January 12, 2016
One of the things I’ve always liked most about Adventure Cyclist magazine is the personal stories. They can be very inspiring and validating, especially when you may be pondering your own bike travel dreams.
So I say, “More bicycling stories!” Any type: How did you get into biking? Why do you bike? Where have you been? What’s the funniest thing that happened to you while traveling? The most poignant? The most life changing?
My story is in the life-changing category. Many years ago, a surgical accident rendered my left leg changed for the rest of my life. Grim prognoses, years of rehab, supportive devices and stockings, financial ruin, “permanence," looking at myself in the mirror and wondering who I was and which dreams were shattered forever.
One of my dreams had always been to ride across the country on a bike. And how did this cross my radar? Bikecenntenial. Yep. In my teens, some time after hearing about the 1976 ride, I doodled out an itinerary and gear list on a piece of yellow college-ruled paper while sitting in a very boring class. I also took meticulous care of my Nishiki ten-speed in hopes it would do the job some day.
Then it all stopped. I forgot about that dream altogether as I navigated through the few years following the surgical accident.
One day, I finally woke up and got defiant. I got my old hard tail mountain bike out and, with virtually no experience beyond the riding I had done as a kid, rode through a summer to see if I could ride. I could, so, taking what I deemed the next logical step, I signed up for a cross-country tour the next year.
That winter I trained in the ice and snow in a full winter snowsuit with gaiters and toe clips big enough for my hiking boots. I bought the touring bike I still ride today and got real gear and shoes.
That summer, off I went with a group across the country. I was mostly heart and not much skill. I stumbled, cursed up long mountain climbs, got hit with sodas thrown out car windows, was blown off the road in the wake of a big semi, and was still hindered a lot by this constant throb in my left leg, but I was out there.
That was 15 years ago and I never looked back.
When I say biking changed my life direction, I mean it literally yanked me away from the label of a victim who was somewhat disabled and limited, and put me right on the path to now.
That turn of the compass spread to every other part of my life and now I live in a world where every day there are new possibilities and a fresh start. As a tour leader, I heard so many stories, like mine, about what biking did for people: rich and resilient stories of the power of the human spirit. Biking seems to do that to a person.
Whenever I get on my bike, especially to travel, I am re-inspired by life’s possibilities.
Everyone has a story, what’s yours?
If you’d like to share your biking stories, we have a guest blog submission site you can check out.
All photos from Linda Baldwin
ON THE ROAD is written by the tours team—Whitney, Mandy, Linda, Emma and Arlen—tours specialists and intrepid bicyclists, helping you bring your cycling dreams to fruition. Check out our 2016 Guided Tours today!