As I’m sure you can appreciate, this year feels like it flew by for us and I learned a lot during this whirlwind trip. My biggest takeaway was reinforcing what an amazing wife I have. She has been on the road living out of a suitcase since May 7th. It’s not easy finding dog-friendly places to stay, planning the route, and packing up every week or two to relocate to a new city; especially for someone who prefers being settled in one spot with a normal routine and really loves our house and neighborhood in Solana Beach. Caroline has had a great attitude throughout the entire trip and has shown a lot of flexibility as we made adjustments to the plan. For 11+ months straight she has basically been stuck with me 24/7 and only had a break once per month when I flew back to San Diego to spend a week at work. Those weeks she’d be on her own with the dog in a strange city where she didn’t know anyone. That wasn’t ideal, but she handled each of my trips home really well. We weren’t sure what to expect when we departed, but she has impressed herself and me with how smoothly things have gone for her throughout the trip. I am really lucky to have such a great partner for this trip and for life.
I also learned a lot about our country. We spent time in more than 30 different cities this past year, spread across 20 different states. From the very tip of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to the southernmost point in Key West and from Mobile, Alabama to Bar Harbor, Maine, we got a good feel for the variety of life east of the Mississippi. One thing we really appreciated was how open and welcoming every place was. The number of signs that read “Everyone Welcome Here” was surprising for us and we saw them on lawns, businesses and churches in every place we went. That was cool.
Another thing that really stood out for me throughout the trip was how much open land there is. Since the majority of our country’s population lives east of the Mississippi, I was expecting it to be fairly densely populated. We found the opposite – we couldn’t believe how undeveloped our country is. There were hundreds of times on the trip where we would look out from our car and see nothing but trees or empty fields, with not a man-made structure in sight other than the road we were on. I have always felt like San Diego is a pretty small place, so it blew me away when I found out that more people live in San Diego County than in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine combined, even though those 3 states have more than 10-times the land that our county does. Somehow, our tiny community of Solana Beach has twice the population as the capital of Vermont. I still have a hard time believing it.
Eating out was another highlight of the trip. We worked a normal schedule during the week, so we were mostly limited to touring places in the evenings and on the weekends. That meant we ate at a lot of restaurants. I mean, a lot of restaurants. We had at least 300 meals out this year, probably closer to 400. It was fantastic to experience so many different cuisines and dining experiences across the country. Gidget was with us for at least 80% of our meals, which usually made things even more fun. There were so many restaurants that we loved and getting to enjoy them all really enhanced the trip. The downside was that I put on 30 pounds of extra weight, breaking 200 pounds for the first time in my life. Since we can’t eat out here, I’ve already started the process of getting healthy again. It’s not as much fun as indulging ourselves every night. I definitely have my work cut out for me to get back down to a reasonable racing weight for this years’ World Championships, which are only 6 months away.
Finally, I truly enjoyed exploring so many different places on my ElliptiGO. I was able to bring an 11R with me and tried to ride at least once in every place we stayed. Our country has put some real effort into improving the cycling infrastructure and I got to experience that firsthand in many of the places I visited. I found that Michigan was surprisingly bike friendly, Madison has an incredible cycling infrastructure, Provincetown and Martha’s Vineyard offer exceptional riding options, Newport’s coastline ride is spectacular to experience by bike, Washington DC has great riding, Raleigh’s bike trail system is amazing, doing loops around Key West is a blast, the rail-trail running through Dunedin, Florida is fantastic, riding in New Orleans along the levee trail can actually be pretty fun, and there are tons of separated bike paths all over Austin, Texas. Seeing towns by bike was a special experience. There’s just something more personal and engaging when exploring a town on a bike instead of a car. The 2000+ miles of riding I have done since we left San Diego on May 7th has been some of the most memorable in my life, and definitely made the trip that much more interesting.
We will be leaving Austin on May 6th and arriving back in Solana Beach on May 8th. Although we will miss the adventure of being on the road, it will be nice to be back home. Before I wrap up my final post from the road, I’d like to say a special thanks to the ElliptiGO team. Obviously, I had some concerns about being away from the company for so much time this year. When I first approached the management team with the idea back in the fall of 2017, I was so thankful that they were all supportive of me doing this adventure. They were also really helpful in helping me talk to the rest of the team about the trip. Caroline and I wouldn’t have been able to do this trip without our confidence that the ElliptiGO team could continue to move forward successfully with me working remotely for a year. Everyone picked up the slack that this caused without complaint and kept moving forward in stride. That is a testament to the quality of our employees, the majority of whom have been with the company for at least 9 years now. They are all true professionals who take responsibility for accomplishing their tasks and are willing to do whatever it takes to make the company successful. We are really lucky to have them at ElliptiGO. Brent, Bryce, Erin, Beth, Keri, Sarah, Jeff, Tennille, Richard and Zach – thank you for making this trip possible. Gidget and I are looking forward to being back in the office soon!