Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Working on the Hoopty

7:21pm: I'm making some changes to the Hoopty. I'm swapping out the handlebars and stem, and trying to get a better dialed-in position.

I'm at the shop sharing some drinks with a guy who started right as I was leaving for my trip. We talked for a long time, and I was happy to discover that now I have a new friend. Like everyone else, he lives in West Philly.

I hurt Shelly's feelings through poor communication, and I will continue to feel like shit about it until we can talk.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

I'm mooching. I'm freeloading.

I didn't come back from my trip with a lotta dosh. I came back with a plan of being better with my money. I came back aiming to be super-frugal.

Me and Tara have still been going to restaurants. But now that I'm being frugal, I guess that just means she pays the bill. I don't want a free lunch. I want a cheap healthy lunch in the park on a sunny afternoon.

I'm also staying at this house, and I'm not paying rent. I feel like I'm freeloading big time.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Grocery stores and Old Crow.

I'm living and sleeping and staying at the same house with Tara where I was before. It's temporary until I get my van up and scooting along. This is what I think; this is not what I know. Maybe I'll have a van as a house again. How is that going to work? That's the kind of life-item that will need to unfold before I can look at it.

I'm all drunk as fuck all the time. That's a lie. I usually wait until 6pm to get drunk as fuck. Or until work is over if I'm working. Or 5pm or something. I have several simultaneous systems. A slew of solutions.

I got all drunk as fuck and started making a shopping list with the Super Fresh Grand-Opening circular. Me and Tara ate some delicious elite mac n' cheese that we got on super-discount. It was the kind with bread crumbs that requires a trip to the oven. Then we took about two-hundred paces over to the new grocery store to hunt for dealz. Boom.

7:21pm - I was turning my key in the top lock to close up the bicycle shop after work. I headed to the state store because there's a supposed-hurricane coming. Tara called me to remind me that I should stock up on liquor, because the hurricane might close up some businesses for a couple days. I'm turning my key in the top lock of the door, and getting ready to go home and get drunk as fuck. I'll probably end up listening to loud music on my iPod through some actual awesome speakers.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Walking up Market Street. Daydreaming about backpacking.

I'm walking briskly up Market Street to where Tara works. I have Old Crow in my backpack, and I'm daydreaming. I'm thinking about my naturally fast preferred walking pace, and how it would transfer well to a hike along the Appalachian Trail. I've been giving the trail a lot of thought. By that, I mean that I've been daydreaming about backpacking, but realizing that I have no hands-on experience with the activity. I walk briskly and think about this. All other persons on the sidewalk are a slow and sloppy encumbrance.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

This reads like a Nescafe commercial. Thass arright wif me.

Nescafe is awesome. I got a big jar of Nescafe yesterday.

I enjoyed stirring Folgers crystals into hot water on my bicycle trip. It saved me plenty of money, and still provided a welcome cup of hot slop in the morning. Nescafe seems to be somewhat of an agreed-upon acceptable freeze-dried coffee, so I decided to give it a whirl. Boom.

I like it better than 90% of coffee from diners and cheap restaurants. I readily admit I'm no connoisseur. I'm just a guy who's clicking his heels together with the excitement that coffee can be this quick and easy. Any Joe with a dime can afford a hot cup of slime*.

*enjoyable coffee

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Budgets and whatnot

Tara took me out to a surprise breakfast of IHOP. We both had the day off. My budget is fairly well dead. I've learned a lot by budgeting, and I've become frugal enough to hold my own head up in front of myself.

I made lentils and rice for the first time. It costs little and tastes great. That's a step in the right direction.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Hoopty is revived and back in service. I rejoice and yap about derailers.

I put the Hoopty back together. I went up to the shop and made my bicycle safe and rideable again. I don't have any money, so the drivetrain wasn't replaced. Riding 4,500 miles on one chain and cassette is fairly extreme treatment - but as I rode away from the shop, it still felt alright. "It works, don't it?" Those were one wise man's words once.

