After I set out on my second lengthy distance bicycle tour, I figured it could be very similar to my first. I knew there could be lengthy days of driving blended with prolonged durations of thirst and starvation. I additionally knew that when it was throughout, I’d be coming again an entire new individual. A greater individual!
That a lot I knew. However touring alone this time (in an space of the nation I had by no means been to earlier than), I knew that my second bike tour could be a problem not like something I had ever confronted up to now.
Listed below are a number of the classes I realized from touring by bike the second time round:
Amtrak Wants An Overhaul
I began my second bicycle tour by hopping on an Amtrak practice and driving for 26+ hours to the small city of Backyard Metropolis, Kansas. It was right here in Backyard Metropolis that I used to be supposed to start my second lengthy distance bike tour.
However when the practice rolled to a cease in Backyard Metropolis at 1:30 within the morning (greater than six hours delayed) the doorways in my practice automotive by no means opened. I attempted to drive my approach out, however I feared setting off an alarm and waking up the complete practice. As a substitute, I popped open the window and seemed down towards the engine the place I may see the conductor serving to three passengers off get their baggage off the practice.
I instantly slammed the window shut and ran by means of three practice automobiles, attempting to get right down to the open door the place I noticed the folks exiting, when swiftly the practice began to lurch ahead and exit the station. I used to be screwed!
Simply moments later I ran straight into the performed, virtually yelling (whereas attempting to not wake everybody round me) as I defined that I used to be alleged to get off in Backyard Metropolis.
“I’m sorry” the performed advised me. “Let me see what I can do.”
I waited in agony for the following couple minutes whereas the conductor chatted on the radio with the engineer. Mile after mile of darkness rolled by outdoors the home windows. Lastly, that they had an answer! They’d drop me off on the subsequent metropolis and I may get off there. Ugh!
Simply over 50 miles away the practice pulled to a cease and I exited into the night time. My boxed bicycle was pulled out from beneath the practice and thrown into the dust beside the tracks. One different girl obtained off the practice as effectively… and earlier than I knew it the practice was gone and I used to be alone in the course of Dodge Metropolis.
By this time it was about two o’clock within the morning; it was pitch black; and I didn’t know what I used to be going to do or how I used to be going to get again to Backyard Metropolis. I saved considering to myself, “It’s solely the primary day and I’m already a day delayed.”
In fact, every little thing labored out okay. I discovered a spot to sleep that night time and the following day I rode my bike the 50+ miles again to Backyard Metropolis. However the lesson I realized (and have realized time and time once more) is that the Amtrak practice system discovered right here in the USA is in severe want of a makeover.
I make a variety of suggestions on this web site, however touring with Amtrak is one thing I might by no means suggest (particularly when you can keep away from it).
Touring with Amtrak will be completed… they usually have been identified to reach on time every so often. However when you do determine to journey with Amtrak, be ready for unhealthy service, lengthy ready instances, overestimated every little thing (from ticket costs to meals), and when your practice exhibits up 22 hours late (because it did on my journey from New Orleans to Los Angeles in 2004) don’t you dare anticipate an apology.
Don’t Be Afraid To Use The Police As A Useful resource
As soon as I had that complete Amtrak mess behind me, I headed west and spent the following week or so touring by means of the lengthy, flat grasslands of Western Kansas and Japanese Colorado. Many nights I might roll into city (the one city for 60+ miles) and have to discover a place to sleep. As a result of I didn’t have a lot cash and since many of those cities didn’t even have resorts, I wanted to know the place it could be okay for me to arrange my tent and sleep for the night time.
It was on this journey that I started asking the police the place I may camp.
Previous to this bike tour, I seen the police as folks you needed to keep away from in any respect prices. In my thoughts, police had been individuals who pulled you over for driving too quick, who ticked you for jaywalking, and had been the final folks you needed to strategy about the potential of “stealth tenting” of their space.
However as I shortly realized, many cops are completely happy to assist the touring bike owner.
In these small Kansas cities I used to be driving by means of, the Police had been the primary ones to let you realize that it was okay to camp within the metropolis park. In Pueblo, Colorado, officers on horseback directed me to a metropolis zoo the place I used to be advised exactly what space of the zoo to camp in and which a part of the zoo to keep away from (apparently as a result of it was a gay hangout). And in California, an officer sitting idly in his cop automotive knowledgeable my driving accomplice and I that it could be completely fantastic for us to leap a fence and sleep in an deserted parking zone for the night time.
Over time, the police have come to my assist in a lot of methods. However it wasn’t till my second lengthy distance bike tour that I spotted the police are one of many first folks it is best to ask in case you are searching for a spot to sleep.
Some Folks Simply Need To Assist
As I rolled into Ordway, Colorado after a protracted day of driving, I parked my bike in entrance of the one fuel station/campground on the town and went inside to inquire concerning the worth of tenting. After I stepped again outdoors to get my pockets, a solar burnt, beer-bellied man sporting nothing however a small, inexperienced pair of athletic shorts tapped me on the ought to and requested, “You lookin for a spot to sleep?”
