The First Day of Pedaling – Talk to Strangers

Bicycle Touring, USA Add comments

I envisioned an exit from downtown Portland with a slight breeze at my back as I pedaled down a long, straight and flat road with wide shoulders. Less than a quarter mile into my first self-supported bike tour the white line hit the edge of the pavement, the head winds started and the road turned almost directly upward. It stayed that way for most of the day.

I’d been running pretty regularly and I didn’t believe the mid 50’s woman cyclist I’d chatted with outside the ACE Hardware store who told me that running 30-40 miles per week didn’t mean anything when it came to cycling hills. Climbing mountains on that first day put a blazing fire in my legs I hadn’t felt since my years of self discipline conditioning in martial arts classes.

Thought it felt as if hot knives were being driven into my thighs with each down stroke, the cognitive battle was even worse. The first day was truly a test of spirit.

Should I have started extended bicycle travel without any training? I can’t do this. Maybe I should take a break? Am I really fit for this? Do I really want to be riding my bike across countries? Cycling isn’t necessarily for everyone. I’m probably better off backpacking. People make mistakes; maybe I just made a mistake. This isn’t just my mind; I’m actually reaching the limits of my physical ability!

Maybe my higher self prevailed or maybe it was the $4,500 I’d spent on the bike, clothes and camping gear, but I completed a couple thousand feet of ascent in the first day.

That evening when the road finally flattened out, somewhat mechanically I pedaled onward. The coast being the only goal I could focus on, I continued to push myself towards it. After six and a half hours of continuous riding over seventy five miles, both dusk and rain fell.

I ducked into the woods off the side of Highway 101, chained my bike to a tree and pitched my tent in a spot hidden by some thick brush. Sat up with a small hunch, feeling the cold bite and dampness of the outdoor air, listening to the cars rush by and the rain patter against my new tent, my head began going through more automatic patterns.

What the hell am I doing out here? Why am I sitting in a tent on the side of a highway? Do I really want to be all alone again? I like being around people. Damn, this is lonely…

I’ve found I always go through a stage of thinking these things when I embark on a new solo travel adventure. The truth is that at times, traveling by myself really is a lonely thing.

Yet I was able to let the thoughts float through me this time. I knew it’s that push away from loneliness and that pull towards human connection that leads me to socialize and interact with strangers.

And that un-stranging of strangers, my curious exploration of humanity, is why I’m on the go again…

5 Thoughts on “The First Day of Pedaling – Talk to Strangers”

  1. Kevin Says:

    I always enjoy what you share…you don’t hold back and it makes reading your posts that much better. I look forward to reading in the future how much your cycling skills improve and how uphill and long stretches become a walk in the park.

  2. Stacey Says:

    What a fantastic entry! It’s so interesting to hear your inner thoughts. I could really visualize the experience, the physical challenge and then sitting in the tent alone. Maybe it’s more interesting because it was difficult and that makes it ever so more impressive! I’m not sure but I look forward to hearing more…

  3. nicole Says:

    You’re inner thoughts were exactly what I was thinking as I was reading about you ducking into the woods…what the hell is he doing out there?…but then I read on and totally understand. Can’t wait to hear more 🙂

  4. Jeff Says:

    I love the honesty in your posts. ‘The truth is that at times, traveling by myself really is a lonely thing’ … very true but you always seem to meet people that make the lonely times worth it.

  5. Uncle Tim Says:

    Dude,
    You are living the dream! Keep pedaling. You’re moving forward in more than one way. Very envious. Where did you get the idea for this anyway?

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