"The secret of staying young is to live honestly, eat slowly and lie about your age" - Lucille Ball
After years of work for the government, Don started his interest in cycling across the country.
His retirement life had been busy, but since dwindling, Don began thinking more seriously about making this happen. His family was quite concerned. You don't bike across the U.S. in your seventies!
But Don had his own ideas. He bought a bike and started riding until he could get to 50 or 60 miles in an outing.
A main focus was preparing his body for such a daily grind - and doing research about the special challenges for seniors during strenuous exercise, especially in extreme heat.
His findings are included along with his journal entries. The big takeaway? Keep moving your body as you get older. You can stave off the many things that erode your fitness and the body's ability to recover from a long day's ride.
He was 72 when - on a May morning - he took those first pedal strokes from his home in New Hampshire on his way - solo - to San Francisco.
"Had a good conversation with the bartender and two women patrons, who wanted to know about my journey and ended up getting the story of my life. After I'd told them where I was headed, they expressed amazement and seemed even more blown away when I mentioned how old I am. I have to say I get a kick out of playing the old-man card."
Too often we avid cyclists get caught up in the nitty gritty details of our bikes, our cycling gear and the snobbish opinions about the "right way" to go about it.
Specs, latest & greatest, new models and features easily suck so much energy away from the main purpose: just getting out and riding.
Our man Don is refreshing in the way he approaches all this. Since he's not really a long-time cyclist, he doesn't bother with all those details.
Not being sure what that "shifting mechanism" is that moves the chain along the cogs, he leaves all that technical mumbo jumbo to the bike shop mechanics.
In fact, Don puts the ride and the daily routine above all the other things you might want to consider while making your way across America.
Nightly reservations at a motel? Nope. Just ride till you find something.
GPS navigation? Nope. Being 2002, it wasn't really a thing for cyclists back then. Don used paper maps (and often lost them) and relied on (gasp!) directions from locals.
"Because of bad planning last night, all I had to fortify me when I started out from Rockville at 6:15 were three Oreo cookies and a cup of coffee."
Don had a basic bike computer that calculated speed and mileage, of which he recorded meticulously, and the book is based on his nightly journal entries that were completed during dinners at that night's restaurant.
I can attest that during these long adventurous trips - no mater by bike or anything else - at some point you build up a bank of road magic.
A little force of good luck and karma that parts the fear and delivers some serendipitous fortune whether bounding into town or around the next bend. It always happens.
Don found his and faced every new city (or sometimes village) as a new adventure to find a bed and a meal. Be it Cincinnati Ohio, or a no-name little place in the salt flats of Utah.
The kindness of strangers is not something that we're used to having in our normal life.
But it's all around you. Invisible and unpredictable.
When you shed your familiar life and step into a journey that leaves you vulnerable, it becomes part of the trip - and hopefully fosters good memories.
"Some bike riders might find Kansas boring, but I don't. Its very flatness - the immensity of the plain, extending to the horizon ahead and to both the right and left for hour after hour - impresses me deeply."
Of course, there were a few bummers. The main one I'll not spoil here, but let's give Don a break, shall we? As a senior citizen, would it surprise you that he occasionally would forget a jacket, camera, wallet, or the days lunch somewhere along the way?
It's all taken in stride as he plods along heading further west. Crossing the Golden Gate bridge is his north star.
This isn't a ripping page-turner that will keep you in suspense. But it's interesting and very inspiring to follow his progress.
"Only a couple of miles to go . . . One final climb, a few blocks long. Cresting the hill, I saw at last the beautiful Golden Gate."
For you cyclists out there: If you've got an inkling of trying something like this, you probably can do it. Study the route. Get in shape. Trust the magic and go.
Be like Don. Keep calm and carry on.
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