as the tour nears

By Austin

Back in 2008 I was living in Austin, TX and I was of course one of the cool kids that rode a fixed gear bike around town, doing track stands at lights, splitting traffic lanes during rush hour, and enjoying the freedom that cycling brought.  I recall sitting in the office for the Social Work Council at the University of Texas, killing time before a meeting.  I was still learning about cycling and browsing what seemed liked crazy things people were doing on bikes.  Somehow I came across the Adventure Cycling Association website and was introduced to bicycle touring.  After reading about the TransAmerica Trail I knew I would ride it one day.

At this time I had never ridden more than maybe 20 miles.  I had never camped.  I was so intimidated by the fear that I kept putting it off.  Waiting for “the perfect time”.  I gained more experience cycling through the years.  Learned some bike maintenance skills and how to navigate traffic safely.  I rode my fixed gear bike from Austin to San Antonio, about an 85 mile ride, to see if I could do it.  I could and have done that ride 3 times now.  But still, I didn’t do the bike tour.

I got a job out of college and ended up focusing on my career.  That didn’t last long since the agency had to lay off staff about a year later.  So then thinking about my graduate degree seemed like the right move, and I thought I wanted to go to school at the University of Chicago.  I moved there to get a feel for the city.  Chicago was not for me.  AT ALL. And I decided the time still wasn’t right for grad school.  This resulted in me taking a three month NOLS course to escape city life.  NOLS was also my first experience camping.  It was a tough three months, but one of the best times in my life by far.  But once it was all over, I didn’t know what to do next.

After being unemployed for about six months, I finally found a job in Denver and met Stephanie.  Denver has been a great place for me and I feel like I have grown here.  A lot of that growth can be attributed to Stephanie.  When I moved to Denver, it had been about five years after I graduated from UT. Stephanie gently encouraged me to apply to grad school after I expressed an interest in advancing my career, and I decided that the time was finally right.  While it has been a tough year and there are still many unknowns about future career paths, I am glad I have advanced my education and begun opening doors.

Grad school was tough on me for sure. Lots of paper writing and group projects. Less time exercising and spending outdoors. I told Steph about my tour dreams previously and she had expressed some interest, but it was during grad school that she began giving me a nudge to go on tour after graduating, and she wanted to go as well. The time was finally right.

I don’t know how this tour is going to go.  I don’t know how much we are going to be challenged physically or emotionally.  I hope we have fun.  I hope we meet amazing people along the way.  I hope we see amazing views.  I know I wouldn’t have accomplished all the things I have these past two years without Stephanie, so I am extremely excited to go on this journey with her.  I could have maybe done this trip earlier in my life, but I was looking for the signs, or cairns, to let me know I was on the right path.  It just feels right.

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