For anyone who has been outside of their own town with a fully loaded touring bike has probably had strangers ask a few questions. Stopping at a grocery store and eating some snacks in the shade by the entry is a likely place. Some common questions are things like, “where are you from?” “where are you going?” “how much does your bike weigh?” And there are variations to another common one but to simplify it is “why?”
So here i am, thinking about what my answer is. This time. And im asking myself, not drafting an answer to dish out to locals.
I’ve toured before. My first Why was to see the Pacific Ocean. I was a good few years younger and had not done much traveling, none by myself for more than a day and I was about to ride my bike across the country. Not coast to coast, it was from my home town in Ohio to somewhere unknown in California. I didn’t have the money so i never even thought about flying to some other coastal start point. I did end up taking a bus back home but anyway, I learned a lot on that trip. I learned a lot on the first day. Meet lots of great people. The whole thing was the best thing I had done with my life. I felt great and learned some very good lessons about life and people.
A few months after that tour ended I did more traveling. I drove from Ohio to a ski town in Colorado and spent a few months there snowboarding. After Spring began I wanted to go home again but after a few months at home I thought about how easy it would be to go on another tour. It had cost me a good bit to buy a bike and panniers and all my camping gear and things for my first trip, but now I already had all that. And I had a better idea of my daily costs so i could budget more accurately. Also I’d learned how to camp for free. Going on another awesome trip was almost a given. So now the Why was to relive the experience of my first trip.
But once I got out there things weren’t the same. I did not have anywhere near the same experience. It was not very good. I could blame the area of the country i was in. And that may have been some of it, SC for example, but really I wanted it to be something defined when i should have just let thing happen how they will. My Why (the Why i told myself , not the Why i told inquisitive locals at grocery stores) had messed me up. And i didnt figure it out until too late. I had thought my second trip would be from Ohio to the Atlantic Ocean then ride down to Key West, then go up along the Gulf coast and follow that to Texas, a state I’d never been to. But being so disappointed in my trip and myself i quit in FL many miles before Miami.
After all that traveling I’d only spent less than 6 months in Ohio of the last 16. All together it was rad, but I was broke. I stayed home for a year before I did any more traveling. And for a long while all my trips were in cars. I still wanted to ride bikes but I’d basically done a coast to coast-ish ride. And I was not as excited to tour anymore.
Leap forward a few years. I’d done more traveling. Lived in CO briefly, CA for a bit, and was now residing in NYC. I for some reason started to think about planning another solo tour. Oh wait! I remember thinking about another tour before I left CA. It was to be something to do with my self before I relocated. I did not have a job or apartment waiting as i drove away from the west coast so that seemed like a good time to go on a long bike ride.
Fresh from CA, I was in Ohio only a week before I got a call from a friend in NYC asking if I wanted to move into an empty room they had and get a job with them. So I did. And so i did not go on another tour.
But! After about 3 years in NYC i did think I really wanted to do a big tour. More than coast to coast. Something better described as all over, or maybe a perimeter tour. The crazy thing was that at that same time there was a call for riders to be hired to do a promotional group ride from NY to LA. I wasnt amped on the route but i didnt mind either. On the plus side I’d be in a group and I’d get paid to do it (still cant believe that part). I did get that job and I did another tour. So that Why was really a Why Not!
Jump another couple years of still living in NYC and I do another tour. This time I’d started planing it to begin at the end of a lease on an apartment I/we had no interest in renewing. I was wanting to do something like an independent tour i might have done in 2009. And I was somewhat miserable. I needed a change. I wanted to see more of North America and I had not much else going on. My Why was, if I’m going to be down, the least i can do is get on my bike, see new places and take pictures along the way.
Not that i had grown up but i had lived enough to know that riding my bike, seeing new places, and taking pictures is what makes me happy. Also I sleep better if its in a tent after riding a heavy ass bike for 80 miles or so. Really then my Why was to see if i’d get better sleep.
Now. here I am almost exactly 18 months after my last ride ended and im looking forward to another. Why?