Cycling Along The Way...

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Silver City, NM, United States
Riders of the wheel. Racers, Roadies, Mountain bikers, Touring cyclists, Commuters, and others. Diamond frames, recumbents, trikes, and more. Sharing a web of connections often misunderstood or unappreciated by those who don't ride. Herewith, my attempt to share some of the more rational thoughts that flit around inside my head while bicycling, knocking back a brew or three, or just thinking about life. Reviews of bicycles, gear, touring, and more, plus some unsolicited posts about people, politics, and philosophy. Other things, too. Me: retired, gave up my TV in 1988, avid cyclist, several cross country tours completed with more to come. Your thoughts?

Friday, March 1, 2013

BICYCLE TOURING: Fantasy vs. Reality

"Don't let yesterday use up too much of today." ~ Will Rogers

Truth is that bicycle touring sounds much more fun when reading about someone else's trip than being out on the road, day after day. The excitement part is the planning, the packing, and the taking off from wherever your starting point is. At some point on the bike tour, you will begin to ask yourself, "Why am I doing this? Please, tell me again."

Once out on the road and the first hour has passed, maybe less, that thought will creep into your brain. Just a kernel, but it's there.  Just waiting for one of "those days".  When the road is long.  The wind is blowing.  There's nothing around for as far as you can see...and no one else, either. I can tell when I'm in that phase.  I start trying to figure out just how many miles away is that little rise in the road.  Or that small hill.  Then I start to measure just how accurate my guess has been. Or that same song has played in my head.  Well, let me correct that...the same two or three notes of that same song...the only notes that I can remember without hearing the song again..about 3 million times already. (Not kidding here. Do you really know how long 8hrs or 10hrs on a bicycle is?  It's a long time.)  While I enjoy good music, reading, etc., my ability to remember a song, a whole song, or the authors of books that I've read is abysmal.  Abysmal.  Hell, I don't even remember my childhood prior to around 4th or 5th grade. Eileen goes on about her memories when she was in diapers, for Christ's sake. I'm fortunate to remember the grade school I went to...mostly because it's only a block from our house and I still see it every time I go home.

Ok, back to the fantasy vs. reality of bicycle touring. The fantasy is that bicycle touring is exciting, fun, challenging, meeting lots of people, seeing lots of interesting things. Reality is that it is all of that but, in between all of those things, are LOTS OF MILES of roads and nothing that will knock your socks off. Got it?  So, part of doing a bicycle tour and not letting it bore the bejeesus out of you is to be able to spend time alone or be able to tolerate someone with you all day and all night ...everyday.  It's not as easy as you might think.  Try it sometime.  One time, while living in  Portland, OR, I went overnight hiking/camping in the Olympic National Park with a friend's husband.  In the middle of the night...and I'm not making this up...he woke me up to tell me that he thought it was "really dark out".  No shit.  It's the middle of the night, Dork, and we're in the middle of a semi-rain forest with a HUGE canopy of trees over us.  Anyways, just go for a two day backpacking trip by yourself and go walking around...and only read that book at night, at the end of a day walking around.  Or a two day bike ride.  Being by yourself takes a bit of practice.  And it makes you stronger.

Now, there are times when you see things that knock your socks off, which make up for the unrelenting sameness or never ending roads.  Some sights are so good you understand how someone made up the word, spectacular.  Awesome is way overused, in my opinion, but, frequently, I have seen things that were "awesome".  The Grand Canyon.  The Rockies.  The mountains of Pennslyvania.  The red rocks of Utah.  The splendor of New England.  They're out there.  And waiting for you to see them.  Just don't think there's a Grand Canyon every 50 miles or so, ok?

The other inherent joy of long distance bicycle touring is getting in shape.  It creeps up on you.  Suddenly, a day comes along where there's a really tough climb or an exceptionally long day in the saddle and you realize, hey, I did that and I don't really hurt any where.  Then, the road goes on forever.  Smile.  You're now in an elite group.  You've gone over the edge and you didn't die.  You got stronger.  Smile again.

Ok, time to go.  A tune for you to enjoy.  Bruce Springsteen doing "Tougher Than The Rest".  Fits for the long distance bicycle touring crowd.  If you don't believe me, get a bike, load it down with about 50lbs of gear, and then ride a 100 miles.  Add mountains.  Wind.  Rain.  Dogs.  Then talk to me.  No brag.  Just the reality of the road.  Smile again.