One of the most fun parts of preparing for a cross-country cycle tour was telling people about my plans. This garnered a wide variety of responses. I thought I’d share a few of them here.
#1 The Logistic Junky
Response: Across the country on a bike? Really? Where are you staying at night? How are you going to carry your gear? What kind of bike are you riding? How many miles a day will you ride? What’s the route?
When I was in graduate school, I often remarked on the dangers of asking doctoral candidates about their research unless you had at least an hour to spare. Bicycle touring must have had a similar effect on my brain, because this was one of my favorite reactions.
You want to know how I’ll keep my phone charged? Let me tell you all about my dynamo hub.
Curious about my packing? I’d be happy to explain the optimum weight distribution of gear across the racks on the bike.
This response was somewhat more common from men than from women.
#2 The Psychiatrist
Response: Across the country on a bike by yourself! Are you nuts? Why?
This category is named for their firm belief in my insanity. For various reasons ranging from extreme extroversion making the idea of two plus months without regular company abhorrent to them to a personal distaste for endurance exercise, these people cannot fathom why any sane person would wish to subject themselves to the rigors, privations, and uncertainty of a long tour.
#3 The Angry Mother*
(*This group does not actually include my mother)
Response: Absolutely not! You cannot go alone. You’re going to be attacked and die if you go alone.
The world is a dangerous place, and people in this group want to make sure I’m fully aware of it. Sometimes this extends to the point of forbidding me to go or even wishing for my bike to break down before I leave. (A.W., I’m looking at you. Just so you know, Erebus the bike already arrived safely in Astoria).
Oddly enough, almost everybody considers stranger violence to be the biggest danger, and few have even considered the dangers posed by traffic at all.
Almost all the members of this group are women, which doesn’t surprise me at all. Women experience the world as a more dangerous space. Just look at the #MeToo movement. Or the plethora of advice for women to avoid being attacked when alone at night. I know this feeling myself, but I refuse to let it rule my behavior.
#4 The Worrier
Response: You are going to be safe, aren’t you? I wish you wouldn’t go, but I know you’re going to, so please be safe.
These friends are as concerned as those in #3 (The Angry Mother) but don’t express their worry in the form of anger. I can’t promise that there won’t be any issues along the way, but for those of you in this group I offer you the assurance that I will do my best to be safe.
#5 The Fellow Adventure Seeker
Response: That’s so cool! It’s going to be a great adventure. (Optional: I wish I could join you. You know, [a few years ago/when I was younger] I…)
These people are a distinct minority. They understand the desire to immerse yourself in a challenging situation that surrounds you with and pits you against nature while testing the limits of your own physical and emotional strength. Hello, fellow adventurers.
There is one member of this category that sticks out. The day after talking to somebody about my trip (see #1 The Logistic Junky above), I came back to hand him a card and he informed me that he was so inspired that he was going to take a weekend bike tour this summer similar to one of the shakedown rides I took last year. I have successfully spread my particular breed of insanity (see #2 The Psychiatrist) to another!
#6 The Accepting Friend
Response: You’re going to have so much fun. Be safe!
This group is similar to #5 (The Fellow Adventure Seeker) with the exception that they have no desire to join me or experience a similar adventure of their own. There is a possibility that some members of this group are actually a #4 (The Worrier, see above) in disguise.
#7 The Doubter
Response: You’re what? No. Really, what are you doing this summer? By yourself? You must be kidding!
This is usually only a first-stage response. Individuals in this group take some convincing that I wasn’t kidding them when I relayed my summer plans. Once convinced of my sincerity, they generally move on to join another group.
Whatever group you fall into, I hope you enjoy following my ride.