Archive for the ‘Re-Roads’ Category

Burly tells his tale

Posted: November 28, 2016 in Re-Roads

Hello

I’m Burly, Curt and Cathy’s first cargo trailer.  I’m a big guy able to carry large loads.  When the C’s adopted me it was so I’d haul their gear about the world.  I followed my friend Cleo (their Gary Fischer tandem) who was also loaded down with gear.   We began the tour in Madrid, Spain in March of 1998. Together we rode, camped, stopped and played in Spain, Portugal, France, Corsica, Italy and Greece.  We enjoyed good roads and bad, beautiful sunny days and torrential rains, tail and head winds from  hell.  We made friends with people, bikes and an occasional trailer.  We stopped in Greece for months while the C’s worked for the Sea Turtle Protection Society and Cleo and I were used for grocery runs.  By the time they were ready to leave Greece we had lost Cathy’s weather window to ride Turkey and they packed us up and we flew to India.

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We knew within minutes of landing that we were nowhere near Kansas anymore.  We saw women cutting lawns with scissors and men feeding wild monkeys in the street as we tried to navigate through the hoards.  Our first major traffic jam on our first day out of Delhi included a camel.  After a couple of months in India the C’s felt so blessed to still be alive and have both Cleo and I intact that they thought rather than pressing their luck it was time to escape.  We flew to Thailand, the land of smiles and compared to India, calm.

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The roads of Thailand were quiet with shoulders.  We rode past processions of orange clad monks, spirit house grave yards, men fishing in the canals with tongs and batteries or nets and poles.  The C’s stopped to eat at every little road side stand and ordered stir fries from wok wizards cooking on the sidewalks of every village while Cleo and I guarded them from the street dogs and huge rats.  We rode from Bangkok to the Cambodian border to Bangkok and onto the Myanmar border where we lived off and on for the next 6 years.   During that time I borrowed the C’s computer and emailed Burley my story, they rewarded the C’s with a new trailer.

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By the time I began training Noma (their smaller, younger, cuter trailer) I had traveled with Cleo and the C’s over 28,000 miles in 27 countries.  I was ready for a break.   Training Noma was pretty easy as the C’s had learned a lot about packing light. They also intended to take her on a route I’d been on for her first major tour.

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We did a couple of shake down rides with me hitched up to Cleo and Noma hitched up to me so I could tell her about cornering and how to keep her flag flapping in heavy traffic.  We also went over the maps so she’d have an idea of the terrain she’d be covering.

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When it was time for her to set off she was ready to haul the light load from Kunming to Beijing.

Stay tuned as Noma will write her tale soon,

Burly

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New Skin

Posted: July 20, 2015 in Re-Roads, Road Rants

sunrise camping

Wow!  It’s only been 2 weeks and I can already feel myself shedding some of my old skin, while turning the stuff I still have into darkened snake leather.  I’m learning to give up my expectations of what I think the day should be like.  The more I give up expecting the perfect, the more perfect everything has become.  The weather gods have been on our side ever since we left Paris, partly to mostly cloudy skies, warm but not hot and not too much wind.  The camping has been mostly good with an occasional superb and one mutant, expensive campground but as it was the only one available we checked in and spent an interesting night.   The roads and the rides on the other hand have been nothing but amazing.  Riding through medieval history one day and double tracking on the La Loire a Velo route the next has been nothing but ear to ear grin fun.  I’ve spent a part of everyday making up stories for our granddaughters and taking photos to convince them I’m telling the truth about the dragon cave we rode through, the castles of Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella that we’ve ridden by, the tree tunnels that are full of fairies and forests full of elves that we’ve heard laughing at us.

We’ve almost but not quite ridden off the earth a few times.  And we have thought we were lost, but were in fact just where we were.  In this new skin our goals throughout the day are to find enough food to sustain us and a place to set up our tent by evening.  Lost is a relative term.

I’m relearning how to cook on one burner from ingredients procured at the tiniest of groceries.  We’ve been reminded that we need to have all of our food for Sunday evening by Sunday noon or go hungry.  And we’ve rediscovered the importance of taking advantage of the opportunities offered, that when we find the perfect picnic spot even if it’s only 11:15 to take it.

