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Photo by Adam Coppola
Have you ever in your bike touring experience asked yourself this question: How am I going to get my mail? If you began bike touring within the last ten years, your answer will revolve around internet access and wi-fi availability.
In the 2011 Oct/Nov issue of Adventure Cyclist I wrote a column titled The Decision. It got a lot of responses. I recently read the column on Weekday, a show on public radio station KUOW in Seattle.
It boggles my mind to imagine how many walls I've leaned my bike against. And the closer I get to a wall, the better I like the view. Many walls can look mundane from a distance. Their beauty is revealed only upon closer inspection.
Walls make excellent photo subjects. They stand still. They never tire. And they don't even mind if you lean your bicycle against them while you find just the right angle.
If I were to attempt this dance, there would be much yelling and cursing from my fellow dancers, as my stick connected with flesh rather than wood. My partner would be the one with swollen knuckles and bandages on his head.
There is slightly less pain in the world because I took up bicycle touring, rather than stick dancing.
Let's get right into the down and dirty of bicycle touring. What about laundry?
If you are on a route with plenty of hotels and/or laundromats, the answer is pretty obvious. But what about those journeys far enough off the beaten track where laundry facilities are not an option?
Sometimes I look back over my trip photos and wonder, "Did I take that?"
The above image fits in that category. It's India. It's in my trip folder. Then it dawns on me that even though I was on a solo trip, I didn't take the photo ... because I'm IN it.
There are certain places on this planet where I've cycled that will always have a soundtrack associated with them. Not the traditional soundtrack of a film, but the sounds directly associated with the location.
If you don't have the time to spare for a extended bike trip, you can get loads of inspiration on Bike Overnights.org. But sometimes you can't even afford an overnight. That's the time to head out on a bike breakfast.
Some travel memories are sharp and clear. They stick with you. Ten years later you can recall an event or place or personal exchange as if it happened yesterday.
Others blur and fade and mix with other memories of events, places, trips, and people encountered along the way.
In southeast Oregon there is a fabulous day ride (Diamond Loop Tour). Although this loop is promoted as a driving tour, Kat and I encountered only a dozen vehicles as we pedaled through the high desert on mostly unpaved roads.
We encountered an historic round barn, amazing volcanic formations, and plenty of bird life. Landscape that appeared stark and barren at first glance, became a kaleidoscope of colors, as the sun played hide and seek with thunderclouds.
Late in the afternoon, Kat noticed something on the edge of the opposite side of the road and crossed over to investigate. What she found was tragic and beautiful at the same time.
I came upon two boys in South Africa. The sun was getting low in the sky and I was concerned about finding a place to camp. But I had to stop and check out their vehicle. The older boy was pushing his friend along the road. They were both laughing.
I love hearing stories well told. Spinning a yarn is a gift, and this man has it. Kat and I were cycling in the Deep South and camped in the yard of two delightful hosts. Late in the evening, sitting around their kitchen table, I asked the gentleman to tell me a story off the top of his head. It ended up being about an experience he had while hunting wild hog.
"Give the world outside a point of entry. It'll give back to you."
That lyric stuck in my soul the first time I heard it in Larry Murante's title song of his album Point of Entry.
Music is an incredible force, and each listener interprets what they hear in their own way. Words can be heard and quickly forgotten, but put them to music, and they will most likely be with you forever.
A good pair of binoculars can be a weighty item to add to full panniers. But the few times I've elected to leave them behind, I've regretted doing so. They are for the birds. Literally.
What is the perfect gift? Ask a hundred people, and you'll get a hundred different answers. But when you give one, or receive one -- you know it.
I received one of those gifts thirty years ago. I still carry it with me today.
The summer of 1981 was magical for me. I'd pedaled across the U.S. with my best buddy Thomas. The sense of accomplishment was amazing. My connection to the world around me had never been so raw and wonderful.
It's the time of year when holiday tunes are playing everywhere. But sometimes when you are traveling far away from home in another culture, hearing a Christmas carol or familiar song can be a wonderful reminder of home ... or not.
If bread is the Staff of Life, it is also, at the very least, the Kickstand of Cycling. It holds you up and keeps you from falling over. I love this carbolicious treat.
I enjoy taking extra time to compose my photos while I'm on the road. The slower nature of bicycle travel suits both me and my photography. But once in the city, I enjoy taking what I call "hip shots."
The cold November rains have come and my mind drifts off to warmer places on the planet. While we are slamming into winter here in the U.S., New Zealand is sliding into summer.
If you have the pleasure of taking a bike trip in New Zealand, don't miss the cathedral. While I know there are beautiful churches in Christchurch and Auckland, I'm referring to one made by Mother Nature.
The smiles of the men in this picture, enjoying a beer after a long bike ride, help make up my mental collage of Colombia. They flew by us in a tightly packed pace line as we pedaled our heavily loaded, lumbering touring bikes out of Bogotá. Waves and smiles and they were gone.
One of the many things I love about travel is that it constantly tweaks our own language. Each one of my bicycle journeys has redefined certain words: beautiful, ugly, loud, serene, rich, poor, fair, unfair, tragedy, happiness.
Their smiles challenge me. Okay Mr. Traveler, can you have as much fun as we do?
They are gifts of the road. Nature's snacks ripened just for you. Their aromas fill the hot summer's breezes and the late fall's chill. Roadside trees, far from any home or farm, display these treats more beautifully than any row of sweets in a candy shop. They must have been planted for the benefit of touring cyclists. Why else would their heavily laden branches lean over the road?