old cruiser bike came barreling out of a driveway without stopping to look, and more or less t-boned me. I went flying over my handlebars but managed to execute a flying roll in midair and spread the impact out pretty well upon landing.

Most importantly, both myself and the other girl were physically fine. She was really shook up and in shock, but otherwise ok, and her bike also escaped unscathed. The same cannot be said of my bike. After many years of commuting around the northwest, and almost 5,000 miles over mountains, across deserts, through sandstorms and torrential downpours, my faithful steed Pellinore has met her end.

My downtube was almost completely buckled in the middle- the angle on this picture doesn't really show how bad it was- and there was no way to save the frame.

So I did the only thing I could do: bandaged up the cuts on my hands and started salvaging parts.

I've always been a proponent of the idea that the world provides you with the lessons that you need to learn-- not to be confused with the lessons you WANT to learn-- and having to dismantle the wreckage of what has essentially been my home for four months, the one thing that has been a constant in a routine predicated on change, has afforded me an incredible opportunity to work on acceptance. At this particular moment, I am very aware of illusory nature of control, and grateful for that reminder.

It's pretty hilarious that this happened so ridiculously close to the end. To give a more concrete idea:
Miles traveled: 4903.96
Miles still to go: 108

It also seems fitting that this happened at more or less the eastern most point of my trip. For months I lived by the cadence of easteasteast, and then by northnorthnorth, and it somehow seemed wrong to start heading southwest. I like the decisiveness of having ridden onto an island in the Atlantic, and to now be limping back inland overburdened and on foot.

Sure, I'm pretty heartbroken that this happened, and I'm having a difficult time adjusting to my abrupt loss of independence. Not to mention that I hadn't budgeted for needing to replace my bike. But on the other hand this provides a very definitive ending to a trip that I did not feel ready to end.

On the other occasions that I have embarked on long solo travels, by the end I have always felt at least somewhat ready to return to stationary life. Not this time. This is far and away the happiest and healthiest I have ever been, and the last four months have been an absolute gift of inspiration and momentum. I have been dreading this approaching conclusion. But it is time to go back, time to try to take this sense of freedom and translate it into a (temporarily) settled life.

So here I am, on a ferry with what's left of my bike in a garbage bag, winding my way to my cousin's wedding through a combination of public transit and favors from friends with cars.

I still have a lot to say, and this doesn't count as the introspective wrap up post that I know is coming. Right now I just need a few days to process. Also, those of you who know me personally know how much I hate asking for help; it's something I'm trying to work on becoming better at. If anyone feels that they have the inclination and are in a financial position to do so, I would be extraordinarily grateful for any donations to the "Tessa now needs a new bike" fund. I have been truly astounded by the support people have shown me on this journey, and believe very strongly in the power of small contributions to become more than the sum of their parts. Anyways, if anyone wants to contribute, my paypal email is

Until next time....

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Down to the last three days

I'm in complete denial about this fact, but I only have three more days (including today) on my bike. I'm sure I'll be posting a long, contemplative end of trip rumination in the next handful of days, so for now I'm going to go ahead and ignore the fact that this almost 5,000 mile journey is coming to an end.

As some of you who have met me along the way might already know, I've been trying to get myself hired as a cook down in Antarctica. I found out about a week ago that I got the job, and now, amazingly enough, I know what I'm going to be doing for the next year+ of my life. Here's the master plan:

I also found my new home, or at least somewhere I plan on living for a while. Starting all the way back in New York, people kept telling me that I needed to check out Bread and Puppet up in Glover, Vermont. Bread and Puppet is an artist/activist community up in Northern Vermont, and I fell instantly and hopelessly in love with it when I arrived. I've spent a good chunk of the last four months mulling over the way our society views art as a commodity rather than a source of community building sustenance, and found that the good folks over at Bread and Puppet have an ideology extremely similar to my own. Here's their cheap art manifesto:
 My friend Karen from White River Junction turned out to know one of the puppeteers, and while he was unfortunately out of town while I was visiting, that did mean that I got to sleep in his magical, gypsy caravan-esque schoolbus. I'll be putting up a boatload of pictures once I get images off my camera, so for now all I have is a crappy iphone picture of their puppet warehouse:

Bread and Puppet's piggies. I made myself useful on the farm while I was there, and spent the day creating garden beds and feeding weeds to the pigs.

This is only one of many taxidermed mooses (is moose already plural? meese? hmmmm) I saw in small town grocery stores while in Vermont.

I felt a bit sad when I crossed into Maine: it was the last new state line that I was going to cross, and it solidified the fact that I'm at the end of this journey. But now is not the time to start waxing preemptively nostalgic, I'll save that for a few days from now. It's amazing how similar Maine feels to the Pacific Northwest, both in terms of geography and weather. I spent two days riding in torrential downpours, and didn't really see the sun until yesterday. That said, the landscape was beautiful, and I wound my way along foggy lakes and inlets thinking about the fact that Maine's beauty feels very wild and untamed. 

