It was a cold and blustery day. I could have gone for a ride outside but Big Nellie was all alone in the basement. So I went downstairs with a magazine, a book, and two water bottles are started spinning.
An article in Adventure Cyclist magazine about Joe Cruz (great name), an accomplished cycle tourist, had a paragraph that really resonated with me. Every time I do a solo tour people ask me if I get bored or afraid. Solo touring has made me appreciate the difference between loneliness and solitude. And as Cruz says:
“Being by yourself makes a tremendous difference in how open you are and how you put yourself into the cultural context of the place your visiting. …[W}hen I am solo, I am getting a great big hug from the place, surrounded by mountains or terrain that grabs me and holds me and over hours lets me disappear, and the chatter in my head goes away and the place I am visiting becomes part of me. “
I am infinitely more loquacious when I am on a solo bike tour. I talk to everybody I meet. Considering how introverted I am, this is quite a feat.
There is something to be said for touring with others as I did in 2016. And I find I much prefer doing event rides with a group of friends. Solo touring is a whole different ballgame.
Of course, solo touring can be a drag if you let it. More specifically, if you are prone to letting worries run away with your mind, you are in for a very miserable time. I was on my way to Indiana along the C&O Canal towpath in 2005. I was about 40 miles into the day bumping along on Big Nellie when I found my mind hijacked.
“This is so bumpy. All the weight is over the rear wheel. What if my rear tire blows out? What a spoke breaks? What if it starts to rain? This is going to suck.”
Over and over again. For hours.
After finishing the magazine I started reading the new book Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics when I learned that this kind of escalating worry binge has a name. Buddhists (in the ancient language Pali) call it prapanca.
I was crushing prapanca all the way to Brunswick, Maryland when I stopped my bike and literally gave myself a good talking to. Out loud. (The other trail users gave me a few hairy eyeballs.) I resolved to forget about all the catastrophes that might come and enjoy the fact that it was a perfect summer day and I was on vacation doing what I love to do.
And off I went with a smile on my face.
A few days later, I noticed that my rear rim was cracking. I stopped at a convenience store. The clerk told me about a nearby bike shop. The bike shop dudes told me that they’d replace the rim and pointed me to a Mexican restaurant and a motel. The next day I was back on the road with a full tummy, a good night’s sleep, and a new rear wheel.
Take that prapanca.