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Old 06-03-11, 03:35 AM   #1
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Back From My First Tour

It was only a short one, which is good for a first try. However, I find I'm rather ambivalent about the experience. Did I enjoy myself? During the day as I was moving and seeing things yes.

I enjoyed my conversations with a group of people when I stopped to rest in the shade for lunch during the hottest part of the day. I felt a little sad because they were gathering for a funeral, but they were welcoming and kind. They accepted my presence, sweaty, wind-mussed hair and strangely dressed as I was. Even made sure I left with all my bottles filled with fresh water. It was surreal.

The countryside was beautiful and it was thrilling to see new places.

After that, I wasn't so thrilled with it. It was stressful trying to find some place to sleep as it got late as I was close to a town and I didn't have the funds for a hotel, if I even could have found one. Then it was a fitful night, creeped out by the ticks crawing on my tent and annoyed with the yapping and calling of foxes in the surrounding fields. Also worried about my things as I heard someone passing back and forth in the middle of the night. As soon as I had light to see (2:45 at this time of year in this area of Sweden), I staggered out, packed up and was on my way.

Once I was moving again, it was great.

Will I do it again? Probably. For the moment the enjoyment of the days was worth the night's discomfort as long as I think it will improve either by better planning or getting used to it.

What did I learn?

I really need to focus on eating more. A tiny handful of granola with unsweetened oats, nuts, various dried fruits and seeds, an ice cream bar and an apple isn't enough for an entire day of cycling though I never felt low on energy from lack of food or the least bit hungry. Of course, low blood sugar just might have made me delirious on that point.

Try to plan my days so I'm WELL out of range of any significantly size towns. Hard to find places to camp the closer I get that fall within the laws because it's agricultural land or too close to houses.

Also, I REALLY need something to do in the evenings. So, maybe time to discover new authors for books to read or something else which doesn't require electrical devices.

The rest, except my reaction to the camping was fine. I didn't have too much gear I didn't need unless you count the food I didn't eat. I took pictures, explored church yards for runestones and wandered around the ruins of churches and a fortified village. I met some wonderful people who welcomed me even in their time of mourning.

It took 3 years of thwarted planning to finally get out for my first tour, but I'm glad I did it. Now, to plan another, longer one using what I learned.
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Old 06-03-11, 03:52 AM   #2
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Bicycle touring is not for everyone, but sometimes it takes a bit for it to catch on.
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Old 06-03-11, 04:09 AM   #3
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Congrats on your first touring test!

Camping takes a bit of getting used to, as you found out. I've come to the point where I actually like the noises of wildlife around my camp. My favorite is the sound of mosquitoes buzzing just a few centimeters away... on the other side of tent canvas or hammock's mosquito net. I always fall asleep with a big grin on my face then.

Ticks worry me too, and I'd be concerned about strangers moving in or around the camp. Campsite selection is crucial, but it seems you didn't have a lot of choice.

To err is human. To moo is bovine.

Who is this General Failure anyway, and why is he reading my drive?

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Old 06-03-11, 07:35 AM   #4
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Congrats on completing your first tour! It sounds like you had a typical first run. You know what you can improve on, you know what you enjoy, and you know that you like it even with the minor bumps.
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Old 06-03-11, 08:00 AM   #5
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Thanks for sharing. Gives us other newbs points to ponder before we roll out.
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Old 06-03-11, 08:40 AM   #6
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It sounds as if you were solo, and you may prefer that, but I know I enjoy myself more when I have a travelling companion or two, or more. The down times create a window for human interaction and rarely then does one become bored,......angry, frustrated, or hopefully enlightened, but rarely ambivalent.
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Old 06-04-11, 12:40 AM   #7
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Try a Kindle or something similar. It's an "electronic device" but the battery will last for a month with the wireless off, and it will hold more books than you could read in a year.
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Old 06-04-11, 01:41 AM   #8
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This is precisely why I (and many others) suggest going for a short tour before committing to a longer tour. Short tours can be good learning experiences.
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Old 06-04-11, 05:46 AM   #9
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Thanks for the replies.

And yes, I was solo and prefer that. I figure if I tried to ride with someone else, I'd only end up solo any way because they'd get impatient with my 'stop and smell most of the roses' attitude. I love riding to see things and I stop to do so... A LOT. I just can't bring myself to hammer past the things I'm interested in because I won't make a distance quota. My routes are even planned to hit most ruins, 12th - 14th century churches, runestones and castles in an area as possible. Town to town to get from Point A to Point B in X-Amount of time is fairly low on my list.

And I have considered a Kindle since I found out about the good battery life. The work situation is a bit shaky at the moment though, so we're being a bit careful with cash flow.
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Old 06-04-11, 09:40 AM   #10
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It sounds like you learned a lot. When I started touring I had very little money. I went on an old 10-speed with a cheap rear rack, home-made panniers, and the most basic camping equipment. On shorter tours when I was pretty sure it wouldn't rain I wouldn't bring a tent. I stealth camped. I ate very basic food, mostly cold. Hot food I cooked in the can over a campfire.

I had a great time, but there were issues. I hated stealth camping. I was always afraid someone would find me and angrily kick me out (it happened once.) I was hungry a lot. My bike's gearing wasn't low enough and I suffered on hills (good thing I was young!)

