By David Ward
For years I have been reading articles in Cycling West by Lou Melini and others on bicycle touring. And though the idea has been enticing, I have never done much of that. In fact, I have done virtually none at all, being able to count on one hand the times I have actually toured on a bike.
The first time was way back when I was first getting into cycling. I had lost a lot of weight, as a result of which I was engaging in a lot more physical activity, both to keep the weight off, and simply because I could. I had always enjoyed riding a bike from the time I was a kid, so when I lost all that weight and became more active, I naturally made cycling a big part of my active lifestyle.
So it was that around 1980 I strapped a tent and a sleeping bag on the rear rack of my old Motobecane, struck out from my home in Salt Lake and headed to Pocatello where I was to meet up with my wife, Karma. The first day I rode to Mantua, Utah where I camped for the night, and the next day pedaled the remaining miles to Pocatello. I remember being gratified at the accomplishment, but also that it was not as challenging as I thought it would be.
My next foray into bike touring came, I believe, in 1984. At that time, Karma and I decided to do a tour that started and finished in Jackson, and did a loop through Teton National Park. I don’t recall well the details from that trip, except that we rode all the way through Teton National Park to the southern boundary of Yellowstone Park before we headed back toward Jackson. I also remember how scenic it was to be seeing Teton National Park from the seat of a bike. So much better than a car.
The next year, 1985, we had some friends who had taken up cycling, so together we planned a Colorado loop where we started in Montrose and rode to Telluride. The second day took us from there to Dolores. Day 3 saw us push on to Durango where, on day 4, we took the narrow gauge train to Silverton from where we rode to Ouray. I particularly remember that day as I had several flats before I figured out the rim tape had slipped and the tubes kept pinching into the spoke holes. The last day saw us complete the tour by riding from Ouray to Montrose.
Then in 1986, with those same friends, we retraced the tour Karma and I had done a couple of years earlier through Teton National Park.
To be honest, though, these three trips were not hardcore bike tours as we rode from hotel to hotel, glad to have a warm shower and soft bed each night. Still, they were very enjoyable, and a refreshing way to see the scenery.
But that’s it. No touring since then. Nada. As I think back on these tours, I am amazed we have not done more, because they were so enjoyable. Still, life has its way of creating obstacles, and we did not succeed in overcoming those to do more touring. I can look back and understand how that happened.
Still, the idea has continued to appeal to me. Then, a couple of years ago, a good friend took a month off from his law practice and being a Mormon bishop to cycle across the United States. He built up his touring bike, particularizing it to his desires, and stopped in to show it to me about a week before he left. He had really thought things through, and had a great trip across this beautiful country. He did some camping, but more often stayed in hotels.
Anyway, he has inspired me. So, I have decided, before my body gets too old, to do at least one good bike tour. Next fall, I am going to ride from my home in Salt Lake to my daughter’s home in Mesa, Arizona. Since I have just reached this resolve, the planning, other than the decision to do it, is still to come. One thing I do know, however, is that I am too old to sleep on the ground anymore, or at any rate do not want to. So I intend to ride from motel to motel. That will also lighten my load somewhat.
I am excited to do this, though my body of 68 years with its creeping arthritis is somewhat more apprehensive. But there comes a time when you realize that if you are going to do in this life some things you have considered doing, you better get on it while you still can. That time has come for me.
I know to many of the seasoned bike tourists, my planned ride probably doesn’t seem like much. But it seems like a major challenge to me. And that is what matters. And who knows, maybe it will lead to more touring adventures before age puts a stop to such shenanigans.
So next fall, some time late September or early October, I will pedal out of my driveway, point my front wheel south, and keep turning the pedals over till I get to Mesa.