Our days as well as our diets are simple.  We sleep long and hard and wake early.  Curt, as always makes the coffee, our moods determine how many tiny cups we drink.  While he’s brewing I stuff sleeping bags, sheets and get the tent ready to take down.  After our coffee and breakfast we divide and conquer, Curt rolls the Therma Rests while I take down and stuff the tent.  He then loads the bike while I load the trailer.  We almost always do a double check to make sure we have not left anything important like the clothes line (only lost one so far).  We then begin to ride in the direction our compass says is the right one in hopes that we find the road our map suggests we should be on.  And so our day begins, us on our tandem carrying/pulling 75 or so pounds of home.  It’s usually pretty straight forward, ride until it’s time  to buy lunch supplies or find the perfect picnic place, and it is, except when we need to take 10 roads before lunch and some have new numbers or names.   And then 6 to 8 hours after we began, the riding part of the day is over. We used to plan our ride by going from tent symbol to tent symbol on our Michelin map or until 4 O’clock or 80 kilometers and start looking for a campground.  However after just 2 weeks we have been reminded that we are 60 years old and France has changed in 17 years.  We now start looking for camping signs shortly after lunch and try to check in by three instead of looking at four.  We now know that 80 to 90 kilometers pulling the weight we have is plenty of riding at least for right now.  We also have learned that finding a campground, checking in, setting up, taking a shower, washing clothes and finding dinner can take up to 2 hours.  We try to reserve enough energy after cooking, eating and cleaning up to write in our journals, go through our photos and give each other massages.  Despite the task list we are usually doing dishes when everyone else in the campground is getting ready to go out to eat or beginning to cook and we’re in bed sleeping when they are either returning from dinner or doing their dishes.  We are however up, packed and gone before most have stepped out of their tents or campers.

I’m enjoying the loss of my old skin and am excited to see what I grow into.

I wish I was shedding weight as easily as I seem to be shedding my old skin, but some things are not meant to be.

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It began with a dream. Dreams like bread and water sustain us, here is the recipe we used to make our dream into our reality. To keep the dream alive and our taste buds salivating we hung a 6′ x 10′ world map from our living room ceiling. To keep our palate engaged as we’d lay on the floor staring at the possibilities, we’d share a bottle of wine from a country we hoped to visit. Once we had the vision cemented we started making lists of essential ingredients that we didn’t already own but would need for an extended tour.

Remember this is in the days before internet commerce, we had to shop the old fashioned way, we had to physically go to stores and touch the equipment and gear we needed/wanted. We already owned the tandem, Burley cargo trailer and a lot of what we considered as condiments. We had toured France with our daughters and again on our own so we had a pretty good idea what we’d need. However 5 weeks is different than a couple of years. I can do almost anything for a few weeks, but over the long haul, I want to be comfortable.

So we began to assemble the ingredients. We went tent, sleeping bag and pad shopping. We researched by asking everyone we knew what they thought and reading product review in print magazines. We went shopping for tools, stoves and rain gear. We wanted durable and able to use or repair anywhere on the planet. Our Gary Fischer tandem was made of cro-moly and we used pedals with toe clips. Our stove would burn anything and our tent was supposed to be Everett strong.
Touring is like cooking when you get the right mix it’s a beautiful thing but when it fails it’s epic. And if you’ve ever cooked with or for a chef you know if you don’t do it the prescribed way no matter how well you did you’ll hear about it. So when we brought a 4 person, 4 season 10 pound tent and bought and packed luxury ingredients like an espresso pot, cutting board, journals and books we heard about it. We explained that adding a little spice and mixing things up would add a distinctive flavor to our tour.
Our plans simmered throughout the fall and almost boiled over as the date of our March departure grew closer.

All the things that mattered.

Oh the things we carried.

