Tour de Getting My Ass Kicked

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I had me some grand plans for this past weekend. See, I'm planning this bicycle tour for later in the summer and I wanted to see what I could do on a fully loaded touring bike.  The answer was kind of depressing.  I had grand plans to take four days and run to Duluth and back- about 450 miles from my house.  Damn you, reality.   

My plans started to fall apart right from the start when my four day weekend became three.   I decided I could leave early on Friday though, and still have a solid 3.5 days to see how far west I could make it.  I figured I had a shot at making it well into WI at least.   I probably should have left Saturday morning and taken a few extra hours to prepare.  I left a few key items behind and apparently botched a tire swap.

Nonetheless, I did get out the door before 7pm and got a solid 30 miles in before I set up camp for the night.  It's been a couple years since I've been backpacking, but it's hard to forget those routines.  It's readily apparent that in touring, miles are won and lost off the bike, not on it.  Efficiency in setting up and tearing down camp will win you a lot more miles than pedaling your brains out on the road.

Woke the next day with just enough time to break camp, eat breakfast, and get a few miles in before it started to rain. And rain. And rain. And rain some more.  Surprisingly, riding a bicycle through the rain and cold isn't nearly as bad as trying to ride a motorcycle through it.

Fellow traveler.


Later that afternoon, the rain stopped, and just as things started to look up, my tire started going down.  Usually, I have pretty good tire luck. I rarely have flats, and when I do- the cause is obvious and easily taken care of.  This one was annoying, once I had the tube out, I could not find the leak. Worse, once I got the new tube in, it started leaking a couple miles later. To pile more misery on, the process of changing the tube out aggravated a wrist I sprained in last weekend's crash.  In short, this trip had taken a solid turn for the shitty.  I was drenched, my wrist hurt like hell, my tire wouldn't hold air, and I was a solid day out from home at this point.  

Still, if you ever need to renew your faith in humanity, go fix a flat tire on a bicycle at a roadside rest area sometime.  The offers for help just come rolling in. And stories about their bicycle trips. And suggestions for future bicycle tours.  Maybe I racked up some good karma someplace, but I suspect it's more the case that I've got a huge debt to pay down now.  

The one nice thing about when a trip goes to hell like this, is you can give up trying to kill yourself to attain some crazy goal.  You can just kind of enjoy what you have and roll with whatever punches follow.  In Bergland, I figured if I was going to have to spend another night on the road, I might as well make it someplace nice and turned north to the Porkies.  

Things slowly started ti improve. The weather turned downright pleasant, my tire decided to hold air for the remaining miles, and visiting White Pine is always cool.  White Pine is kind of a unique city.  It's a modern suburb complete with a mall and school and all the trappings of modern suburban life that was built to support the nearby White Pine mine.  Once the mine closed, the town was left to sort of dwindle away.   There's still a lot of people living there, but it feels very much like a ghost town.   

Once I got to the border of the Porcupine Mountains State Park, I decided some cold beer would be just the thing to treat my aching and swollen wrist.   You know, for medicinal purposes only.   I stopped off at the hotel in Silver City to pick up a six pack, and hey lookit that- they have vacancies too.   And a hot tub. And prime rib on special.    SOLD!   Man, it's a rough life touring by bicycle. 

The next morning, I just couldn't convince myself to load up the bike to spend the day doing a lap around the park. Things were looking promising on the tire front, but I just didn't want to face the prospect of having to deal with it again with my wrist bothering me.  Plus a hotel would definitely be out the next night and setting up and tearing down camp was painful enough.   

So I tucked my tail between my legs and pointed the bike homeward. Caught a nice tailwind most of the way back, and although the tire was still flaky- it was clear it was going to get me home.  Took the opportunity to hit some trails in between Greenland and Mass City for a bit.    A nice enjoyable ride which gave me some opportunity to reflect on the touring lessons I learned on this trip.

I have an all new respect for people that can pull triple digit distances on a touring bike and still camp out every night. The whole touring thing is such a radical departure from preparing for and entering races.  Racing is all about what you can do in the saddle, touring is all about what you can do when you're not turning the pedals.   It looks like 75 miles is about the max I can do in a day and camp out that night.  Physically, I'm capable of going much farther every day, but it's all the little things involved with living off the bike and keeping it rolling day after day that set my mileage limits.

I've set some more modest goals for my upcoming tour in August, but I think it'll make for a saner, much more pleasurable trip.   

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