Guns & Blammo – TransAmerica Update

Will you be taking a gun?

This is the one question I’ve had about my trip across the USA that’s taken me a little by surprise. It’s not that I haven’t thought about my personal safety – believe me, I think about it a lot and get lectured regularly when people hear I’m doing this trip solo. But for some reason, my mind doesn’t leap straight to ‘I know, I’ll take a gun’.

Self-defense course? Yes, I may take that. A little street-fighter finger-to-the-eyes training. But a gun? I’m not the kind of person who should have a gun. I’d shoot my own shadow for looking at me funny.

I don’t hate people who own guns, by the way. Being a farm gal, I grew up around them, have handled them, and been heavily schooled in the safe locking away of said weapons. But I have no lust for them. I’m just not very gunny.

I don’t want to get into a gun debate either, I really don’t. But the fact that someone thinks I need a gun on this trip does dovetail nicely into something I talk about a lot lately. It’s a line of reasoning I keep throwing back at my friends and family who keep pressing their personal panic buttons in an effort to talk me out of going on such a foolhardy adventure. I know they love me and I love them for it, but let’s just examine this a little more closely.

We’re scared of everything.

To our detriment. I’m not naive enough to think that bad things don’t happen – it can be a shitty world for sure. But I also happen to believe that we’re slowly being paralyzed by false fears. Overblown, beaten-into-a-screaming-frenzy fears.

I would like to blame the media, but really they’re just a part of it. The blame lies pretty squarely with us. People. Skin tubes.

For the love of crank arms, think for yourself, people! Be rational. Use good judgement. And don’t let fear be the executive producer of your life. Someone who can stroll onto the set at any moment and order you to “shut it down!”

Those who know me know that I’m afraid of most things. Irrational things, like answering the phone, going to the doctor, or having a pickle touch my sandwich in an overly familiar way. I can be uncomfortably shy and positively monosyllabic if I’m in a mood. And I always have that horrible niggling part of me that’s afraid there’ll be no-one being around to tell me what to do next. But here’s the thing:

I refuse to let it stop me from doing stuff that I really want to do.

If I listened to fear, I would never have left the farm and the comfort of small town, know-everyone-when-you-walk-down-the-street living.

If I listened to fear, you can bet your arse I would never have moved to a country where I knew no-one, had no job, and where some dickheads less than two years earlier had flown planes into buildings, causing all of us to be afraid of anyone on the subway with a slightly oversized backpack.

If I listened to fear, when my friend told me he could not come with me on this trip I would have shut it down right there. The end. Stupid dream anyway. What were you even thinking?

But I didn’t. It’s still there, of course. The fear. And you can bet it will grow more as the date of departure draws near (T-minus 90 days and counting!). But I will use fear in the most useful way possible: as an indicator of situations that need close attention, or complete avoidance. I’m even going to give it a new raison d’etre

Fear.
Fuel for common sense and quadriceps.

Bad things happen in big towns and small towns. To good people and jerks. And I have no doubt that there will be some moments of extreme wariness as I cycle my way across this country. But you can count on this: I’m going into this thing with my wits about me. I’m taking precautions where warranted, and setting things in motion that will give the people who need to know some peace of mind along the way.

Remember what ol’ FDR said:

“…the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”
Franklin D. Roosevelt, First Inaugural Address, Saturday, March 4, 1933

And so I advance, by bicycle. With confidence and alertness, and a belief that I’d rather be living my life than watching someone else’s on TV.

Ride on!

ADDENDUM:
I still haven’t decided on the HALT! issue. The few dog encounters I’ve had have on my bike have been thwarted by an incredibly authoritative yell, or squirt in the face with water. But I just keep reading about these aggressive dogs in Kentucky. Not incredibly confident in my ability to outride a dog on an uphill. There’s always the risk of HALT! catching the wind and being blown back into my face. I can be quite the whiz at doing stuff like that.

Still contemplating
J

9 comments

  1. I’m also doing the TransAm this summer, leaving in early June (at the latest). I have a concealed carry license and carry consistently. And I train with a weapon consistently.

    But carrying a pistol on the TransAm? My gut says no, believe it or not. I thought about a Taser gun, too. No.

    Mace? Maybe.

    As for Halt!…also a maybe. I was attacked by a Rott’ last year on a back country trip, but other than that I’m aware of the fact that most dogs are quite harmless and just love the chase.

  2. You’re coming from the other way, right Dylan? You have that cool Surly Trucker – I remember.

    It’s funny you mention a taser. I just randomly saw an ad last night where Betty White (of all people), tased some dude. I suddenly thought, hey, what about that? Haha.

    I read a blog of a guy that carried a gun last year as he rode the route solo. Not once did he mention a situation where he needed it.

    How’s your trip planning going?

  3. At this point, I’m planning to leave from SanFrancisco and take ACA’s Western Express Route to Pueblo, Colorado, where I’ll pick up the TransAm.

    Quick note about tasers: the problem is, they only incapacitate someone for seconds. And then the person, once ‘un-tased’, is right back on their feet, as in, no side effects or lingering… taziness (yes, I made that up). Think about that for a second: so you’re in the middle of Nowhere, Kansas…you taser some dude who’s threatening you. He falls. You ride. Seconds later, he’s back behind the wheel and after you.

    So much for that weapon.

    Food: the calorie thing’s daunting, eh? I think the solution is a broad mix of stuff in reality. A bit of cooking, some restaurant food, some mini-mart crap to keep you fueled, etc. Like you, I don’t see packing Sport Beans, etc. as a realistic option. However, I am trying Elete electrolyte additive. Cheaper than G2 type drinks.

    http://www.eletewater.com/

    I bought the mondo mega jug. Started using it today during a one hour run.

  4. Halt is a good idea, light weight and quite effective.

    By the way, riding my bike across USA is in my bucket list. Hopefully, I’ll be able to do it in a couple of years once my kid gets older.

  5. Dear Noodle,

    A firearm is utterly unnecessary given good judgment.

    A self-defense class is probably a good idea, just to get over the “freeze if something scary happens” condition.

    I’ve never needed anything like Mace or halt or anything for dogs, even when riding in rural Mississippi and southern Louisiana.

    Enjoy your trip!

    Cheers,

    Will

    William M. deRosset
    Fort Collins, CO

  6. I can say I’ve ridden a lot of places in the US, and have never felt the need to carry a gun. I basically think it could just invite trouble. You’ll always have that in the back of your head, that it’s with you, etc. Believe me, you’ll be a lot more worried about distance, time, sights, finding that camping spot, and so on, instead of worrying with gun-business.

    I forgot just how quickly you’ll get into the “climbing” part of the Trans-AM in VA. I love those climbs, but it is my current state of residence. None of these VA climbs are all too daunting. Just make sure you do some hill training with gear (fully weighted), as the bike is quite a different critter then vs. when it’s not loaded…

    Ciao!

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