No account of my bike ride would be complete without mentioning how much work it took to make this happen. It’s certainly more ridiculous than I knew how to appreciate going in, and I’ve come to accept that this, too, is part of the journey. Whatever it takes.
All that other stuff
I had been thinking about making this journey for a while, but in the perfect world, I would have had a year or two to learn, plan, and train for it. That was my plan, at least, until it became suddenly obvious in January that I needed to leave my job in Boston. At that point, my new job became make Plan B better than Plan A. My parents will probably always remember that phone call: “I’m going to quit my job in the spring and move back to San Francisco. By bike.” And: “I’ll find a new job sometime before I get there.”
I really didn’t know anything about anything other than: that one time last fall, I did my first century (a 100-mile bike ride) around Cape Cod Bay by myself and I loved it. But I had the drive to make this happen, and that’s gotta count for something, right? All of the experienced cyclists I know gave me that same look you’re making right now. So, you know, whatever it takes…
In February, I signed up for an 8-week bike maintenance class at Broadway Bicycle School in Cambridge, MA on the advice of my good cycling friend Jon Ramos, which was the perfect way to demystify bike mechanics and help me keep momentum through the doldrums of a Boston winter. I started talking to people about jobs in SF, and I carefully laid out a calendar to choreograph the all the things that had to happen in between.
It was a lot. My last day of work was April 21, and I didn’t leave for the bike ride until June 13, but in between, I traveled to San Francisco (twice), Los Angeles, Chicago (twice), New York City, New Hampshire (twice), Rhode Island (twice), Toronto, Kentucky, Columbus, and Montreal. All the while, I had to move out of my apartment, say goodbyes to a lot of great people in Boston, teach two professional workshops, deliver a professional talk, go to three weddings and two bachelor parties, finish some consulting, plan and record a class for Lynda.com, talk with a lot of people about several jobs, convince those job offers to let me disappear for 3 months first, go on a 400-mile training ride, and, oh,… plan the big ride. In May I was only “at home” in Boston for 8 days, and all of that was every bit as stressful and exhilarating as it sounds. I mention all of this to give you some idea of what it takes for a 32-year-old to carve out 2 ½ months for a bike ride while also changing jobs and moving from coast to coast. Whatever it takes!
Huge thanks, once again, to my parents who helped me move out of my apartment and then drove my stuff to Ohio for safe keeping. (Good thing I’m an only child!) Big thanks to Hanna Jin and Jake McOwen for hosting me for a week in their Beacon Hill apartment after my lease ended but before my ride began. And many, many thanks for my friends on all three coasts—East, West, and North (a.k.a. Cleveland)—for your support in uncountable ways. I’ve found myself thinking more than once, that just for this crazy bike trip, “it takes a village…”
And shameless plug for that class I created in the midst of all of this! I was even doing some trouble-shooting before the launch during my ride through Upstate New York!
Learning: Boston to Montréal
So back to the bike riding, I had to learn how to do that somehow too of course. And my friend Jon Ramos, once again, swooped in to give me the answer. 400 miles in 5 days with 30 people. Bos/tréal 2017 with the Boston Cyclists Union is a supported ride and an annual fundraiser at the end of May for a small yet effective non-profit that works hard to advocate for safer streets in greater Boston. It’s a great group of people a great cause, and a perfect way to learn how to tour on a bike. I mean, check out how cool the logo is.
So this was my big personal test: could I really do this? I knew I could do 50 miles whenever I wanted, but what about 80? Every day? It turns out yes, but it was really hard. I used my brand-new touring bike so we could get used to each other. I was one of the slowest riders among the group, but not to an embarrassing degree. I learned that I can be steady riding up mountain after mountain, and I learned how to ride through days of cold rain. Several cyclists, especially Glen Cunningham (fellow Cornellian!), eagerly shared their knowledge and experience with me, and all I had to do was ask. How do you deal with laundry, what type of bags do you use, how do you find good routes, what do you eat, or even just: what am I probably not thinking of?
The end of the tour, in Montréal, was steeped in personal meaning for me. First, obviously, it meant I really could do this ride that I had already committed to. I also speak French and I had never been to Quebec. But most importantly, the tour ended right near Habitat ’67, which is the signature and seminal work of architect Moshe Safdie, for whom I was privileged to work for a year as Director of Design Technology in Boston. I have great respect for Moshe’s work and for Moshe personally, and it remains a kind of sadness for me, at least for his sake, that I could not work for him longer. As luck would have it, the end of the bike tour happened to coincide with the start of the 50-year anniversary celebration, and I owe a huge thanks to Christa Mahar, Director of Communications for Safdie, for sneaking me into an exclusive press-only tour of the building, even as a recently-former employee!
Finally, thank you to my friends who helped support me in this: my parents, Daniel Hurtubise, Diana Tamir, Jen Andrews, Charlotte Harrison, and others.
So if you’re a cyclist in New England or if you want to learn how to tour, consider doing Bos/tréal next year. The group is great; they’re all rock-stars.