‘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.