The Hoopty is still my pride and joy. I owe this bicycle more than the work I put into it today, and I look forward to getting it perfect soon. And I will always continue my strict regimin of needless upgrades, rearrangements, and parts experimentations. This is the most love a Hi-Tensile steel frame has ever received.

"You rode all the way across the country with that piece of shit derailer?"

I know Alex wasn't trying to upset me. I think it was mostly a joke. But I'm not sure what percent serious he was. Maybe he doesn't understand to fortitude and reliability of a simple "7 SIS" Shimano derailer. It's literally the only original component on my bicycle. Everything else is randomly upgraded and different.

"Yes. I rode all the way across the country on this awesome derailer. And I also used it on my previous bicycle tour. It's the only original component on the bicycle."

I also pointed out that the return spring is strong, meaning crisp shifts even after gunk and crap have gotten into the cable housing, etc.

If there is one thing that's true about bicycle parts, it's that you can really easily spend too much on a derailer. You can literally spend hundreds of dollars on derailer, and not feel the difference between that and a $15 dollar one if you're not looking at it while you pedal. If you use friction shifting and low-cost equipment, you are the king. I am the king. Dig it.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Started work again. Gary is the best guy ever.

I started work again at the bicycle shop. Working is a good thing. Many things have changed since I left. The shop has expanded, and there's an entire new work area in the back. All the rental bicycles are stored back there as well. The retail area is much more open and organized. Product selection is increased. In short, everything is fantastic and the business is a clear success.

I went home to meet Tara before going out to West Chester to celebrate Gary's birthday. Gary deserves all of the best things in life. Instead, I gave him a book. He knows he has my admiration, love and appreciation - but that won't buy a guy a boat. He deserves a boat, and a yacht is about the size of what I owe him. Happy birthday, Gary. Best guy ever.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Useless Days Spent Inside

I spent all day inside and didn't like it. I ate a couple turkey sandwiches. At 7:21pm, Bistro - Nat's dog - was jumping through a window that goes to the small cube-shaped back yard, which is really just a slab of concrete walled in by sheets of corrugated metal.

Bank of America is d'ing you in the a.

Bank of America is totally screwing me over. At some point they started to charge $2 every time you go to an ATM other than theirs. I should have paid closer attention to my statements. Customer service was not impressed with my logical explanation of why these fees should be reversed. They said the policy changed a long time ago. Apparently their logic is that the screw-over has been going on for a long time, so it's basically acceptable due to some kind of grandfather clause on sneaky screw-overs. The conversation was calm and only ended when I confirmed to my satisfaction that there was literally no person and no button that could be pushed to amend this situation.

I closed the account. Take that, huge bank. You'll never see my assumed-homeless body encroaching in your branches again.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Productivity in severe decline.

More wasting time. I know it's a poor idea to smoke pot at noon, but it's tough to remember why when you're just watching television on a computer and you haven't started back to work yet. It's interesting for an hour before you realize you're on a quick slide to becoming agoraphobic.

In an attempt to salvage a slice of the day, I listed an expensive bicycle tool on eBay that I've been meaning to sell. (It's a headtube reamer/facing set).

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Pasta and a big waste of time.

It's not easy to give me a hangover. Well played, El Bar.

I literally didn't leave the room. I ate pasta and sat around all day.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

More gatherings at the El Bar

When I left Philadelphia on a bicycle trip a few months ago, there was a big gathering at the El Bar to see me off. Now people are at the El Bar again to celebrate that my tires touched the Pacific and I made it back alive.

A group of ten people met at the bicycle shop to ride to Penn Treaty Park before going to the bar. I drank before and after the ride, and had a joyful time seeing all the people who I want to see more.

I kicked my budget in the pants.

Monday, August 15, 2011

From Kennett to Philadelphia. Home-bus-home.

