The Ballpark Cyclist

Posted by Kurt Smith on Saturday, October 26, 2013
Greetings Ballpark E-Guides readers! I know I haven’t updated this blog in a while, but of course it doesn’t mean I don’t still love you. I just haven’t had the time, so to speak. True. I’ll do better in the future, I promise.

Anyway I wanted to share a great story that I’ve found.

Many of us fans dream of a trip to see every ballpark, but Jacob Landis did something that I doubt has ever been done…he bicycled to each one of them in one season. In fact, I’m positive that has never been done!

Jacob built a website and blog documenting the trip, called Jacob’s Ride, to raise awareness for cochlear implants. As someone who had hearing troubles as a kid, Jacob received a cochlear implant that restored his hearing. As the website says, Jacob combined all three of his passions…baseball, cycling, and helping the hearing impaired.

If you’d like to read some great stories about the trip, and if you are interested in a possible donation to his worthy cause, you can view the Jacob’s Ride website here.  

Jacob was kind enough to answer some of my questions about this incredible trip.

What made you decide to do this, and were you prepared for what it would entail? What kind of shape do you need to be in?

I decided to do it mostly because as I've been riding more and more, doing a long ride became attractive to me and I knew that cochlear implants needed more awareness. Only about 2% of people who could benefit from implants have one in this country, and only 50% of them even know that it is an option. The baseball aspect of it came from the baseball fan part of me: wouldn't it be cool to go to all 30 ballparks? Of course, when I spoke of that idea, I didn't know that the best schedule we could make would be over 10,000 miles.

The schedule making was hard because of the home/road schedules of 30 teams, plus having to cover an X number of miles by bike. Using air travel, I've heard of a man that was able to go to a game in all 30 stadiums in 30 days (Note from Kurt…that is Chuck Booth, he’s written a book about the experience). By bike, I needed the whole baseball season.

I was prepared as I could be. I live on the coastal plain of Maryland and have never rode my bike far enough west to encounter the Appalachians. I had never even completed a century before the ride, the closest to that was a 91 mile day in February as part of training for the ride. I was in good riding shape when I took off in April. I had been riding anywhere from 200-400 miles a month for almost 2 years. I was pretty light-weight. I worked with a local nutritionist at Chesapeake Holistic Health and a trainer in Brian Johnson. I put on 20+ pounds in preparation, to a high weight of 145. The extra weight was something to fall back on.

My body fat was abnormally low (because I didn't eat a lot but rode a lot), and I got it up to about 9%. I consumed high-in-fat coconut milk to the tune of 2-3 quarts a day during the ride to keep the fat on. Being lightweight helped in the mountains.

What was the most difficult part of the journey? How did you get through deserts, mountains, etc.?

The most difficult part was probably in the Cascades of Washington and Oregon. I had just ridden for 22 consecutive days to get from Minneapolis to Seattle, and then had a really tight schedule (90+ a day) from Seattle to Oakland. The trip from Oakland to Seattle was the only time Google Maps failed us. After crossing the Montana Rockies and the Washington Cascades, our route to Oakland took us east back into the mountains rather than staying on the coast. Turns out it was legal to ride on Interstate 5 through Oregon, but because we always "avoided highways" on Google, our route couldn't put us on the 5.

Raining every day, riding into the mountains, and having the temperature drop to the 40s when it was the middle of June just blew me away. We ended one day near the summit of a pass about 20 miles behind schedule and stopped because my legs were dead and it was pouring rain. The next morning, it was still raining, and it was even colder. And then we have the 20 miles that we need to make up from yesterday hanging over my head. That was the worst.

When I made the route, I was smart enough to take the Colorado Rockies into account, so I only had to average 60 miles a day to get to Denver from Phoenix. So that was actually my favorite part of the whole ride. It was beautiful, I had no pressure when climbing, and we got some great weather. But I never even thought about the Appalachians in upstate New York (I thought Appalachia ended in Pennsylvania), and I didn't know that the Rockies went up into Montana and into Canada. I didn't think about the Cascades, I didn't think about the Ozarks, and I didn't even know about the Ouachita Mountains until I climbed them.

Desert riding was not as bad as I had feared either. From Anaheim to Phoenix, we actually got rained on a little bit. We were in the desert, but you could see a lot of dirt had been carried onto the road from a recent rainstorm, so it was actually pretty humid while we were in that desert. Where there is a desert, there are mountains nearby. So crossing deserts could be pretty hilly. But the desert gave me some of the most beautiful views when the sun began sinking. All the colors came out.

I was drinking more than 2 gallons of water a day in Arizona, and would only go about 20 miles at a time before re-filling the water because the water would get really hot.

What tips would you give someone bicycling to a game anywhere?

If you're biking to a game, don't indulge too much while there if you have to ride out at the end of the game. Try to find some trails because most ballparks are located in the downtowns of the biggest cities in America. But a lot of cities have added a lot of bike paths in the past 10 years. A lot of times, I would know that I was getting close to the ballpark when bike lanes materialized under my wheel.

On my trip, we were trying to cut down the miles as much as I could, so I usually did not get on trails, but a lot of major cities have at least one trail that can get you into the city. Just google map it, and then maybe scope it out with a car drive or street view.

What was the highlight of your trip? And what is your favorite ballpark?

I think the highlight came from all of the supporters, especially the kids, that came to the games. There were quite a few kids that had never met anybody else with a cochlear implant. And they would come to a game and meet a few dozen folks with implants and it would lead to some of them who felt different to feel more comfortable.

The best ballpark is the home ballpark, I think. Root root root for the home team. My favorite ballpark is in Baltimore, it is almost a second home to me. There is no place like home. I have great memories there, especially the 2012 ALDS.

Do you plan on doing this again?

I am making plans to return to Florida to complete the ride. I might coincide that with some spring training games, as I have never been to spring training. I'm hoping to turn it into a big fundraiser, and do the final 180 miles in 3 days with multiple cyclists. Not sure about riding the same schedule again, but would be interested in doing some more cross-country bike rides. I don't want to do a long ride with such a strict schedule again though. 175 days, 10,666 miles, and to top it off there were thirty "you have to be here on a specific date or else" stop. I'd like the freedom to sit out a rainy day.

My thanks to Jacob Landis for answering my questions. Be sure to check out Jacob's Ride.

Tags: all ballparks  bicycling 
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