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Abandoned/aborted tours

Old 05-03-13, 11:12 AM
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Abandoned/aborted tours

I have seen this topic discussed elsewhere, and maybe it was covered here on BikeForums some also. My main focus/interest may be a little different, though, so please bear with me. My question is about the mental/psychological side of aborting a tour. How one processes it, views it, learns from it, etc.

I think this is my first thread, maybe second or third, so by introduction I have been cycling for about 4 years and got interested right away in touring. I have some 8 or 9 minitours of 2 to 9 days in length under my belt and that is all. By far most of my touring days have been logged solo -- my local club has a touring subgroup, but we just do about two 1-2 nighters a year.

I am 55 and fulltime employed, have parent and grandparent responsibilities, and can't foresee doing any "long" tours like TA till I retire at 62. I livein North Florida, and I have launched all of my minitours locally, so finding interesting routes has become a challenge. I am jealous of "real tourers" who are tackling the well-known routes covering mulitple states, etc. Still I think this topic may apply to both short and longer tours in similar ways.

As background, a week ago I aborted a 9 day trip on day 5. The round trip ride from Tallahassee to Savannah therefore became a one-way so at least I made 1/2 the trip before driving home with a rental car. This was due to a knee strain and bad chest cold that both started on day one. Though I fought the idea for a couple of days before I aborted, I believe my decision was the correct one. But there are nagging thoughts nonetheless. I tend towards the melancholy side of outlook and obviously this causes a need to work at staying positive during a tour when the normal obstacles pop up. For me, the "f" word -- failure --- always pops in when something I set out to do is not accomplished.

Mainly as I considered the "abort" plan, I am nagged by the thought of how this "setback" will impact my frame of mind on my next minitour and whether there will be another. If anyone has a story to tell on that -- how you "get back on the horse that threw you" and so on, that is what I am interested in.

Other nuances of the thought process that figured in while I was deciding whether to soldier on or not included: 1) the thought that if I cut this tour short, it might mean I am done with touring forever 2) What will people think - both riders and nonriders 3) Am I really just losing interest and blaming something else (in fact I was not having as good a time as usual)?
4) what should I learn fromt his and what major changes might I need to make? 5) Would this be more tolerable or have a different outlcome if I were NOT solo on this trip?

There are more, but just trying to stimulate thought, and don't want to introduce too many variables and issues. Without rambling on more, what accounts can you provide or insights/suggestions do my questions raise? Thanks for any input.
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Old 05-03-13, 11:21 AM
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Personally, I wouldn't give it a second thought. Stuff happens. No point beating yourself up over getting sick and/or injured.

My first loaded bike tour lasted less than 5 minutes. I quickly realized that I had too much gear loaded on the rear, with no front panniers to distribute the weight, and my bike wasn't safe to ride. So I unloaded the bike, when on a long solo ride for the day, and returned home. Then I ordered some front panniers and rack, and tried a less ambitious weekend tour a few weeks later. I still haven't done the ride I had planned on my canceled tour (from Raleigh, NC, to the coast) but I will some day, hopefully this year.
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Old 05-03-13, 12:51 PM
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I suggest you not try to over-analyze your situation. The whole idea behind cycle touring is to have fun while you're sightseeing, exploring, and reveling in just how far you are able to go on your own power. If you're not having fun, are sick, or injured, it's better to abort then to suffer along in misery or take the real chance of further injury. I've done quite a few tours of over 1000 miles, most solo, and have aborted a couple a bit short of my goals because things weren't going well or I was badly injured....didn't stop my enthusiasm for wanting to go on another tour, just allowed me to prepare for the next trip more thoroughly. Traveling with someone will help give each a moral boost to get over depression spells if things aren't ideal, but you have to be careful about continuing with an injury because you don't want to disappoint your buddy. On a long tour down the west coast, a buddy did just that, not complaining about injured knees and heel tendons until he could barely walk....he was laid up for weeks after getting home.
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Old 05-03-13, 12:56 PM
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I try to make my tours have either a flexible end point, a flexible end date, or both. That helps minimize the aborted tour blues. Still I have had to abort a three week tour at 9 days. I was sick, probably with HAPE (High Altitude Pulmonary Edema). I was a little disappointed, but given that I was worried about my health I was also a bit relieved to get to lower altitude.

There were two other trips that were shorter than the possible plan, but they were planned to have a flexible end point from the start. So I don't count them as aborted tours.

