My 2018 bicycle touring season has drawn to a close. Retirement freed my calendar for things that make me happy. Exploring the world on my bike makes me happy.
I am a learner, a person who seeks to learn more. My learning experiences are typically about things that intrigue me. There are times when these experiences lead me to learn more about myself. Here are five things that I learned this year about my style of bicycle touring.
- Forget the clock. My alarm clock started my day for 63 years. This clock sits on my nightstand but needs to be banished to Goodwill. Early in retirement, I realized that the clock has no place in my cycling. On a spring day, I learned that being on my bike should have no schedule or time constraints. My cycling has always been about the experience and not miles. This philosophy has been reinforced in my post-retirement tours. The bike is the method of transport, but the touring is about the people and places.Lesson learned: Let what you encounter along the way and not the miles or clock define the tour.
- Care for yourself. I sat at Point of Rocks, Marland severely dehydrated and downing liters of Gatorade and water. I knew the scarcity of food and water on the 60 miles cycled that day but found myself in this avoidable predicament. I neglected to pay attention to my body’s needs. That taught me a lesson in nutrition. Being adequately fueled before and during the ride is high on my priority list today. My friend Greg, who I cycled tours with this year, always factors in regular stops for food, water, and breaks. He is a much more skilled solo bike tourist that knows the importance of this habit. Lesson learned: Pay attention to your personal needs to assure your ride is a good one.
- Be a tourist. Talk to anyone who has cycled or toured with me. They will say that I am about being a tourist and stopping to smell the roses. I am an avid amateur photographer and stop when that perfect shot is in front of my handlebars. My solo tour from Washington DC to Pittsburgh gave me new insight into what this means. It was a familiar route. I am a creature of habit and find comfort in following the path I have worn before. I allowed myself to venture off that path and find myself in newly discovered places. Lesson learned: Don’t let your itinerary guide you but let the moment in time take you off course.
- Pack light. Seven years ago, I found myself mailing 30 pounds of gear home from my first self-supported tour. It took me several years and many tours to develop a habit of packing lean. Hard to do for the person who over plans and tries to account for any unexpected. I cycled three self-supported tours in 2018. I did well in packing lean. There’s value in doing laundry on the tour, whether it be a sink, shower or laundromat. My wardrobe is wrinkle resistant, worn many times, and organized in my panniers. Lesson learned: You need 50% of what you think you need to carry on your bike.
- Talk to strangers. My mother told me to not talk to strangers. My Hungarian grandmother warned me that the gypsies would kidnap me. I never encountered a gypsy in Alliance, Ohio. I am an extrovert and talk a lot. Not talking to strangers does not mash up with my personality. Personal interaction makes a bike tour much more enjoyable. I made a special effort to talk to strangers this year. It’s interesting how much you can learn about a person in a brief encounter. Lesson learned: Striking up a conversion with a random person makes for good memories.