October 29, 2010
I am always one to look for a route with as little traffic as possible. Dealing with the noise and safety issues of lots of cars and trucks really can bring my travel spirits down.
Portugal has been amazing. Kat and I have been pedaling the mostly back roads of this scenic country for over a month now. Because we are traveling off season, we have had many roads to ourselves.
A narrow winding road with no shoulder and little or no traffic can be perfect. But take that same road and add traffic and trucks and the fun is over and the danger element kicks in.
There have been times on this trip that we've found ourselves on tiny roads, that the big trucks use as well. I still don't like the noise, but not a single time have we had a motorist or a trucker honk at us in anger. We've heard the brakes squeal behind us as a large truck slows way down, waiting for a safe moment to pass. This can be quit a distance on a winding road. But no honking. No shaking fists or yells to get off the road. Just a wave of acknowledgment and sometimes even a thumbs up.
I'm not used to this. I like it, but I'm not used to it. And you know what? The more often I'm treated this way, the more likely I am to find a place where I can pull over so a truck can pass me without having to wait.
We've felt the same way in the cities of Portugal as pedestrians. Cars, buses, and trucks actually stop for us at crosswalks.
Sharing the road is more than a bumper sticker. It's an attitude of mutual respect. And one that more Americans (cyclists and drivers) need work on.
Photo by Willie Weir
SIGHTS AND SOUNDS is posted every other Friday. Willie Weir is a columnist for Adventure Cyclist magazine. His books, Travels with Willie and Spokesongs, will inspire you to hit the road, and might change the way you approach bicycle travel. He lives in Seattle with his wife Kat. You can read about their adventures at http://yellowtentadventures.com.