On June 20, 2010, in Astoria, Oregon, a group of cyclists will dip their rear wheels into the frigid waters of the Pacific Ocean and begin a 50-day journey across North America.
I have not always wanted to pedal my way across a continent. It's an idea I came up with when I turned 29 years old last January and realized that my next birthday would mark three decades of living. For a few heart-wrenching seconds, I felt the familiar anxiety of the quarter-life crisis setting in as my life - and everything I have not yet done - began to flash before my eyes with the horrific realization that I was nearly 30.
I had my first quarter-life crisis in 2005 when I turned 25 years old and realized that I was still living in the mountains of Western North Carolina - where I had gone to college and subsequently began employment - and I was still talking about moving to New York City.
Having achieved my goal of establishing a life in New York City by my New Year's Eve 2007 deadline (e.g. rent an apartment, secure employment, make friends to brunch with) - and have continued to survive over the last three years, it was time for a new initiative as my 30th year approached.
After almost a full minute of self-centric mental montages spanning three decades of what I had and had not had in my life, I took a deep breath and reminded myself of what they say: 30 is the new 20. Realistically, whoever-they-are coined that phrase in an attempt to feel better about being 30, but it was enough for me to pull myself out of the emotional rut and embrace the next chapter. 30 is the new 20, I reassured myself - even Jay-Z said it. Besides, when did it become a bad thing to get another year of life?
So I began thinking about how to celebrate it.
With some college girlfriends, I already have tentative plans for a long girls' weekend sometime next year to commemorate the arrival of our 30s. While I could not (and cannot) wait to party like it's 2010 with them, I desired something a bit more than just a three-day hangover ... I wanted to find my own way to congratulate myself on 30 years well done. Something challenging. Something personally fulfilling. Something adventurous. Something extraordinary.
The idea of skydiving was initially exciting, but after considerable thought, I noted it to be an activity better suited to my 60th or 70th years. In my latter decades, should my parachute fail to open, I will have done at least half of all the things I ever wanted to do with my life. I did not want to be uncontrollably speeding toward the Earth as the direct result of my own frivolous decision to jump out of a plane, thinking in my final moments, "Sh**! I never got married! I never had kids! I never had my photo taken on Salar de Uyuni!"
African safaris and around-the-world cruises were also appealing, but upon closer inspection, they seemed to be trips that I would prefer to share with family or friends and less likely to enjoy alone. I'm not sure how the idea of cycling across the United States first came to mind, but I began googling group tours and found America By Bicycle, a bicycle touring company with fully-supported tours that crisscross the nation along various west-to-east and north-south routes.
I imagined myself on my bicycle (which I do not yet own), conquering The West (which has pretty much already been done), gliding down Route 66 (which I don't think is actually on the tour), consuming as many calories as I want for eight weeks (which is not entirely realistic), and arriving on the east coast with the best legs of my life (which is guaranteed) ... at the ripe, young age of 30. A bike ride across the United States encompassed everything I desired of my new goal: a personally challenging and fulfilling, health and wellness-enhancing, eco-friendly, extraordinary, cross-country adventure.
On August 9, 2010, a group of cyclists will dip their front wheels into the chilly Atlantic waters in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, at the conclusion of a 50-day, 3,629-mile journey across North America.
I hope I am one of them.