Being able to do longish trips with some regularity makes the aborting a trip a not so big deal for me. I have never done a tour shorter than 9 days or so and consider that about as short of a tour as generally appeals to me. That said I can't imagine that aborting a weekend tour would be a big deal at all. It isn't like it was a huge commitment or a grand plan. On the other hand my first tour was the TA and I would have been very disappointed if I had needed to abort that one early.

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Old 05-03-13, 02:36 PM
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A few years ago we had planned a monthlong tour around southern Utah in April. We went out our door and made it about a week, getting as far as Monticello, UT. (We took backroads south of Grand Junction, CO to get there.) The weather wasn't quite warm enough and the fierce spring winds we get from the south blew up. Took us all day to go 14 miles from the Canyonlands Needles entrance road down Rt 191 to Monticello, bad bad headwinds! And it snowed in Monticello the night we stayed there (motel). We called a friend and he drove down to pick us up.

We'll try it again someday.
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Old 05-03-13, 03:23 PM
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My first thought is that, for some people, the process of planning a bike tour is often the thing that gets them really psyched, while actually RIDING the tour is not quite as thrilling. Regarding your other points:

1) the thought that if I cut this tour short, it might mean I am done with touring forever

I have felt that way on many of my tours, and not just the recent ones. Most bike tours involve many hours of boredom punctuated by a handful of magnificent moments that you will never forget. When you're stuck in the tedious parts of your ride where you're knocking yourself out climbing hill after hill and the scenery rarely changes, it's easy to start a dialogue with yourself about how, from now on, you're going to stick to short local rides and never tour again. I've returned from a few multi-nighters feeling exactly that way. But every tour has big highlights, and those seem to be the parts you remember when the touring bug hits you again a few months later. I don't think aborting a tour today has ANYthing to do with the tour you embark on tomorrow. (Cont'd)

2) What will people think - both riders and nonriders

Nobody gives a sh--. End of sentence. (Cont'd)

3) Am I really just losing interest and blaming something else (in fact I was not having as good a time as usual)?

You mentioned that you lean toward a "melancholy" attitude. Many who feel that way do not like to hear this, but I have to tell you that changing your outlook will change your life in major ways. I don't want to lecture - because you can only do it when you're ready - but several years ago, I made a conscious decision to only focus on the positive things around me. Today, everybody wants to be my friend and everybody wants to ride with me. Most importantly, I have found a way to enjoy every second of every tour, even when the physical exertion far outweighs the scenery and other rewards. Hey, you should mount an iPod and a good battery-powered speaker to your handlebars and see if THAT inspires you! (Cont'd)

4) what should I learn fromt his and what major changes might I need to make?

See #3 (Cont'd)

5) Would this be more tolerable or have a different outlcome if I were NOT solo on this trip?

As much as I enjoy people, including my wife, I still LOVE touring solo. But I think this is because I haven't found people to ride with who aren't bogged down by feeling too slow or too fast, or by not being happy with their bike, their clothing, etc. Also, at our age (I am 50), we carry a lot of baggage with elderly parents, adult kids who sometimes get on our nerves, and other outside nonsense. On any given day, I can find at least a dozen excuses not to ride around the block - let alone to the next county or state. If bicycle touring is truly something that rejuvenates you, then you owe it to all the people around you to get out there and do it. When you get back, you will have more energy for them and you will be able to make clearer and wiser decisions. And if the tour you plan today turns out to be not exactly what you thought, abort and start planning a better one. Some of my best tours ever came after some of my worst.

Good luck!
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Old 05-03-13, 05:13 PM
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I don't recall abandoning a tour as such, but have DNF-ed a number of multi-day randonnees which are minimalist fast tours, anyway, and have cut short one or two tours, but still ridden home

The first abandonment is always the toughest because of the major emotional let-down after great expectations. After that one, the decion-making and impact are a little easier.

The key indicators to me are lack of enjoyment with no prospects of improvement; external "force majeur" such as really bad weather or theft from a bank account; injury or deteriorating health; catastrophic mechanical issues such as frame failure; and safety, including extremely poor traffic conditions for a vital, extended part of the route.

However, it also helps to have contingency plans and/or flexibility in routes and destinations... that is, avoid if possible strict scheduling with accommodation bookings or transport connections that could go awry with any significant delay; and alternative routes should things start going pear-shaped for any of the above reasons.

