Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The "Breaking-In" Period

At this stage of the game, I'm in the "breaking-in" phase of my bike tour.  Remember the last time you bought a new pair of shoes?  I am always so excited to wear them, but I never do a proper job of breaking them in.  I try them on a bit at home, look in the mirror several times to reassure myself of the new purchase, decide which outfit(s) they match, and then usually wear them all the next day with a big smile on my face, regardless of the fact that they rub on the back of my heel or the top of my small toe!  By the end of the day, I usually have a blister, but I know that the pain is temporary until my feet adapt and get used to the new shoes.

This is exactly where I am with The Loong Way Home at the moment.  My bike (which I have yet to name) is comfortable, but I don't quite have the correct fitting.  I'm adjusting the seat a few millimeters up, down, then forward, and back, the meantime my bum is getting tougher as the Brooks saddle gives more and more to the shape of my bum.  My hands are building up calluses as they adjust to their position on the handle bar.  And the weight, well, that is about to change as I send a good 10 kg worth of gear with Vicens!

Camping, this is an art in itself which I have yet to fine tune.  From the time we roll-up to the campsite to getting all the gear unpacked and the tent pitched, air mattress inflated, sleeping bag prepared, showered, and clothes washed, it is a good hour or more.  In the morning we haven't managed to collect everything, pack up, eat breakfast and be on the road in less than two hours. And your body needs some time to adapt to sleeping on a 5 centimeter thick air mattress, in a tent that is as wide as I am.  The first night we were treated like VIP at Camping International Calonge and we wanted to celebrate so we stayed up dancing until 1am.  The second night we didn't see the town disco next to the camping and woke up at 1am to the night session.  The following night a windstorm hit us.  I managed to sleep soundly with my earplugs, meanwhile Vicens thought a hurricane was passing through.  We took refuge in a hotel in Montpellier and night 5 we both had our first restful night at a campground.

Then comes nutrition.  Right now it is hard to pedal longer than an hour and a half without stopping for a second breakfast.  And every time I see a fruit stand my mouth starts to water and I crave a fresh piece of fruit (or 4 or 5).  My body is in a bit of as shock, trying to figure out the best way to fuel itself for all the riding.  And making dinner isn't an easy feat either!  You have to figure out how to make a delicious meal all with just one pot and chopping veggies in the bottom of a tupperware. I have to admit a few nights we've given in and just gone out to eat!

Navigation, at this stage in the trip also has room for improvement.  So far we've managed to ride on paved and unpaved bike paths, canal paths, small rural roads, local highways, and yes, a freeway!!!  After riding in France all summer long, I still don't understand the logic behind the French road system.  One minute you are on a small rural road with a wide shoulder and a bike stencil and the next thing you know, you are merging onto a 4 lane highway.  We end up riding on the "yellow" or "white" roads on the Michelin maps, but at times we can't help but take a "red" road which is much busier.  And we definitely try to avoid all those roads that look like an undulating snake, because we all know what all the switchbacks mean.

When my bum is no longer sore, and my hands have a few more calluses, I won't have to stop to eat every two hours. I will also manage to pack up my gear in the same amount of time it takes to set up, and then, I say that I have "broken-in" my body to the life of bike touring and will be ready to roll for kilometers and months to come!

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