January 1st, 2009


My first real "tour": Pinnacles National Monument

I inaugurated the new year by doing something that I could never have done one year ago. I got up in the morning at 9:00am, packed a campsite's worth of gear onto a bike - 75 pounds total - and then rode the bike 83 miles. This, after riding 80 miles over the previous two days!

One year ago I would have said, "83 miles? Ridiculous. Forget it, kid. The people who do that are Olympians. You'd be lucky to get 30 miles a day. Twenty or less if there's a lot of crap loaded on your bike."

Feels good to prove myself wrong.

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Things Mr. Fins Learned On This Ride:
  1. Motels are fricking EXPENSIVE.
  2. This pastime is not as rare as I thought, which is a relief. I passed four or five very friendly bicyclists on my trip, including an old couple riding a geared-up tandem. Hooray for non-car journeys!
  3. When the sun goes down on the road in winter, it gets cold FAST. And it takes time for the land to reheat when the sun comes up again. That leaves about 5 hours of riding time where you might be comfortable without nine jackets and twenty hiking socks on.
  4. Salty snacks and sugar are easy to find on the road, but potassium is difficult. Pretty much your only choice is bananas at a fruit stand.
  5. Going solo is relaxing and liberating, but without a riding partner, many things become difficult or even impossible. Shopping and using an urban public toilet are the worst. It's ridiculous. This is not a problem for ANY other method of transportation, as far as I know. Except maybe camel.
  6. A bike fully loaded with gear can get VERY heavy. Those little items add up fast. The good news is, with the increased weight, you can remain steady at lower speeds, so you can follow behind pedestrians on the sidewalk and make 'em all nervous.
  7. And despite the extra weight, once you get a loaded bike rolling, it's not hard to keep rolling. This was a pleasant surprise. I was expecting it to be like those exercise bikes in the gym whose idea of "hill" is a constant knee-aching resistance as if you were stuck eternally in the wrong gear. But the difference was one of inertia, not resistance.

For the last 8 miles or so I kept staring at the little blue dot on the iPhone map and yelling, "Move, damn you! MOVE!!" I was cold and tired and there was nothing to look at, and I just wanted to be off the bike. Two miles out, I began singing They Might Be Giants lyrics out loud, since the streets were deserted and I was getting a bit delirious.

But I made it. That was my first "official" touring adventure, and my first day over 50 miles. And my first day of 2009!