I want the lifestyle change where I spend nothing and smile in a blanket of dirt. I want to be increasingly serene and satisfied. Vans and bicycles.

I have a nest of bees in my taillight. My van sits dirty and neglected. It's still a house on wheels, but this machine and I have grown apart.

I inflated the tires of my Raleigh Twenty and got a ride to the 104 bus in the family minivan. I'm leaving Kennett and getting back to the city. My parents treated me to lunch, some expensive Keen sandals, and a bag of discounted groceries. Now they're sending me back into the real world. Their boy is headed to the big city in a big blue bus. A tiny bicycle rides up front.

I was jostled to alertness near the last stop. I was startled to realize it was now raining and I don't know what to do about the glaring awareness that I am alive. It seems like celebration is in order, but the raindrops call this logic into doubt.

I rode a tiny bicycle to Center City where Tara works. I watched her pull up a few monochrome windows of coded information about flights and times. When she is done booking vacations for clients, we will retire to bed. I will hold her close. If I am lucky, a flicker of Philadelphia reality will come into focus, and I will feel like I am home.

Sunday, August 14, 2011


I'm eating poorly. I'm eating a lot, and not much of it is healthy.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Family Reunion

Today I was at a family reunion in Vienna Virginia. I know a few more people this round, having stopped at this same place toward the very beginning of my bicycle trip.

At 7:21pm, I was talking to Aunt Pam about my end-of-trip budgeting system, and my father made some snippy comment about beer being in the budget. As if he knows something. Unfortunately, beer has to be an awkward subject because of Facebook re-alerting my family to the existence of this blog. Like every other person who I know, I should have denied all friend requests from parents. I thought it might be better to exist with open honesty. Maybe I confuse the concepts of "saying too much" and "having integrity." Now they are reading these words, and it causes them to worry about me. Maybe they shouldn't read the blog. Maybe I shouldn't be writing it. But I am. There are hidden costs that come along with that. This is not the first time I've had to ignore and endure a snippy comment. And this isn't the first time I've dealt with it passive aggressively instead of throwing all the cards on the table. C'est la vie.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Su Tao

My friends in West Chester took me to my favorite restaurant: Su Tao out in Malvern. I had a reasonably responsible night. I enjoyed dinner and I enjoyed one Golden Monkey beer.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Where will I live? What will I do?

I went to the beach with my folks this morning. We went to Lewes Delaware, and back to Kennett in the same day. I'm spending a few days out in Kennett before jumping back into some kind of city life.

I don't know where I want to live in Philadelphia. I have plenty of offers and options for temporary situations until I find my feet. There's an apartment behind the bicycle shop. The shop expanded while I was riding around, and now there's a small apartment laying temporarily dormant. There's Tim's. There's Tara's where I was. Clearly that's the easiest choice. I'd like to move back into my van.

My van has lapsed insurance and registration, and the battery is dead. I have to figure out why the battery goes dead, then get the other stuff sorted out. It's been sitting for six months, and it looks like it's been sitting for six years. There are bees living in the cracked right taillight. Shit.

I slept in the van for a couple nights, and it's still my home - but I'd like to use the limo lighting in the back instead of a flashlight. I'd like to be able to play music on the stereo, and I'd like if the wall lights could illuminate a book. My parents threw away my Life-Is-Easy chair. I had the chair inside, and they jumped at the chance to sneak it into the trash. I don't mind - the spirit lives on, but that particular chair is gone. This van needs love, and this man needs to move into his van. I have $168. It's amazing that I have been able to be so incredibly conservative with money, but obviously I'm going to need to work a little bit to get the kind of dosh you need to fix up a van.

