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  1. #1
    Bike touring webrarian
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    Disappointing the question askers on tour

    I just got back (last night!) from my bike tour up the Atlantic Coast (Charleston, SC to Lambertville, NJ). While it wasn't France or Switzerland (or SF to LA, or Oregon), it was a great experience, especially for a lifelong Californian who had never been to South Carolina, and only once to NC and VA.

    I'll write up a journal in the coming weeks and post a "best pictures" of the trip soon.

    But, one twist on the questions you always get on tour theme became a constant refrain on this trip. People would ask me where I was headed (New Jersey) and then where I was from. When I told them I was from San Francisco, their eyes would get big and they'd ask if I had ridden from SF. When I told them that, No, I had ridden from Charleston, SC, they would get this dismissive look like that was no big deal.

    Eventually, I moderated my answer to say that I had started in Charleston, SC but that I was from SF. That seemed to stem the obvious disappointment that they had at my lack of willingness to ride an extra 3000 miles just to impress them!

    Ray
    Visit the on-line Bike Touring Archive at www.biketouringtips.com

  2. #2
    Senior Member blaise_f's Avatar
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    Funny yet true. My SF to Seattle stint on p-far was much less appealing to people than the Phoenix to Seattle that they first assumed. What kind of sense does this stuff make? These are more often than not the same people that say something like "I wish I could do something like that". Isn't that some sort of sad hypocrisy?
    http://bygonebicyclist.com
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  3. #3
    Wheezy Rider Connell's Avatar
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    I did an overnighter last month and by the end of day two, was almost considering lying about how far I'd come and where I was going. Many people were noticeably disappointed, some even openly scornful when I explained I hadn't come / wasn't going very far. I had my tent, sleeping bag and sleeping pad on the back, half-empty panniers on the front and I suppose that led people to think I was packed for an epic ride, but I'm not sure what the reaction would have been had I'd really been loaded.

    Years ago I stopped to adjust my bags early on day 1 of a 1,000 mile tour and was asked the "Where have you come from today?" line by an old codger. When I told him 20 miles the look on his face made me think he was about to hit me. He really acted as if I'd cheated him or something.
    "I heard the music and I wrote to it. Some people beat drums, some people strum guitars. It's all in the music you hear" ~ Hunter S. Thompson

  4. #4
    Hooked on Touring
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    Dear Raybo -

    I used to get all kinds of impertinent questions from the turistas when I worked in Jackson, Wyoming.
    I discovered a response which always seemed to silence them - -
    "I'm on work release from the state prison."

    In your case, I would have modified it to -
    "I just got out of the SC State Prison - it was all I could afford."
    It ends a conversation that I really don't wish to continue, anyhow.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by jamawani View Post
    Dear Raybo -

    I used to get all kinds of impertinent questions from the turistas when I worked in Jackson, Wyoming.
    I discovered a response which always seemed to silence them - -
    "I'm on work release from the state prison."

    In your case, I would have modified it to -
    "I just got out of the SC State Prison - it was all I could afford."
    It ends a conversation that I really don't wish to continue, anyhow.

  6. #6
    Senior Member KDC1956's Avatar
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    That could also get you in a lot of trouble too lol.But I do like the answer you had.May try that one soon my self.

  7. #7
    But wait... I AM the man. NoGaBiker's Avatar
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    You know, I get where you're coming from -- the questions can get a little old at times, and especially when the answers are ungracious, as though you have failed the stranger somehow by not having cycled there from one of the Poles.

    But I also can picture my 85 year old father striking up the conversation and asking the same questions. (On the other hand, he'd be overwhelmingly gracious and gentlemanly no matter what your answer was!). But I know that he just wants to get to know people's story and enjoy a brief (or not-so-brief) conversation with them. I've watched him do it for 40 years and I have to say nearly every person walks away feeling better about the world after they've talked to him.

    I'd hate to think of somebody shutting him down with a "flip" answer to a genuine (if ignorant) question about themselves and their grand adventure.

    You guys be sweet, now, okay?
    Stick it to the man.

  8. #8
    mev
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    The "where are you from" question is sometimes ambiguous since it is sometimes implied as either
    - where did you start bicycling from
    - where do you live
    I would probably also have modified it to respond to both as you did.

    Not sure I'd be that concerned on the "disappointment" aspect though and I certainly wouldn't be one to make up fake answers. I see those questions as a start to a conversation.

