This blog is six weeks old now, and you have an idea of how I got to this point. This week, I would like to summarize the lessons learned from the two rides last year. This is not a repeat, but a synthesis: they are actually new lessons, which I could not have learned without looking back over both rides together.
But, first, let’s catch up from last week.
Trip update: This week, I rode from Keller, Texas (north of Fort Worth), to Alvarado, Hillsboro, Waco, Temple, to Georgetown (Austin area), arriving on Thursday. It rained every day except Thursday, as the remnants of Tropical Storm Narda broke up over Baja California and pushed across Texas in front of a strong front from the north. This gave me headwinds until the front passed, but a pleasant, cool tailwind on the last day. Fortunately, I managed to be indoors or under cover when the squalls came by, so the weather was not my biggest problem.
However, construction on the frontage road of Interstate Highway 35 (I-35) forced me to take painful detours. The roads off the Interstate in Hill and McLennan counties featured either dirt (mud) surfaces or a rough kind of concrete with too much aggregate, which gave me bruises and saddle sores. Just before the last day, a colleague in San Marcos sent me the links to the Texas DOT Current Construction maps (http://www.txdot.gov/inside-txdot/division/travel/highway-conditions/current.html and http://www.drivetexas.org/mobile/), which was a lesson learned: most states have a service either by telephone or online, which provides current construction information. These sites from the local Departments of Transportation are more accurate and reliable than the large national services that purport to do the same thing. The “construction updates” from Microsoft, Google, and Tom Tom do not seem to include everything. Thanks to my friend, I was able to avoid a large construction zone in Temple on the last day (not on Google Maps or Microsoft Streets & Trips), and breeze down to Georgetown easily in one morning.
Be curious about State DOT information sources when planning to travel through a new state, whether by bicycle or any other vehicle.
Here are some of the lessons learned from the earlier rides and my preparations this year:
If it’s not fun, why do it? I don’t mean laughing fun, but if it does not give me a feeling of satisfaction, of being worth doing, then either I am not doing something right, or I need to be doing something else. That is when it is time is ask for help (what am I doing wrong?) or move on with my life.
Umbrellas prevent rain. Well, not really, but I am amazed at the way being prepared for the worst has a way of making things turn out well or at least not so bad. I have rarely had to stop for bad weather. Similarly, setbacks like broken cables, flat tires, and missed connections have only created forks in the road, not barriers to the journey. With a backup plan, you always have something to do if Plan A does not work out. And I have often enjoyed Plan B as much or more.
The same applies to the office. Having more than one way to backup (and access) your files; multiple phone numbers for contacts; even spare change for a payphone – these all help develop the habit of being prepared.
Smiles work both ways. When I remember to smile, or laugh, or at least see the humor or outside perspective of a situation, I simply can’t stay angry or resentful. And it disarms and calms people around me, too. I am working very hard on making smiling and humor a habitual reaction to things like road rage, discourteous drivers, and bullies. I am not there yet, but I have remembered often enough to know that it works.
Remember to smile when you are on the phone, especially when talking to a difficult client or when you are tired. The smile comes across and, if you’re listening, you will hear the shift in tone at the other end.
Ask for help. It gives the other person a chance to feel good and it gets your problem solved sooner. Don’t worry about asking strangers for help, be it directions, a lift to a repair shop or a recommendation for a place to stay or eat. If you are already freelancing for a living, then you have learned enough about people to spot the unsavory characters. They don’t change that much from place to place. And the statistics are in your favor: even in the “worst” neighborhoods, most people are good and helpful. Asking for help even when it’s not a crisis can help you meet new people, experience a place through the eyes of the locals, and learn new things.
Some resources helped me prepared for the Climate Ride, the GNI and this Southern Swing 2013. I learned a lot from Distance Cycling by John Hughes (Human Kinetics, 2011, ISBN-13: 978-0736089241), adapting the information from the different chapters to fit my needs. The Adventure Cycling Association (http://www.adventurecycling.org/) has a wealth of information, especially about covering long distances with a loaded bicycle (including how to choose gear). Bicycling magazine (www.bicycling.com) never grows old, and has at least one gem in every issue.
For accommodations, I learned to use my frequent customer status with Marriott, Choice and Hilton to good advantage, but the real jewel has been Couchsurfing (www.couchsurfing.org). There is another social site, especially attuned to cyclists, Warm Showers (www.warmshowers.org), which I just signed up for.
Next week, I plan to catch up with work and making contacts in the Austin area. My next post should summarize the preparations I had to make to launch this trip — and address any issues that you want to bring up.