My very close friend and avid paddler, Mary Beth (MB) Wyne, took a bike tour after years of harassment and cajoling from me. Here is her first-time experience. MB, I can’t wait to go touring with you!
Long before I knew that a bicycle seat was supposed to be called a saddle, my friend Ellee (author extraordinaire of Cycling Sojourner: A Guide to the Best Multi-day Tours in Oregon) was planning bike tours all over the world. In place of scheming cycle tours, which I thought would be a lonely and saddle-soar endeavor, I wanted to paddle my canoe wherever and whenever I could.
In one of our long, grass-twirling discussions, I would tell Ellee how I loved the art of traveling by canoe. How the world slowed down, how you could carry everything you needed right in your boat for weeks at a time, how you met wonderful people and how paddling and portaging was really an act of meditation.
All Ellee could do was nod and say to me (for years) that I needed to try cycling because I’d find the same joy as I do paddling. Well, I resisted for too many years, and now, after my first bike tour, I wish I had listened to my good friend’s wisdom sooner.
My husband Keith and I just completed our first bike tour in May. Early one Saturday morning, we walked out our front door and began pedaling. We biked from our hometown of Minneapolis, MN to Madison, WI.
We quickly learned that bike touring, even just from our front door, is akin to canoe travel. It’s not just a vacation. Cycle touring offers all the complexity, rewards, and ah-ha moments of a real adventure. Along the way, we stayed in tiny towns along the Mississippi River that we never would have planned to visit if we had been traveling by car.
And, we met the most kind and wonderful people: the old man drinking coffee on the bench outside the gas station who, later down the road, waved us in to the only diner in town for lunch; Richie, the owner of our new favorite B&B, Turning Waters in Wabasha, MN, who lent us his car so we could have the “best meal around,” which happened to be 15 miles back from where we had pedaled; and Donna at the Parkview B&B who, when we said we would be leaving at five in the morning, said, “I just can’t bear to have people leave my bed & breakfast without breakfast.” She then packed us some hard-boiled eggs, chocolate cake and a thermos of coffee for the road.
On day three of our six day tour, Keith and I were sitting by the mighty Mississippi drinking a couple of beers in the sun when we realized we had been doing vacations all wrong! We decided that cycle touring is one of the best forms of travel—ranking equal to canoe expeditions.
And, the best part of touring wasn’t necessarily the people we met along the way, the amazing food we ate or the luxurious places we stayed. It was the cycling itself. When I am on my bike, that’s the only place I can be—physically and mentally. My mind is only on the next hill I see on the horizon, or making it past the next mailbox while battling a 30 mph headwind, or watching the next vista unfold.
Cycle touring (as you tried to tell me, Ellee) is truly an act of meditation, joy, companionship and adventure—a gift that Keith and I plan to partake in much more often. And, now that we have a tour under our belts, all we can do is dream of where the next bike adventure will be.