Well, in two days I’ll be embarking on my first week-long bike tour. In the US, that is; I’ve done two very cushy week long bike tours in Germany (Munich to Frankfurt) and Italy (Venice to Florence). In these two European adventures, I was with a group of 10-15 or so people, including my buddy Holly from Colorado, and we stayed in 3 to 4 star hotels every night (with bathrooms in each room, unlike the traditional portrayal of European travel). We generally bicycled 30-50 miles every day (I think — it was all in kilometers and I can’t vouch for my calculation skills) in which we proceeded pretty leisurely with multiple stops to do touristy things in between. Holly would probably disagree about my pace being very leisurely… especially on the Italy trip where they gave me a road bike and I just took off like a mad woman every morning.
Anyway, even though these trips tended to be more leisurely and low mileage, by the end of the week, I was generally ready to be done with riding. It was most certainly the best way to see these countries and I will do it again at a moment’s notice the next time I save up the cash to go to a foreign country. However, I cannot stress enough how wearing it is to ride every day for a week. And we’re not talking about flat land here–in Italy, in fact, I climbed a 10km long pass after about a 20 km start of rolling hills. That was my shining moment, though. I loved climbing that pass. It took about two hours, but it was so beautiful.
I will always remember the scenery of the day as well as the hooting Germans at the bar at the top of the pass. Yes, bar. Italians love bars. They are every where–even at the top of passes in the middle of no where. My fellow tour groupers–the few who decided to climb the pass instead of opting out on the train ride to the night’s destination–cheered I crested the top of the pass. And I waited patiently for those behind me to cheer them on as well.
The following day (which was the last day) was pretty hilly. No passes, but it we were in the Apennines mountain range, so it was up and down with a nice swooping finish into Florence from Fiesole. I have a picture of me sprawled across the bed of our hotel in Florence as I murmured to Holly, “I’m done! I’m done with the bike!”
Anyway, XOBA is roughly 50-80 miles per day with relief on the last day of a short 30-something mile ride into New Castle. And Ohio is not without hills. And we will pass through some of them. I’m a bit worried about how I will endure on this ride. Michael wants to do an optional century on one of the days that one is offered and I’m just not sure I can do it and finish the tour. I know I will be tempted into wanting to go with him, but I’m afraid that if I do attempt a century, I will completely cook my legs for the remainder of the week. And I just want to finish. But sometimes, not wanting to be outdone by friends, I make myself do things even when I know they are bad for me. So I don’t know what I’m going to do when the situation arises.
This is vacation. I’m trying to think of it as touring Ohio, just as I toured Italy and Germany. There will be places to see along the way that I’ve truly never seen. I am bringing my camera and unlike so many other cyclists (some of which ruined my only experience of Roscoe Ramble), I plan to stop and take pictures. The journey is more important than the destination. That’s my credo. Cycling is not about finishing first for me. I don’t care if finishing first means getting the first shower–I want to take my time and enjoy myself, dammit. This is a week off work. I’m not here to win a time trial. Leave that crap for the people with their Trek Madones and Orbeas and LeMonds.
I’m bringing a rack pack. Take that, you gram Nazis. I am not listening to any propaganda that tries to imply that I can’t get up a hill because I’ve got an extra couple of pounds sitting on my rack. I want room for my bike chain (it’s from my hybrid, a little heavier and bigger than the typical road bike type), rain gear (which I will undoubtedly need next week), my over-sized camera (I know I need to get one that fits in my jersey pocket, but I don’t have one yet and am not about to go buy one), and anything else I might pick up along the way. Of course, I’m trying not to think about how this might have been a good ride on which to have a Surly Cross Check. I’m sure my Giant OCR 1 will perform spectacularly, however.
I’m doing this ride to have fun. Having fun is my primary objective. It’s vacation. And, if I do okay on the mileage for this ride, perhaps next year I will venture out to something like FANY or RAGBRAI. Or even SAGBRAW. Or perhaps I’ll even take to my own on my vision of a self-contained ride somewhere. Well, maybe not next year since my big trip is supposed to be going to Seattle for the Seattle-to-Portland Classic which is more like a TOSRV sort of thing and less of a tourist sort of ride (though I will probably be going my own pace and picture taking there as well).
The weather forecast is not lending itself to fun, however. Looks like every day next week, save Monday, is isolated or scattered t-storms with chances of rain. Boo. I’m simply insufferable in rain. I get whiny. I know that if it rains on me, I’m going to end up with XOBA’s famous whiny bracelet. Maybe if I whine while no one is around to hear, I will avoid such a fate. Some people seem to have fun even when it’s raining. Personally, I think I’d rather have frigid temperatures and–gasp–even wind than rain. I just don’t like being wet unless I’m in a swimming pool, hot tub, or shower. I don’t like wet brakes squeaking and unreliable. I don’t like my clothes sticking to my body. I don’t care if it is the relief from the hottest day ever. Rain sucks. And it makes me just want to be done with the ride. I mean, it doesn’t make me stop riding, but I am hating every moment until the rain stops.
And heaven forbid dark skies threaten t-storms. This girl seeks shelter at the first sighting of lightning and does not come back out on the road until it goes away. So all you God-tempting mortals who continue to hold metal golf clubs and ride metal bikes, have at it. I’ve never been struck by lightning and I don’t ever intend to be. One time above treeline on a mountain in Colorado, my walking poles started to charge (buzz-buzz) while making my descent during a brewing t-storm; that was enough to convince me my life long respect of lightning has been a healthy one. With merely a one in 5,000 chance of getting struck by lightning in my life time, I am not too bold to think that it would never happen to me. It was pretty rare to be widowed at the age of 26 and I got that one. So there you go! I ain’t tempting the odds, no sir.
A day like today would be absolutely miserable to be riding in. (For you out-of-staters, it’s currently gray, muggy, and drizzly with intermittent periods of heavy showers.) A day like today would bring out Mars Whiny Girl for sure. Most of my whining would be internal, and not outwardly expressed, but you would see it in my eyes and my face–a general lack of humor or more normal cheeriness. And unadulterated silence. When Mars Girl has nothing to say, you know she isn’t happy.
But I’ve read the weather and I can imagine what is in store for the week. So I’m already preparing myself to having some unpleasant days ahead. Which really kind of stinks, being that I was so looking forward to this trip. Despite Ohio’s unwillingness to cooperate, I’ll still try to have fun. If I tell myself it’s not going to be the sunny vacation I imagined, I’ll be less disappointed with the coming week.
Of course, I’ll keep you all informed on my blog. It’ll be nice short entries (I’m sure you’re all pleased about that). My whining or exultation will be the clearest message that gets across with the limited message length available to me on my cell phone (and considering how long it takes me to type anything on the cell phone even with the full QWERTY keyboard). At the end of the day, that’s all you really want to know about the trip on a day-to-day basis anyway.
Yeah. I guess I’m what you call a fair-weather cyclist. But I save my crappy weather challenges for TOSRV. I suppose the more experienced riders of you out there will point out that part of the challenge of cycling is surviving the trials and tribulations of bad weather, difficult hills, long miles, unexpected detours, and saddle chafing. Yeah, yeah. I know. I guess I too enjoy the bragging rights granted to those who do things that most people would give up on at the first sign of difficulty. I get that. Really, I do. I was just hoping that my biggest challenge would be completing the entire week, not surviving the elements.
I hope the weather guys are wrong. If they aren’t, then I’ll endure. It’s just not what I expected or wanted out of my vacation week. What else is new? That’s the story of my life.