August 29, 2016
Here’s a snippet of a conversation that has happened to us, almost verbatim, too many times to count:
“I’m going to be out for 8 days starting on Wednesday for vacation,” I say.
“Good for you, where are you going?” they say.
“Heading to Japan (Morocco, Thailand, Patagonia, Turkey, Burma, Alsace, Puglia, Peru, Provence, Tuscany, Catalonia, Slovenia, India, New Zealand, fill in the blank),” from me.
“Wow. Incredible. Is it a tour or are you staying in (main city),” they say.
“We’re spending a few days in (main city), then heading out to the countryside around (name area) to go bicycling,” I respond.
“Bicycling?” small pause. “As in, pedals?”
“Yes, it’s a great way to see the countryside. And it justifies our over-eating the local food and drinking the local sparkling wine.” I say in a rehearsed voice.
“Bicycling on purpose?” the incredulous response. “Don’t they allow cars in that area?”
“Are you paying to do it, or are they paying you?”
“How far do they make you go?”
“And you’re calling this vacation?”
With few variations, that’s usually how it goes.
So, in summary, WHY?
1. There is no Wi-Fi on a bicycle.
2. You can stop wherever, whenever you want without looking for parking.
3. You can find your own scenic overlooks without 75 smelly tourists disgorging from the bus with their Canons.
4. You actually see the tiny local farm sign offering “petit sacket cerise,” which you would never see from a car, and stop to partake.
5. You smell the linden/lavender/whatever local flowers and foliage in bloom.
6. You can smell and breathe real, not recycled, air.
7. You’re greeted with smiles, waves, and enthusiasm by the locals or local schoolchildren in every language and in every small town.
8. You can actually experience the small towns, not just drive past them.
9. You can get lost, get directions in a language you usually don’t understand, and find your way anyway in time for your afternoon nap and happy hour.
10. It’s never about the distance you go; it’s about the incredible experience you get with each pedal stroke.
10.5. Every country in the world does, indeed, have their own version of sparkling wine. Our mission is to find and try them all. It’s noble and challenging, but someone has to do it.
Bicycling trips, in summary:
Let’s set the stage:
Pay a stupid amount of money to fly halfway around the world for a 5,6,7,8-day trip that involves bicycling, often times from hotel to hotel.
It’s the best way to experience the world. If you go with an outfitter (Backroads, Butterfield & Robinson, Vermont Bike Tours), it’s almost like an expensive summer camp for adults, fueled by alcohol and airplanes. They set up your days to give you multiple options of places to see and routes to take. They usually take care of lunch, unless you explore a small town on your way, and they troubleshoot virtually anything including:
- Retrieving the giant amphora you bought at a local shop.
- Fixing flat tires.
- Supplying Snickers and water.
- Finding you if you really do get lost. Yes, it happens. A lot, actually, but never anyone permanently.
Basically, you get multiple options and directions, ideas, and great places to stop, see, and explore and you’re off cycling either on your own or with your friends. Your own pace, your own timeline.
You will learn to pee outside. The banjo bush, the green latrine, whatever you prefer to call it to make it acceptable. On our first trip, he warned me to have enough tissue and wet wipes, and I thought I’d simply hold it between stops. Not happening. Unlike tour buses, there is no port-a-potty on your bike. You will learn to embrace and welcome the art of peeing outside.
(Going back to the original conversation, “And you’re paying all this money to pee in bushes?”)
There’s always time for afternoon naps by the water or in the garden, followed by happy hour or sundowners. The day is capped with more social dinners at everywhere from starred restaurants to local shacks. And wine. And more wine.