I have read many, many journals about bicycle touring. I was there at the beginning when Neil Gunton started CGOAB with his own personal cross-continent journal. I've read privately posted websites, too.
To be frank, and probably coming from a journalist's perspective, there are very, very few that grab the attention a journey often deserves. I can recall probably 10 out of the hundreds on CGOAB that I have wanted to return to and follow closely as the tour has progressed. There was one that was fantastic... then suddenly it just stopped mid-tour. And Gunton's own journal, I think, set the standard in many ways.
Maybe of late, I have become so familiar with the Adventure Cycling routes through other people's experiences that their journals don't hold much interest after the intro page. And there are others that are just there to let their families and friends know they have gone from Point A to B to Z... boring.
But the ones that have grabbed my attention have a special quality -- they talk a lot about the author's internal emotions -- not just the reasons why a bike ride is being undertaken, but their day-by-day feelings, the highs and lows.
Their souls are laid bare. They relate their enjoyment of cycle touring... as well as their frustrations and disdain for it. Their descriptions of the physical things they see are enhanced by how they feel deeply inside. They accept responsibility for their decisions on the tour. They reveal how their emotions have resulted in where they are. They delve deep within their souls to tell you things that strike a chord with you, with anyone. They discuss things that others might find embarrassing or are simply incapable of expressing.
They're honest. They are the real (and real-life) story-tellers.
I have read journals where everything has been hunky-dory, and not a thing has gone wrong, and the description has been entirely about the minutae of "doing" the journey. Sometimes, I get to the last page when the writer says: "This is something I will never do again". The reasons have, of course, been hidden from view through shyness, or maybe a lack of honesty, or that they don't want to upset another person. Who knows?
Of course, as time passes, many of the less-than-nice things that happen on a tour fade, and the best things stand out. Even a day can make a lot of difference in how we might describe something awful when we come to sit down and write a journal.
I've started this for several reasons, and I started to think about it when reading velonomad's excerpts from the journal of his first tour. And when looking at material on that *other* thread.
People use journals to document their own dreams and adventures. That's all well and good, but what happens when they become an accessible resource when indulgence-published on a website?
As can be pointed out, people who use the web should be able to filter out the static and identify what is useful to them. To experienced cycle-tourist, the information in a glossy, all-positive journal is of no more use than an advertisement in a frivilous glossy magazine or on television. Likewise, a negative journal is like one dissatisfied customer out of a thousand satisfied ones, ranting here on BikeForums. But if you don't know what you are looking for, how can you tell the differences? There are many who believe both the glossy magazines and the BF ranters...
How do *you* filter or balance the good from the not-so-good? If you have your heart set on doing something, do you only look for all the positive stuff... and dance over or around the bad stuff in the belief that it could only happen to others?
Do you get suspicious about the integrity of the writer if things don't add quite the way they are written?
How do *you* determine a good read? How useful have journals been to you in planning (a) a destination, (b) your equipment and travel strategies and (c) seeing if you are emotionally up to it?