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Are you an explorer?

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Are you an explorer?

Old 01-27-11, 05:53 AM
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Are you an explorer?

I used to be a Point A to Point B rider... the destination rather than the ride.

But I think my outlook on cycle-touring has changed a little bit. Now I want to spend a bit of time in various locations so I can look around.

In many ways, this is related to my other thread about Going Back. In addition, the Hub-and-Spoke concept of basing in one location and riding out from there daily in various direction has a lot of appeal to me these days. Semaine Federale in France (and more latterly in Australia) are events billed to be like this.

It comes down to how much I feel I want to immerse myself in a place -- whether its appeal is based on an interesting history, interesting landmarks, or nice people.

How do you see yourself? As someone on a mission (Point A to Point B just so you can say you've done it), or someone who is prepared to be flexible, stop in one spot for several days or a week, and explore and immerse?

Note that this is not intended to be a debate about which is better, but rather a sharing of experiences and evolution in your bicycle touring.
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Old 01-27-11, 07:56 AM
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interesting point, I definitely used to be a Pt A to Pt B traveller. I found then and mostly still do find the "accomplishment" aspect of looking at a map and seeing that by my own power, I went from here to there, its a neat feeling.
I must say though that the Hub and Spoke way is becoming more appealing. Last summer with friends we did a two day thing with our kids, and it was fun to come back to the small cheap motel we were at and then see another part of the area we were in the next day. With my wife last summer we were on a 6 day organized bike trip, but still camping in our own tent each night, and twice in that week we stayed in one spot and did a loop around the area--purely from a logistical side, it was nice not to have to pack up in the morning, and really in my opinion, the days ride was no different or not less enjoyable than if we had gone on to somewhere else--and lets face it, the tent is up already, you grab your clothes and soap, head to the shower and its done. Nice.

This is a great topic, and its interesting how I would have never really thought of doing this when I was younger, as the idea of going from here to there along a map is definitely what appealed before. In fact, I think I will look at areas and/or ideas of a bike holiday differently now with this more in mind.

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Old 01-27-11, 08:29 AM
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depending on circumstances annd roads I've sometimes resorted to chance. Flip a mental coin ,take that one! Suprise yourself
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Old 01-27-11, 09:15 AM
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Certainly there are many reasons to tour. there is a lot of accomplishment-type touring "ride across the country" "ride the pacific coast" that requires a goal and an end point.

There are also the wandering or the nomadic riders. My wandering life was done in my teens and early twenties.

But many of us are now adults, work full time, and have a few weeks with which to tour, and the ability to squeak out 3 and 4 day weekends by combining sick days, vacation time, and national holidays. Many cyclotourists build up for an epic destination tour riding across country or europe or south america.

I say, why not see what's outside your doorstep, up that road and in the next county.

For much of my adult life I have been a regionalist. I believe that a diversity of riches exists within human-travelled distance of most people. I realize this is perhaps an entitled, western perspective but there is a world of riches right off most people's doorsteps. If they know how to look for it.

I enjoy tours within my own state and region, without a set destination or end point except back home the day before i have to be back at work.

To get to know the place you live, to get connected with the earth, the topography, the villages and the humanity, 'the lay of the land' so to speak, is invaluable and enriching.

Classic travelogues like Basho's 17th century "Narrow Road to the Interior" and new classics like William Least Heat Moon's "Blue Highways" or "PrairyEarth" hint at the riches hidden just down the road.

Live your own Prairyearth.

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Old 01-27-11, 09:17 AM
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Point A to Point B, then explore when I get there.
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Old 01-27-11, 09:27 AM
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If I really want to immerse myself in a place, I don't need a bike, I just need a hotel and a map so I can walk around, meet people, see the sights, sample the cuisine, etc. For example, people do this all over Europe every summer with backpacks and train tickets instead of bikes and panniers.

So, for me at least, there is more to a bike tour than just the places. Part of it is the freedom and flexibility a bike affords, but that is really a tradeoff between other freedoms and flexibilities that non-cyclists have. The big attraction for me is the opportunity to see different places AND to be riding my bike. Sometimes that means I'm going to be more interested in the bike ride itself than wherever I happen to be. And, sometimes that means I'm going to be paying more attention to my surroundings and less attention to the ride itself. It just depends, and it means that I can take pleasure in an accomplishment of having ridden from A to B while still recalling fond memories of many places along the way.
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Old 01-27-11, 09:43 AM
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During the week, I am more of a point A to point B rider. In addition to just enjoying riding, I also ride for my health. During the week, it is more of a task. Granted a task that I REALLY enjoy, but the goal is to get in miles. I live in Ohio and we have an amazing network of rail trails. I have several 20-50 mile routes that I ride on a regular basis.

