November 26, 2018
At the start of the Intro to Road Touring course, I already felt fairly comfortable touring, camping, and the likes. I wasn't really sure at first what would be my challenges and new experiences, but surely they came. Firstly, I'd only ever really toured alone or in a leadership position with riders I selected and knew. With this tour, I was thrust into a very eclectic group of weirdos ranging from mother-son duos to retired couples to a crazy kid from Omaha. Touring and camping are fairly straightforward business, but navigating group dynamics of a diverse 13 person troupe was certainly a fun challenge. We quickly became like a strange family. My tour-mates were definitely the most enjoyable.
Challenges abound on every adventure, that's what makes it great! Particularly, this tour was my first major introduction to riding on busy roads. Having ridden thousands of miles of highway now, it seems far-gone the time when the road made me nervous. But, it was this tour that opened my eyes on the the busy 101 south of Waldport, Oregon. For the first time, I experienced large logging trucks barreling by me as I attempted to crest the next hill. I learned that a highway shoulder was a God-sent savior, and no shoulder could be expected and OK.
Well, I clearly have used the skills I learned on the Intro to Road Touring course. I'm 1,700 miles into a solo journey on the Pacific Coast Highway. Distinctly though, I took one major thing from my Intro to Road Touring companions. This isn't strict backpacking, ultra light, mega LNT... road touring can have it's luxuries! I've treated myself to cooking big egg potato breakfasts, or soaking in a town, things unique to bike touring versus back-country travel.
My knowledge and experience in bike touring has been exponential over the last year. From beginning with my first tour in August 2017, to riding the Pacific Coast Route solo in fall 2018. Thus, the scope and nature of my outreach project has changed, and in many ways, it will be ongoing.
Firstly, in June of 2018, I led a group of five first-time bike tourers from Pittsburgh to Cumberland, Maryland. I wore many hats along this journey. We started in May 2018 by learning about maps, bike basics, and planning a touring trip. By the time we left in June, everyone had learned skills in tent-craft (knots, tarp-shelters), camp cooking (including LNT), and basic bike maintenance (tubes, chains).
I decided to really try and live as an ambassador for getting my peers bike touring. I've used my solo journey from Vancouver to San Diego as the vehicle for this. Through hundreds of real conversations with folk along the way, I've shown people that a 22-year old can do amazing things with a little time and a bike. I believe that simply leading by example helps to inspire others.
In addition to the in-person conversations, I've been meticulous about sharing and growing my experiences online as to reach and inspire those further than I can in person. Through Instagram, I've posted over 70 bike-touring related posts in the last year, and I've had over 50,000 impressions on these in total. Through Instagram, I've had countless friends and strangers reach out about bike touring and excited to learn more about it. Also, I've started my own bike touring blog https://sentfrommybike.com which has had over 200 new readers in this last month alone. I plan to keep growing these both.
Now, I plan to continue running what I'll call "Peer-Led Bike Tours" which encourage folks to come and try out a bike tour in a cooperative, non-profit manner. We'll plan and make decisions together, and I'll serve as the default leader to tie things together. I'm hoping to partner these with the West Virginia Tourism Department and create some on-road touring in West Virginia. The plan for this is May/June 2019.
Along the way, I got to experience the same magic I felt in August on my first tour all over again with my participants. They each seemed to have an "Aha" moment in realizing the true power of our bodies and minds when put to challenge. Our tour was a resounding success, and I think I helped make some bike-touring lovers.
The fun! The magic of first-tours.
Image 1 & 2 by Sandra Corso, images 3, 4 & 5 courtesy of Ankur Kumar.