    I did however have a similar example to original posted in that a few weekends ago I did a quick S24O (sub-24 hour) ride to nearby park. I brought four panniers though and had at least two occasions of someone yelling out "where are you riding from"? In my reply, I also laughed and said "just Portland"... as if I expected their question was partially motivated by my carrying four panniers on what should be a short trip.

    Over Memorial Day, I also did a short 4 day ride up the Columbia River Gorge and coming back. Again, I had four panniers. On the last day riding in, I also had someone yell out to me "Welcome to Oregon". I smiled and thanked them. Didn't have time for a longer conversation or otherwise pointing out that despite what I was carrying I hadn't ever strayed more than 10 miles from the OR border [into WA].

  9. #9
    totally louche Bekologist's Avatar
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    I always tell people I haven't come very far. it keeps it brief. "just a little ways" "Just over the hill"

    i usually don't want to say too much, biking induces a type of trance and moving meditation that doesn't invoke in me much of the way of idle chatter.

    if i've just stopped briefly i've not got much to say, to be honest. I dislike the gas station chitchat that motorists always seem to want to engage me in while I'm trying to to inhale a quart of chocolate milk and a bag of pretzels before jumping back on the sled.
    "Evidence, anecdote and methodology all support planning for roadway bike traffic."

  10. #10
    Eater of Food WillJL's Avatar
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    Its probably not worth your time or energy to worry about how much you've impressed these people with the details of your trip. Sadly, most people have never gone more than 5-10 miles on a bicycle, so any judgment they pass on you is irrelevant. Turning their questions back around on them (in a friendly and convesational way) is a good way to inject perspective into the conversation though, particularly if they are a motorist. As long as you're not a jerk, they'll probably leave the conversation with a fair amount of respect for you, even if they wish that they'd gotten to meet a round-the-world cyclist.
    Cycle tracks will abound in Utopia. ~ H.G. Wells

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  11. #11
    Senior Member JeanM's Avatar
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    Q. Where do you come from?
    A. From the road behind.

    Q. Where are you going?
    A. Ahead.

    Q. How long have you been traveling?
    A. All my life.

    Q. How long will you keep this up?
    A. As long as it needs to be kept up.

  12. #12
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    I think they are enthralled with the vision of a touring cyclist representing freedom from motorized transport. There really is something almost magical about walking out your front door and traveling some (long) distance entirely under your own power. When they found out you did most of your trip by plane it just lost some of the magic for them. You know you could ride across the country, but they have likely never met anyone who did.

  13. #13
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    Q. Where do you come from?
    A. Planet Earth, same as you.

    Q. Where are you going?
    A. I'm already there, its called paradise.

    Q. How long have you been traveling?
    A. (looks at watch) A little over 11 hours.

    Q. How long will you keep this up?
    A. Until the forces of evil are defeated.

    Actually the answers vary depending upon whether there are kids present. Even if I am only going to the grocery store, they will have just caught me on a 'rest day' of my Alaska to Peru (Summer or Winter) tour.

    Edit: and remember there is no such thing as "too many water bottles".
    Last edited by HoustonB; 06-17-10 at 04:04 AM.
    LOL The End is Nigh (for 80% of middle class North Americans) - I sneer in their general direction.

  14. #14
    Lentement mais sûrement Erick L's Avatar
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    I just answer the questions. If they're dissapointed, it's their problem, not mine.
    Erick - www.borealphoto.com/velo

  15. #15
    Senior Member cyclist2000's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Erick L View Post
    I just answer the questions. If they're dissapointed, it's their problem, not mine.
    +1 I don't want to come off as some smart *** bike rider in an area where people have *** racks on the back window of the truck and here I am a bike sissy bike rider in spandex.
    I don't do vintage, I bought them new, rode them, kept them. Now they are just old bikes
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  16. #16
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    Some of us actually like human contact while touring. The stock questions, which in isolation can be annoying, should be considered mere overtures to a potentially more interesting conversation. The friend you make at the scenic turnout can develop into a dinner companion, access to a lawn where you can pitch your tent, or maybe just a wider berth when they pass you down the road.

    Every culture has a set of "low risk" stock questions that strangers use to get a potential conversation rolling. Your role is to give answers with enough information delivered in an encouraging enough manner that more interesting subjects can be broached. Don't be hating. The weeble you meet now can be a trail angel later.

