Early reflections on bike touring

Olympic Forest, Washington USA.
Olympic Forest, Washington USA.

There’s more too it than sustainable travel – it’s hard work, rewarding, draining, satisfying, and exhilarating. The new feelings I discovered from bike touring down the West Coast of the US flow below.

pace – the newfound sense of it all, stripped away from the usual travel speed, we push on at a constant flow.  Horses reciprocate my quizzical gaze as I approach them slowly and from strange angles.  I find myself craning my neck to see into yards and discover I have time to scan them thoroughly – this raises questions that keep me pondering as I ride. It also gives time to digest.

There’s a curiosity that comes with seeing more than you usually do of someone’s life: The junk. The animals. The run down sheds. The signs of rural USA which are notable and both overt, such as the bright red placards erected in former logging towns in Washington reading, “Working forests are working families”, and discrete – long lost buildings and communities, forgotten by the state.

There is also a deep contentment that comes with the realisation that I am not fast and the acceptance that I will never be.

It’s just me and the lone apple tree whose been sitting quietly for centuries on the side of the road – what has she seen? Whose homestead was she feeding once upon a time? Slowly passing by.

openness– on many levels there is openness. Vast wide spaces abound: distant horizons, barren hills, crashing Pacific coastal waves, flowing sand dunes.

I am open: My exposed raw skin soaking in dirt, bugs, wind, sun, rain, bites, cold, and heat.

And now there are no boundaries between me and you – you can talk to me if you like, for I am on a bike. There is nothing between us any more. I am open to you in more ways than you realise as we pass.

peace – defined for me at that quiet time first thing in the morning out of the tent and on the bike, where refreshing dewdrops blanket the ankles’ awake, birds chirp in the trees, and the damp fall leaves are still stuck to the ground. The roads are quiet and with no traffic we have the silence of dreams.

nostalgia –more than abandoned apple trees dropping their fruit to no hands: who is that creek named after and why? The simultaneous satisfaction and sadness I feel from seeing decrepit buildings. The wonder continues.

senses – these are overloaded. Constantly. The feeling of that wind, the noise, that pounding rain; the intense vibration beneath and around me on a highway feeling that raw rhythm as vehicles pass – a new found appreciation for what cars experience on their commute, perhaps. Battered?

Silence, in the tent at nightfall when it is all over. Exhaustion.

Hunger, the intense desire to constantly eat as I fuel my body onwards.

Smells from factories and farms: that thick scent of silage, that sweet throaty whiff of hay. Or putrid stenches of rotting road kill.

The taste of it all at the end of the day.

The constant thud of new muscles tearing and rebuilding.

That well earned hug when we finally make it – how real your body feels to me now.

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