Exactly a week after I tried to leave Tulsa—with disastrous results—I do the same from Oklahoma City. I haven’t done much riding since last Tuesday. After recovering Wednesday in Tulsa, on Thursday night my host is driving to OKC and offers me a ride. I eagerly accept. Even with that guy locked up, no way I’m retracing my steps. Also there is heavy rain and I am in pain, mostly emotional.
When the going gets ugly
Driver hostility towards bicyclists is not unheard of, but it rarely manifests in more than a middle finger, cursing or honking. Running a bike off the road or making contact is rare, but it happens.
I recall warnings from my Cambridge, Ohio host, who emailed me about a young white German cyclist from Namibia he hosted after me:
Texas and New Mexico seemed so far away at the time that I didn’t worry about it. I wasn’t sure I’d even make it that far. Fast forward and later this week I’ll enter Texas. New Mexico isn’t far behind. I’ve learned the hard way that road hazards are real and they may not be dissipating.
Getting slugged just for standing on the side of the road with a bike is unique. Then again, my assailant has a criminal past, history of mental health issues, and may have been on meth. But don’t hate on him, he’s just your average American!
As a recent victim of unprovoked assault, the psychological damage eclipses the physical scar on my face. I was just getting comfortable riding alongside semis whose professional drivers almost always give me plenty of clearance.
Then and now
Before I left NYC, I identified pickup trucks as a top menace for NYC bikers. I have finally forgiven them because of their excellent driving outside the NYC metro area. Then this mess happened by a guy in a pickup.
Things have changed since I left New York. I’ve gone from 40-minute commutes on protected bikeways in flat, familiar Manhattan to five-hour hauls on expanses of Route 66. South of Chelsea, Oklahoma a wide shoulder disappears without reason, forcing me to ride for miles in a lane of traffic on a highway. On a highway! It was as exhilarating as it was nerve-wracking, but I was confident in occupying that space and there were no close calls.
Now I’m suspicious of each car as a potential hateful encounter. I don’t trust any of them. After my first flat tire riding into Tulsa I don’t trust invincible Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires either.
Don’t read the comments
Adding insult to injury are online comments for articles by writers who can’t even bother to reach out to me, opting instead to quote other articles. Getting assaulted is not a highlight of my trip, but the media sure thinks so. Internet trolls delight in how much they wish they could have punched me. My writing style is ridiculed. That I’m a wimp because I went to the ER for a busted lip. That I got the cut to cover up a cold sore. That I had the audacity to take a bloody selfie. Others think “there must be more to the story” because I surely deserved what I got. Bike forums are more sympathetic, but one guy dismisses the incident “as an attempt to get some press.”
I’m glad I live life on the road and not online. My light source is the sun, not a backlit screen. For those quick to criticize with the click, come bike a mile in my shoes and see how far you get. Try leaving your comfort zone behind and going forward into the unknown alone. For months at a time. Fortunately the comments are meaningless because of the sympathetic and supportive response I receive from Oklahomans in person and over social media. I detailed a few last post. Thank you so much.
Westward with caution
I’ve gone almost 1,800 miles and won’t turn back now. I want to see the Pacific Ocean. But in the past 10 days I’ve gone a whopping 19 miles—all in vain after I had to return to Tulsa. The 10 days before that, however, I biked 412 miles with no rest days. Now my next rest day will be Amarillo, Texas in early November.
I’m only halfway across the country and it’s about to get much harder. Headwinds, gnarly goathead thorns (nature's tire spikes), big distances, falling temperatures and lack of services are going to make the coming weeks the hardest yet. I’m exhausted—not so much from the actual pedaling, but from the planning, journaling and corresponding via email and social media. I don’t have time to even touch my digital businesses. I need an assistant and a tandem bike. He will pedal and I’ll catch up on paperwork in the back.
Unless some more crazy @ss sh!t happens to me leaving Oklahoma City today, expect the next post to be about Santa Claus, Indiana from a month ago. I’m already nostalgic for Santa Claus, yet worried that it’s getting closer to Christmas.