“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness … and many of our people need it solely on these accounts.”
— Mark Twain, 1835-1910
KOUNTZE, Texas — My middle son, Matt, suggested that I do a blog post about the daily routine on this cross-country bicycle trip. I wondered whether such minutia would be of interest to readers, but my sister-in-law Rennae thought it would be a capital idea.
So here’s a snapshot of daily life on a self-contained journey on two wheels:
I usually set my cellphone alarm for 5:30 a.m., but the biological clock in my head awakens me a few minutes before the alarm goes off. I then turn off the alarm so that it doesn’t wake up the other riders in our group who might have pitched their tents near to mine, or who already haven’t been awakened by my snoring.
I try to have all that stuff ready to load into the bike panniers once I’m ready to take down the tent.
Then it’s time for the morning visit to the bathroom facilities for the morning toilette — teeth-brushing and other important bodily functions that occur in the morning.
If I’m on the cooking rotation, I’d have to arise a bit earlier to help get ready for the crew’s breakfast. Essentially, that involves filling a large aluminum pot with water and heating it over one of our two camp stoves for coffee and instant oatmeal, setting out on one section of a table — if we have one available — all of the breakfast items, such as cereal, milk, juice, yogurt, etc., and in a separate section the makings for the day’s lunch on the road: jars of peanut butter and jam, lunchmeat, cheese, bread, bagels, cookies, condiments, etc. Each of us usually makes a sandwich to eat on the road, as well as some cookies and perhaps some grapes, an orange or an apple.
If I have time before breakfast, I try to get my bike loaded up and ready to go for the day’s ride. Sometimes I take down the tent before breakfast, sometimes after.
After a last-minute check of tire pressure, I try to get on the road at around 8 a.m. The day’s ride averages about 57 miles over varying terrain and in conditions depending on the part of the country we’re traveling through — sometimes mountains, sometimes desert, sometimes in searing heat, sometimes in torrential rain. Sometimes we’ll stop at a roadside cafe for a late breakfast or lunch, and the sandwich prepared that morning goes uneaten.
Son Matt also wondered whether we ride as a group or singly. We generally set off on our own or with a group of riders who travel at our own pace. I usually ride alone because I don’t like to linger too long at roadside eateries. If you stay too long, it’s hard to get back onto the bike to continue the day’s journey.
At the end of the ride, usually in mid-afternoon or early evening depending on the distance traveled, we arrive at the day’s destination — an RV park, a state park or perhaps a cheap motel.
If we’re camping, the first task is to find a suitable tent site with perhaps some shade and good drainage in case of rain. Then it’s time to pitch the tent and unpack all of the gear that was so carefully packed into the panniers that morning — sleeping bag, pads, computer, reading materials — and put it into the tent.
I sleep very well in my coffin-size solo tent, and it’s like a cozy little home in the evening.
If the campsite has electrical outlets and a wi-fi connection, I try to update this blog before or after dinner, which is usually ready by about 7 p.m., depending on the length of the day’s ride.
Dinner is usually followed by a map meeting conducted by our guide, Dave Cox, who outlines the route for the next day, gives an estimate of the mileage to be traveled and tells us where we all have to end up the next evening.
Sometimes it’s a state park with few lights and starry skies above. Sometimes it’s a raucous RV park, such as the one in Del Rio, where a group of locals were having a party at a trailer next to our tents. I was dozing off when the beams of bright headlights pierced my the fabric of my tent and the left front wheel of a pickup stopped barely six feet from my tent flap.
I used my iPod to listen to music to drown out the bubba babble. So I missed the best quote of the night, as recorded by fellow rider Reg Prentice on his blog, bicarious.blogspot.com:
“Bill-lee, would you stawp your dawg humpin’ my dawg’s hee-ad?”
Such is life on the road, and it starts over again in the morning.