Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Second Half of the Trip and Final thoughts from Joan

Although the second half of our bike trip (from Cincinnati to Owen Sound) started with a long and rainy day, we were SO ready to be back on the bikes and moving forward to complete this journey after a 10 day layover in Cincinnati. I was particularly happy because I COULD SEE AGAIN!!!! We may not have mentioned earlier in the blog that I was having trouble seeing well out of my bike mirror. The mirror that we bought for my new touring bike prior to this trip was positioned at the end of my left drop handlebar. Unfortunately, this positioning doesn’t work well when you have full panniers that block the view. I spent the first half of this trip (from Mobile to Cincinnati) very frustrated and nervous at not being able to see what was coming up behind me (remember all those big logging trucks in the South?). I tried a helmet mirror along the way, but didn’t feel comfortable with this design. Upon reaching Cincinnati and our own bike store (Jim’s Bicycle Shop), Tony recommended an oval mirror that velcros to the side of the left upper handlebar and sticks out far enough to allow me a clear view. THIS WAS WONDERFUL and made cycling on busy roads and left turns much safer and a whole lot more fun. The only downside was that the mirror interfered with my ability to wave to people from the bike while still keeping my hands on the handlebars. And so, regretfully, I had to terminate my “wave experiment” in the Northern States. So, we set out on the second half of the trip with a joy that was not too tempered by the weather and distance of the first day.

I must say that even though riding in the South proved to be a good experience because the people were so hospitable and the countryside so beautiful, the roads in the Mid-West and North seemed safer for bikes. Paved bike trails, backcountry roads, wide shoulders, and official bike lanes made our travel easier. And, I don’t know where the trucks go in the North, but they were seldom on the roads suggested by Adventure Cycling! OK, there were a few exceptions (especially in Canada) where I wondered who in the world planned this route and would we get off this road alive but the majority of the time, we had easy going, if you didn’t count that darn escarpment in Canada!

Another difference between the South and the North is the level of interest we would raise while riding through a small town. In the South, we were definitely a novelty and many a conversation was started by locals asking where we were going and to question our sanity about biking NORTH. They were truly concerned about us and interested in our story. Leaving Cincinnati with loaded down bikes and obvious strange travel attire, we garnered hardly a glance and no comments whatsoever from the passersby. Of course that was a rainy Friday morning and most normal people were focused on their commute to work – poor things. But this indifference, or tendency to keep to one’s self, or not ask personal questions, continued throughout the rest of our trip. Now if we initiated the conversation, they usually were very interested and open to conversation but rarely were we approached spontaneously (except Don in Burton, Ohio, a fellow cyclist, who stopped his truck in the middle of a busy road to offer us a place to spend the night!). I’m sure that it was also partly due to the much larger number of cyclists out on the road – we just weren’t a novelty anymore. But even the road cyclists out for their morning constitutional (who looked like sleek race horses next to our pack horse bikes), rarely slowed down as they passed us or inquired about our loaded bikes and plans.

And so we traveled on, the weather increasingly cooler and great for biking and all of the hills bearable, or better. I am proud to say that neither Mike nor I walked a single hill. Our bikes did great with their low gears – you just keep spinning with your head down so that you don’t get too overwhelmed at the sight of the hill in front of you!

Now we are home. It feels good to settle in, get back to work, and have regular communication with family and friends. I must admit that I find myself looking at the world in a slightly different manner. I am more aware of how happy I can be with a simpler lifestyle and how easy it is to waste our natural resources without thinking. I want to spread the word about cycling as an excellent form of exercise as well as a way to conserve. I need to bike. A few days ago, I felt an overwhelming urge to get on the bike and sweat. I grabbed Mike and we did some miles on the new bike/hike trail near our home. It felt good. Now, we need to figure out what’s next. I did learn from this long distance trip that a nomadic life would not be good for me long term. I need friends and family and a community and work and a passion to grasp hold of. But I was also reminded how much I enjoy traveling with my husband and how much we enjoy unique adventures and meeting new people. Cycling will continue to be a part of our lives, and another long distance trip (or 2 or 3…) is probably in our future but right now, it is most important to me to focus on “finding home” and that passion or passions that will take us to the next phase of our lives together. Stay tuned.


No comments: