Though I commute 10mi RT 260 days/yr, and though I occasionally do some +25mi rides around our hilly city (65mi is the longest distance I've done), this past Sunday proved to be a real pre-tour test.
On a weekend getaway, my GF wanted to hang out in a little town near Lake Erie. I decided to take off on what was supposed to be a short 25 mile cycling route through the countryside nearby. A regional cycling routes map in my pocket, no computer and no idea of miles between the directional points/turns I just jumped at the chance for a little ride.
And, of course, I managed to get lost. I had felt the sense of urgency and doom creeping when it was clear that I was going to be more than 2 hours late returning and likely to find a scared & angry girlfriend waiting at that little rural village (since neither of us had cell phones).
What really unsettled me was, having climbed yet another hill, seeing once again an endless undulating ribbon of anonymous rural roads stretching away toward featureless horizons for which the map (why didn't I get a real map or a compass or both?) provided little to no clue. As it was a Sunday afternoon, what few businesses there were (feed stores, body shops, etc) had closed. I knocked on 2 or 3 doors of houses I came across when I finally had enough of this being-lost-thing, but no one answered until door #4. The middle aged couple were startled by a stranger on their stoop with a sweat soaked t-shirt & shorts. But they were very helpful with directions and refilled my water bottle.
Another stretch of ribbon, dodging a couple of dogs, I found myself lost again. But with another local's kind assistance, eventually I came back to some familiar scenery and big relief. The girlfriend was so relieved that she forgot to thump me.
Finally, there was this: my knees are killing me! While I did climb a fair number of hills and do have arthritic knees, I've done this kind of mileage and terrain before. Yet it feels like I'd done much, much more. What if this had been the first day of a short tour, the kind of mini tours I wish to try and do this year? The bike was loaded with no more than 10 lbs of stuff.
Don't get me wrong, this ride was still kind of fun (& it would have been okay if I didn't start as late in the day as I did & had someone waiting and fearing something bad had happened). I feel good having finally tackled a map and unfamiliar terrain all on my own.
So the lesson is....? Well, with all these years of commuting, on this little excursion I just felt like a total beginner. A needed reality check I suppose.
"Hildy", a Novara Randonee touring bike; a 16-speed Bike Friday Tikit; and a Specialized Stumpjumper frame-based built-up MTB, now serving as the kid-carrier, grocery-getter.
Having a ridiculously bad sense of direction, I bring along proper maps, cue sheets, and a GPS. I love my GPS, but it can run out of batteries, and lately it acts weird after a rainstorm. (It's supposed to be waterproof.)
Maps never run out of juice, and you can scribble notes on them at breakfast.