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Old 02-09-08, 10:13 PM   #1
Machka 
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The Least and The Most

What part of touring (the whole deal, from when you've decided you're going to go on a tour until you're back from the tour) do you like ....

... the least?

... the most?


For me ...

I like packing for the tour the least. For whatever reason it seems so complicated, and overwhelming, and stressful. I'm probably making that way by thinking of all the "what if" scenarios and trying to pack for them ... all while trying to keep the weight of my luggage down.

I like those "WOW" moments on a tour the best. You know the moments ... when you get to the top of a hill and there is a gorgeous view. When you work your way through narrow city streets to arrive at a majestic square. Those sort of things. And also the conversations with people along the way.


And right now ... I'm in the packing phase.
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Old 02-09-08, 10:25 PM   #2
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I love every moment of tours. I love to be out on the open road, with the sun in face and the wind in my hair. I like nasty rainy days where you get chilled to the bone and soaked through, but you keep turning the pedals over because you're totally committed and you can't back out now that you're on the road. I love setting up camp and laying back in my sleeping bag and feeling the soreness start to dissipate. I like dragging myself out of bed at the crack of dawn and strapping everything back on the bike to try to make another go. But the best part is the end of a long steep climb, when the sweat is rolling down your face and your quads are burning and you're not sure you could make it much further. At the top of that climb, you find a nice yellow sign with the picture of a truck driving down a wedge. That is the sign of a free ride, and a reprieve from your struggles. On that sign, you will often find an indication of the grade and length of the coming downslope. If you multiply those two numbers together, you get a verifiable measure of the elation that a given cyclist is feeling at the top of that climb.

What are the bad parts? Well... I guess it's the nine or ten months of the year that I spend thinking about how much I want to be back on the road with all that I need to survive strapped to my bicycle. It's sitting on the side of the road with your thumb out to hitchhike to the next bike shop when you shatter your rim in the middle of nowhere, which is actually kind of a cool adventure, in and of itself, but it's also time that you have to spend off the bike, which sucks.
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Old 02-11-08, 11:41 AM   #3
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The thing I like most is cycling through amazing scenery. The thing I like least is washing dishes.
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Old 02-11-08, 11:59 AM   #4
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Least: Rain—unless I'm at leisure to sit and watch it, then it's a whole different story.

Most: This is difficult, but perhaps, satisfaction at days end. That and a campfire.
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Old 02-11-08, 12:24 PM   #5
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Least: Watching my bike being shipped out across the tarmac in the luggage train to the tender mercies of airline baggage handling staff.
Best: Sun, mountains, beer, new food, beer, rain, people, navigating small trails without getting lost, getting lost, beer.
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Old 02-11-08, 12:37 PM   #6
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Least: dealing with LBS here or there when organizing the trip
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Old 02-11-08, 12:39 PM   #7
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Least: dealing with LBS here or there when organizing the beginning and end of a long tour

Most: 50 miles from the nearest town and haven't seen another soul all day
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Old 02-11-08, 01:20 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Machka View Post
I like packing for the tour the least. For whatever reason it seems so complicated, and overwhelming, and stressful. I'm probably making that way by thinking of all the "what if" scenarios and trying to pack for them ... all while trying to keep the weight of my luggage down.

I like those "WOW" moments on a tour the best. You know the moments ... when you get to the top of a hill and there is a gorgeous view. When you work your way through narrow city streets to arrive at a majestic square. Those sort of things. And also the conversations with people along the way.
+1 ... pretty much the same for me.
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Old 02-11-08, 01:48 PM   #9
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Least: Everything to do with airports
Most: Everything else. Really. Every minute I've spent touring is better than any minute I've spent in the mundane, tied-down life.
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Old 02-11-08, 02:22 PM   #10
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First thought--best thought

+1 on brotherdan's post! As for me...

...it is the long-term effect on me that I value most. Following the idea of "first thought, best thought", I include the paragraph below, done days after completing my first and only solo crossing in 1993. It was too soon then to know what the lasting effects would be, but I can now say, because of that ride, that I am quite simply a happier person. It is as though, with that last pedal revolution, I'd been deposited from wherever I'd started directly into the sweet spot of life, and that I am forever separated, by those 3500 miles, from the person who rode that first mile. I have felt this--I still think about the experience every single day—for all these past years. No high lasts this long on its own. I've changed. As for what, specifically, I liked best, I think for anyone that would be what is missed the most...all those little things that matter individually, and that together are larger than their sum.

