Friday, May 31, 2013

Lessons learned

These thoughts are based on the tour experience, but some of them can be generalized to all life experiences.

You can do more than you think you can, but you have to try.

Know your limitations but don't be afraid to try going outside them, just choose the when/where/why wisely.

Accept the trip you are on - don't try to make it what you expected or wanted it to be.

Realize that everyone on your tour is on a different tour from everyone else on your tour.  Each person has their own expectations, needs, problems and goals and they may not match yours.

PACK LIGHT.  Then take out at least one third of what you packed.  Honestly, no one cares that you only have two t-shirts.  Unless you go off on your own, there will be no restaurant or venue that won't let you in wearing shorts and a t-shirt - or bike shorts and jersey for that matter.  You and your tour mates will be hauling those bags in and out of the trailer and up and down stairs for two solid months, they seem heavier every day.  

Be open to new experiences, new people and new foods - but hold on to the things that make you comfortable and happy.

Take pictures and keep a journal/blog - it is amazing how quickly the towns/states/hotels and rides start to blur together in your memory.

Do it.  Do it NOW - tomorrow might be too late.

Friday, May 17, 2013

NOT the end.


Front tire, Atlantic Ocean, May 2, 2013
The tour is over, but it is most definitely not the end of its effects - those continue to reverberate through my life in many ways.  I am a different person now and that is sometimes an unsettling feeling. 
Unsettled is the best word I can find to describe myself right now.  I want more out of my life, but I am not quite sure what "more" means or how to go about it.  I am making steps into bike advocacy in my local community, I am signed up for a century ride at Tour de Corn, I am enjoying the few miles I have put on the bike since I got it back on Tuesday and I am still plotting handlebar adjustments/alterations that would let me do long distances without my hands going numb. 
But.  The "bubble" has popped.  No longer is biking the ONLY thing I have to do all day.  Of course I realized that aspect of the tour would end in St. Augustine, but now I am struggling a bit with how I am going to fit riding into the rest of my life.  I don't know that I am willing to settle for the old routines but I don't have new ones in place....yet.  The 200+ mile weeks will probably be very rare and I'm not sure that's okay with me. 
The real issue isn't so much the miles, but the quality of the experience - I got spoiled on the tour with a plethora of riding companions, some (most) of them stronger than I, some more my speed.  Now I ride mostly by myself.  Cycling is interesting in the way it is a solitary experience that you can share with others.  It is also like a lot of other fitness activities, having other people participate is motivating.  The routines of the tour were also helpful - you got up, put on your riding clothes, packed and loaded your bag, got your bike ready and once the snack table was out, you could start riding.  That routine won't always work here, so I will be developing new ones.  I am hoping that my community activities will lead me to more riding companions as well as making this a more bike friendly town.
One thing I know for sure.  EVERY dollar I spent on this tour was well worth it.  I continue to see the value in new ways every day.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013


This is my fourth day back at home and I still feel a little unsettled.  After two months in a bubble, my old life doesn't seem to quite fit me now.  The question seems to be whether the life changed or I did.

I am picking up old routines and not quite sure that I really want to go back to them, yet the routines of the road weren't complete either.  So.  I go about dealing with the mountain of mail and magazines, the clothes and suitcases that need to be put away, finding the things that aren't where I left them, and trying to figure out exactly what I want to change about my life.

This two month experience was pretty all consuming in spite of maintaining contact with the world at home.  Stuff happened in both places but one didn't necessarily affect the other.  As far as the cycling went, I became a better, stronger rider and I'd like to think I also became a better, stronger person.  How that manifests now that I am home remains to be seen. 

I do know that I want to do more and be more and engage outside myself more - I want to get off my duff and participate more in my community, being a biking advocate will become part of that.  I want to work harder at being the strongest, healthiest person I can be.  I want what I have done to matter, both to me and to others.

I will encourage everyone I meet to do SOMETHING BIG.  To take risks, to be bold, to stretch their limits - it doesn't have to be cycling, there are lots of ways of stepping outside yourself and seeing things in a different light.  DO it.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

We end as we began.....

On the beach, in the rain.

We had a delightful ride this morning - 40 miles to the St. John's fire station - it was cool and misty, everything we saw was lush and green.  Some of the road ran along the St. John's River.

The fire station was a great place to meet up and we took full advantage of the opportunity to take pictures.  I don't know if it was specifically allowed, but we climbed all over the fire truck like a bunch of 8 year olds.  Pictures as soon as I  can load them.

Eventually everyone was ready, riders, guides and police escort.  The seven mile ride was increasingly wet and rainy.  It was quite a thrill - even for old ladies - to be accompanied across town with lights and sirens.  We DID it!  As we crossed the bridge to the beach I was thinking that Nancy would have loved this.  And I was a little sad that there would be no one there to meet me.

It was quite a walk to the beach and the rain got harder and harder.  But when I turned around after dipping my tire, there was Emily and of course, where Emily is, Nancy will not be far away.  Now I had "family" too.  It was the perfect end to the tour.  After a picnic lunch, we got into various vehicles and made our soggy way to the hotel.  

Tonight will be the farewell banquet for the riders and tomorrow I will fly home.  It is over.  There will be much retrospection and introspection before I figure out what all this means to me and how, exactly, it has changed me.  That will be interesting, I am sure.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Down to the wire

Yesterday was a 77 mile day and had a lot of nice highlights.  The roads were flanked by fields and fields of beautiful pink, red, magenta, yellow and white flowers (pictures when I get to my computer) that were just breathtaking.  It was cool for the morning and that made things nice, though as it warmed up the bugs got more active. Most of the ride looked a lot like Missouri, but flat.

I had some Dolly moments, stopping to take pictures and read roadside markers and a few "this is your brain on Benadryl" moments too.  In the afternoon, we met up with Kieth again and it was nice to ride with him for a while.

It was also Wendy's birthday, so she got the birthday dinner she wanted (hot dogs with all the fixin's) and of course cake for desert.

I think we are all very concious that our little bubble is about to burst and spray us all back to the various places we came from.  Reentry will be interesting.

Today started out cloudy and stayed that way, with occasional spatters of rain - at least the cooler temps kept the bugs down.  Nothing remarkable about this ride, lots of miles, lots of trucks, lots of debris on the shoulders (when we had shoulders).  Very few turns and/or road changes though, so the cue sheet was short - not much to remember.  I have developed quite the taste for McDonalds wild berry smoothies - will have to try copying the recipe at home.

Tomorrow is our very last day.  We will ride to the fire station, get a police escort to the beach, have a picnic and dip our tires.  Later that night will be the banquet and then we disperse.  Not quite sure how to feel about that right now, but I will update when I get home.

Thanks to all of you for reading the blog, commenting and offering me your support and encouragement.