I could move in with Tara again. I love Tara, and I like to share a bed. I like to have air conditioning and a cheap easy situation. Refrigeration and 24/7 television are quick inoculations against the voices reminding me that life isn't something to squander passively. I'm not sure if rent and apartments are healthy long-term solutions to needing basic shelter. I want to be closer to the Earth, as I term it. I want to be closer to the outside elements, and I want to spend more time outside. I want to be thrifty and simple. I think it's a good move for me mentally. Or is it white walls and television which keep us sane? No. That's not sanity. That's just a way to stop your ideas from rattling a path out of your skull.

This is the kind of situation that will need to unfold naturally. I'll start work at the bicycle shop again, and the right moves will become obvious as time ticks by one day after another. Life's fucking weird. I'd like to fast forward to the day when I'm living in a van under a tree next to my respectably lush vegetable garden. Actually, I don't want to fast forward. I want to experience all of the days that lead up to that point, but I want to feel confident that that point will be reached. Or will I slowly evolve into a boring normal existence? Will I accidentally wake up and find myself tying a tie and dragging a razor across a cloud of foam on my face? Will I fill a shopping cart with frozen food and stop noticing that everything is weird?

Everything is weird. Everything is really, really weird. It's been weird for a long time now, and I'd like to keep finding ways to embrace the reality of that. I don't want to build up barriers against it - I want to invite it in and let it tuck me in at night. You can't go to college for disjointed abstract patterns of thought. Fuck.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Home again. The same, or changed?

I arrived home after an unpleasant first flight, and a forgiving short connection. My parents drove me straight to a large breakfast, and I was taken out to dinner as well. Red Lobster.

There are aspects of the bicycle trip that I don't want to fade. Health, happiness, simplicity, adventure, confidence and a budget. I had it all. I'm hoping I can keep some of it.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Killing time; flying home.

I have a big piece of sil-nylon, and I'm a better man for it. I used it as a groundcloth for my tent over the last month of bicycle horseabout, but it works just as well to sleep in the park. I read a book until I was tired, then I became a big green burrito.

I went to a restaurant and ordered a burrito. I was hungry, and time needs to be killed sometimes. I would have gotten groceries, but I wouldn't be able to take them on the plane later. Same goes for coffee. I went to a coffee shop and learned how to kill a billion hours.

Matt took me to the airport. Portland is over. Pennsylvania is a pool of water, and my plane will dive in. No time to check the temperature with my toes. I'm diving right back into the state I call home.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Boxing and shipping a Hoopty plus gear.

Today's mission was simple: get a bicycle box and prepare the Hoopty to be shipped back to Pennsylvania. I set out on foot and ate some pizza that I found. I got a bicycle box from Clever Cycles. I schlepped it back to Steve's where I set about taking apart the Hoopty and putting it in the box. This bicycle is going to need a fairly serious overhaul when I get home.

I checked the US Airways website to see about checking luggage. $25 for the first bag; $35 for the second. Shit. I had tons of camping gear and bullshit. I had two loaded panniers to check. Fuggit. I dumped out the panniers once again, and set to the task of making everything fit into the bicycle box. Tent parts and clothing were pulled out of stuff sacks and squeezed into any tiny space inside the box. The box was a giant hunk of rattling crap, and I could picture someone dropping it on a corner and getting blasted with bear mace. Not my problem.

Matt took me to the UPS shipping hub where the rear brake caliper had already gouged a hole in the side of the box. Terrible packing job. My solution was to insure it for 500 bucks. At 75 honkin' pounds plus insurance, it was $98 to ship. Not too bad! Especially considering that I now had no luggage to check, and I could fit tent parts and electronics in my $5 backpack as a free carry-on bag.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

$6.98 day-hike setup, good breakfast and a day-hike.

I got a backpack yesterday. And a Nalgene bottle. $6.98 total. Finally found my day-hike gear at an acceptable price. The bag is brand new, and it's by Jansport. The good part about being a Jansport bag, aside from reasonably good quality, is that if anything ever gets ripped or broken, they will fix it for free. True story.