It also should be noted that if you tour alone, ensure you are happy with your own company (we describe people's inability to be alone for an extended period as the day-care syndrome). Conversely, touring with other people can be disastrous -- close-quarters companionship can become extremely tiresome and/or trying for some. Both scenarios can turn a tour into a nightmare.
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Old 05-03-13, 05:31 PM
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For those of you with experience on longer tours.... Have you had periods in which you weren't having fun for a significant period of time (e.g., a week or more) but push through (or take multiple rest days) and find your outlook improves? Or do you know when you know and you should trust those instincts? I ask because I am thinking of one cross country cyclist who said that he didn't start having fun until he got to Kansas. I don't know the whole story on this but it raises a lot of questions about how long it takes one to get acclimated to touring, when to push through, and when not to....
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Old 05-03-13, 05:52 PM
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Examine your motivation for cycle touring. It's all about motivation. The 'fun' factor is directly porportional to the level of motivation and freedom from guilt over neglected obligations.

People abort tours for all sorts of reasons, all personally legitimate. It ain't a quest for the Holy Grail. It's ok.
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Old 05-03-13, 06:14 PM
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I've cut three tours short. One was my very first tour, because of knee issues. Second one was my gf's first tour. It was hot. There were a lot of shoulderless roads and she hated it. Pushing on would have meant making her miserable so we threw in the towel and I started planning my next tour alone. That next tour ended up being cut short as well. If it wasn't wet from the rain, it was wet from fog. It got depressing. When the forecast called for yet another storm (3rd in less than 2 weeks) I said 'enough' and went home.

The last one was probably the one I thought hardest about, probably because it was totally optional that time. But I don't have much fun riding in rain and then camping in rain, waking up in rain and riding in rain again. And if I'm not having fun, there's no point to it. So I quit. Never considered that I might not tour again. I don't think about that much. If I decide to go in some other direction with my life and not tour anymore, it won't bother me too much. It's all about fun for me. When it ceases to be fun anymore, I start looking elsewhere.

Originally Posted by mm718
For those of you with experience on longer tours.... Have you had periods in which you weren't having fun for a significant period of time (e.g., a week or more) but push through (or take multiple rest days) and find your outlook improves? Or do you know when you know and you should trust those instincts? I ask because I am thinking of one cross country cyclist who said that he didn't start having fun until he got to Kansas. I don't know the whole story on this but it raises a lot of questions about how long it takes one to get acclimated to touring, when to push through, and when not to....
You'll know when it's time to throw in the towel. It's when you just get sick and tired of whatever it is that you're not enjoying to the point that you don't care about any consequences from quitting. I had one tour like this where I pushed through it for two months when I would have liked to have ended it after the second week. It was because I was with a touring partner who was making me crazy. But we were in the middle of nowhere, both away from our (different) home countries, and made the mistake of sharing equipment and not being prepared to go off on our own if things didn't work out. And I really didn't want to let her miserable attitude cause me to miss out on this incredible adventure. So I made the decision to keep riding despite her. I'm glad I did, as it was an amazing experience.
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Old 05-03-13, 06:57 PM
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Originally Posted by mm718
For those of you with experience on longer tours.... Have you had periods in which you weren't having fun for a significant period of time (e.g., a week or more) but push through (or take multiple rest days) and find your outlook improves? Or do you know when you know and you should trust those instincts? I ask because I am thinking of one cross country cyclist who said that he didn't start having fun until he got to Kansas. I don't know the whole story on this but it raises a lot of questions about how long it takes one to get acclimated to touring, when to push through, and when not to....
I've had nasty constant headwinds for several days that severely tested my resolve, but was able to work through them knowing that eventually I would be out of them. For me, they are far worse then even the really long and steep grades up a mountain because at least with a mountain, you can look forward to the thrill of coasting down the other side. With strong headwinds, it's quite demoralizing to be down to 5-8 mph while riding on the level, and darn maddening when having to peddle down steep grades.
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Old 05-03-13, 07:05 PM
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Mate, you are a legend just for getting to day 5 at 57 y.o. Keep it up and forget the psychoanalysis.
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Old 05-03-13, 07:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Cyclebum
Examine your motivation for cycle touring. It's all about motivation. The 'fun' factor is directly porportional to the level of motivation and freedom from guilt over neglected obligations.

