Sunday, January 26, 2014

Jan 26 (Day 26) - Making big miles in a small world

Today was another very hard day. I covered 54 miles as I headed south towards Baltimore. For the most part, the weather cooperated. The last 12 miles were a bit rough with strong winds and a bit of blowing snow. However, it was the first 40 that really killed me. My legs we shot from fighting the wind yesterday, so the very hilly terrain through Western Delaware and Eastern Maryland was simply exhausting. At several particularly steep points, I had to demount and push the bike. While I realize I am doing this to conserve energy for a long year ahead, it is nonetheless incredibly emotionally deflating. I feel so weak and inadequate, particularly when it happens on busy roads. I know I shouldn't let this bother me, but each time I dismount the bike to push it, waves of self-doubt come crashing down on me. Hopefully, I'll be able to rebuild my confidence on the flatter stretches ahead. I also hope that once it gets warmer, I'll be able to ditch the hiking boots in which I am now riding in favor of proper biking shoes (these will give me power on both the downstroke AND upstroke).

There were very few birds today, but a few moments did stand out. First, was a near collision with a Winter wren as it rocketed across my path in a particularly scrubby area. This normally secretive bird appeared to hang in the air in front of my bike for a few seconds before disappearing into the thicket on the other side of the road. It was a very surreal encounter. I also observed a Pileated woodpecker fly across my path, albeit not at the close range of the wren. Lastly, I found several Bald eagles adjacent to the Conowingo Dam. At the right times, this is one of the premier places on the east coast to photograph eagles. They routinely fish in the outflow from the dam where they are within reach of even short telephoto lenses. I simply did not have the energy today to cycle down to the traditional fishing spot to take some pictures.

The most interesting interaction of the day, like yesterday, occurred completely fortuitously. I am a active member of an online photography community hosted at I post my photos on the Nature and Wildlife board for others to see and critique. I also spend a large amount of time looking at and critiquing the photos of the other members. We all get along really well, and I enjoy greatly the time that I spend on the forum. I will be staying with people from the forum at some points on this trip.

So, today I was riding along when I passed a gas station about a mile from the Conowingo Dam. I then see a man with a camera running from his parked car at the station over to the roadside to meet me. "You MUST be Dorian" says the man. I quickly ascertain that this man is Michael Rucci, a photographer with whom I regularly interact on the photo forum. He lives in the area, and has been following my trip on online. He actually offered me a place to stay, but I had already secured another place in the area. He was, not surprisingly, headed down to the dam to take some eagle photos when he saw me on the bike. He correctly surmised that I was the only person crazy enough to be on the roads on this day, and he figured he would stop and introduce himself. 

We talked for a few minutes, and Michael offered to escort me over the top of the dam. While it is legal to ride a bike over it, the lanes over its top are frighteningly thin. This means that if someone were to try to pass me in an aggressive manner, it could create a potentially dangerous situation for me if there was a car coming from the other direction. Michael fell in behind me as I crossed the dam with his hazard lights on; This ensured that cars could not pass him, and hence me, as I crossed the dam. Just to be clear, Michael did not take a page out of the Chris Christie Traffic Playbook. I crossed the dam in under 2 minutes. I am sure the handful of cars we held up hardly noticed the delay. I snapped a quick photo of my escort and me once we had crossed the dam. It was an amazingly nice gesture during what was a very challenging ride.

The real significance of this interaction did not hit me until several miles down the road. What I realized is what an incredibly small place the internet has made the world. It was the internet that facilitated this chance interaction between Michael and me, and it is the internet that allows each one of you to accompany me on this journey. As an example of this, I offer the some information on the readership of this blog.

There are people all over the world reading this blog! Personal letters of encouragement that I have received from all over the world have confirmed this. Beyond people following my humble efforts, the internet is now used as a substitute to traditional dating, to conduct near-instantaneos electronic stock trades, and even, in extreme cases, to organize political movements and topple governments. The power of the internet is near limitless, but it will never substitute for the type of real work interaction of the sort that Michael and I had today. I know I will unlikely meet all of the readers of this blog, but it is really exciting to wonder who I might run into next.


  1. Hang in there Dorian! Remember this on the days you feel weak and self-doubt starts to kick in... your strength is that you know your limits and you are taking preventative measures (pushing your bike when the terrain/weather is particularly trying) so that you don't burn out. When feeling deflated, others might be likely to push beyond their limits just to boost themselves back up in the moment, only to totally burn out later, resulting in a much bigger feeling of defeat. Not only are you conserving your energy in a healthy way - you are conserving your emotional well-being by being patient with the physical limitations you may endure on this tremendously difficult trek. You've got this! ~Christi Mobley

  2. Take care of yourself! This could be the toughest part of the trip, with the weather that's coming in tomorrow. If it gets really bad, you don't lose points by taking a day off.

  3. Greetings! A friend referred me to your blog, and I have thoroughly enjoyed checking it out. First, I want to wish you well on your adventure! Last year, I had hoped to do a big green year, seeing as many species by hiking or biking from my house. I made it to 189 species by August, but had to stop due to issues with family illness. I loved the exercise and how it made seeing ordinary birds more exciting. I also felt so much more in tune with the changing of the season.
    I am not sure if you have read this book - One Mile at a Time: Cycling through Loss to Renewal - by Dwight Smith. He biked around the perimeter of the US while in his early 60s. It is quite inspiring.
    All the best and travel safe!

  4. Let me also offer some words of support and encouragement. I have been following your blog from January 1st onwards and it's been a great pleasure to read your daily tales. I'm amazed on so many levels: biking long distances in horrid winter weather, finding and identifying so many birds, and also keeping the world at large engaged with your pictures and blog entries. You're an entertaining writer on top of everything else.

    Good luck getting through these days of exhaustion, poor weather, and slow birding. Not sure if you need this for encouragement, but I will make a donation to your conservation fund once you reach Florida.