Matt's got food stamps. Actually, he has a credit card that gets $50 credited to it every week. $200 per month for standing in a line for four hours and filling out forms about how broke you are. We went to the store where the card was used to get supplies for a supreme champion breakfast.

The day started slowly, but included a scenic hike in Mount Tabor Park overlooking the city.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Celebration dinner. I'm the mack.

Matt and Alix took me out for a great celebration happy hour. Cheeseburger. I'm wearing around that last roadhat I found - a black Australian cowboy hat. It's the greatest walking hat ever. The greatest hat for walking around. Perfect fit. I'm a real rugged individual these days. My hat proves it.

I'm not sure exactly what I'm doing, but I'm happy that I don't have to figure it out for awhile longer. I'm enjoying spending every day walking around in a crazy hat. Somebody left a piece of cake on a table earlier. It's a sign. I'm the mack.

Well, I suppose it'll be time to come back to reality at some point. Not before drinking massive cheap margaritas and spending a few more days in wacky-bones Portland.

Friday, August 5, 2011

More exploration by foot.

I continued to walk all over the residential areas of southeast Portland. I looked at more thrift stores, and continued to not spend money. Today I came out ahead. I found a fifty cent coin in the pocket of an overpriced backpack at an overpriced thrift store mall. Boom. I'm basically the king of life.

I walked around and took pictures of old vans. I downloaded a budget app for my phone. Things are looking up, friend. Things are quite good, indeed.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Basically just went to Goodwill.

Today I walked to a huge Goodwill store. I looked for a backpack, but didn't find one that I liked for cheap enough. I'm getting super cheap. I'm still trying to stick to $5 per day for food and drink. I'll allow other purchases of non-consumables, but when you spend so little in one department, it puts all of your other purchases in perspective as well. Basically, I'm barely spending any money.

I did buy beer though. I also had an entire day of no bicycle riding. I walked around southeast Portland and spent a lot more time than money.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Portland's calm streets, vandwellers, and Community Bicycle Center.

I got up after the house went to work. I made sandwiches and plans. I rode along the Willamette River and through many small side streets. I saw why Portland has a well deserved reputation for being cyclist-friendly. I looked at huge crunk vans parked on the street. People live in vehicles, and it's pretty easy to spot which ones are somebody's home. The weather is beautiful, crime is low, and the attitude of the city feels permissive. Bueno. This is good.

I went to the Community Bicycle Center. This non-profit impressed me. Three blocks away, I saw a long line of young children riding bicycles single file. They were flanked by adults who were giving direction and encouragement. They were learning how to ride safely and properly in traffic. Bueno.

If you need cheap random used parts, you can find them in the clearly-marked bins at the Community Bicycle Center. There are even some nicer and fancier parts. I saw some great Suntour stuff for low swap meet prices. I managed to keep my wallet in my pocket. If you need to keep your bicycle running forever, this place can help you make it happen. It won't cost much.

I met up with Matt after work, and he cooked dinner while we caught up. We walked to Steve's, got some beer, and all of us talked some more.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Pacific! Portland! It's over!

I heard the shoes of early-morning walkers crunching on the track. Hidden behind the thin wall of the covered bleachers, I was still invisible 50 feet away.

A mere 50 miles away: the Pacific. I assembled myself and began pedaling by 7am. Full of anticipation, I worked my way toward the ocean as the sun worked its way through the trees to warm me on this chilly morning.

Route 126 was beautiful, but somewhat perilous. Logging trucks, large RVs, and narrow or non-existent shoulders made for an exhilarating ride. In these conditions I ride defensively and quickly. I was in Florence Oregon by noon.

I arrived tired. All I wanted to do was see waves crashing onto sand. I wanted to find someone to take a picture of me and the Hoopty with the Pacific behind us. A lot of expensive houses got in the way - so essentially I was at the water far before I was able approach it. When I finally found a road and a park and a parking lot that were near the water, I realized I was still a quarter mile of sand away from the water itself.

