Long Distance SOLO Bicycle Touring

Didn’t write this one, wish I did though. It’s a great explanation of long distance bicycle touring.

Long-distance bicycle touring is by nature a Quixotic activity. In these days of light-speed communications, multimedia entertainment, fast, powerful, and prestigious automobiles, luxurious homes, exotic restaurants, and instant gratification, why would someone choose to pedal at slow speeds up high hills carrying a heavy load to boil rice in a small pot in the dark, insect-filled woods alone at night? Are bicycle tourers and bikepackers driven by a masochistic self-hatred that causes them to perform painful and anachronistic pilgrimages?

Actually, long-distance, loaded, bicycle camping is one of the most pleasurable activities I have ever experienced. I generally sleep poorly at night; but in the woods on a tour, I sleep like a baby, lulled to sleep by the music of insects. In the morning, I am awakened by the cheeping of birds. I eat a snack before getting up, and then I quickly pack my sleeping bag, air mattress, tent, and other gear and get on the road. I’m slower in the morning, having less speed but also a greater desire to stop at pleasant spots, dawdle, and enjoy. Traveling by bike allows me to stop anywhere, such as meadows, lakes (especially places to swim), woods, and scenic spots, not just at the tourist traps and overlooks. My large panniers may look very heavy to the passing motorist, but I barely notice their weight; actually, the bike feels better loaded than empty; it’s a lot more stable. Somewhere near lunch, I find a small grocery and buy some bread, sandwich materials, and fruit. I find a town park or other shady spot to wait out the high mid-day sun and maybe nap. In the afternoon, my speeds are higher, and I spend less time at stops (but I still usually stop fairly often, sometimes a quick dash into a grocery for bananas, sometimes a stop to pick wild berries). My body, tanned, lean from cycling, hardened by climbing, feels fantastic. I relish the climbs. In the late afternoon, I start riding slower, and I start having thoughts about stopping. I finally find a place in the early evening, cook a simple meal, and rest and cool off. As it starts to get dark, I pitch my tent, crawl in, and fall asleep.

There are exciting times and difficult times as well. Visiting strange or famous places and accomplishing goals are always exciting to me. I meet and talk with interesting people along the way, sometimes other traveling cyclists. Beautiful views, strong tail winds from nearby storms, encountering wild animals (usually at my camping site), and traveling up and down hills also stir me up. On the other hand, I may run into a rainy or hot spell, have to repair my bike or tire, encounter a hostile motorist, or just find myself in a bad mood. The problems are infrequent and are easily dealt with; the pleasures remain in my mind for years.

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