Now I have a really nice touring bike, set up exactly how I want. I have excellent racks and panniers, and good, lightweight camping gear, including a stove and cookset. I have enough money to eat whatever I want, including meals in restaurants when I feel like it. I even stay in motels when the need or want arises.

If money is tight, this isn't really the advice one wants to hear - "buy better stuff and spend more money on tour" - but it might be something to look forward to. The good thing about quality gear is that it will last for years. You can figure out a way to tour with almost no money, especially if you're creative, and it can be very enjoyable. But when you have a few bucks you can buy some nice item you've been coveting and know it will last a long time. You can spend a lot of money on bike touring gear, but it's pretty cheap in comparison with other hobbies - golf? scuba diving? skiing? antique car collecting? RV-ing?

As far as the camping experience goes, I've been camping all my life - starting long before I started bike touring. I love camping, so when I finish my ride for the day I start something else I love - it's not just a necessary, unpleasant interlude before the next day's ride. Over the years I've become rather obsessive about getting good campsites. I think it can make a big difference in your experience. My number one desire is peace and quiet. I look for campsites that have some separation between them and neighboring sites. I've had lots of nights ruined by loud kids playing on the edges of my sites, or drunken partiers; or angry, yelling couples. I like big motorhomes because the people tend to stay inside and not bother me - especially after dark - as long as they don't run their generators at bad times. I love old couples with no kids who are quiet. I'm not a big fan of kids, including college kids. They're often loud and obtrusive. Plus, I'm a teacher and have to deal with naughty kids every day, so I like to get away from that sort of thing on vacation.

I don't like to worry about whether someone will object to my camping in a certain place, so I don't stealth camp. I will camp in random places in national forests, but not on someone's property. I like being in a campground with piped water, picnic tables, and bathrooms - possibly even a shower! I don't like arriving at a full campground and having to ask someone if I can share their space, so I try and arrive at the campgrounds in the early afternoon. I also like to get off the bike and relax, so I'm not averse to doing that early. Lately I've become more amenable to RV parks, KOA's, etc. The cost of state parks has risen to the point that private campgrounds aren't too expensive, and often the tent sites are cheap enough to be less than public campgrounds. Most of them are geared to RVs so the tent sites are off to one side and not very crowded. They usually have excellent facilities - good, free showers; a laundry room; maybe a pool and hot tub; usually a store.

I love to read and camping gives me plenty of time for that - especially if I'm by myself, which I almost always am. I also recommend a Kindle if you're a reader. I used to worry when I was getting close to finishing a book that I wouldn't be able to find a place to buy the next one around the time I finished the first. I never wanted to carry more than one book at a time due to weight. Sometimes I would buy a book, only to find out I didn't like it, but without the chance to buy a new one for a few days. Sometimes I would finish a book and the only place to buy a new one was a grocery store. With a Kindle you can load a whole library of books before you leave and then pick which one to read based on your mood at the time. If you get the model that has 3G you can even buy new books from just about anywhere. I was reading a book on my Kindle in my tent at Zion National Park. It referred to another book I was interested in. I turned on the wireless, went to the Kindle store, and bought the new book. It was on my Kindle in about 20 seconds. Surreal!

After years of 3-day local tours with occasional week-long ones, I took my first "big" tour - down the Pacific coast from Seattle to Santa Cruz. I had an idea of how much money I'd spend. It turned out I spent quite a bit more than I had planned, mostly due to the amount of food I ate. I also needed to lose about 15 pounds beforehand and thought the tour would be a good way to do it. I actually gained 8 pounds! My little belly paunch didn't go away, and I gained quite a bit of muscle mass. Plan on eating very large amounts of food, budget for it, and enjoy it! It's one of the nice aspects of bike touring.

The other unexpected expense was the price of getting broken spokes repaired - a good argument for spending some money on good equipment - especially the wheels, and especially the rear wheel. It was also a hassle and slowed my progress considerably. After that tour I replaced my rear wheel with a really good one and I haven't broken a spoke since.
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Old 06-04-11, 04:49 PM   #11
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Last weekend, I did a little "test run" of the tour I plan to do this summer, which is ride down the Pacific Coast to at least SF. I figured I'd better try it out for at least a night before the real thing to see if (1) I could do it, and (2) I'd enjoy it. I decided to ride from Manzanita, OR to Cape Lookout State Park to camp for the night. Before I left, I was really nervous with all the "what ifs" floating through my head.

As soon as I got on my bike, I felt great. I had a great time riding, stopping to take pictures, eating a yummy lunch, and I loved camping. Being alone was fine, and I'm ready to hit the road later this month!
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Old 06-04-11, 08:17 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by BigBlueToe View Post
IThe cost of state parks has risen to the point that private campgrounds aren't too expensive, and often the tent sites are cheap enough to be less than public campgrounds.
I discovered this too. Also Reserve America, charges $5 reservation charge. And as I discovered when I booked 3 different state parks for 3 consecutive nights, you get charged that for each park! So a private campground - with free clean showers was actually cheaper. Vermont state parks are great, some of my home state (Mass) aren't and I would advise to at least consider private campgrounds. Yes, not all are great, but worth a look.
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