Larry caught my eye from a mile away. Something about his sillhouette spoke to my touring sensibilities. Smallish panniers in the rear; a tidy bundle up front simultaneously suspended from the handlebars and atop a Nitto mini-rack, “from those guys with the nice catalog”, he says. I know what he means.
I ask where, when, why?… all the annoying questions. My queries slide off him as if he were coated in Teflon– a sure sign he knows what he’s doing.
He’s an engineer, as evidenced by his spreadsheets. Oh, his spreadsheets– they account for everything. But they are a help, not a hindrance. He’s got touring style; just not my style.
Here we are, two guys that probably know everything about riding bikes, and it takes a minute to find something to talk about. I don’t need to ask if his ride has been enjoyable, or if he likes his bike, or gets lots of flats. We talk about places we’ve lived and places we’ve been; bikes on Amtrack and Greyhound; drinking half-gallons of milk, eating loaves of bread, and thumbing rides.
This is exactly how I met George the Cyclist (Annapolis), and Cass Gilbert (Anchorage, Denali), and Chris Harne (Key West). None is the same as the other, but we are always moving, and we often hide our transience. At any time, you must be able to decide to stay, or to go– a trade secret.
In Whitefish, I stay.
I haven’t known a more contented, intelligent group of people than my fellow cycle-tourists. My comrades in transience, we are an army of moving philosophers. Being right isn’t important; spinning circles with our legs and thinking, is.
The Teton Cyclery Cyclo-Tourist’s Register takes account of over a decade of tales from the road; broken Campy axles, headwinds, hills, traffic and shoulders are common fare. I read it all, and I left my mark. The registry is resurrected after 19 years.