People abort tours for all sorts of reasons, all personally legitimate. It ain't a quest for the Holy Grail. It's ok.
I find this an interesting an comment. There are ways to manage obligations without neglecting them so you can tour unimpeded. If you are touring because you have "neglected obligations", you might need to assess your total lifestyle values anyway.
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Old 05-03-13, 07:48 PM
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First off, don't beat yourself up about an aborted tour! You were hurt and sick. My husband and I shortened a 3 week tour around New Hampshire and Vermont to one week because of relentless rain. It was awful for the first 4 days, so instead of doing our planned route, we circled back to our car and changed our vacation plans. No big deal - we will do that particular tour some other time. Your decision to cut it short was the right one - you were hurt and sick and continuing the tour may have resulted in more serious health issues, who knows. You made one comment early in your post about running out of interesting routes - maybe you should consider driving for up to a day to get the start point and parking your car at a hotel (where you spend first/last nights) or a bike shop, or a friends... wherever. Then go on a nice loop route from there - that would expand your potential routes to include areas from Louisiana, to Tennessee to the Carolinas. Just a thought.
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Old 05-03-13, 08:14 PM
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I've never abandonned or aborted a tour ... or any sort of holiday, travel, etc.

Plans have changed, but that happens. It's part of the reason I don't make much in the way of concrete plans when travelling.

On our recent RTW tour, we had originally intended to include a South American leg to the journey. For various reasons we opted to skip that part and do more in North America instead. It might have been nice to go to South America, and we'd like to go at some point, but our change of plans worked out well.

A cycling tour is supposed to be a holiday ... an adventure ... a chance to see the world in a different way. So you see this part of the world instead of that part of the world, so you spend more time here than there ...
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Old 05-03-13, 09:13 PM
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Yeah - having a 'Plan B' is always a good idea and can result in a 'change of plans' rather than a cancellation. Can remember one year we planned on hitting the Blue Ridge Parkway again. As the departure dates approached there was nothing but rain forcast in that area for the upcomming three weeks and several areas were closed due to washed out roads.

Plan B involved two alternate areas - selection being based on wherever was getting the most sun. Ended up in Nova Scotia and had a blast.

And of course 'Plan B' can also be an alternate date - which again makes it a postponement rather than a cancellation. Its supposed to be fun so if it ain't, just rework things to group enough fun elements to bring things back together.
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Old 05-03-13, 09:15 PM
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Great thread, great replies. Seems like the right choice if health is an issue. You could have pushed on and hurt yourself further, then later in life regretted not stopping.

I've had the abandonment feeling on all my adventures except the one in a foreign country when coming home was inconvenient or expensive. At some point, I'm craving for a vacation within a vacation. The towns, roads, and people change, but I'm still cycling from point to point most everyday. The journey becomes like a job. If a trip is long enough, I'll experience it multiple times.

I'm the type of person who would take a rest day hiding in the woods or under a bridge. On a brutally hot day, I'll even start off in the early afternoon and combat the scorching heat because I just didn't feel like leaving early.

On one occasion, I knew it was pointless to struggle against the fierce wind. I decided to stop in the next town and quit for the day even though it was still mid afternoon. I napped under a tree in a park while some kids were playing on the opposite end. The kids came over and one youngster asked, "Can you help us?"

I burst from my nap fearing, "Sh*t, something happened to one of the kids!"

The chain dislodged from one of their bikes, and they needed assistance fastening it back. After helping them, I road off to the town's edge to another park and waited until dusk for a stealthy sleeping opportunity. Planning to sleep on a picnic table, the park didn't feel quite stealthy enough. Biking back towards town, I detoured into a cemetery and slept tentless at the cemetery's edge. Fortunately, I hid myself away on a hill without a tent because people drove through in the night on a few occasions.