I met up with an old rugby friend in Vassalboro, and we took a trip out to Bar Harbor to visit her brother. Once again I neglected to take any pictures with my phone, so I'll post once I have pictures off my camera.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

got stuck in New York for almost two weeks

Howdy everyone. Once again, sorry for the lack of posts. My 3-4 days in New York ended up turning into almost two weeks, and since then I've been traipsing through rural areas with spotty internet. I ended up pretty thoroughly back in urban nocturnal mode while in New York. Here are some pictures that encapsulate my two weeks off my bike:

Gotta love a city where you can eat street tacos, drink on the street fairly cavalierly, and more or less not wear pants without people looking at you like you're crazy.

3 AM mango juice chugging in the name of hangover avoidance.

3 AM quesadilla scarfing also in the name of hangover avoidance.

Biking out of NYC turned out to be unexpectedly awesome, although I did do another round of unintentional mountain biking. The trail I was following disappeared into a forest, and I got myself totally covered in mud. It was pretty great!

My friend Molly gave my navigator a going away present. I'm keeping it for when I really need it.

Sadly, this place was closed when I biked by. I was really curious.

I ended up in Quechee, Vermont helping park cars at a hot air balloon festival.

I stayed with a friend of a friend in White River Junction, Vermont. She had recently started up an intentional community with a hugely ambitious series of gardens, so I put myself to good use on my rest days. I've been wanting to visit Vermont for a while, as I've always found that I get along splendidly with people from Vermont. The state completely lived up to my expectations, and I managed to garden and jump in a river every day that I was there.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Interview is up!

Howdy everyone. I've been in New York for.... jeez, almost a week now. Time just rushes on by here, and I've been having a really incredible time hanging out with artists and musicians and generally getting to feel totally surrounded by an insane, vibrant creative community. I've been working on some of the art responsibilities that I've been ignoring on this trip, and so I have art news to post about.

I recently was asked to participate in an extremely awesome project being orchestrated by New York journalist Gaby Dunn. Gaby made a list of 100 people she's never had a conversation with-- it's a diverse list, including someone who pickets at abortion clinics, a one hit wonder, someone who has been left at the alter, Stephen Colbert, and a whole lot more-- and I was very happy to be #49: Someone with a gallery showing of their art. Check out the interview here! 

Friday, June 3, 2011

Finally another round of pictures

 Grave marker in the desert. 
Weird sculpture out in West Texas. The carapace is an old chainsaw. 

I went to a really bizarre place called the Museum of Ephemerata while I was in Austin. This is a memorial necklace of woven hair from the early 1900's. 

 Collection of strange taxidermy, also at the Museum of Ephemerata. 

 New Orleans
  New Orleans
  New Orleans
  New Orleans
  New Orleans
 This telephone pole has clearly been home to many, many fliers. 
  New Orleans
  New Orleans
 Biking along the Gulf Coast. Absolutely stunning. Hit some awesome tailwinds and just soared along the beach for 20 miles. 
This place was amazing! The name pretty much says all. I ate two different kinds of pie for breakfast: peach and goat cheese pie is, it turns out, fabulous. 

 Tornado damage in Tuscaloosa.
 More Tuscaloosa. Huge portions of the city looked like this for as far as you could see. 

 Silver Comet bike trail between Georgia and Atlanta. Awesome!
Pretty barn.
 It seems the ivy is winning. 
 My favorite time of day to ride is early in the morning before all the mist has cleared. 
 I would love to know the story behind this. 

Crazy dam I biked over. 

 My friend Claire's wonderful family. We had a delicious salmon dinner and apple pie. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


For a while back at the beginning of my trip, my bike computer had developed the obnoxious habit of resetting itself to all the factory presets. This meant I lost my cumulative mileage, and it was resetting often enough that I stopped bothering to reprogram the odometer. Back in Texas it somehow spontaneously fixed itself, and has been completely reliable ever since. Thus morning I was curious to see how far I've actually gone, so I busted out the paper log I'd been keeping in my sketchbook and did some math.

4,075 miles!

I thought I was getting close to 4,000 but didn't think I'd quite hit it yet. Anyways, as a reward, I decided that instead of biking 38 miles through New Jersey traffic, I would take the train into New York City.

Gotta say, it feels pretty decadent.

I took a detour up to Montclair, NJ to visit my friend Cole. We met on the crazy commune in West Texas, and he's one of the three people with whom I now share a tattoo of the constellation Orion. It was really lovely seeing a travel friend in his native environment, and we will see each other again in a few months because he's moving to Portland.
I forgot to take a picture of us, but we did take a picture of our tattoos to send to the other member of our triad.

That's my calf and cole's arm, kinda hard to tell. Cole still has a pretty fierce biking tan.

I managed to go 2,000 miles without a flat tire but my streak ended this week. I got two flats, both of which turned out to be caused by almost invisibly small pieces of metal that I had to pull out of my tires with pliers.

Yup, that little thing that looks like an eyelash is enough to bring me to an obnoxious standstill. So cars, while I dislike it when you roll down your windows and blare on your horns and yell at me about the extra six inches of room I should be riding in, I find the experience preferable to riding through metal shavings and gravel that give me innumerable flats.