Here's what I wrote back then:

I remain awed by the richness of the experience. Few of us ever really link up in such a way, for such a sustained period, with what's out there. I miss it. I miss the routine--making and breaking camp, cooking on the one-burner stove, shopping and snacking, showering and shaving, keeping the panniers organized, even fixing the occasional flat tire. I miss the people--the exuberant, unbridled admiration and wonder, the generosity, the faces and handshakes and hugs, the touching of hearts. I miss the scenery, the elements, the sounds, the silences. But most of all, I miss the road. I miss seeing it pass beneath me, as a river appears from atop a bridge, every patch and joint coming in its own time, every foot of its shoulder inspected for hazards. I miss the sounds of the tires contacting the pavement, a different one for each surface, the most pleasing just following a rain. I miss the feel, the resistance, the spinning of the pedals and crank arms, five thousand times an hour, and each revolution's small victory over distance. I miss that strange illusion of pedaling hard but remaining stationary against a featureless, flat plain, with no markers to gauge forward progress, and the lonely sight of that straight, unbroken ribbon of asphalt, infinite. I miss the road...and one in particular. It connects my driveway to the west coast down a path whose length only I have traversed. It gave me strength and health, it expanded my senses, it stretched my sense of the possible. We are like soul-mates now, my road and I…and I miss it.
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Old 02-11-08, 02:32 PM   #11
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Alone

I agree it is a life changing experience to go across. I waited 30 years to do it and turned 59 shortly after finish. I liked most the change in perspective it allows. Almost everything I feel, see, smell, hear, and think is changed now that I completed a long tour. Just don't think the same as before. I enjoyed being alone, and yet, in the company of animals, strangers, sky, wind and geography. I do miss the daily routine of packing, eating, riding, eating, and setting up camp.

The worst part was depression that it was over. Adapting to "normal", (the socially expected normal) life again was a multi month process.
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Old 02-11-08, 05:31 PM   #12
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Nice. I'm glad you're posting again, meanderthal.
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Old 02-11-08, 06:11 PM   #13
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The worst part was depression that it was over. Adapting to "normal", (the socially expected normal) life again was a multi month process.
I was amazed how much this was the case for me. "Real life" is tough to get used to after a long tour. Having to stop was definitely the worst part.

The best part has to be the people. This includes my companions, the other riders we met, and the local folks we met along the way.
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Old 02-11-08, 08:30 PM   #14
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I like what Spaulding Gray dubbed the perfect moments. It's not necesarilly a wow factor, but more of a coming together or in the momentness. It can be racing comuters going through a town at rush hour, or something more conventional like perfect weather, perfect place, perfect tempo on the bike. I am humbled a little by the thought that I could have those kinds of experiences pretty much anywhere if I reached out for that kind of thing through meditation. Some of us take a lot of complexity to get it that simple.

What I don't like is when I get out of that feeling really badly which could be caused in a lot of ways. Like worrying about some outcome, even or particularly when you know the worry is stupid and always sorts itself out. Like water, campsite, traffic, rain, headwinds, making a ferry, nagging pain that could be whatever. These are never real problems just getting out of sorts. Any of those problems could be wonderful adventures if the mindset was right.

Right mindset good, bad mindset bad.
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Old 02-11-08, 11:19 PM   #15
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I was amazed how much this was the case for me. "Real life" is tough to get used to after a long tour. Having to stop was definitely the worst part.
Yeah, I do find that part pretty bad ... which is the reason I've decided to become a gypsy.
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Old 02-11-08, 11:28 PM   #16
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This is an interesting thread. I'm finding that others have similar opinions, but also quite different. It's also too big of a topic to get them all down. Here are a few:

Best:
  • Deciding where to go. Around this time of year I'm pouring over maps, books, journals, etc. Fantasizing about possible tours is fun for me.
  • Endorfins. I love the feeling I get after a good, long ride. I'm pooped but glowing.
  • Postive feelings from not polluting, not depleting finite fuel resources, not contributing to global warming.
  • Postivie feelings about myself, my sense of strength and good health.
  • The weird places my brain wanders to as I'm pedaling along.
  • Meeting people. Fellow tourers are some of the most interesting, wonderful people on the planet. But you also are a magnet for others who are curious about what you're doing. I usually tour alone, but I usually have tons of interactions with other people.
  • Tailwinds, especially on a warm day!
Worst:
  • Doing dishes (I had forgotten about this, but someone else mentioned it, and I agree!
  • Headwinds
  • Rain when you're taking down your tent and packing up.
  • Mosquitos! (Damn them!)
  • Loud people in the campground. I bring earplugs, but I still hate loud people.
  • Climbing mountain passes. Sure, they can be beautiful, but I'm always happier when they're in my rearview mirror.
  • Missing my family (and my dogs) Someday I hope my wife will be able to come with me. I might never want to come home!
  • Broken spokes - one is a pain in the butt. A series of broken spokes can ruin a tour.
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Old 02-12-08, 12:14 AM   #17
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Least: Watching my bike being shipped out across the tarmac in the luggage train to the tender mercies of airline baggage handling staff.
A little sidenote, but I don't think this happens very often anymore on international flights. I think most of the luggage is now put into containers inside the terminus that are then loaded rather than the luggage being manhandled piecemeal aboard the aircraft. On domestic flights, I think the old way persists.
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Old 02-12-08, 12:27 AM   #18
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What I love:
• The first night on the road. I'm now away from the regular routines and that alone makes touring worthwhile.
• Mountain passes. It took me three years of living in the mountains until I learned to climb hills on the bike. Now I look at the passes as challenges, but coming down is always fun too.
• Rain. I don't understand it, but some of the best days I've ever had on tour have been cool and rainy. When the weather is exceptionally bad, I actually feel sorry for the passing motorists who aren't able to fully experience the moment.
• Rest breaks. Whether it's ice cream at a campground along the way or lunch at a country store near a small town, it feels good to get off the bike for a few minutes.
• Meeting people. I've stopped and talked with all sorts of people along the way, from fellow touring cyclists to people who are curious about what I'm doing.
• Taking time to pray and think on the road. Bicycle touring has a strong spiritual component for me. It's a chance to appreciate creation and there are plenty of opportunities to experience the presence of the Creator.
• Recording my day's events. I carry a notebook with me and at the end of the day, I write out a detailed account of the day. This includes the statistical information and details of where I went. But it also includes descriptions of what I experienced and some thoughts about other issues that are weighing on my mind. It's good to look back later and recall the trips.

