The tour was about to begin. For real begin, the next morning, rubber side down. I was unaccountably nervous. I couldn’t think straight. Just kept re-checking my gear. I couldn’t give attention to eating. Thankfully some other couch surfers put coffee and salad in front of me. But what’s the big deal? I’m a veteran, aren’t I?
I’ve done bigger, badder tours than this one. Maybe it was starting out so far from home. Any home. Even my surrogate home in Queensland seemed far, far away. Perhaps it was the bike – a last-minute low-end Giant hybrid purchased right before we left on the sailing voyage, to replace my trusty hard tail that was stolen in L.A. No top of the line touring kit; I’m pretty much on “make do with what ya got” this time. Or maybe it’s the leg. Ever since my fateful fall in Egypt, I’ve wondered if I would actually ever be able to handle long distance self sustained bicycle touring again. This would be that test. Sam calmed me down with a game of Dominion and a quick safety meeting. He’s a good friend! Thanks Sam. On the ferry I tried centering myself with a bit of sewing, but come morning after a bad sleep on the floor of the coach room above the engines, I wasn’t much better off. I was still at a loss as I sat a the ferry terminal cafe, map spread in front of my frazzled eyes. East or West? Which direction do I take around the island, clockwise or anti-clockwise? The symbols on the map might as well have been Greek. One fella – obviously one of those “morning people” – decided to chime in with his advice. Great, okay, but do I really base this big decision on the counsel of the first random Tasmanian I meet? Instead I remembered a different source. A magazine article, from an old giveaway copy of Bicycling that Carolyn picked up once from the Darr Creek Oasis literacy bin. Some guy, call him Fred Bloggs, took the ferry to Devonport with his touring bike and sussed out a nice little 35 kilometer ride for publication. Excellent! Someone who is at least a cyclist, giving turn by turn directions from Devonport to Penguin. I’ll do what he did!
But wait. Let me explain something about me that you might not know. Lily once called it “my biggest flaw.” I don’t like to draw on others’ experience to decide my direction. I like to think of myself as a bit of a rebel. I never liked authority. I learned early in life to always try to do it my own unique way. Usually that means the hard way. But my individuality must be protected! Sounds a bit pathological, I must admit. Obvious ego flares here. But is it a flaw? When it comes to bicycle touring, now, let’s see. Someone has almost always done it before. If you research enough, you’re bound to run upon some dude who’s been where you’re going, done it already, and probably done it faster. Or slower. Or just done it better. Perhaps it’s a mark of low self-confidence, but I prefer not to even hear about him and his trip. You might object. Isn’t it safer, you might ask, or more comfortable, if you go into the wonderful wild world armed with information? Isn’t it only fools who refuse knowledge?!? I would say to that: maybe I am a fool, but the risk is part of the adventure. Without a bit of “danger” life is pretty bland. And removing oneself from one’s comfort zone is pretty much the definition of growth. Besides, so very many accounts of places are full of shit. “Don’t cycle across Algeria, you’ll be killed.” Algeria was one of my all-time favorites. And the list is never-ending. People often just want to scare you with negativity. And even if a hard core experienced bike tourer has been through some hazard and published a way to get around the hazard – following those footsteps is just giving up, surrendering to fear, and relinquishing the most hearty part of adventure. No, I don’t like to read about other bike tours. I do, of course, but not often. I don’t research them. Most times I avoid it unless the dude is right in front of me and we can have a real interaction. But like I said, I was frazzled. That first morning, that big decision… My intuition was sleeping, I guess. So I actually decided to follow this guy’s published ride. And the thing I keep coming back to, after four days of traveling my own road again, is this: the reason it was so nice to be able to follow his direction, what made it so easy and comfortable, what really helped my through that hard time, was that I didn’t have to think for myself. Now that’s a scary thought.
Sorry but photos are a bit of a trial to post here for the moment but I am trying to get one per day up on
TrackMyTour, with a bit of a comment. If my phone battery isn’t flat. Thanks for reading! Sincerely, With love and joy, Charlie