On weekends and time off, I am an explorer. I always want to see what is around the next turn. I just like to pedal and explore. It’s about the journey and not the destination.
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Old 01-27-11, 11:18 AM
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During my normal day to day rides, I love to explore. I need to get my miles in, so sometimes I'll just roll out my driveway, start pedaling and see where I end up! I find parts of my area that I never knew about and it's just such a great feeling. I know every nook and cranny of my area to make a ride with for when I don't want to explore.
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Old 01-27-11, 11:22 AM
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Haha, sometimes I end up in the middle of fields. It's great fun lol, especially when you happen upon a random lean-to in a ditch, a smashed TV, or a field of Poison Oak.
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Old 01-27-11, 11:32 AM
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I feel a little frustrated when I end up going A to B. One thing I don't like is being so tied up to the road. I plan with extra days for exploring, especially hiking. It also gives extra time in case something goes wrong.
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Old 01-27-11, 12:18 PM
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While I am primarily an A to B rider, I plan for rest days every 5 and use them to find a nice place to layover and hang out. But, more than a nice place, I want to meet nice people, so I expend a great deal of effort to find hosts (couchsurfing, warmshowers) where I get to spend time with nice people indoors.

I agree with SBRDude that if I want to see a place, I plan to spend time there, usually with my wife, not bike through.

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Old 01-27-11, 12:38 PM
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I guess I am more of an A to B rider. I do bike tours because I want to ride and explore new areas on the bike.

Most of my off bike exploring is in the form of an hour here and an hour or two there. This is usually a short hike to a waterfall, hot spring, or whatever.

That said I do on rare occasion stop for a few days or a week and spend some time, but it is the exception rather than the rule. The hour here and there stops are likely to be short hikes or tourist attractions and the longer exceptions are likely to be a week hiking and other stuff somewhere unique that I may not get back to any time soon like Yosemite Valley on my last tour.

I have done the longer (multiple day) stop thing only once in 6,000 miles of touring so far, but am sure I will do it again. On one other occasion I took a full day to go whitewater rafting. Oh, and once I was sick for a day.

So yeah A to B with an exception here or there.
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Old 01-27-11, 01:47 PM
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I now have 4 OS maps of Ireland, and some of Scotland .
I bought each in a High Street (town center) Book seller, as I ran off the edge of the last one,
so, Not much of a fixed route, planning, guy.

have a map of Poland, got it from a fellow passenger on the ferry from Copenhagen ,
probably couldn't have found one on my own. when i landed..
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Old 01-27-11, 07:31 PM
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These are of course points on a continuum rather than only two choices. However, I set up my trips more as a point A to point B journey.

An anecdote I have relating to this was in college when a friend and I agreed to meet up at a MA state park on Saturday night and then cycle back to Boston together on Sunday. When we recalled what we had done on Saturday, we told somewhat different stories:

Mine went a bit like this. Today I cycled 155 miles. I took the route around Quabbin Reservoir and had an early breakfast. There was some good riding on the backside, though a few hills. I circled around and covered three state highways I hadn't before and then came into X for late afternoon and then to the park. I had a great day!

Hers went a bit like this. I found this great park with huge rhododendrons. I met this fun ranger who had started working there this year.... I got lost but eventually found this camp site. I had a great day!

We talked a bit past each other. My questions to her were - yes but what route did you take? how far was your ride? Her questions to me were - yes but what did you experience? She taught me a little about stopping and smelling the roses (or rhododendrons) and expanding my perspective between being as much of a type-A goal-driven personality.

I've mellowed some over the years, but I'd still put myself more in the point-to-point riding. However, my favorite is to take a many months long trip - in which case there is an overall theme, e.g. crossing a continent, but also points where you simply stay in one place for a while and explore the area.
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Old 01-27-11, 09:49 PM
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Originally Posted by Rowan
How do you see yourself? As someone on a mission (Point A to Point B just so you can say you've done it), or someone who is prepared to be flexible, stop in one spot for several days or a week, and explore and immerse?
I'm probably somewhere between the two. There are some places I like to stay and explore, but then, there are also other places down the road I want to get to, and often that's governed by time constraints. I try to allow an extra couple of days in my tour planning to stop off in places and explore them (which often coincides with my body needing a rest for a day or two), but then, there are other times I've wanted to stop in places for a few days, but simply not had the time, because there was something down the road that I really wanted to see, and I just didn't have the time. Even then, there have been times when I've stayed an extra day in a place and arranged alternative transport for the following day so I could make the time (the Stirling Ranges in Western Australia was a case in point). But on the other hand, when I've paid $2,000 to fly to another continent, often I want to get to as many different places as possible.
I am clinically insane. I am proud of it.