  17. #17
    Senior Member EKW in DC's Avatar
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    Considering that some people at my office are impressed that I commute 14 whole miles round trip each day by bike, I'm surprised that people would be disappointed by the responses to these types of questions of touring cyclists.

    I guess, though, a lot of people tend to think of things exclusively in terms of car travel, and if the place you started from was someplace they could reach in an aternoon's drive, then it doesn't seem impressive to them.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Erick L View Post
    I just answer the questions. If they're dissapointed, it's their problem, not mine.
    +2
    "I've wanted you to succeed, but watching you find excuse after excuse after excuse and then laugh it off as the loveable, quirky, chubby guy is getting old."--Ill.Clyde

  19. #19
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    "Where are you riding from?"

    "No eenglish".

    "Uh...okay...have a nice day..."

    (big smile) "Bye bye".

  20. #20
    Wheezy Rider Connell's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cyclesafe View Post
    Some of us actually like human contact while touring. The stock questions, which in isolation can be annoying, should be considered mere overtures to a potentially more interesting conversation. The friend you make at the scenic turnout can develop into a dinner companion, access to a lawn where you can pitch your tent, or maybe just a wider berth when they pass you down the road.
    I have no problem with the questions. For me, talking to the locals is one of the perks of touring and the "Where have you come from where are you going?" line is an obvious conversation opener.

    It's just I'm never quite sure how to address the disappointment people express when I haven't (yet) come far enough to impress them. I've had people say "Is that all?" and "So what do you need all that gear for then?" in tones of barely disguised contempt when I've been halfway through Day 1 of a long tour. Usually I just give them a variation of "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single footstep."

    However, I once spent 8 hours battling a ferocious headwind for 45 miles, only to have an RV'er stroll over to ask me how far I'd come today. When I told him, he sneered and said "Hmph. That's not very far, is it?" I'm not a snarky person by nature but I asked him when was the last time his fat ass went more than 1/2 a mile without air-conditioning. He waddled off, no doubt to tell his equally obese spouse about how ill-mannered cyclists are. Oh well.
    "I heard the music and I wrote to it. Some people beat drums, some people strum guitars. It's all in the music you hear" ~ Hunter S. Thompson

  21. #21
    Some guy with a bike serra's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Louis View Post
    "Where are you riding from?"

    "No eenglish".

    "Uh...okay...have a nice day..."

    (big smile) "Bye bye".
    + a lot ha
    I should remember this...

  22. #22
    One legged rider
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cyclesafe View Post
    Some of us actually like human contact while touring. The stock questions, which in isolation can be annoying, should be considered mere overtures to a potentially more interesting conversation. The friend you make at the scenic turnout can develop into a dinner companion, access to a lawn where you can pitch your tent, or maybe just a wider berth when they pass you down the road.

    Every culture has a set of "low risk" stock questions that strangers use to get a potential conversation rolling. Your role is to give answers with enough information delivered in an encouraging enough manner that more interesting subjects can be broached. Don't be hating. The weeble you meet now can be a trail angel later.
    +1
    If I wanted to avoid talking to people I would go hang out in the wilderness or something rather than bike tour through where people are.

  23. #23
    Velocipedic Practitioner
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    If someone has enough interest in me or my travel mode to stop and ask a question, I'm certainly going to be respectful enough to answer their question honestly. Like Erick L says, if they're disappointed, it's their problem. I am not going to lie or be a smarta**, but I may add a little extra to give them a more complete picture.
    Them: "Hey, where are you from?"
    Me: "Oh, just up the road a bit, but on my way around the Great Lakes. I hear the weather is great for biking there this time of year."
    For every person "disappointed" in my response, I bet I've met a dozen that led to more engaging conversations with friendly invitations prior to parting. Maybe I even motivated that questioner to go home and pull that dusty ol' Schwinn out of the garage. (Okay, I may be dreaming on that one.)
    Other forms of transportation grow daily more nightmarish. Only the bicycle remains pure in heart. - Iris Murdoch

  24. #24
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    Ken Kifer's site has a tip about this (at the bottom, called "Refusing to Answer Questions"). He covers the needs to stay safe and not insult the asker.

  25. #25
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    Yesterday I was out with front and rear panniers loaded with books for training. I got a couple of questions (a lot of cyclists on the route) and I answered truthfully that I was just on a training ride. I think I'll use that response even when I'm not. Doesn't disappoint and avoids the need to launch in a long dialog.

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