51 miles (82 km) – Total so far: 3,594 miles (5,784 km)
I had been fearing another scorcher of a day today, so I set my alarm early ready to jump on the bike and race against the noonday sun. Contrary to forecast, a gloomy overcast drizzle hung over us as we pedaled up and over the hills South of New Meadows and into the next valley. The distances going on towards the Oregon border didn’t lend themselves to a normal 60 mile day, so today’s was a short 51 miler. Consequently, we set up a a little diner and settled in for a nice long breakfast.
Ordering took me a little while because I was having a hard time finding some non-meat options. This probably comes as a big surprise that I would care to everyone who knows me as a full blooded carnivore. But a combination of events have me attempting a vegetarian experiment (or more likely a pescatarian) I’ve just finished seven days and about 450 miles with 10,000 vertical feet of climb without meat. Here’s the reasoning behind it and the results so far.
1. Kansas Feed Lots. Take some amount of land in Kansas, let’s say 1,000 acres. Grow some grass on it, let some cows eat the grass and get fat. Kill the cows and eat em. I’m all for it. Sounds great. But…. the happy Kansas cow who experiences this is in the minority. More likely: Take that 1,000 acres. Use about 950 of it to grow grass and hay. Ship the hay to a 50 acre feed lot where all the cows are in pens. Feed them a ton of hay and get them fat. Kill em and eat em. This generates about 50-150% more cows than the happy cow scenario. Honestly, I don’t care that much about cows. I don’t need them to be all that happy before they turn into a burger. But… I have an indelible image imprinted on my mind:
As I rounded a corner on highway 96, the nauseating stench of the feed lot we’d been approaching for three miles had me gagging into my damp bandanna. Most of the pens for the cows are covered in an unholy mix of mud and shit. A pen with say 100 square feet of space would have about 40 square feet of cows. Again, I don’t care about happy cows… but it did strike me as excessively cruel. Then, in the last pen of the lot all the manure had been bulldozed into a pile about 15 feet tall. On top of that pile stood a solitary cow. King of the shit mountain. That was the pinnacle of its life before it was to be killed and served as a “grass fed” cow on somebody’s plate in a Chicago steak house. So, there it is. The king of the shit mountain cow… I can’t get the image out of my head. It really bothered me.
2. The Cylon and The Machine The Cylon, aka Terry, beat me up a 500 foot climb today. He’s 60. I wasn’t going easy on him. He hasn’t eaten meat in 40 years, and he looks like a 30 year old. I hope I look half as good when I’m 60. Also take The Machine, aka Chuck. Chuck has been gluten free and vegan for about a year. He’s running a 100 mile race in a couple of months and has beaten Lance Armstrong in the NYC marathon with a 2:40 time. My point is this: it is impossible for me to argue that the protein needed for muscle strength and endurance needs to come from animal meat. These two are the strongest athletes I’ve ever met, and they never get tired.
3. The Paunch This little bastard has been attached to my belly since the age of 11. Somehow for 25 years I’ve convinced myself it isn’t really part of who I am: it is an intruder, an alien, it won’t be there in a few months. And finally, that might *almost* be true. He’s almost gone. I’ve lost somewhere between 15-30 lbs on this trip, and I really really don’t want to balloon when I’m done. Obviously I’m going to be cutting back on the 4-8 hours of cycling a day, so something’s got to give. I’ve never had an easy time with food choices, so a big bright line might make all the difference… as long as I don’t substitute cheese for meat at every opportunity.
The Results so Far
1. Intentionality I’ve been much more aware of the food I’ve been eating, and I’ve made extra effort to slow down and enjoy the flavors and textures. It is incredibly important that food is still joyful to me. I love eating, and if I can’t do this while still loving what I eat, than I’m sorry, but the king of shit mountain is going to be my burger again. That said, I haven’t had as many french fries as I would normally have, because I haven’t been ordering burgers
2. Energy I have more energy. Or, more accurately, I have more consistent energy. I’ve had a pretty steady set of fuel lasting the whole day with less ups and downs. I’m eating a lot more volume of food than I was, and I’ve done that by eating some kind of fruit or veggie every 1-2 hours of the day. I’m going to need to explore more variety when I get home, I can’t seriously just keep eating the big four: apples, oranges, bananas, and cholula avocados.
I’m looking forward to seeing how this all works out. I doubt I’ll have the willpower to see it through long term, but who knows, maybe I will. As for this afternoon, I greatly enjoyed two pieces of carrot cake and now I’m sipping a beer. Looks like I’m doing OK on the getting joy from food.
… back to the ride. The rest of the day went pretty quickly. Jonathan and Jerry caught up to the Brits and myself at the diner. Leaving this little spot of heaven we rode together to Cambridge. Even with heavy road construction, we cycled the mere 51 miles in record time arriving at our destination well before 3:00. We’re relaxing on the patio of the motel with a few beers before heading out for dinner.