That is all.
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Old 01-27-11, 11:34 PM
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I guess I fall in the explorer category. I find a stretch of road I want to explore, print out maps and go. I pick an end point for convenience, but if I don't get there I'm not bothered because I'll end up going north/south by way of east/west kind of thing. Mostly because I'll find things I want to go see off the main route I laid out. Church ruins? Yes! Iron Age burial ground 5 miles that way? You betcha! 18th century manor/castle 10 miles over here? Oh boy!

I can easily see a 200 mile ride turning into 300 miles while never reaching the end X I crossed on my map.
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Old 01-28-11, 12:20 AM
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One of my memorable solo tours was what I called my "Aimless Wander Ride". It was in Tasmania, and I left my doorstep and really didn't have a clue where I would end up that night.

I gravitated northwards, and eventually ended up on the Central Highlands.

I camped by the Derwent River, I rode through an amazing swarm/flock of butterflies, traversed some roads, some sealed, some gravel, that I hadn't been on before, and camped at Bothwell to watch a truly magnificent sunset. Then I returned home via Richmond, taking pot luck as to whether there was space at the local caravan park.

I think I was at the peak of my randonneuring at the time, and this tour was just something that was different from Point A to Point B with a time limit.

And Bekologist has a very valid point about exploring your own region. It's one of the reasons why Machka and I suggest very strongly to anyone wanting to tour that they should do a few overnighters as practice from their front doors, if possible logistically. I spent years discovering little spots that many people didn't know existed in my home city.
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Old 01-29-11, 06:18 AM
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My evening, after work, rides have tended to be on one of a few "usual" routes, but every now and then, I will explore my local area. One of the ways I'll do that is to cycle up and down the residential streets of the area where I live, or I might try turning down a rural road I've never cycled before, just to see where it leads. Occasionally this exploration will lead to a variation on a "usual" route or a whole new "usual" route, but even if it doesn't this local exploration can be an interesting way to get to know the immediate neighbourhood.

My weekend rides have tended to lean heavily toward exploration rides ... around my own neighbourhood, and further out. One of my little goals when I move into a new area is to ride all the paved rural roads in a 100 km or 200 km radius around where I live. So, in preparation for the weekend, I'll dig out some detailed maps and pick out some roads I haven't ridden yet, or select an area I haven't cycled in recently, or select an area I did cycle through recently, but didn't finish exploring.

And some of my favourite centuries have been accidental ... I set off from home in the morning riding in one direction, then decide to turn down an interesting-looking road I haven't ridden before or have only ridden rarely, then I turn down another road ... then I may get lost briefly ... and several more turns, later in the day, I'm back home having ridden 100 miles or more. Our recent January century ended up being a little bit like that.

Since I moved to Australia, Rowan and I have done a lot of cycling around the area where we live ... and now we're starting to reach further afield by driving to nearby towns and starting rides from there. Today, for example, we rode a 50 km route we had never cycled before ... and were pleasantly surprised. It was a good route, and I now have an idea for a possible February century including that route.

In addition to the cycling we're doing locally, every few weekends we travel to another part of the state and cycle there ... on a randonneuring event or a hub-and-spoke tour. It has been a great way for me to get to know the state I've recently moved to! There are so many beautiful places around here.

On longer tours, I have tended to be a bit more Point A to Point B. When I go somewhere new or somewhere I haven't been in a while, I have this urge to see as much as I can see in the month or so I've got to see it, and I can get caught up in rushing from one point to another. But that's part of the reason I've done a lot of hub-and-spoke tours in recent years ... I don't want to get caught up in the rush ... I want to get to know and explore the areas I visit better than I would if I just cycled through.

Last edited by Machka; 01-29-11 at 06:23 AM.
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Old 01-29-11, 09:48 PM
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Explorer through and through. My tour routes look like squiggles, figure eights, and hub-and-spokes if the wheel was run over by a few cars. Even on my local day rides, I try to go somewhere new every time, and I never take the same roads outbound and inbound if I can avoid it.

There are some exceptions for long bike trails. I've done the willard munger trail some four times, and would enjoy it again.
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