Keys to Freeze Part 1, a Reflection

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We have completed the Transamerica section of our tour. Part 1 of Keys to Freeze is over. It feels real writing this. Weird, deep, powerful putting pen to paper that the six of us have successfully biked our 3,800 miles – from Key West to San Francisco – in 80 days. The challenges to come are forgotten today. We celebrate and look back.

When I consider Keys to Freeze my thoughts turn always to the past October. My mind takes me there and sits me down on Brady and mine’s first conversations, a month before our website launched. We didn’t know what we were doing, what was going on, or what to expect. I had just returned from Montana in a blaze and he was working 60 hours a week for a production house. Tyler was bumming around Chapel Hill, Rachel studying for the MCAT, Megan working a nuclear job, George not even a consideration for the trip.

Brady and I started talking about goals for Keys to Freeze, then got distracted and just ended up playing video games and drinking beer until midnight.

I remember that night because it’s important. It’s not for lack of want for planning, rather it just all felt okay. That no matter what we would figure it out as we moved forward. So it was fine to play Super Smash Bros and eat Oreos and drink Guinness instead of sorting out the details of a trip that was never supposed to happen.

Yeah. Keys to Freeze was never supposed to happen. It was a joke turned reality. And now here we are today, 80 days in, still flying by the seat of our chamois, still discovering the secrets of bike touring.

I wouldn’t call this an ideal model for a group cycling together, relying on each other. The more details the better. There are definitive stressors associated with the slightly slapdick – where we are going to sleep, where we are going to get our groceries … hey, my phone is dead, where are we and where do we go next? It can weigh on you and others. It can make little things seem a lot bigger.

We had our problems. Interpersonal were the biggest.  Chafing, scraping, and the eventual splitting of the team. For many reasons, one of wanting a different pace tour, Megan and George have left Keys to Freeze and are continuing north now as a separate tour. I believe this breaking of our group is for the best. Keys to Freeze continues towards Seattle and the Great White North as four. And so these things go.

Goodbye Meg & Geo. Good luck with the rest of your tour!

But today let’s look back. To where Keys to Freeze began and came, not to where we are going next.

Keys to Freeze began with a name, grew into an idea, and snowballed down the mountainside from there. We began our tour on February 25th in Key West. It was a hot Wednesday. Having been cleared by my collarbone doctor just two weeks previous to the tour I had never ridden with so much weight on my bike and felt wobbly. I came to realize that this was the first time most everyone had totally packed their bikes. Rachel had never ridden over 40 miles and we had a 55 mile day. We didn’t know where we were going to stay, just that we were supposed to get to Marathon that night. Slapdick.

Our days grew longer. We averaged 75 miles of riding per day, with a day off every sixth  day. Florida was a breeze. It is stupid how easy and comfortable we were, and how difficult and uncomfortable the road would be just a few weeks later. Friends and family showered us with attention and affection and indoor comforts and homecooked food. We were lavished, covered and smothered, treated better than any bed and breakfast tour. I gained five pounds in quick work.

In New Orleans we had time to check-in before Texas. Texas whupped up on us, that big brown state of diesel trucks and mighty headwinds. For multiple days pieces of our group would arrive after dark, then get up at dawn to repeat the spin cycle the next morning.

From New Mexico on we’ve found the outdoors. I never expected such beauty from our southern tier. Colorado to and through Utah was a series of cold rides and expansive views. I understand now what sucks folk into the Durango and Moab and St. George communities … there’s so much to do and see and experience just off your front stoop.

Las Vegas to Death Valley, the desert up and out and over the Sierras to Yosemite, the eventual descent back into our progressive, congestive society. Car heaven. The corporate concrete experience. The heavy exhaust and advertising shine. The dense populations and long commutes. This was the America we found again after our month behind the Sierra line.

And now we are here, and so we will stay for three days resting, reading, eating, and reveling in our accomplishment. To have completed our first portion of Keys to Freeze as six, to have turned ourselves from the wobbly beasts on two wheels to the more confident touring cyclists seen today, to have continued spreading our message of riding for the national parks of America is a big deal. So for when you read this – Brady, Rachel, Tyler, Megan, and George – thank you for the past two months. We might be pedaling apart from here but we created something powerful together, so enjoy the feeling with me. Because soon we ride north, as unsure of our coming weeks as when Brady and I sat down those months ago.

So these adventures go. It wouldn’t be as fun, though, knowing all the details and what to expect along the way. Where would be the excitement in that? Right? Right?

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