In my last blog back in January (GASP, sorry people that it’s been so long), I touched on the subject of what my biggest challenge is when bike touring. One might think it’s the physical strain of riding a bike all day, or perhaps the boredom of an endless straight road in front of you, maybe mechanical breakdowns, bad weather, not finding a place to camp etc etc etc. Well, actually, we both found the biggest challenge is remaining civil to each other after a long day in the saddle!
Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve been together with my husband since I was 18 and this year we’ll be celebrating 23 years of wedded bliss, raising three children and facing a multitude of challenges and disasters along the way. Andrew is my best friend and I wouldn’t dream of bike touring without him next to me or, as is usually the case, in FRONT of me. But considering that when we are not touring, we both work different jobs, and with Andrew enjoying a round of golf on Saturdays, we are lucky to spend maybe the odd Sunday together. Then, on a bike tour all of a sudden you are together within a couple of meters day and night, 24/7. Sometimes our salubrious 3 man Macpac Citadel tent shrinks to the size of a shoe box. After a physical day when you are both tired, hungry and dirty with sweat and road grime it doesn’t take much to turn into a pair of snappy turtles… So now the order is that as soon as camp is set up we both trundle off to the ablution block for a nice hot shower. Once back, all civility is restored and we are left scratching our heads wondering what the drama was.
Physical abilities would have to be the number one grumble initiator amongst us. Not in a million years will I EVER be able to ride like Andrew, I just don’t have the muscle mass. Hence I did get a wee bit annoyed when at the end of the very first day of our very first tour we had about 30 km of head winds before reaching our stop for the night. Andrew was miles in front and I just couldn’t catch him. He was a red speck the whole time. Since then we try to ride close together on windy days so that Andrew can shelter me either in front or side on.
During our second tour in Tasmania during the mountain ranges, Andrew got annoyed with me for slamming my bike into granny gear at the first sign of an incline and just cruising up at a snail’s pace. He thought I wasn’t “having a go”, but I just couldn’t see the sense of killing myself on every hill. I now try to push myself a little bit more, within reason of course, so that he doesn’t become too frustrated.
Funnily enough, we never argue about money. I do keep a spending diary on tour, but this is more to see where the money goes than “OMG we are spending too much on such and such”. It sure helps with planning subsequent trips. We both enjoy a cold beer or a nice pub meal and we figure that when we go on bike tours it is an actual holiday for us so why not enjoy those things? I do appreciate the fact that some people adhere to a very strict budget, but to me that would just add more stress.
Before our first tour we sat down and made up a few “Touring guidelines”; Some were a bit silly, such as: 5) Toenails must be clipped outside the tent. but others were things that obviously one of us had thought about but the other hadn’t: 26) Morning snack to be consumed after one hour of riding. Other useful guidelines included: 6) Outside of pre-purchased travel, the itineraries are flexible. 14) All maintenance operations MUST be performed with spectacles ON. and Andrew’s favorite: 17) Farm machinery yards should be looked upon in a similar light as theme parks, and may require a three-day pass.
As for romance and unbridled passion…. well if you think it’s all balmy sunsets sitting outside the tent sipping champagne in front of a cosy fire, I say good luck with that! Unfortunately it’s the last thing on our minds after riding all day, followed by setting up camp and preparing dinner. As soon as it’s dark we pretty much retire inside to the warmth of the sleeping bags. We might watch a movie on the iPad if we are not too exhausted but that’s about as romantic as it gets. It’s the rest days in a motel that generally re-ignites the passion for us, when there is more room available and we have a bit more privacy…
All in all, I really enjoy the company on the way, sharing the highs and lows and sense of achievements. It is nice to be able to share chores such as setting up the tent or doing the dishes. Even grocery shopping is quite enjoyable when there’s two of you deciding what to eat that night. But by far the BEST thing about touring with someone else, is that you can relive the experience time and time again.
We’ve all been there, listening to some one else’s travel stories. Sometimes I get a bit bored listening to them, (especially if they are not a very good story-teller, or, if there are hundreds of photos of exactly the same thing) because you weren’t there with them. But when you tour with a partner, you share the same experiences and reminiscing about them together never, ever gets boring.