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Things Learned While Bike Touring
Lessons to pick up.
A day late this week. Sorry about that. I need to rethink Wednesday as my regular day.
Last month, I spent a week and a half cycling from Pittsburgh to Washington D.C. That was my seventh extended bike trip in the past few years, but that doesn't mean that I still don't have a lot to learn.
So, here are a few lessons I've picked up while cycling. Note that "picking up" a lesson is not at all the same as "learning" it. When I pick something up, I often put it back down. These are lessons I should pick up and put in my pocket or something.
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Slow the F#$k Down
There are many reasons to go on a bicycle tour, but the one I hear most often from my fellow travelers is "you see more from a bike than from a car." It's true. When you travel in your rolling living room, you see your rolling living room. The sights out the windows change, and you might even notice them as you whiz by at 70 mph or sit at a dead stop. But you're still in a box.
On a bicycle, you're right there. You see the foliage, the critters, and the people. It's even better on a path dedicated to hikers and cyclists, which is what I was on for nine days. It's a lot easier to enjoy the scenery when you don't have to dodge rolling living rooms piloted by angry people in a rush.
But it's still possible to ride too fast and not stop and look around. I did this for my first few trips, and finished them feeling like I hadn't seen much. This time was different; we agreed on a pace and stuck to it. It meant for longer days, and we arrived at our daily destinations pretty late a few times, but I saw more than I did on the same trails last year, and had a better time.
Rides Are What Happen To You While You’re Busy Making Other Plans
This was the first trip that I've taken that someone else didn’t organize. We planned it months in advance, poring over maps, articles, Airbnb listings, restaurant websites, and train schedules. (We took Amtrak back to my car when we finished the trails.)
I'm pretty sure at least two or three things went as planned.
Late starts. Towns with nothing open after 7:00 PM. Places I wanted to see that closed since last year. Smoke from Canadian wildfires. Missing laundry facilities. You name it, it went wrong. These things are expected. (Well, maybe not the smoke, but based on our efforts regarding climate I know to expect it now.)
And it was the best trip I've been on.
Pursue Memories, Not Stuff
I like stuff. Books. New bikes. Laptops. Old bikes. Camping gear. Not so old bikes. Audiobooks. Notebooks. Did I mention bikes?
But last year I made a bit of a career change cut my income in more than half. I can't spend money like I used to.
Bike tours are relatively cheap, and I find them more rewarding that any other vacation I've taken.
They're literally about the journey.
Buy memories. Not crap.
Always Buy The Ice Cream
But there is one thing you should always buy: ice cream.
I don't need to explain this one, do I?
See you next week. Probably on Thursday.