That day wasn't all that great, but I'll remember it for a lifetime. Or maybe it was great because the memory is still there.
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Old 05-03-13, 09:35 PM
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Originally Posted by lancele
At some point, I'm craving for a vacation within a vacation. The towns, roads, and people change, but I'm still cycling from point to point most everyday. The journey becomes like a job. If a trip is long enough, I'll experience it multiple times.
This is something that a lot of cycle tourists don't talk about, or don't want to consider. It is a matter than can become more important as a tour progresses... that emotional and physical tiredness gets greater and greater until it arrives at a breaking point. Rest days really are important and not just for doing laundry and restocking supplies.
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Old 05-03-13, 09:37 PM
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I've looked at my tours (so far) as a series of rides where I'm lucky enough to ride all day, eat a good evening meal, and maybe read a little before I fall asleep. The only bummer of "aborting" a tour would be that I don't get to ride the next day. Arrival is a great, but really transitory, feeling. The journey is the fun part--along with the unexpected stuff that happens along the way.
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Old 05-03-13, 09:40 PM
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Originally Posted by lancele
I've had the abandonment feeling on all my adventures except the one in a foreign country when coming home was inconvenient or expensive. At some point, I'm craving for a vacation within a vacation. The towns, roads, and people change, but I'm still cycling from point to point most everyday. The journey becomes like a job. If a trip is long enough, I'll experience it multiple times.
Originally Posted by Rowan
This is something that a lot of cycle tourists don't talk about, or don't want to consider. It is a matter than can become more important as a tour progresses... that emotional and physical tiredness gets greater and greater until it arrives at a breaking point. Rest days really are important and not just for doing laundry and restocking supplies.
We experienced this on our RTW tour. After hitting 8 countries in 9 weeks, and slogging down the Rhine Route for the last 3 weeks of that, we had enough. We ended up in Luxembourg in a small non-descript campground in an area without much in the way of tourist attractions and spent 5 days there, most of which were spent just sitting around camp.
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Old 05-03-13, 10:02 PM
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Originally Posted by Machka
We experienced this on our RTW tour. After hitting 8 countries in 9 weeks, and slogging down the Rhine Route for the last 3 weeks of that, we had enough. We ended up in Luxembourg in a small non-descript campground in an area without much in the way of tourist attractions and spent 5 days there, most of which were spent just sitting around camp.
You hit the nail right on the head...taking a breather, even a few days, to recharge mentally or physically, will put you back on track (catch your second wind).
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Old 05-04-13, 12:18 AM
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what is the main reason most people hate to abandon or abort? what will people say!!!

we're all worried that the fat blob driving an rv will see us pushing our loaded rigs up a
14% grade.....so we pretend to be taking a picture or checking the map. we're worried that
our friends who can barely climb two flights of stairs will laugh at us for "only" completing
9000 miles or our 10000 mile tour. we've gotta gotta gotta do the entire tour under our own
power, cause "they" will say we're not so tough, so we insist on riding that section of
life-threatening jersey turnpike, or the entire 1000 miles of desert with 20 mph headwinds.

you get bored, you get injured, you get tired. change the plan. it's YOUR tour. if it's no
longer fun/healthy/safe/interesting, then make a change. do something else for a while.

several times during a year-long circuit of australia, i'd stop at a salvation army thrift store
and buy a dozen used paperbacks. load up on vittles and water, then ride off somewhere
isolated for 2-3 days. rest up eating junk food, reading, listening to the short wave. other
times would rent a backpack and go hiking for a week.
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Old 05-04-13, 02:37 AM
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Originally Posted by saddlesores
what is the main reason most people hate to abandon or abort? what will people say!!!

we're all worried that the fat blob driving an rv will see us pushing our loaded rigs up a
14% grade.....so we pretend to be taking a picture or checking the map. we're worried that
our friends who can barely climb two flights of stairs will laugh at us for "only" completing
9000 miles or our 10000 mile tour. we've gotta gotta gotta do the entire tour under our own
power, cause "they" will say we're not so tough, so we insist on riding that section of
life-threatening jersey turnpike, or the entire 1000 miles of desert with 20 mph headwinds.
You really should substitute Bike Forums or CGOAB members for all those spectators.

Originally Posted by saddlesores
several times during a year-long circuit of australia, i'd stop at a salvation army thrift store
and buy a dozen used paperbacks. load up on vittles and water, then ride off somewhere
isolated for 2-3 days. rest up eating junk food, reading, listening to the short wave. other
times would rent a backpack and go hiking for a week.
Oh the horror!

But everything you say is true.
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Old 05-04-13, 03:56 AM
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I cut a tour short last year, for the first time. I was on a two-week, roughly one thousand mile tour round the UK in late May/early June. The weather had been fantastic in the first week, then turned freakishly bad, with high winds and torrential rain. So bad that some caravans and RVs were actually washed into a river from a campground the day after I had passed that way. So after an 80-mile ride in horizontal rain I holed up for a couple of days in a hostel to see if I could wait it out. I was three days from home by bike. When it became clear things weren't going to improve, I rode to the nearest station and put me and the bike on a train.

I didn't for one moment worry about whether this was some sort of failure. I do tour at high mileage, and unquestionably a part of the appeal of touring, for me, is the physical challenge, but in the final analysis it is about enjoyment. Turn it into drudgery for anything more than short periods, and the pleasure would be gone. And to ride through injury, potentially compromising one's ability to tour in the future, would be daft. In my view the OP shouldn't worry about it.
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