I leaned my heavy ridiculous bicycle on a fence and walked to the water. I let a wave roll over my feet, and still there was nobody cheering for me. I rode all the way from Philadelphia, and there wasn't even a marching band when I arrived. It was awesome. My secret success was noted in my mind. I walked back to the Hoopty, but I realized that my trip wasn't complete. When people start and end their bicycle trips across America, they take a picture with their wheels touching the water. I knew I'd regret it if I didn't give in to tradition.

I made another trip to the water with the Hoopty. I'll tell you it wasn't easy. I pushed, dragged and lifted the bicycle across a quarter mile of loose sand. This kind of treatment is pure abuse to the drivetrain. Sand is the worst enemy of a bicycle. I got to the water and a nice lady took a picture of me just as a wave crept over the Hoopty's wheels and my shoes. Mission accomplished. Tradition celebrated. I spent about 20 minutes cleaning sand off of the poor bicycle before continuing.

What now? Stay in Florence and find free camping, or try to get to Portland today? I expected to reach Portland the next day, but it was still early. I wasn't exactly enchanted by Florence, so I decided to go for it. Portland today! I would hitchhike! Boom.

I succeeded in my Coastal Challenge. I wanted to celebrate by eating something big and drinking beer. I'd won! I deserved a proper celebration! But something in me didn't take the opportunity to indulge. Instead, I stopped at a discount grocery store for supplies, and made sure not to go over my $5 daily allotment.

I knifed a big rectangle out of a cardboard box and headed back to highway 126 toward Eugene. I stopped at a hardware store and acquired a paint pen to finish my sign. I wrote "PORTLAND" in big fat legible letters, and I stationed myself on a wide shoulder a few miles out of town. Within a half hour or so, I had a ride.

He could have driven a little slower. But this guy drives fast. He's a good driver, and that's his thing. The pickup truck careened toward Eugene as the radio blasted Lupe Fiasco, and the driver showed me handguns on his iPhone. Recently purchased weapons. I was complacent and agreeable even as he passed an already-passing vehicle in the far shoulder at about 90 miles an hour on a 2-lane road. I was riding the other direction on that shoulder only a few hours earlier. That crazy maneuver could have put me in a ditch if it happened then. It bothered me to think that riders from the ACA group would be filtering through on that shoulder throughout the afternoon. Yuck. Beggars can't be choosers. It was my choice to sit in the air-conditioned cab with this self-proclaimed "hill person."

I rode through Eugene on an idyllic path along the Willamette River. I went about ten miles or so, snaking around until I got to the I-5, and a place where it looked like I might be able to catch a ride. My spot was near a freeway entrance, but I wasn't feeling lucky. Most cars didn't seem to be taking the northbound ramp, and even if someone wanted to pick me up, there wasn't a lot of spare real estate on the shoulder. I formed a plan: I would try to catch a ride until the sun was a little lower. If I wasn't successful in the next hour, I would get blasted on Four Loko and find a sneaky place to wrap myself up in a tarp until morning.

Recognizing the obvious problems with my position, I took my bicycle and my sign right onto the highway itself. I stood on a wide shoulder just past the on-ramp, and held my sign hopefully to the northbound traffic. It's always great when you're trying to catch a ride for awhile, and a pickup truck finally pulls over. A nice girl about my age pulled over her white Chevy, and confirmed what I'd hoped: she was headed to Portland.

I put my stuff in the back, and got in. We immediately hit it off. She was traveling around in her pickup for a few months. I was riding around on a bicycle for a few months. The trip was made to seem short by our naturally easy conversation. She didn't have a place to stay in the city, so I said I'd ask my friends if they could host an extra person. She got me some Carl's Jr - her treat - and we were in Portland by 10pm.

We drove directly to my friends' practice space, and everybody was sharing a box of PBRs within minutes. I was playing some drums and reflecting on all that had happened and changed in the past 24 hours.

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.