Monday, August 1, 2011

An epiphany about spending. My cup runneth over (with happiness).

I woke up at a reasonably early hour. I could just see a hint of my breath as I exited my tent and stood in my private campsite. I began the day by reversing what I did last night. Items removed from bags were put back in, bags removed from bicycles were put back on. the previous tenants left cans and paper waste in the fire ring. I used one of my spare plastic grocery bags to gather it up and pack it out. the secret site remained clean and ready for the next person who discovered the narrow singletrack. What a great spot. The fire ring built out of smooth rocks from the river was a nice touch.

I pushed out of the trees and continued on the path. I was riding by half-seven. I began to see members of the Adventure Cycling group. They're on this same planet. We share the same time and space. Still, it seems they're in a different world. Or I am. If it's me, I'm happy to be in my world. Maybe it's the vibes I got as I was passed by the yellow guy who was in huff-and-puff rush to tow a BOB trailer.

I saw a picnic table, so I stopped for a picnic breakfast. I filled the table with items. My own mountain of paperwork. I got the water to an almost-boil as I turned the rest of my bread into PBJ sandwiches. I doled out the water: "You, sir, will go to the mug to make coffee - you, madame, will stand by awaiting oats." I didn't really talk to my cookpot, but that doesn't mean I'm not having fun.

I sat and relaxed as ACA riders filed by slowly. I thought someone might stop to talk. I didn't need company, but I assumed someone might wave as they went by. I was behind one-way glass. A massive invisible heap. Strangely, but happily. I sipped Folgers and enjoyed a big pot of bland oats. It was great.

I thought about the Coastal Challenge. $5 per day on food. It's working incredibly well. I feel great, and I am happy. Then I realized several things. First - if I'd started a budget of $5 on food and drink much earlier - at the beginning - then I would have spent $500 by this point. Of course I've had other expenses, but the thought of getting this far on $500 was staggering. A major eye opener. An epiphany. I could have eaten, felt great, bought my tires and tent, AND gotten a decent sleeping bag for under $1000 total.  I have spent over $3300. It floored me. Second - if I could eat and drink for $5 per day on the road, then certainly it should be easier in Philadelphia. The city holds many more and stronger temptations, but a lifestyle change doesn't always happen easily. I spend too much. Period. I want to keep up the challenge. Right now, the challenge is $5 per day for everything. (Especially no paid camping.) For August, I will try $5 per day for food and drink. It will target and crush the major source of my spending.

If enacted, I will drink less. I will seek out free food opportunities, eat much healthier, and drink much less. I realized - with a gravity that excited me - that this was an important line of thinking. I had finally put together some pieces and discovered a plan that could truly enhance my life. Healthier me. Less drinking, but not needing to quit. (Which is great, since I don't want to.) More money. More savings. Less dependence on work. More independence.

I got back on my Hoopty bicycle happier than I had already been. I felt like a weight had been lifted, and I wasn't even feeling particularly heavy. Now I was floating. Obvious facts had finally revealed themselves to me. I felt like this was the enlightenment or epiphany I had been waiting for. This trip was a spiritual quest of a sort, and maybe it bore useful mental fruit in the final hour.

Roadhat! A good one! I squealed the brakes to a stop and picked up a Giro cycling cap. It was the same kind that Stuart was wearing many states ago. It was also brand new - not a mark or stain on it. Crisp brim. I thought it might belong to a member of the ACA group. If so, they weren't getting it back.

Roadhat! Holy shit! This one was even more awesome! I pulled over and picked up an Australian-style cowboy hat. The quality was clearly good. It was an oilskin hat - good for shedding water as well as blocking sun. It already had a nice gentle patina, and it was a perfect fit. As an odd twist, it was manufactured in Oxford Pennsylvania - a couple small towns from where I grew up.

Roadvest! I was looking for a reflective vest to replace the one I'd lost, and here was one right here! Okay, fine. Now I was just picking up dirty shit from the side of the road. My bicycle was piled with it, and in thirty miles I made my rig look 30% more circus-asinine. The mercury in my enjoyment meter was about to break the glass.

I stopped by Bike Friday in Eugene. I took some photos and got my crusty bicycle all up in their showroom's business. I hold Bike Friday in the highest esteem, and couldn't follow the route a mere ten blocks to the south without stopping to gawk at tiny bicycles.

I set up camp behind some covered bleachers. I was behind the high school track; hidden behind a high school in Crow. They were out for the summer. Out of sight; out of my mind. I had electricity to plug and play with my phones. (I have hundreds of phones. Thousands.) I sat and cooked as I listened to music. I read a book and listened to NPR before setting up my tent and getting sleepy.

2 comments:

Trailer Park Cyclist said...

Why did I laugh out loud as I read this post? Because Mania is Contagious. If not, it should be.
I fully understand your ACA stuff. As a homeless-looking guy on an old road bike blasting down Outer Reaches I encounter Group Rides that don't know what to do with me: wave? scorn? ignore?

There's always one good-hearted kid that sheepishly waves. That's My Boy.

Plus, Three Speed, as you must know, you got that Prophet-In- From-The-Desert thing goin' on. Those Other Guys have mortgages and bicycle payments & kids-in-college and all that bourgeoisie clutterage that makes them proud and sad.

Me, as I write this, a cicada just flew in the open window of my trailer and freaked out my Yellow Dog and started her barking. I took a hit off the Captain Morgan and drained half a cheap beer. The Moon is Full and I'm typing a comment on a website powered by a kid who is the same age as my first born. But Mania is Contagious, or it should be.

TJ

Three Speed said...

Woah. Hella good comment. I know what you mean about coming across group rides, too. I'm getting pretty cocky about the Hoopty after 4,000 some-odd miles.