Monday, September 07, 2009

Tour de Maine: final Thoughts

It's been a few days since we have been back, and I've done a lot of resting and recuperating from the bicycle tour. I've had some time to think back about it, and organize my thoughts:

The Challenges:

  1. Bike handling. My balance is terrible, and it definitely hampered my progress. I need to go downhill slowly, and I get nervous on dirt and rocky roads. I have never done much cycling, however, so this should improve with more time on the bike.
  2. Health. I had two health challenges: My thyroid, which made me a little emotional and tired, and my hands, of which I think I managed to injure the tendons a bit. My thyroid made me slightly moody which caused me to be depressed some mornings, and took some enjoyment out of the trip. I think this was because I'm not used to prolonged effort day after day. Next time, I think I may need to increase my meds just a touch- I will talk to a doctor about it. The injury to my hands made me incapable of performing a lot of tasks involved with packing, setting up the tent, etc. I think if my hands had held up I would have a better sense of efficacy and not felt so useless. This can be solved by adjusting my handlebars, and loosening my grip as I get more comfortable on the bike.
  3. Difference in fitness: Rob is much more fit than I am, so the pace of the tour was a compromise; he had to slow down for me, and I had to push against my limits. He carried most of the weight which served to mitigate this somewhat, but I think he would enjoy a tour with someone who can ride 50-80 miles a day.
The good stuff:

  1. The feeling of self-sufficiency. There is something very rewarding knowing that you can pack up and head out wherever you want, carrying everything you need with you. Even with all my problems, I felt so proud when people asked, "You are carrying everything on your bikes?" and said they had always wanted to do it. We came across a group tour with riders that carried nothing but fanny packs and had all their stuff in a van that rode behind them, and I have to admit I felt a little smug.
  2. The connection with place. Getting to know a place by bicycle is very different than by car- you don't have the barrier between you and the world. You can smell the fields, read the hand-made signs outside people's driveways, and feel the undulations of the land. I feel like I know the Maine coast better than if I had driven it in a car.
  3. The people we met. Our bikes were an easy topic of conversation for people who were interested, and I have to say, that people who are interested in bike touring are pretty cool. We had some really nice conversations with really nice people. It made me feel optimistic about humanity.
The future:

Will I tour again in the future? Definitely. What we might do differently next time:
  1. Different handlebars. My hands are still not healed.
  2. I need to work on my bike handling skills. It is still hard for me to look behind me or take a drink on the bike without losing my balance.
  3. Take less stuff. I had too many clothes, and we didn't use our stove after we realized we were close to delis with warm food, even at our campsites.
  4. Up my thyroid meds. Don't want to be so moody.
  5. Pay more attention (via map or GPS) to the terrain. 30 miles with hills is as difficult (or more) as 50 miles of flats.
  6. Keep stuff in dedicated bags. WE ended up doing this by the end of the trip, but we spent a lot of time in the beginning of the trip just looking for stuff.
Overall, I'm proud that we survived. It was a big leap for someone who hadn't done much cycling before, and Rob had a lot of patience with me. On balance, the sense of self-sufficiency and adventure outweigh the challenges. After I recover a bit, I'm ready for more. Patagonia, here we come!

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