Adventure of a Lifetime

It has been decades since I began the adventure of a lifetime. In 1999, my son Dan and I started off on a self-supported bicycle trip across the United States. Unfortunately, eleven days and 660 miles into our journey, my wheels slid out from underneath my bike while crossing railroad tracks during a rain storm, and I crashed. While I wasn’t hurt badly, suffering little more than a good case of road rash with minor cuts and bruises, I gave up. In retrospect, I realize that my spirit was hurt more than my body.

To this day I regret that decision but I’ve never given up on the dream of cycling across the country. So, I decided to give it another shot. Please join me on my ride across the USA. I hope to share the adventure and some of the lessons I learn along the way.

In that spirit, here is the 1st lesson learned – wet railroad tracks and manhole covers can be as slippery as ice.

Ken Whittaker

My Biggest Challenge

On April 28, 2015, I checked off my top bucket list item by cycling across America. I started in San Diego, CA and finished in St. Augustine, FL. While the 52-day and 3000-mile journey was a challenge, it was nothing compared to what was to follow about a week later.

On my first bicycle ride, after returning home, I was struck from behind by a car just two miles from my house. While the driver of the car was issued a traffic violation for the incident, I was not as lucky. When I regained consciousness, I found myself staring at the bottom of the engine with my legs just inches from the tire. Initially I had no idea where I was or what had happened . Gasping for air, I suddenly realized that I had been hit by a car and I felt like I was suffocating as the car crushed me. It was terrifying!

Although there was a hospital only a few miles away, I was rushed to Johns Hopkins Bayview Hospital Trauma Unit about 20 miles away. My injuries included a collapsed lung, 9 fractured ribs on the left side, a lacerated spleen, dislocated and broken elbow, dislocated left ring finger and internal bruising. After a week in the hospital, two operations and months of physical therapy, I was recovering nicely from my injuries.

As my body mended, I realized that my biggest challenge was recovering from my emotional injuries. I was suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) and my fear of seriously injuring myself again was much more difficult for me to overcome. I was afraid to walk on the sidewalk with my back to traffic. The sound of a siren would bring on intense feelings of sadness and have me reliving the incident in my mind. And sometimes, out of the blue, I would feel the crushing pressure on my chest again and I couldn’t breathe.

Nevertheless, I was quick to return to riding my bicycle, but I found that I didn’t enjoy it anymore. Even though I loved riding a bike, every close call, like a car turning or pulling out in front of me, would have me asking myself if riding was worth the risk. Then, on a short ride near home, two cars collided while I was riding along side of them. I had a meltdown and stopped riding my bike completely.

It’s been a long hard recovery, but with the help of my family and friends I am riding again. Now, as the pain fades and I am able to focus, I can finally appreciate how fortunate I am just to be alive and able to enjoy life again. In fact, I am planning my next trip to cycle across America. I am hoping it will be in 2019.

Please join me in the discussion. What is your biggest challenge?

Ken Whittaker

Why Start a Blog About Bicycle Touring?

I’m passionate about cycling. Whether it’s riding down the road or mountain biking down a trail, I love being outdoors and the thrill of flying along with only a few square inches of rubber touching the ground. But, bicycle touring is what I love the most about cycling. Whether I’m self-supported and lugging all my camping gear or carrying nothing more than my credit card and sleeping in motels, I love touring.

I’m not sure what appeals most about touring to me.

• Is it being absorbed into a new environment, people, foods, and culture that I couldn’t have achieved using any other form of travel?
• Is it the challenge of being forced outside of my comfort zone and traveling down roads and trails that I’ve never traveled before?
• Is it the satisfaction of knowing I’ve got the guts to continue the journey no matter what conditions I encounter?
• Or perhaps it is the feel of accomplishment, knowing I’ve traveled great distances under my own power?

I really don’t know. I just know that I love it!

As a community, I doubt if bicycle tourists make up more than .1% of the general population. And, I know from my own experience, it is hard to find someone that can help you to start bicycle touring or to share experiences and ideas with. I hope my blog will provide its readers with helpful tips on bicycle touring. I will share my firsthand experiences in preparing for a weekend adventure or a trip cycling across America. Please join me in the discussion.

Ken Whittaker