Life After Touring

I began this post over a week ago–before finishing the trip–so some parts are slightly out of date.  Mostly I’m no longer riding.  Anyway,

Rory and I reached my parents house in Randolph, NH on October 3rd, which for my purposes marks the end of our trip.  I set out from Seattle on July 18th to ride home.  The remaining 4 days we’ll ride to reach the coast are more or less a formality; we only picked Bar Harbor as our destination after we realized (no more than a week before leaving Seattle) that the ACA’s Northern Tier terminates there.

Just as each section of our cross country adventure has been different than those preceding and following, the weeks since we reached central New York mark the first times that we’ve seen friends and family along the way, excluding Ironwood WI and Chicago.  In Hamilton we stayed with Neil and Madeline, friends from Northwestern; in Troy we stayed with Josh, Rory’s former Seattle roommate; in Hanover we stayed with my Aunt and Uncle as well as my Oma and Opa; from Hanover we rode to my parents’ house in Randolph, where we rested for three days.  While the earlier parts of our trip were a constant string of unknowns–road conditions, water and food availability, terrain, and shelter–this section has been largely predictable and comfortable.  Each day I knew the cities we passed through and the people we stayed with each night.

When we set out from the West Coast, people we met asked a relatively standard set of questions: Where do you sleep? (almost a 50/50 split between camping and staying in people’s homes) How many miles do you ride each day? (about 70) How will you get home? (We’ll drive) Have you lost weight? (I doubt it) What do you do when you get a flat tire? (We fix it, obviously).  However, as the end of a trip of this scale approaches, people begin to ask deep, open ended questions.  The most frequent: what do you hope to take away from this trip when you finish?

As I’ve written before, the people we’ve met have been the most consistently memorable parts of this trip.  Standing next to a loaded touring bike makes strangers comfortable asking questions, starting conversations, offering their lawns and homes for the evening, or buying a round of drinks.  While I know that my approachability will disappear when I put away my touring bike and panniers, I hope I can start similar interactions with people in my day to day life and pay the generosity forward that we’ve experienced on this trip.

When I returned from South America during 2012, I stopped blogging and journaling until leaving for this trip 5 years later.  While I find that writing every day results in a mundane, boring laundry list of events, writing somewhat regularly forces me to remember and reflect on the previous week.  If I know I’m going to write, I think more activity about the themes of my day to day existence without getting as absorbed in small–and ultimately trivial–details.  Unlike 5 years ago, I’d like to continue to write in some form after this trip concludes.

During a bike tour only a few things need to happen each day.  I need to ride, I need to eat, and I need to find shelter.  More importantly, it’s only possible to accomplish a few things each day.  There are no appointments to keep; very few items to clean, organize, or repair; and answering emails or texts while riding is challenging at best.  When I return to Chicago and Northwestern I’d like to do a fewer things, better; I’d like to schedule less and concentrate more.  Without becoming a hermit it’s challenging to avoid meetings, deadlines, and stress entirely, but sometimes it’s alright for life to move a little slower.

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