Beyond Bananas – Introduction

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.

Where the interrogator accosted me.

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’.
Time has moved in weird ways since 2017 when I first became unwell. This picture was taken in April 2017, two years after I’d planted these little natives as two-inch tall seedlings in March 2015. I would contract West Nile just three months later… the beginning of 4.5 years of feeling like shit.
The seedlings all grown up. January 2022. My health kinda went all wild and wooly like the plants did in that time. But this year we’re just looking for wild and wooly places to ride. In those times in life when standard time doesn’t move in standard ways, it’s nice to gauge time by plant growth.

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.

An awesome day on the road in 2014. A day when being a cyclist was all that mattered. This is what I wrote in my journal that day:

 I love it. Days like this make me feel like I was put on earth to ride a bike. I could just do this forever and ever. Every other part of my identity shifts to dark recesses and my heart explodes with the joy of being a cyclist. It is just me, the crew, the bike and the road. Nothing else matters but the revolutions of the pedal. None of my personal baggage from the past, or the things I hope to build in the future, matter. I am just Em. And I ride.

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…..

15 thoughts on “Beyond Bananas – Introduction

  • I’m so glad to hear you’ve got your health back! You have a wonderful plan and I look forward to reading about it.

    • Thank you, I feel better than at any point than the last five years. I’ve still got some work to do to get back to ‘full health’ (which the doc warns will probably never be 100 percent of pre-illness capacity), but I hope I can achieve that by the time I’m ready to live on the bike. I hope your plans for this year go seamlessly – you guys amaze me at how you continually dodge catastrophe and covid!

  • Wow – your energy just flows off the screen today. I recently read your ‘awesome day’ post and have been looking forward to you getting back to that state. 6 months of a 3 day working week, 4 days cycling will have you speeding up those hills again. Perhaps not as fast as pre West Nile days but, then again, you are Em and so will surprise us.

    • Thanks, Tony. The work stress will be a good test of my immune system, but I was able to clear the mould (without that nasty med I quit taking) while simultaneously having a very sick gallbladder. So I think that bodes well. My Dec mould antibody/antigen tests came back to normal range finally. Only took a year to clear it…. So yes, I’m looking forward to getting back to the state of cycling bliss! It will taste even sweeter after 6 months of crappy work, too!

  • I have finally caught up on 6 months of posts… What a roller coaster 😂😂. So excited for you that your long road to better health seems to be getting faster and more secure – if that makes sense. I hope that you find being back at work ok… I managed to waste my break from work over the holidays by catching COVID finally on Boxing Day. Seems impossible to avoid now in Sydney. Celebrating a negative RAT today and will leave the apartment for the first time tomorrow. Although, now having had it, I feel like at least for a couple of months I will be able to be less stressed about catching it 😭😭. Hoping to do some touring March April in NSW and VIC – unless things go even more pear shaped. Hopefully we can finally say hello in person. Take care!!!

    • Sorry to hear COVID found you, but it really does feel like when not if down here too. And it would be a relief to know that for a couple months at least that you could leave the house without fear of getting ill. I hope it was mild for you and you don’t have any lingering symptoms. Congrats, too, on your post-doc – with things in research and the uni system such a mess, I’m glad you’ve found an anchor, at least for now. That’s excellent! Yes, hopefully things will have calmed down again by March/April and it would be great to say hi person!

  • you set an example to all of us . positive thinking enjoy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Thanks, I definitely feel better than at any point since becoming sick, so I have more hope of getting back to the sort of riding I love.

  • Most of us bike tourists are probably beyond bananas, but I’ll give you extra credit for your touring style and rate you as BEYOND beyond bananas. Accept that compliment with pride.

    Along with the positive cycling outlook, I’m happy to see your diet is also extending beyond bananas. Anybody as creative as you are with food deserves to be able to eat more than just lettuce and bananas.

    • Thanks for the compliment, Greg. Yes, all touring cyclists are beyond bananas in a society focused on comfort and convenience and where ‘camping’ is defined as parking your RV somewhere and never going without power. I do think you get a much richer and immersive touring experience if you travel solo and spend nights in a tent, though. Like you, I did a fair bit of backpacking before I started cycle touring, so a “backcountry” style of riding is a natural transition for me.

      Yes, I’m very happy to be able to eat more than bananas but more happy that I’m not vomiting anymore. Prior to 2021, I’d vomited maybe 10 times in my whole life. I am just not a puker. So I was vomiting more in one week than I had in my whole life prior. I do not need to puke ever again! I cannot describe what a relief it is to not have constant severe pain and nausea anymore… it really is like being gifted my life back.

  • greets, emily. i have tried but failed to conjure ‘that’s beyond bananas’ in a ‘strine accent. all i got is a poor new jersey version. but that sparks the question: are there regional accents in australia, e.g., sydneysider vs cairns or the outback? if so, how obvious are they? i’m thinking of canadians saying ‘oot and aboot’ sted of ‘out and about.’

    • Hmmm… I don’t think that there is much difference in accents across regions, but some say Adelaide sounds different to the east coast. I don’t hear it though. But I’m a visual learner, so maybe if you were an auditory learner, you would pick out differences.
      The biggest difference in accent I hear is really city vs rural. Rural people can have a much flatter, broader accent to people who live in the cities. There’s probably also a bit of difference in accent based on socio-economic class.
      The biggest difference would be just the terms used for the same thing (e.g. in NSW, there are things called potato scallops which are called potato cakes in VIC and potato fritters in South Australia). The potato things are sliced potatoes that are battered and fried. Aussies say bananas a bit like bananers. Aussies don’t say ‘r’s in the middle of words, but stick them on the end of words ending in ‘a’ instead. So ‘spa’ sounds like ‘spar’ but ‘hard’ sounds a bit like ‘hod’. I don’t know, I just speak in my midwest American accent and most people understand me! Hope it’s not too cold and snowy there and you are breaking in your seat… or your butt in between dog walks.

    • Thanks! There should be more interesting rambling to come, particularly in the second half of the year. Things have been pretty mundane for awhile now. I hope you and Ron are well, staying safe and enjoying the cooler, less humid weather!

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