Here’s a list of the ingredients we carried.
We began with a dream and a world map, from their we assembled: 1 Gary Fischer tandem, 1 Burley cargo trailer, 1 Marmot tent with vestibule for cooking and parking Burley, 2 front panniers and 1 rear, 2 Thermarests and lounge chairs, 2 sleeping bags, 2 fuel bottles and a Whisperlite international stove, pots, plates, cups, kitchen and bath bags and supplies, a mini espresso pot, maps, journals, books, flashlights, business cards, rain gear, Chacos and riding shoes (we use toe clips instead of clip in pedals as we often ride in our sandals), helmets, clothes (for layering), tools, spare parts, flag, water bottles.

The recipe worked so well the first time (planned a two year tour and were gone more or less 15 years) that we plan to bring almost the same ingredients when we leave in July. The tandem has changed from a Gary Fischer to a Co-Motion and the Burley cargo trailer has shrunk, but the tent is still with us as are the panniers and the rest of the condiments.

saflower field

Monet Landscapes

Oh those enviable days of bicycle touring.  There are the days that we wake up to beautiful blue sky and brew a pot of coffee overlooking a lake or gazing at the Alps or some other such marvel.  Church bells chime in the background and roosters crow and we pack up all of our worldly possessions into our bike panniers and hit the road for another day of wonder biking.  We ride Monet landscapes, past rolling fields of bright red poppies, yellow safflower and waving wheat.  Our bodies are tan and we are the pictures of carefree health, ageless and prime, divisible by no equation, no roots, no ties.

I know that on days like these people pass us on their way to their daily jobs and are forced to summon all of their will power to prevent themselves from quitting work, turning their cars around, going home, packing up their belongings and hitting the road themselves.  Young children smush their faces against car windows as they pass by, eyes wide in fascination, minds reeling as they imagine themselves freewheeling on their own bikes through the country side.  Farmers give hearty waves as we blow past their chugging tractors, semi drivers give us the thumbs up and motorist shout encouragement as we labor up long climbs or weave through stalled traffic in congested streets.say what

And then there are those other days, days of which we always seem to have an abundance of in Europe.  Sometime in the night it starts to rain so we pull all of our belongings into the tent and make little islands keeping the most valuable items on top in case the tent starts to sink.  If we are lucky, it stops raining long enough in the morning that we can pack up a few things dry and make some coffee.  If we’re not lucky we pack up everything wet which adds about 5 kilos (12lbs.) to our load. We stuff a handful of nuts in our mouths and start riding.  These are unenviable days.

Waiting for the sun...

Waiting for the sun…

Our shoes fill with water.  Raingear helps to keep us warm but nothing keeps us dry as the rain continues.  We splash through puddles and the spray from cars makes it hard to see.  The temperature drops low enough that we can see our breath, our hands go numb and I have trouble shifting.  We’re actually pleased when our feet finally go numb, and yet beneath our layers of rain gear our legs and torsos sweat.  Anyone driving past us on days like these whispers a prayer of thanks to their favorite deity and cranks up the heat in their car.  When we enter grocery stores to get a few supplies for lunch our feet squeak and slosh on the waxed floors and the grocery has to call for a cleanup in aisle five because we stood still too long looking at cookies and left a puddle.  Small children grasp their mother’s hand tightly as we pass by and we get a checkout lane to ourselves because we smell like wet dogs.  On days like these, no one wants to be us; no one even wants to be near us.  If we’re lucky, we can find an awning to eat lunch under and if we’re not… we stuff a handful of nuts in our mouth and keep riding.

In Europe this can go on for days.  If the sun comes out we immediately stop pedaling and lay out all of our gear garage sale fashion in hopes that some of it will dry while the feeling comes back in our toes and hands and we stuff handfuls of nuts in our mouths.  When the sun doesn’t come out, after 3 or 4 days, suicide becomes an option.  We start leaving our bike unlocked in front of train stations in hopes that someone will steal it.  Exhausted, cold and out of nuts, we finally give in and try to rent a room for the night only to be turned away because we are too pathetic looking and no one wants that much wet baggage in their room.

On days like these we get back on the bike and ride and we just know that tomorrow will be better.  When it is, and everything is back to being dry and we’ve finally had a good meal, it’s amazing how quickly the memories of those rainy days fade.  On days like these, we can’t imagine why we ever even considered stopping the trip, or why life shouldn’t just go on like this forever…on days like these.

Somewhere in Myanmar

Somewhere in Myanmar