The journey toward self-discovery continues

Early this morning, I boarded Amtrak’s Capitol Limited with my bike and paneers headed to Washington D.C. I am embarking on a weeklong journey across the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Trail and the Great Allegheny Passage. I will mount my saddle later today in the District of Columbia and cycle 334 miles through Maryland and Pennsylvania.

Bicycling touring is not new to me. I have cycled numerous multi-day and multi-week bicycle tours in the United States and Europe. This tour is something new. It is my first solo self-supported bicycle tour. I am cycling alone carrying my belongings and gear in saddlebags with no support vehicle. This is a credit card tour, meaning that I will be overnighting in Airbnb’s, hotels, and bed and breakfasts.

In 2011 I discovered bicycle touring with my friend Chuck, across this same route. I learned several things on that tour. I uncovered the joy of bicycle touring and desire to do more in the future. I learned that touring is not about the miles and speed but about the people and places. You learn more about people, their culture, and their lives when you pass through an area on a bike traveling 12 mph.

I kindled a desire to stretch my boundaries and move out of my safe comfortable space on that 2011 bicycle tour. I have been increasingly willing to be more adventurous over the past seven years. My cycling tours reflect that need to be more adventurous. Seven years ago I would have never seen myself cycling hilly southern Bohemia and the hills above the Austrian Danube.

I am ready to learn more about myself this week. I am a social cyclist who enjoys cycling in a group. Retirement has given me time to be a solo cyclist., Cycling solo allows you to set your schedule, pace, and destination. It gives you more time for reflection free of distractions. The coming days will test my ability to be more independent and uncover the style of cycling that fits me as a solo bicycle tourist.

I look forward to my week with some trepidation. The ever constant planner and organizer, I have the logistics planned in great detail. My chore is to be more spontaneous and immerse myself more in nature, people and places I encounter. This trip is very familiar to me. I have cycled this route three times. My goal this year is to explore something new every day.

This week is also about giving back. Early in my cycling, I discovered the joy of cycling for a cause. For many years, I cycled Bike MS events that benefited the Multiple Sclerosis Society. There is great joy in knowing you make a difference in our world while doing something you personally enjoy.

This year I return for the second time to the Woiner Foundation’s 321 Ride in Pittsburgh. This ride benefits pancreatic and melanoma cancer research and patient support. I join the 321 Ride metric century cyclists on the last day of my tour into Pittsburgh as a team member of Sue’s Crew. This team memorializes Sue Snyder, one of my cycling buddies. Sue lost her battle with pancreatic cancer just a week ago making this ride even more meaningful.

And so my journey begins. It’s a week of self-discovery, discovering new people and places, and stretching my boundaries, The week culminates with a day of cycling remembering Sue and other cancer warriors and their families.

Tom Bilcze
“The journey toward self-discovery is life’s greatest adventure.” Arianna Huffington

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