Two loaded touring bicycles leaning against a wall with mountains in the background

Lessons Learned from my First Bicycle Tour

September 20, 2011
Ferndale, WA to Deception Pass State Park, WA
52 Miles

Woke up early this morning to a beautiful sunrise at Aunt Robin’s house. She made us a delicious breakfast (bison with eggs and hashbrown casserole). Finished up the bike prep, and away we left! We departed at 9am or so, and headed to Bellingham. We got to the bike shop in Bellingham around 11, and picked up two wireless bike computers. The guy at the shop was nice enough to help us install them. Then it was back on the road. We should have eaten in Bellingham then, since it was another 3 hours until we made it to a café for lunch. It was a hard fought 3 hours of riding, too. By then, we had gone 17 miles from Bellingham, only 29 miles for the day, and I was already so tired. That ride through the mountains was beautiful, and we even picked some blackberries, but I wasn’t sure I could keep going. But we did keep going. And going. Past Padillo Bay and Anacortes, up over Deception Pass to Deception Pass State Park. We had trouble finding the campsite, and then had to pay $21, but I’m so glad to be done. Tomorrow will be better! It is 730pm, getting dark, and after a baby wipe refresh, I’m ready for bed!

This was my very first journal entry from my very first bicycle tour. I did pretty well conveying the mood of the day. But there were some details I left out. I didn’t really describe how miserable and tired I was. How I almost broke down and cried 5 miles from camp because I didn’t think I could keep going. We took a wrong turn trying to find the campground and ended up climbing up a steep hill, and I was so dejected and disheartened. If this was bicycle touring, I wanted to quit. But here’s the good news. As I said in the journal entry, it WAS better the next day. And the next. It just kept getting better. I got stronger, and it became easier to enjoy the little moments. There are definite moments bicycle touring when you will want to quit. But there are many more when you’ll just be amazed. At the scenery, at your strength, at how far you’ve come. I’d like to share with you a few of the lessons I learned (from that very first day of touring) that can benefit all of us.

  1. If you shipped your bike to your starting location, make sure you know how to put it back together again.
  2. Train (with distance and weight) before you leave.
  3. If you don’t train, plan for shorter distance days in the beginning until you get stronger.
  4. Make sure you know how many miles you are traveling the first day. Nothing is worse than thinking you’ve already finished the ride for the day, only to find out you have to go 12 miles further.
  5. You WILL get stronger and it WILL get easier.
  6. Eat, eat, eat!
  7. Always have an extra meal, just in case you need it. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are perfect for this.
  8. Bring fuel for your stove. Sterno cans just don’t cut it!
  9. You don’t need a pasta strainer! And it’s ok to ship back unneeded things you thought you would need on the trip, but really ended up just being extra weight.
  10. It will be harder than you think, but much more rewarding than you can imagine.

I thought I had prepared myself for that first tour. Boy was I in for a surprise. But the thing is, even though I collapsed onto my sleeping pad that first night and passed out from exhaustion, and even though my whole body was sore in the morning from all the hard work I had done the day before, I never gave up. And everything eventually came together. When I think of that first tour, the difficulties of the first day (or week) are a dim memory compared to the rest of the tour. I’m so glad I was able to push past those speedbumps and keep going. And I’m a better person for it.

Published by

Pam Emerson

is an avid bicycle tourist who enjoys sharing her love for bicycling with all she meets.

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