My wife asked me what I wanted to do for my birthday. I immediately suppressed the first thing that came to mind, which happened to be themed “pagan holiday.” Instead, I told her I wanted to bicycle 200 miles to Boston. First she said no, but then she talked with a friend or two, who only confirmed I would end up like one of those old guys who die on their birthday doing something crazy to celebrate. It was also pointed out that the words ‘celebrate’ and ‘cemetery’ come from the same root word, but that turned out not to be true.

She has no problem with me biking a hundred times around our block, but doing the same mileage along the highways toward a distant destination conjures up an unacceptable amount of risk, equivalent to living in an active war zone or in Detroit. The verdict was, No.

I pouted, stamped my feet and cried a lot, so we compromised at half the distance: a 100-mile trip to Portland. My wife would handle the support-car operations to assist in case there was some catastrophic failure. We were both satisfied, because managing the support car really means unlimited time shopping at any store without the usual pressure of a husband waiting in the car.

The trip took two days. We met at a halfway point motel and then we stayed at a small Portland inn until the following morning or until I recuperated, whichever came first. Spoiler alert: the morning came first.

So what exactly do you find biking along our highways for two full days? The first thing you find is noise, lots of it. You can have a quiet conversation in a car as you motor about, but it’s hard to hear exactly what you are saying to yourself when biking on the side of a busy road. At first you don’t notice the constant whoosh of cars because it’s your biggest clue to prepare for being passed at 60 miles an hour faster than you are pedaling. But during a lull in traffic or when you turn down a bike path or onto a lightly traveled road, you notice a sudden calmness, the serenity of being outdoors — one of the main reasons biking is enjoyable.

You may also find that the shoulders of our paved roads are often not in as good condition as the pavement left of the white line. There are gaps in the asphalt with plants poking up, cracks big enough to grab your bicycle tire, and drainage features dangerous to two-wheelers. There are road hazards that have been pushed off to the side and dead things to avoid. These are mostly chipmunks, squirrels and a few birds, although this time I had to avoid a large beaver, a fox and a sizeable deer that were quite dead but yet providing for a booming fly population.

Some of the time you are forced to watch for hazards and ignore any interesting scenery, but when the opportunity arises, you can marvel at the variety of trash we have at our disposal.

There are lots of straps: fabric ones and those black rubber bungee cords. Many of them are damaged, but I could have acquired a nice collection of usable ones if I’d been willing to carry the extra weight.

There are car parts, clothing, plastic food trays, cups and packages, but beverage containers still win out. In spite of our bottle-deposit policies, there is a fortune in returnables out there.

Occasionally I came across odd items that must have escaped during transport. I saw bags full of garbage, half sheets of plywood and a couch. Not a full couch but an end piece of a sectional ensemble looking relatively new with a brown suede leather covering. Very nice.

People ask me how such a trip can be accomplished. You simply point your bike south, sit on that little seat and pedal. You rest when tired and then pedal some more until you get to where you are going. It’s not unlike a stationary bike except the scenery keeps changing and even when you stop pedaling for a while there is still a sensation of moving forward, especially when going downhill.

The trip was a challenge and “fun” in a very narrow definition of the word. I will brag about it in my old age but, just between you and me, it was no pagan holiday.