37 awesome days

I tend to take very long vacations. Coding gives me the flexibility to work from anywhere, so when I travel, I keep working by default and take days off when something special arises. Thus I usually take vacation in very short increments, but very occasionally I’ll be gone awhile. And when I’m gone awhile, I’m gone: no hacking, no work, just focused on the instant.

My last serious-length vacation was August-September last year. And since then, I’ve taken only a day and a half of vacation (although I’ve shifted a few more days or fractions thereof to evenings or weekends). It’s time for a truly long vacation.

Screenshot of a browser showing Mozilla's PTO app, indicating 224 hours of PTO starting July 18
Yeah, I’m pretty much using it all up.

For several years I’ve had a list of long trips I’ve decided I will take: the Appalachian Trail, the John Muir Trail, the Coast to Coast Walk in England, and the Pacific Crest Trail. I’ve done the first two in 2008 and 2010 and the third last year. The fourth requires more than just a vacation, so I haven’t gotten to it yet. This leaves one last big trip: biking across the United States.

Tomorrow I take a much-needed break to recharge and recuperate (in a manner of speaking) by biking from the Pacific to the Atlantic. (Ironically, the first leg out of San Francisco is a ferry to Vallejo.) I have a commitment at the back end August 25 in San Francisco, and a less-critical one (more biking, believe it or not!) August 26. The 24th must be a day to fly back, so I have 37 days to bike the ~3784 miles of the Western Express Route (San Francisco, CA to Pueblo, CO) and part of the TransAmerica Trail (Pueblo to Yorktown, VA). This is an aggressive pace, to put it mildly; but I’ve biked enough hundred-mile days before, singly and seriatim, that I believe it’s doable with effort and focus.

Unlike in past trips, I won’t be incommunicado this time. I’ll pass through towns regularly, so I’ll have consistent ability to access the Internet. And I died a little, but I bought two months of cell/data service to cover the trip. So it goes. I won’t be regularly checking email (or bugmail, or doing reviews). But I’ll try to make a quick post from time to time with a picture and a few words.

I could say a little about gear — my twenty-five pound carrying capacity in panniers on a seatpost-mounted rack, the Kindle I purchased for reading end-of-day (which I’ve enjoyed considerably for the last week…as has my credit card), the 25-ounce sleeping bag I’ll carry, the tent I’ll use. I could also say a little about the hazards — the western isolation (you Europeans have no idea what that means), the western desert (one Utah day will be 50 miles without water, then 74 miles without water), the high summer climate, the other traffic, and simple exhaustion. But none of that’s important compared to the fact that 1) this is finally happening, and 2) it starts tomorrow.

“And now I think I am quite ready to go on another journey.” Let’s do this.


  1. Have a great time! 😀

    Comment by Ed Morley — 17.07.12 @ 13:18

  2. Have a safe and fun trip.


    Comment by Dad — 17.07.12 @ 13:26

  3. Whoa.

    Comment by njn — 17.07.12 @ 17:02

  4. Awesome, can’t wait to read about it. This has on my to-do list for a while.

    How much time off does Mozilla give per year? Does that include federal holidays?

    Comment by Adam Rosenfield — 18.07.12 @ 11:14

  5. Enjoy your trip. Will you post the stages somewhere? I’d like to see the elevation profile etc.
    By the ways, which Europeans do you mean?

    Comment by Archaeopteryx — 23.07.12 @ 02:28

  6. The best you can find of the stages is at the Adventure Cycling link, I think. The maps include rough profiles, but on the other hand it’s the usual reproduction-not-allowed thing, so I’m not sure how much I can reasonably excerpt. And I doubt it’s happening til I finish, if I do. 🙂

    Yesterday had an 84-mile section with no cities, food, water, or anything on it. I did a similar 70-mile section a couple days ago. Several days from now I hit the 50/75 split I mentioned in the post. And these were all pretty close together. I was thinking primarily of the English countryside, where we passed by towns and houses every day when on the Coast to Coast Walk. But I don’t think you have many of those long distances between anything much elsewhere in Europe (well, Russia if you want to count it that way 🙂 ). And where you do, there are at least small outposts of houses and such along the way. Europe’s been populated too long to have much of it. (Not that I particularly expect these stretches in Nevada and Utah are likely to become especially more populated as time progresses — there’s just not much reason to live in it if you’re not grazing cattle, and people are doing that already.)

    Comment by Jeff — 26.07.12 @ 09:17

  7. It’s 20 days, roughly plus the federal holidays with a substitution or two (something like no Columbus Day, but instead you get Christmas Eve or something), plus your birthday (does not actually need to be taken on your birthday 🙂 ). You can accumulate up to 30 days before it stops accumulating. So if you timed it right, you could get about 31.5ish days of vacation and use them all at once, and if you chose a time near the right holidays you could make it a little longer than that in effect.

    I may only be a week into this yet, but I’m pretty sure even 31.5 vacation days is not enough time to do this for anyone but the mentally insane. It’s doable, definitely. But right now, the distances I’m pulling because I have to pull them because if I don’t I’ll fall further and further behind with no possibility of making it up (because stuff’s too staggered) are kind of insane. 🙂 I’m certain I’m leaning heavily right now on youthful vigor to be pulling my current pace right now.

    For a concrete comparison, I ran into Bike the US for MS a couple days ago. They’re doing the same route I’m doing, as I understand it, and they’re doing it in 60 days — more than 50% more time, that is. That’s a bit slower than I’d want to do it if I had unlimited time, I think. But if I were to go at an unconstrained pace, I think I’d have stopped earlier a couple days already, and overall I’d guess my pace would be a week or two slower, maybe. But it’s hard to say, given the town staggering and the fact that I don’t have all the maps right now. (I have the first three, and I mailed the rest to a town I’ll hit in two days, where I’ll swap out the maps I need/don’t need and mail it to another town I’ll pass through.)

    Comment by Jeff — 26.07.12 @ 09:27

  8. If you don’t mind, can you send your maps to us once you are finished with them? I wouldn’t mind looking at them in detail. We can bring them with us when we come to see you in Sept.

    Comment by Dad — 01.08.12 @ 15:40

  9. […] year ago, after 37 days of biking around ~3875mi total starting in San Francisco, I reached Yorktown, VA to finish biking across the […]

    Pingback by Where's Walden? » 37 days and one year later: part 1: the start and choosing a route — 26.08.13 @ 00:05

  10. […] A.T. pace passes that point. I’m guessing I’ll need four months: 240 hours of PTO (Nᴇᴡ Hɪɢʜ Sᴄᴏʀᴇ!), then three months’ unpaid leave, including a cushion. I’m guessing I’ll be done […]

    Pingback by Where's Walden? » Back in a bit — 10.05.17 @ 08:19

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