A Day in the Life / 16.09.12

We try to wake up each morning at 7 so we can be on the road at 8. For some reason, I wake up at 6:30 each morning (maybe the turning of the earth toward the sun’s rays…). I first put on my bike clothes and pack my sleeping bag and pad. Then I zip myself out of the tent and peruse the stuff, usually dew-covered in our camping spot next to a corn field or in a woods. After whatever is most urgent, I flick a few slugs off of the CAMP GEAR bag, and pull out what we need for breakfast–most often bread, cheese, fruit, jam, and chocolate spread. Then I begin to load our trailer, Bob. Bob has been good to us, but also has received his fair share of curses, especially when we’re going up steep hills. It’s really not his fault. We put him up to it.

At around seven I convince myself I’m doing the others a service by banging some pots together and singing or just yelling out, “RISE AND SHINE, FUELED BY RICE!” It’s usually Devin or Lindsey first, and the others follow, wandering off into whatever private spaces can be found, and then gathering again and slowly packing up, taking down tents, and readying the bikes. We usually finish breakfast about 8:15 and then don’t actually get on the road until 9, what with the final touches. But we’ve gotten better, and we’ll continue to hone our systems.

Kallie and I have learned some systems for the tandem, and when we’re both ready, we shove off with the others down the road. Usually in the mornings it’s chilly, so we’re wearing several layers of our warm stuff. Kallie’s usually wearing ALL her warm stuff. After about half an hour, or when we hit the first incline, we stop to shed clothes and tuck it into bungees that hold our packs together. That way, if we go down hill, we can put it back on for the swift ride; or if it looks like rain we have easy access.

We look to fill up water bottles in the nearest town, and so far it’s been extremely convenient in Switzerland especially. Each small village has a central fountain that is constantly pouring clean water out of a usually ornate and ancient faucet into a pool. We speculate that these were central meeting places in the past, to water animals and to do washing as well as gather water for the home. Now they serve bikers.

After filling water, we try to bike for two hours before a break. With six, there are any number of things that can slow us down or stop us. Usually it’s a map question of what road to take, or it may be a potty break, or someone has spotted an apple or pear tree and we fill up a satchel. We try to keep together as much as possible, or at least have two bikers together at all times, in case of emergencies and for general support. We are seeking to ride 75 km (45 miles) each day. Some days we do 90 to 100, and some days 40 to 60, depending on breakdowns and terrain.

We are packing lunch–bread, fruit, cold cuts, jam, and cheese–and at an appropriate time and place we stop to eat. We have carry a common purse for the group, and each couple puts in the same amount. We use these funds to buy our food, and we rotate the duties of buying and cooking. Towards 4 or 5 p.m. we start looking for a grocery store and a stream or a lake near which we can camp, so that we can wash our sweaty, gritty bodies. Yes, it’s been pretty chilly at times, but the alternative of sleeping grimy is incentive enough for me.

We divide and conquer, one person starting dinner and a couple going off to bathe while the others set up the tents and gather wood for a fire when appropriate. There is nothing like a steaming vegetable stew into which you can dip pieces of crusty fresh bread stuffed with hunks of Brie or Gouda cheese, huddled around a fire and surrounded by open air; the experience is worth the aching and tired muscles. That and some cookies does us in, and we are usually in our tents at 10 p.m., ready to sleep to the night sounds of the field and the forest.

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  1. Tori said on September 16, 2012 at 4:18 pm

    Freaking slugs….

  2. Bruce said on September 22, 2012 at 2:11 pm

    Supper sounds familiar!As far as waking up…hide the pots.

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