What a Long Strange Trip It’s Been

Back in Ann Arbor.

Yesterday I went into the hospital to get a new MCard – my University of Michigan ID card. I needed a new one, not only because the old one may have been lost, but because my old photo isn’t exactly “professional” looking. School starts next week and Katy has already unburied the oft-mentioned topic of, “Clayton, what’s your hair management plan going to be this year?”

I left the medical school and began the long walk down the main hospital corridor and just kind of stared at everyone. They were all in such a big hurry – responding to pagers, hurrying off for a ten minute lunch before returning to a lonely research lab in a far corner of the hospital or discussing treatment plans with a barrage of humans often referred to as a “healthcare team.” In the midst of the mayhem one clear idea settled on my mind: swimming north of Vang Vieng, Laos, teaching evening physics classes in Gorakhpur, India, instruction on proper cheese eating in Morlaix, France, the baklava specialty shop in Sarajevo . . . they are all so far away now. Our trip really was “out there.” At the time, these places felt so normal, they were our life, but now it’s an I-can’t-believe-that-all-happened memory. We loved every bit of it.

We reached 10,000km somewhere between Hite and Blanding, Utah, headed east on UT-95. We stopped, did a dance, and then kept on pedaling. At the top of the next climb – which was a hefty one – a driver had left a Belgian Ale sitting on top of a $1 bill on the white line. It was a nice little reward for the largest climb of the last leg of our journey. A few hours later in Blanding, a lady waved us down and thanked me for wearing my 7-11 tank top and advertising her business. She then gave us 20 or more coupons for Big Gulps, Big Bites and Slurpees. Even in Utah, generosity and friendliness are around each corner.

At a WS home in Moab, Katy and I sat down and updated our budget. We had  $41 left.  We made the decision to drive back to Utah – after a week of camping – and stick to our budget and avoid the horrendously scary roads of Southern Utah. Utah was, by far, the scariest place to cycle and we figured it would be nice to arrive home without a serious accident.

On our drive home we came around the Point of the Mountain and entered Salt Lake County. It was disgusting; a traffic packed four lane highway with nothing but cement and bright lights and car dealerships as far as the eye could see. I missed the beautiful countryside of Europe and Asia. I missed small towns and quaint villages and the lady on the street corner cooking up some local vegetables. As we approached home, I turned on our favorite tune, and as we drove down Fortuna Way I turned up the volume and we sung as loud as we could, “Sometimes the light’s all shinin’ on me, Other times I can barely see. Lately it occurs to me what a long, strange trip it’s been. Truckin’, I’m a goin’ home. Whoa whoa baby, back where I belong. Back home, sit down and patch my bones, and get back truckin’ on.” I couldn’t have said it any better: What a long strange trip it’s been.

I got on my road bike a couple of days later and rode 95 miles and 12,000 vertical feet up Little Cottonwood, Big Cottonwood, Millcreek and Emigration Canyons.  I love Utah.

And I guess that would be the end of the journey, but a few weeks later I found myself in Northern Indiana, riding a Vespa scooter home to Ann Arbor, leaning hard into the freezing cold crosswinds coming off of Lake Michigan in an attempt to not get blown off the road, taking a quick stop at K-Mart to get some warm clothes (and accidentally leaving my wallet there) and then finding myself stranded in Sturgis, MI without any money or an operational phone. I wandered around Wal-Mart for 3 hours until Katy came to the rescue.

Katy is the hero of our trip. I spent a short 45 minutes on the back of the tandem on the Burr Trail in Southern Utah. Forty five minutes. I couldn’t take it much longer. How she sat on the back of that tandem chugging through England’s hills, flying down Simplon Pass, non-coasting into Istanbul, through India, over Laos and on the absolutely terrifying Highway 89 is beyond me. But, she did. And because of her, our trip was fantastic.  I love her.

I’m glad we went.  I wish our trip was starting tomorrow.  I’m looking forward to our next cross continent bike ride.

Thanks for reading over the past ten months, this will be your last email from The Touring Tandem.  It’s been a pleasure sharing our travels.  If we learned anything on this trip, it is that people matter.  A warm shower, delicious meal, kind gesture, friendly wave or smiling hello never goes unnoticed.

Zion
Zion

IMG_1261 IMG_1263

Campfire
Campfire
Katy at the Helm.
Katy at the Helm.

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10,000km
10,000km
Homemade Baklava
Homemade Baklava
Homemade Ayran
Homemade Ayran
Truckin' I'm a goin' home.  Whoa whoa baby back where I belong.  Back home, sit down and patch my bones, and get back truckin' on.
Truckin’ I’m a goin’ home. Whoa whoa baby back where I belong. Back home, sit down and patch my bones, and get back truckin’ on.