Monday, November 7, 2016

Ch-ch-ch-changes

Roger and I had many conversations over the course of our trip, starting with the first week we were out on the road, about how the trip itself might change us.  We figured that we'd lose some weight - it wouldn't be possible to ride a bike for hours every day, six months running, and not lose at least a few pounds! And I had hopes that I would be stronger - that my legs would get more powerful as I rode more consistently, pushing that load around the country. I didn't have too much in the way of expectations beyond those two things.
My short hair cut before the trip

They have both come to pass, by the way. Now that we are home, I find that I've lost three or four pounds. Roger lost about fifteen!  Is there any justice? I do feel stronger - that was obvious pretty early in the trip. We were able to handle everything the road required, and other than general, overall "tiredness" at the end of most days, we both felt like our bodies were holding up well enough and our legs, in particular, were doing the job.

What never did happen - and as we were talking just a few days before our trip ended, it was obvious we had both expected this even if we'd never voiced it - was that it never really got any easier to do what we were doing. We'd both thought that at some point, it would be so routine to go 60 or 70 miles that we would not feel like we were working that hard to finish our day's ride.  Apparently we either expanded our expectations for what we needed to ride in a day, or the conditions were getting more difficult day by day, or we just turned out to be slackers in the worst way - because it really never did get "easy." We were always whooped by the end of the day.

So that's something that did NOT change.

What did change? Well, starting on the first day of our trip, we made changes to our planned route. When Roger started mapping out our escape from the LA area, we had hoped to stay at a campsite in the mountains on Day 1. But we learned the campground was closed, and instead found a Warm Showers host in Palmdale. That was farther than we wanted to go, but there weren't really any places to stay en route, so that's where we went. Talking with our hosts that evening, we changed our route for Day 2! They said the route we'd planned would take us through an area with no services, and suggested another road instead.  Those two days set a precedent that continued throughout the trip. We'd have a plan, and then update the plan depending on accommodations, services, terrain or weather. We made changes as well based on traffic, congestion, the season, and the availability of our friends and family. When I learned that my sister would be out of the country about the time we expected to be passing through Texas, we relaxed our pace - calculating that we'd be overtaxed by an effort to arrive before her trip, but could still get home on time if we planned to come through after she returned. That's why we decided we had enough time to take a break from the bike and enjoy a week with Roger's family at the Family Camp at Ashokan.  Even night to night, we'd change our plan, opting for a cabin instead of a campsite if the weather looked iffy.

We thought we'd be camping more than we ended up doing, so that also changed. Eventually, we sent home our cooking gear and finally even our tent and sleeping bags, opting to do the last several weeks entirely indoors. This change in our approach to lodging was a hard one to make. Neither Roger nor I wanted to risk being stuck somewhere without a place to stay, so we hung on to the camping option longer than we probably needed to. It was a lot of weight to carry around.

I got very used to dressing from among the few pieces of clothing I'd brought along. It was not long before I started getting an itch to get back to my closet, and throw out half of the stuff hanging there! If I could be comfortable wearing one or two outfits for six months, what on Earth did I need with all those clothes?! This feeling has persisted now that I am home, but I confess I am overwhelmed by all our stuff. Of course, that is a common feeling when we return home from a trip, however brief. The suitcases in the hall (in this case, the packs) need to be opened and cleared, the dirty clothes washed, the other things put back where they belong. Since we've been away so long, and have had others living in our home, many things around the house "migrated" a bit from the place where I or Roger normally expect to find them. So I am gradually putting things back the way I like them - exercising my OCD in small ways to return my kitchen, bath, bedroom and basement to a more familiar state. Once I am more comfortable in the place, I believe that I really will be able to tackle the more difficult task of weeding out some of this stuff and trying to return to that very simple life we had on the bike.

My friend Bev says I am suffering from culture shock, and I think she's right. She used to experience something similar when she returned from a mission trip overseas. When you have become accustomed to living out of a suitcase, it's weird to be back in this sea of possessions.

Roger and I have a good friend who is embarking on a multi-year tour around the world on his bike. He's interested in exploring the different locales and seeking stories to capture as he travels. I get the feeling (and I may not be quite straight on this), that part of what he seeks is also some relief from the "sameness" of everyday life.  So how do Roger and I judge this aspect of our trip? Did we find our lives to be very different, or somewhat the same? Certainly there were moments of great beauty and excitement. Some days were really delicious - beautiful scenery, great riding conditions, interesting people and places fed our souls and exhilarated us. But some days were just tedious - long, hard days of pumping our legs around and around without even being able to sense that our landscape was changing.  More even than the experiences on the bike, which tended to help us define the days as "different" from one another, our experiences off the bike solidified for us the natural rhythms and day-to-day routines of managing our life as bicycle tourists, and there was quite a lot of same-ness to that. So I'd call it a draw. Life, it seems to me, is just as exciting and exhilarating as you make it - or as dreary and dull - regardless of where you live and what you must do to earn a living. It's all in your perspective and approach to each day.

Oh, and that haircut? I got my hair cut very short before the trip so that I would not have to fool with it much (after all, it was under a bike helmet for hours every day.)  Even so, I had to get it cut about halfway through the trip, and I'm due for another trim now. Some things never change!
Go where the road leads you

5 comments:

  1. And so it ends. One of my first real jobs as an engineer was testing a pilot plant. The purpose is to see what it will do and then how far you can bend it before it doesn't work. And you have lots of fun understanding it for six months. And then you write the report and the project funding is gone and the plant is just scrap metal. Until the next one comes along ...........

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    1. Oh, I don't think that it's done. In any case, we plan to go back to Kingman and finish our ride. And Excellent Adventure is a pretty good metaphor for our life together, so maybe I will just keep making posts now and then. Walter Mitty, look out!

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  2. Thanks for letting me experience your trip. It was great to read about the places you saw and the adventures you had.

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    1. Thanks so much for coming along with us!

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  3. Glad you are back intact. Enjoyed the blog. "Miles From Nowhere" by Barbara Savage available on kindle. Think you would like. Pamela O. https://www.amazon.com/Miles-Nowhere-Round-Bicycle-Adventure/dp/0898861098

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