The Realities of Cycle Touring

Our progress to date

Progress to date: 21 days, 941 miles

Getting on our bikes day after day. Cycling everywhere. Limited to just what we can fit into our panniers. After almost 1,000 miles, I can give you a small peek into our world of travel.

Probably the biggest piece of reality that I've had to face is that we can't do it all. Not even this Energizer Bunny can reach all the same sights that you can in a car. I thought I was being practical when I chose just the eastern shore of Prince Edward Island to hug the coast. But I had to settle for a small portion of it if we were going to see anything else on the island. Seeing everything up close means seeing less overall. It's not a bad thing. I just had to wrap my brain around it.

Local attractions

Tour books and information signs are meant for car travelers. And directions from locals have to be interpreted with a degree of skepticism. “Just down the road” rarely really is. What's a short detour in a car is a major side trip on a bike. Distances are significant at 12mph. It means we don't veer off our route much. So much for those craft stores “over there.” But then again, we don't have any spare room in our panniers, nor do we want any extra weight. So shopping is a moot point. It's rather liberating, really.

Rich in the home bakery

That bring us to food. Rich's adage is “If you see food, eat.” He's right, really. You can never count on finding something up ahead. We've leaned that lesson the hard way. One morning we hit the jackpot. Spotting signs for a home bakery, we stepped into a kitchen filled with goodies. Leaving with handfuls of baked goods each, we stretched out on the grass to consume them on the spot and sugared our way through the next few miles.

It's those spontaneous personal experiences that are one of the best parts of cycling. Having depleted his water bottles in the heat and headwinds yesterday, Rich stopped at a house where an elderly man was out in his yard. Not only did the man provide cold water from his fridge for refills, he also dispensed sage advice. “You're going the wrong way, young man,” he said with a twinkle. “Gaspé is the other direction. Going with the wind!” That exchange powered Rich's legs for the next few miles!

Most stops we make are fairly short. It's hard to get going again after stopping too long, as our legs stiffen up. And we lose our momentum. At times it makes me feel like all we are doing is moving from point A to point B. So I have to consciously focus on making sure we don't just cycle by interesting places. And I have to remind Rich, “I want to see this town, not just cycle through it.”

Nice view for our rest day

Nice view for our rest day

After leaving our cycling buddies in Maine, we have only a loose itinerary and make detailed travel plans only a day or two ahead. That gives us a lot of flexibility, which is a mixed bag… On one hand, we can now plan around the weather. Rather than repeat our long slog through the rain of a couple weeks ago, we swapped our rest day to coincide with the forecast for rain. It's a lot more pleasant that way. On the other hand, it leaves our route open to interpretation. Invariably, I set my sights on the more aggressive itinerary. Predictably, Rich weighs in on the practical side. Compromise is not always easy.

Would we change anything? Absolutely not. Despite the realities, we're still sold on cycle touring. Good thing, as we're not even half way through the Grand Gaspé Tour yet.


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