April 13, 2012
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.
But if you have been doing this for a long time, you'll remember trying to plan out your mail stops. Post offices along your route, where you asked (sometimes pleaded with) friends to send you physical missives. You informed them to send those letters to a post office with your name and a note, "Please hold for traveling cyclist."
Then you hoped and prayed that the employees at that small town post office would do just that. Hold your mail. So that at some unforeseen date you could physically hold your mail. Caress it even. For it was treasure. Handwritten news from home. Maybe a photo or two. Or a newspaper clipping about an event where you were missed.
I miss those days. But I'm being nostalgic. And nostalgia has selective memory.
It forgets the time you arrived at a post office on a Friday afternoon and stared at the "closed" sign and realized you'd have to wait until Monday morning. And there certainly wasn't a guarantee that you'd have mail waiting for you.
Nostalgia forgets physical mail has heft, and because it is precious, impossible to throw away. Six pounds and growing in your back pannier.
It forgets how often you wanted to change your route, only to realize you'd miss a mail stop, so you trudged on as planned ... only to have nothing waiting for you behind the counter.
But nostalgia always remembers the chocolate chip cookies. Wrapped with care and boxed and mailed. True love.
Communicating while on the road has never been easier. But you still can't send cookies over the internet. At least not the kind you'd want to eat.
Photos 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.