Thursday, June 12, 2014

How the Riding and Cooking Worked

While on the tour, it was all I could do to post at least once a day to my blog about where I was and what I had seen along the way. I kept thinking I would find the time to explain how some of the trip logistics worked, but I never did. Sorry about that. I will explain a few things now, after the fact.

The Riding

A number of people expressed concern that I rode alone every day on the tour. Especially after I got lost. Surely being on a guided trip meant that I would be riding with other people, right? Actually, both things were true.

Every night after supper, we met as a group to review the route for the following day and to learn specifically where we would be spending the next night. (Sometimes our destination would be off the official route by several miles.) In the morning, after breakfast was cleaned up and we had packed our lunches on our bikes, everyone's personal gear was loaded in the trailer, and the group gear was all packed up, riders could choose when to start riding. I got in the habit of being on the road no later than 8:00am.

It was each rider's responsibility to understand the route and to navigate the route to the next destination. Riders could choose to ride together or on their own. Other than the couples, who all chose to ride with their partners, the rest of us single folks all rode on our own. There were stretches where I rode and chatted with another rider but, inevitably, our riding paces would be different and we would end up separated. Usually I saw other riders on and off all day long. Typically, I was one of the first to start out on the road, but my pace was slower than most. Other people put a high priority on finding good coffee and yummy food, so they would frequently stop at local eateries and watering holes. I don't drink coffee and I eat gluten free these days, so eating out has mostly lost its magic for me. I almost never stopped at eateries; I relied on the lunch and snack food I packed in the morning to get me through the day. I stopped at mom-and-pop markets to buy cold drinks or the occasional ice cream. While other riders were scouting out eateries or consuming meals at restaurants, I would mosey on by. Later in the day, those riders would zip past me on the route. I could ride for hours by myself and have the impression that I was alone on the route. Once I stopped by the side of the road to have a snack or eat my lunch, however, it wasn't long before other riders would come along and pass me. As long as I was on the route, I could count on others coming upon me along the route. It was not uncommon for the same rider to pass me three or four times during the day!

Getting lost is a drag, no doubt. The route maps are great but they show only a narrow corridor and they don't identify many off-route roads. Once you stray a little distance off the official route, you risk being completely off the map. With a lot of miles to ride every day, involuntarily riding a bunch of additional off-route miles feels demoralizing. Every night I wrote my own navigational directions that I could read while riding; I positioned these next to the map in the map case that sits on top of my handlebars.

I had two dramatic lost moments early on in the trip, which added miles to those two days. The first time, I kept following Huey when he repeatedly said "Let's go two more miles!" even though I really felt we were going the wrong way; that added up to eight or so extra miles. The second time, I knew I'd ridden too far without finding the turn I was expecting, but I kept on riding anyway; that resulted in riding an extra five miles and over an extra mountain. I learned my lesson after that. I didn't blindly follow any other rider; I made sure I made my own navigational judgments. I also trusted my gut. If I felt a niggling worry that I was off route or about to make a mistake, I would stop and study the map and directions; this saved me making errors countless times!

Note: Other riders did not place such a high priority on staying on route. Some did not seem to mind riding a bunch of extra miles. Others were navigationally challenged and did not appear to improve these skills during the trip. While regularly getting lost or not being able to reliably navigate would make me miserable on a trip like this, others seemed quite comfortable winging it.

The Cooking

We were assigned cooking duty in pairs. Cooking duty involved planning the menu and shopping list for a supper and the following breakfast and lunch. The leader who was driving the van for the day would do the shopping. (This worked well, unless the leader lost the shopping list.) We ate supper at 6:00pm. The cooks put out wash water for everyone to wash their own dishes, and the cooks cleaned up the cooking pots. The cooks would get up early the next day to start heating water for coffee and breakfast. Breakfast was generally from 6:30-7:30am. Lunch stuff was put out in the morning so everyone could pack lunch and snacks for the day.

I think the cooking went remarkably smoothly on our trip. People generally offered to help out, so there always seemed to be enough hands to get things done. People had lots of tasty menu ideas. We definitely ate well.

I brought a bag of foods to use to ensure I ate gluten free on the trip. I brought a lot of dried brown rice and quinoa especially, so I would have a substitute to use any time the group ate pasta. I only used a pasta substitute twice. This was because the other riders were very careful as cooks to ensure that my gluten-free needs were met. What I really ended up eating out of my bag of food was the dried fruits. Next time, I would bring more of those and gluten-free granola bars.

Cooking duty was not without controversy. The leader responsible for creating the cooking-duty roster had no aptitude for this kind of task. The roster never approached a fair and equitable distribution of cooking duty among the different riders. For example, I cooked three times during the trip, but others cooked five or six times. It made no difference that people pointed out these problems with the roster; it was what it was, and I was surprised that people mostly just let go of the irritation and went along with it. Our group was good like that; everyone seemed willing to offer up suggestions for improvements but also were able to go along with things for the sake of harmony.

Nora and me cooking together...

[photo credit: Barb Wade]

[photo credit: Barb Wade]

Tony and Zoe cooking together, and trying to keep things out of the rain...

[photo credit: Barb Wade]

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