What I don't love
• Packing up a wet tent. Once I'm on the bike, I can enjoy the rain but when I'm packing up, I prefer dry weather.
• Flats and other failures. They never seem to happen when or where it's convenient.
• Ignorant drivers, especially in motorhomes. I've been on a few stretches of road where the drivers were so bad I was jumpy by the end. I'd rather feel relaxed on tour.
• Coming home at the end of a tour. There's a satisfaction to having completed a trip, but I also know I'll spend the next day cleaning up my bike and gear.
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Old 02-12-08, 09:51 AM   #19
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Best: The first few pedal strokes of each day. The feeling of my bike - my freedom machine - and I coming alive once more with the possibilities of another day out on the open road. We're both smiling.
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Old 02-12-08, 10:10 AM   #20
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This is an excellent thread, and the timing is great -- "preparation season" when we're all looking at maps and asking "what if I....?...."

In trying not to duplicate the great lists above, I would add that having the right gear at the right moment can be lots of fun. If it's raining, having a poncho or jacket on hand. Or arm warmers on a cold morning. Or a neat little road morph pump to reduce the stress of a tire change. Or that lowest gear that wasn't "stock spec" on the bike when you bought it, and aren't you glad you have it with that next killer hill coming up.

It's also great to have CGOAB to archive the ride with words and photos and point people toward it. Even with my teeny tiny little mini tour last spring with my son, I've heard him mention with pride that "dad has a web site of the ride.... go to...... etc etc".

A special +1 to SRS' comment just above this post. Those first few pedal strokes of the day. <sigh>
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Old 02-12-08, 10:49 AM   #21
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Most, on the tour: Eating to my heart content and still grow thinner daily

Least, after the tour: Can't curb my appetite and put on weight regardless of what I do
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Old 02-12-08, 05:39 PM   #22
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Least, after the tour: Can't curb my appetite and put on weight regardless of what I do
Mooncricket,

There is a simple solution for your 'least'. Don't stop touring.
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Old 02-12-08, 08:29 PM   #23
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One high point is always heading out at the start of a tour, with all the adventure yet to come. To me this is especially true of cycling out of the airport in a different country. All the jet lag, sleep deprivation and general nuisance of a long overnight flight just seem to fall away, and I ride as if I were completely refreshed from a real night's sleep.
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Old 02-12-08, 09:32 PM   #24
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Least: the day after it's over. I hate looking at our gear and seeing a pile of filthy mess I have to clean and put away. It depresses me to look at our beloved stuff and see it through those happy to be home and clean again eyes.

Most: making dinner. By then we are all cleaned up and camp is set up, and everyone has had some time to decompress. My kids and I all cook together, and their conversations at that time of day are always so great. They are happy to be done riding for the day, and looking forward to food, and ready to share their own perspectives on the day (usually all at once).

Almost every meal with them on tour is a good time, but supper seems to be the peak of their wonder with it all. I'm always amazed at how much energy they find just an hour or so after they were falling down tired, couldn't ride another foot, too exhausted to pound their share of tent pegs.

I actually love to pack, too. I love to pack before we leave, and I love to pack every morning. Even car or hiking camping, I love gathering everything up all that chaos and stuffing it back into the nooks. The kids love pouring it all out to set up camp. I swear they've all managed to fit a fourth dimension into their personal bags, they pull so many snacks and toys out of those little things. My daughter even snuck a beach ball into hers!
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Old 02-12-08, 10:40 PM   #25
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I actually love to pack, too. I love to pack before we leave, and I love to pack every morning.
Cool, me too! I love how there seems to be so much stuff in the campsite, and then it all somehow gets back into those four little bags and you ride away with it.

(I can't pick a most & least. I tried.)
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