Thursday, June 20, 2013

Reflections

People
Friends and family encouraged us to write a blog during our trip as a way to keep in touch and share the adventure.  When we first started the blog, we thought it would be about places, the scenery and the history of the area.  Although this was a huge component of our trip we quickly came to realize that our blog or story was really about PEOPLE.

Parks Staff at St. Louis Arch 
This cycle tour has been a wonderful and possibly life changing experience, and the kindness and generosity of those we met has touched us deeply.  These interactions are reminders of how simple acts of kindness and thoughtfulness really do make a difference.  We were struck how often those who had the least to give, gave the most and they did so sincerely and genuinely.

Logistics
We were constantly asked about the logistical details of our trip:
  • how many miles?
  • what do you eat?
  • how many calories a day do you take in and do you burn?
  • where do you stay?
  • how much weight are you carrying?
  • what is your average speed?
  • what cadence do you maintain?
  • what is your heart rate?
  • how did you train?
  • how long have you been cycling?
  • are you crazy?
Although, many cyclists will track and monitor this type of logistical data and find it important for training and goal setting, our experience taught us that in truth these numbers were often irrelevant.  Mother Nature frequently dictated our distance and speed by throwing head winds, tail winds, hills, cold, heat, humidity or extreme weather at us.  We encountered it all!  As we mentioned in our blog entries, we have always had a healthy respect for the forces of nature and this trip has only deepened that respect.

Can we out race the storm?
Why is the wind always against us?

Weight
How much weight to carry?  Simple - if your bike is too heavy for you to comfortably cycle, you need to ditch something!  It becomes a great lesson in setting priorities and we quickly realized what was important to us - CLEAN DRY SOCKS!  In all seriousness, it was a wonderful experience to be back to basics....2 bowls, 2 sporks, camp stove, tent, sleeping bag, foamies, clothes and an amazing cycling partner.  What else do you need?

New Orleans skyline from across the Mississippi River
Paul Bunyan Trail - Minnesota
Hillman Ferry campsite check-in Land between Lakes, Kentucky

Food
We never seemed to have enough and we often felt hungry....or has we liked to call it HANGRY - that point in time when hunger and anger intersect and your only focus is on refueling.  Because of our choice in routes, choosing to travel back roads, we were often grocery shopping in gas stations.  At times we felt we were on a fad diet of Snickers and Gatorade.  The upside to the hangries - when you do have the opportunity to feast, especially on fresh fruit and veggies, it tastes amazing and you appreciate each and every bite.  We discovered that when we were able to eat well, our cycling strength and moods improved dramatically.

Can't beat oatmeal!
Water
It was an unsettling feeling when we ran out of water and obviously not part of the day's plan.  It shocked us how much water we drank, especially when we were battling the 3 H's -  heat, humidity and hills.  We were always extremely grateful to those who offered to refill our water bottles.  We were constantly reminded of how fortunate we are to live in a country where fresh, cold, clean water is plentiful.

The Economy
Our goal was to travel the back roads, as a way to avoid traffic but more importantly we sought out opportunities to meet local people and learn about their towns and history.  These small towns have really been hit hard by the economic recession and the impact of big box stores within driving distances.   We saw many stores, restaurants, and gas stations for lease, for sale or simply boarded up.  We felt quite sad as we passed these obvious signs of hardship.  However, the majority of people we met in the towns were positive and resilient.  They were often born and raised in the area and were determined to stay and work to bring the town back to life.  We were frequently shocked at the contrast between poverty and wealth that we witnessed along the way, and always touched by the generosity of those who appeared to have little material wealth.  Those who had the least to give always gave the most!


Dogs
Being chased by dogs during a cycle tour is inevitable.  We discovered the likelihood of being chased increases dramatically when going uphill.  We tried everything to deter the dogs, including:

-sprinting (harder to do when going uphill with a fully loaded bike)
-slowing down
-smooth talking
-yelling
-kicking

The bottom line - nothing seemed to work. We learned to keep pedalling and hoped that the dog was fun loving, looking for a friend or would tire out before biting us.  We got to the point that as soon as we heard the first bark, we would pray for a fence, a leash or an owner who could control their pet!

The Blog
As we mentioned previously, we initially started our blog as a way to connect with family and friends.  Over the course of time, the blog has grown in scope.  Many other cyclists, bike enthusiasts, tourists and city tourism specialists have expressed interest in our route and experiences.  We were shocked to learn that we have thousands of page views to date and people from the following countries have been reading our blog:
  • Canada
  • United States
  • Russia
  • Germany
  • Italy
  • United Kingdom
  • Australia
  • France
  • South Korea
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Bulgaria
  • India
  • China
  • South Korea
  • India
  • Spain
  • Bulgaria
  • Uruguay
  • Japan
  • Israel
  • Ukraine
  • Malaysia
  • Portugal
  • Vietnam
  • Sweden
  • Brazil
  • Taiwan
  • Grenada
  • Poland
  • Indonesia
  • Nepal
  • Philippines
  • United Arab Emirates
  • Malta
  • Romania
  • Mexico
  • Mauritius
  • Belarus
  • Finland
  • Nepal
  • Belgium
  • Uzbekistan
  • Ukraine
  • Austria
  • Panama
  • Jordan
As our blog has taken on a life of it's own, we have been amazed and impressed by the willingness of the cycling community to share information and support each other.....whether you are planning a short day trip or a multi-country tour, people are willing to provide route information, tips and often places to stay.  We welcome the chance to support and encourage others to get out and ride!

Cypress Swamp - Natchez Trace


Random Thoughts

Things we missed:
  • the kids
  • fruit
  • veggies
  • fresh whole wheat multi-grain bread
  • ice
  • the Ocean and White Rock Beach
  • our kayaks
Things we didn't miss:
  • TV
  • cell phones
  • to do lists
  • detailed schedules
  • city hustle and noise
  • traffic
  • bills....although we know they will be waiting for us upon our return
  • email
  • world news - with the exception of the NHL playoffs
  • driving - especially paying for gas
Things that made us smile:
  • fresh blacktop
  • ice cold water
  • flat terrain - or LONG downhills
  • tailwinds
  • hot showers
  • trail markers
  • dedicated bike lanes
  • good directions and good signage
  • standing MOOs (we found that when we passed the cattle ranches, the cows would stand at attention and give us what we came to term a standing MOO)
Things that made us go "hmmmmm":
  • Exactly how many flavours of gatorade are there and how many different sizes of gatorade bottles?
  • How is that a bug can get between your eyeball and your sunglasses when you are going downhill at 30mph?
  • Why is that when you finally summit a hill after climbing for what feels like hours that on your last gasp for air a bumble bee will fly in your mouth?
  • Is the Piasa bird really a turkey vulture?
  • How fast is a mosey?
  • How far is down yonder?
  • Is "stay safe" a form of greeting or a warning?
  • Does Muddy Waters have a hidden meaning? or is it just muddy water?








  • ....and last but not least......where should we go next?....our next kedge?