…you’re going on a bike trip.
Three years is like five or ten when miles are counted in the thousands and nights under the skies in the hundreds. It was three long years ago that I embarked upon my first bicycle trip. At the time, everyone was sure to wish me luck and to remind me to be safe (people habitually tell me, and other cyclists I assume, to be safe). A few months down the road, I was living and working in Key West. From there it was more biking; friends and family must have thought that I was enjoying myself and that I was scratching the itch –my obligatory fit of youth before adulthood cemented me to the aggregate of life. “Do it while you can”, people would say (also, habitually).
Unlucky for those that wanted something else for me (hey mom!), I was really moved by this biking thing. I learned about food and eating and my physical needs; money, geography, language (a bit reluctantly), and…And, happiness. But without a home and a job, perhaps even a car to call my own, what provided me the foundation to be happy? Furthermore, what community do you claim?
Contrary to perception, cycle-touring is not necessarily a life of misery, rife with discomfort and compromise. The activity is invigorating, and inspires health of mind and body. A day may be comprised of meaningful activity, rest, and new surroundings but with the intimate familiarity of bicycle, tent and equipment. Riding long days and lots of miles may be contrary to the point and is like winning a race that doesn’t exist (if interested, see “brevet” or “audax”). It is non-cyclists, most often, that are impressed with riding long days and great distances. It is a disciplined that can appreciate near and fun.
Food becomes valuable to the body; creating a zero-sum food budget a satisfying balance for the body and a relief from habitual overeating. The value of fresh food and real food grew to me, and most importantly of local food. Real Appalachicola tupelo honey from Florida’s roadside, and fresh avocados from Ventura, CA; Mexican papayas and nopales (cactus); wild Alaskan blueberries and French shallots, and potimarron (hokkaido squash) and grey sea salt and salted butter and cidre and organic wine and…France has some food.
Naturally, cycling daily makes you strong; knowing you can get places– real places, near or far– is priceless. Cross-town to pick up some feed?…over the hills to Oakland?…sunset ride to put the little tyke to rest?…cross-country? These are all real places that real people need to go. Bicycles will bring them there.
First time around: tell ’em you just want to give it a try. Just for kicks.
The truth about bike trips: they are picnics with bike rides in between and nightly camp-outs. Sound like fun? It is.
Second time: tell ’em it was real fun the first time, and maybe you can do better. Skepticicsm sets in, you will be asked what your plans are for the future. Dodge the question for now. Others won’t believe the value you ascribe to your time out on a bike. This is evidence that the first experience was formative.
Third time: Dish it to them. Tell them that bike trips are how you want to live your life and it’s the most meanigful thing you have ever done. Don’t back down. The future for you?…riding bikes places, at least as much as possible between the other realities of life. The room will be silent until voices of concern arise, followed most likely by a thorough discussion of the weather. Diplomacy is the key, stay calm.
By that point, communities of like-minded people have arisen around you both in reality and in the fiction of the internet; such is the nature of sub-cultures. I was once proud of how obscure cycle-touring seemed and the kind of attention it gained. I loved being a part of the boy’s club (figurative, not gendered), and would proudly enter bike shops, wearing my stripes. However, in time I began to feel alien. I wanted to be open and encouraging, and for other to ride bikes in any capacity– it became obvious that my thinly veiled self-aggrandizement wasn’t helping. If you don’t catch yourself, others won’t ride with you because they will assume you only ride fast and far.
Honest, I like bench sitting as much as you do…and snacks and swimming, and second lunch and another cup of coffee.
I decided to put my head down and simply ride. I will try to fit in.
Note: A bit of a spoof, as I think my parents have uncovered my virtual hiding place. As always, “as much truth as can be said in jest”…my version of “all the news that’s fit to print”.
Trans-Canada Trail was inspiring. Trans-Canada Highway is a bust. Not recommended, more on that later. If I most often pay for internet in Canadian libraries, and shoulders remain unpaved, and provincial campgrounds cost $36.75 (!), where do the all the taxes go?
I am instructing the woman next to me how to use Gmail, type upper-case letters, use the backspace and return keys and spell some words. Whoa, Canada.