Day 0

I am heading south on a terrifying bus at a terrifying speed.

To the left of me is a man with red feet who cries in his sleep. Further left, from what I can tell, are the wheels of the bus, going round and round on the divider. In back -- I can't look in back. For the first couple of miles I heard a baby screaming. Just seconds ago, when I turned around to stare it down, I noticed it was not a baby but a grown man of considerable size.

I have just made my hotel reservation at Yorktown's Crown Inn Motel. I'm in under Goff Manesfiele. The girl I spoke to had a beautiful Southern accent, but when she went to ask her mother what the damage was, I heard a violent fight in Hindi. The damage was 40 bucks.

For those of you new to my experiment, I am riding my bike across America. I am starting in Virginia.

My bike, or what's left of him, is grinding to pieces in the cargo hold beneath someone's zebra-skinned bag. My bagman, Sanjay, is probably crushed between the two. He’s a city bike, thirty years old (ninety in bike years), rusty in important spots, and completely unused to hauling anything more than groceries. I have much more confidence in Sanjay’s surviving our grand tour. I might put money on this.

We start in Yorktown. Sanjay is making his way down there with our belongings. The things we'll carry: a case of rioja, manchego cheese, my easel, some canvases, a bust of Voltaire, a hibachi, a hammock for afternoons, an aero bed, a table for entertaining, spare parts, and if Sanj has done his job, one of those huge chess sets you find at Club Meds. This grand tour will be grand.

Things I will miss on the road: the giving internet, Artichoke pizza, ice and the civilization built around it, Wall-E, people in excess, SpellCheck.

Things I look forwards to: Blackberry thumb, stars, the Pacific, numbness in my extremities, earned showers, perhaps a game or two of chess.

Yorktown is where Cornwallis signed the surrender and it has been the site of some significant skirmishes over the years. Sadly, I can't promise a skirmish; I can, however, assuage your fears of surrender. I can't stand symmetry and if I do plan on quitting I'll save it for Williamsburg which has comparatively little history of the stuff.

We are nearing the Shenandoah Valley. This is where Ted Koppel found his accent. It is also -- grab tissues -- where I hope to find something enduring. The climbs are greater here than in the Rockies, my pack is at its heaviest, and red foot is chewing as he snores. Jimminy.



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