I was at a McDonalds in Ashland yesterday between games of the Early Bird Brawl tournament my son’s travel team was competing in. There was a Trek mountain bike with a trailer parked on the sidewalk between the front of the store and the outdoor play area. I was checking it out through the window. When I turned around, there was this older, weathered looking dude with a soul patch wearing a Salsa Cycles jersey and bike shorts. I dug deep into my box of stupid questions and asked, “is that your rig?” It was, and we started up a slightly one-sided conversation.
He was very chatty, but very interesting. I heard about wildlife encounters, dangerous experiences, beautiful places, long climbs, fast descents, good people, bad people, good camping, bad camping, the hot, the cold, and the varying cost of a “senior cup” of coffee at McDonalds depending on geography. Apparently, Ashland, VA ranks as a good value at 44 cents with free refills.
He said he worked hard for a long time and now that he is retired, he just rides his bike cross country. And by cross country I don’t mean XC, I mean he rides across the United States of America. He’s been to all 48 contiguous states on his bike at least twice. He met an 80 year old last year touring. He’s hoping he can continue that long. I’m not even sure if he has a home. He said he gets $1,500 a month from Social Security and spends about $500 per month. If it cost you more than that, he says you are doing it wrong.
He doesn’t carry any cooking gear, and eats a lot of tuna fish, crackers, cold soup, fruits, nuts, etc. He asked me if we had Popeyes Chicken in the area. I told him yes, but couldn’t tell him where. He prefers Popeyes over KFC and was looking forward to some chicken and artificial mashed potatoes for dinner. I think I went to a Popeyes once and don’t recall them having mashed potatoes, but who am I to argue? He mails memory cards of pictures and videos to his daughter, and is writing an article for Adventure Cyclist.
He camped by the retention pond behind the Wal-Mart Saturday night. He claims to have ridden 45,000 miles across this great land of ours. I have no reason to doubt that. I want to say he was from Connecticut (or somewhere northeastish). He was on his way to Biloxi, MS to hang with some friends that spend their evenings watching the sunset and drinking beer before heading out west somewhere.
This is maybe a third of what he told me. His name is Joe. Interesting dude. Good luck and safe travels, Joe. You nailed Escaping the Dreary Confines smack dab on the head.