I could see that he was curious. He was looking over at me with one eyebrow raised and the opposite eye all squinty. It was as if he had picked up an odd insect to study that he’d never seen before in his garden. Hmmm… is it poisonous? Is it eating my plants?
I was filling my water bottles from the tap outside of the public toilet block. He was standing nearby. As I moved back toward my bike… there he came, standard six questions in tow.
You know the standard six:
- Where you coming from?
- Where you going?
- How many kms do you do in a day?
- Where do you sleep at night?
- Are you travelling ALONE?
- Aren’t you scared/doesn’t your family worry? (And if in America, that failing, violent ‘democratic’ nation, a variation on this question is ‘do you carry a gun’?).
As I answered the curious man’s questions, he was simultaneously confused and amazed. It’s as if he had never before considered that someone could travel by bicycle, and more importantly, that anyone would want to.
After getting through the first three of the standard six, the man said, “Wow. That is just totally bananas.”
Then, as I told him that, yes, I travel alone and prefer it that way, and that I’m actually carrying along all my camping equipment, too, he just started shaking his head.
Then he said, “Damn. That is beyond bananas.”
To me this is what bicycle touring is: total self-sufficiency, camping in random places in the bush, finding new roads to ride and letting the road bring what it may… and then adjusting my plans to all the external forces. The ‘where from’, ‘where to’, and ‘kms covered’ is much less important than the roads ridden along the way and the experiences you encounter. Pity those who have only ever slept indoors and never eaten an apple (bruised and gritty with dirt from being carried on the bike for six days) after a long climb up a traffic-free dirt road in the bush.
And so that is what this year is about:
- More exploration of new roads near home on 2 and 3-day rides for the first six months of the year, trying to revive muscle memory, build fitness and get outside as much as possible.
- A couple months, July-Sept, visiting my family whom I have not seen since June 2019, thanks to COVID (and losing all that fitness I just built Jan-June, lol!)
- Then, going beyond bananas: taking off on the bike to find thousands of roads not yet ridden on a tour of undetermined route and length starting in September. I plan to just ride until the allotted money has run out or I feel like I want to go ‘home’.
I’ve decided to call this year’s journal “Beyond Bananas”, not only because I want to reaffirm that this year is my return to longer weekend rides and multi-month touring, but also because I am confident that I will regain my health this year.
From April to November of 2021, bananas and lettuce were my only safe foods… the only foods I knew I could eat without the potential for vomiting. Thank goodness I love bananas and eat them daily anyway! But, thankfully, post-gallbladder removal, I can eat pretty much anything without vomiting… which is pretty essential for having the energy and fitness to go touring!
So this year I’m moving beyond bananas and reasserting my identity as a cyclist.
So, I am Em. And I ride.
Only I couldn’t ride much in the past 4.5 years because my body was screwed up in multiple ways. But this is the year of my return. Get ready, get set…..