The person startled me, however I replied, “Uhh huh.”
The person replied, “Effectively, I gotta home proper down the street. Cud getcha a pleasant heat bathe. What da ya assume?”
“Wow that may be nice!” I mentioned.
I bear in mind considering again to what my dad and mom had advised me all these years rising up. “Don’t discuss to strangers” they mentioned. I used to be a bit afraid, however actually needed the bathe… and actually didn’t need to pay to camp in that parking zone behind the fuel station.
“Wanna throw that bike within the truck?” The beer-bellied man requested me.
I used to be lifeless drained and needed to take the journey, however I used to be nonetheless a bit scared, so I mentioned, “That’s alright. I really feel like driving. How do I get to your home?”
He then gave me the directions and I hurried as quick as I may down the street to his dwelling in the course of nowhere.
As I pulled up I bear in mind considering to myself, “What am I doing? This man goes to kill me!” There wasn’t one other dwelling for so far as the attention may see.
As I pulled as much as his small inexperienced home I noticed his truck parked within the gravel driveway and when he heard my tires making their approach down the street he stepped out from his storage and welcomed me with a giant puff of cigarette smoke proper in my face.
After placing my bike down, the person launched himself. His title was Ron and he lived on the market along with his spouse and her two children (each from one other marriage). That night time I learn books along with his daughter, performed chess along with his son, helped his spouse water her vegetation, and seemed on as Ron drove his children round their property on his tractor. After a giant bowl of pasta and a pleasant heat bathe, I used to be requested to come back inside and sleep down within the basement. I declined the supply and slept outdoors subsequent to the hen coop as a substitute.
The entire time I used to be there with Ron and his household I used to be so terribly frightened, however on the similar time, having one of many biggest experiences of my life. As a toddler, I had grown up with folks telling me to not discuss to stranger, to not belief folks, and by no means to just accept presents from folks I didn’t know. However now, right here I used to be, out in the course of nowhere and having the time of my life.
The subsequent morning I hightailed it out of there earlier than the household woke. I didn’t perceive it on the time, however typically folks simply need to assist you to.
Solo Journey Is Not As Tough As It Appears
My second bicycle tour was the primary time in my life I had ever actually been alone.
After I did my first bicycle tour in 2001 on the age of 17, it was a monumental occasion for me as a result of it was my first time being away from my dad and mom. In fact, I had a buddy or two with me always, so I used to be by no means actually alone.
However this journey in 2002 on the TransAmerican bicycle route was the primary time in my life the place I used to be alone for days on finish with nobody to speak to and nobody to assist me within the occasion of an accident.
My dad and mom had been undoubtedly afraid of me being on the market on my own. They needed me to name in daily and inform them I used to be okay. And after they didn’t hear from me, my mother felt the necessity to name the state police and have them seek for me – which she did a couple of times!
Even I used to be a bit scared at instances. However because the journey wore on, I turned extra comfy being alone. It took some time to get used to, however after a pair weeks I didn’t even discover I used to be alone anymore. I simply obtained used to it and began to appreciate the advantages of touring by your self (one thing I’ll speak about in a future publish).
In case you are contemplating a solo bike tour, don’t be afraid. You’ve obtained to be good, however you shouldn’t be fearful. There are lots of joys that include solo journey. Don’t let not having a driving accomplice maintain you again. Simply go for it… understand it’s going to be tough for the primary couple weeks… and know that you simply’ll get used to being alone and start to get pleasure from it as time passes.
Having A High quality Bike Is Vital
The most important mistake I made on my second bike tour was attempting to make use of the identical bike I used on my first tour – my dad’s rusty previous mountain bike (which by the way had been run over by a automotive shortly after ending my first tour in 2001. I hammered the body again as straight as I may, purchased a brand new wheel and crankset, and tried to make use of the bike once more on my TransAm journey. Huge mistake!)
Your bicycle is a very powerful piece of apparatus you should buy on your tour. Should you purchase the most cost effective tent, sleeping bag, and panniers, you’ll be able to nonetheless get by. However if you use a crappy bike, you’re risking your enjoyment out on the street… and your risking the success of the tour as an entire.
I ultimately needed to name my second bike tour off early as a result of my bike was in such unhealthy form. I efficiently crossed the continental divide eleven instances, however as soon as I began pedaling towards Yellowstone I may inform that the bike was not going to let me go a lot additional. It had reached the tip of its life… and I used to be able to go dwelling. Someplace north of Rawlins, Wyoming I jumped on a bus and headed again dwelling, feeling like a failure.
Now I notice that if I had simply had a very good bike, I might have been capable of full my tour… and the a part of the tour that I did full would have been that rather more pleasurable.
So, these are the teachings I realized from my second lengthy distance bicycle tour. Do any of those classes resonate with you? In that case, which one(s)? Should you’ve gone on a number of bicycle excursions, what classes did you study the second time round?