Solo Bike Touring – A Long Night

‘I can do this, I really can.’


All through that night in the tent, I repeated that mantra hoping it would help me fall asleep. Really, there was little choice. I had ridden my bike the 49 miles from my home in Northampton, MA to Fort Dummer State Park in Brattleboro, Vermont. Now, here I was alone in a big field on a cold summer night trying to sort out the noises just outside my tent.

Going on this solo bike trip was something I had been contemplating since my spouse, Heidi, and I had completed a bike tour along the Erie Canal with our two sons. That trip had us cycling along the 400 mile canal route over eight days and spending the night with the other 400 riders in a ‘Tent City.’ Literally a city of tents sharing a schoolyard. We were often close enough to the next tent to hear the snoring of our neighbors.

Snoring meant other people were around, but here I was alone, being unsettled by the unfamiliar sounds. I grew up in the city, and began camping as an adult, and only with other people, never alone. I could hear the wind in the trees, but could that rustling leaf be a raccoon, a skunk, or even worse, a psycho-killer? My mind raced with the possibilities, trying to sort out each one, going through various scenarios, trying to figure out my responses.

All of this thinking meant no sleep.

At home, I sometimes lull myself to sleep by imagining myself all snug in my sleeping bag, in a tent after a long day of bike touring. But here I was, alone in my bag, and this reality was not as fun as I had imagined.

As the night wore on, I figured out how to make myself warmer in the bag by putting clothes under my legs, and my feet in the sleeping bag stuff sack. Eventually I was able to drown out the sounds and fall asleep.

The next morning I packed up and rode home, a little more tired than I would have liked, but I made it, and I even enjoyed the ride.

Doing that trip for me was a big breakthrough in a number of ways, emotionally and physically. I’ve done a number of trips since then, and I continue to learn ways to make to make the load I carry lighter, ride more efficiently, pick interesting and lightly trafficked roads to ride on.

But now, six years later, being alone in that tent I know I learned more about myself than I would have thought possible.

Has biking made an impact on your life? Leave me a comment telling me about your experience.

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About Pedal Paradise

Cyclist, Mom, Travel Nut, Bike Riding Empower-er!
This entry was posted in Memory Lane, Touring, Travel and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Solo Bike Touring – A Long Night

  1. I totally love that photo of you, triumphant!

    Biking is all about overcoming limitations for me. I have poor habits of fitness, and health limitations that make it easy not to push beyond my habits. The desire to ride my bike — it’s such a simple thing, after all– helps me to overcome my ideas about what I can and cannot do physically. I’m also a very competitive person, so the first I thought when I read your story was “Well, I can’t do a 50 mile bike trip to Vermont!” This mental habit of competition stops me from thinking about what I can do, and from focusing on what gives me pleasure. Overcoming my mental limitations takes more practice than does overcoming the physical ones!

    Still, actual physical limitation made it impossible for me to bike this year. I’m sad about that. Reading your blog helps to keep me focused on that mental openness to the possibility of getting stronger, having gentle adventures, and finding new ways to pursue pleasure. And I’m working slowly and steadily to make sure that I’m ready for the road this spring.

    • I like that idea of gentle adventures. Everything does not have to be huge and grand. It took me a long time to feel comfortable calling myself a bike rider because my rides are mostly short, or on the trips of a few days. I don’t race, don’t do hours long rides for the most part. I just go out because I like it.

      I like how it makes me feel. I like how I like and appreciate things more while I’m riding.

      I’m so looking forward to seeing on your bike this spring. Have you picked out your scarf yet?

      Gina

  2. Clayton says:

    Once, a construction foreman told me about his experience in the army making camp in a freezing cold environment. He said the secret to keeping warm in your sleeping bag was to strip down naked before you enter it, then zip it up tightly. He said it’s the body which heats the small space which makes it work so well.

    I tried it and it works well. I don’t strip naked in my bag, but I do strip down to my boxers. When my wife and I camp, she bundles up before getting in the bag, and adds blankets too. Yet, she complains of being cold all night. I’m in my boxers and stay comfy. Initially, the bag is cold to the skin, but it doesn’t take too long to get good and toasty.

  3. Clayton,

    I’ve heard this advice, and I gotta say, it really is hard to believe! My tendency is toward your wife’s method, but I have trained myself to wear thin thermals and fresh socks, not the sweaty ones I’ve had on for hours. I have since upgraded to a down bag I found on sale and it keeps me quite toasty. I love it! Plus, it’s lighter than my old bag and packs smaller.

    Thank you for adding that sleeping bag advice to the discussion. I know it will help someone.

    Gina

  4. psoutowood says:

    Biking for me has always been about freedom. I love the outdoors and mountain biking gets me out into the country in a such a simple and delightful way. There’s something about this two-wheeled machine, under your own power, that can take you someplace quickly and efficiently, that’s truly remarkable. Winding down singletrack with wild grasses sweeping my legs and my heart thumping in my ears, I’m glad to be alive and on a bike!

    • psoutowood wrote:

      “I’m glad to be alive and on a bike!”

      This is exactly the feeling! When I’m on my bike I feel alive in a way few experiences provide. Especially after climbing up some very difficult hill, or smelling the pine trees as you ride by. Things you completely miss going along the same roads in a car.

      Beautifully put.

      Gina

  5. It also is good to have something under your sleeping bag, even cardboard will work but the fairly light closed cell stuff is nice. And this makes some noise, but those “space” blankets that reflect the body heat back up to you are nice also.

    I grew up in the country, and we “tune out” those noises, except for when they are not there. Then it is time to “sit up and take notice”.
    When the owls are hooting, the mice and such are scurrying around and the wolves and such might be howling, then all is OK.
    Bet you appreciate someone beside you when you got back home?
    I yearn to get well enough so I can ride like that.
    But right now it is healing.
    Good for you, you learned stuff, and can do it again soon, next summer.

    Have a great Holiday Season

    charlie

    • Charlie,

      Thanks for the great tips about staying warm. I did learn a bunch that trip. I learn something every time I take a trip. Just this summer between the trips I took with the 2 boys in the same month, I got rid of several pounds of my load, and figured out have to pack things more compactly and efficiently.

      Keep healing.

      Gina

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