Triking to the moon
Recently, as I often have been known to do since childhood, I stood transfixed as my gaze drank in the full moon here in the moist coastal air of rural Oregon. There, before me, was what people not so long ago thought was a light source, not knowing it was only reflecting the sun’s brilliance. Anyway, it looked so close, and being one who enjoys pedaling my tricycle hither and yon, I wondered how long it would take to pedal there.
So, I imagined some sort of a science fiction ramp, probably angled and banked such that I could pick up a decent amount of speed, and leave the Earth’s atmosphere on my journey. Of course, my head didn’t worry about trivial concerns of air supply for the trike’s organic engine, as this abstract exercise was destined for success regardless of what absolute reality dictates. And I also imagined my 700 fully stripped of touring gear so I could maximize the exit speed, thereby minimizing transit time, in what would likely be quite an epic ride.
Okay, so the moon varies in its distance from my home planet by 26,466 miles, as it travels in an elliptical orbit, sometimes closer and sometimes farther away. At the moon’s perigee (the closest point to Earth), the mileage for a trike pilot’s calculations is only 225,622 miles, but at the moon’s apogee (the most distant point), mileage increases to 252,088 miles, which is a distance greater than pedaling once around Planet Earth (some serious mileage). The average distance from Earth to its moon is 238,857 miles.
Well, I figured this might take a while to get there any way I calculated it, so I am picking the closest approach, what some folks call the night of the Super Moon. Assuming I am able to reach an Earth orbit escape speed on my Catrike of 10 miles per hour, on this ramp specially constructed by NASA for the exclusive use of a lowly trike hobo, my overland journey (oops, I mean my through space journey) would require 22,562 hours, and since only the initial exit from the ground of Earth would necessitate pedaling the crank like a madman, the trike’s velocity would be set at whatever speed and direction when the vacuum of space was entered.
This means I would be on this epic and groundbreaking (oops, I mean spacebreaking) trike trek for 940 days (of 24 hour duration). That number of days works out to 2.58 years if I do not stop to camp along the way, which I can’t anyway because not only did I not bring along my tent and sleeping bag, but I have no way to put on the disc brakes to pull over, and if I could somehow stop, I would then have no way to regain my lost speed. This would be a trike journey of roughly 31 months, or 124 weeks. Remember, if I begin the ride at the end of the ramp at 10 miles per hour, I’ll maintain that speed all the way to my destination, assuming I don’t run into something along the way. The good news is I don’t have to pedal once underway – just enjoy the scenery (of course, if I attempt to turn around in my seat to watch Earth fade away, I might skew the trajectory, and miss my target altogether).
Now, next time you look up at the moon on a full night, imagine this trip, losing the shackles of your reality-based existence. Overland journeys somehow seem easy by comparison.