It’s been about three months since we finished our five month cross country bicycle adventure. And we’ve not done any serious cycling since October 1. During that time we’ve realized several things:
Life Off the Saddle
Eating like a normal person is hard.
During our cycling adventure we ate a lot. And often. We were burning 4,000-6,000 calories daily so keeping ourselves fed enough required dedicated effort. The first few weeks off the saddle were brutal. We’d eat breakfast and a few hours later be starving because our bodies were accustomed to “second breakfast.” And home-made meal portions friends and family would serve seemed too small. It took about a month for our appetites and stomachs to return to normal sizes.
Learning to ratchet down the calories and volume has been a challenge. We had to relearn how to eat. We now only sometimes have dessert. We reintroduced ourselves to salads. We drastically reduced our beer consumption.
We were doing fine but then the holidays hit.
Strength is slow, flabby is fast.
Several weeks into our ride we had, if not quite “buns of steel,” pretty strong and lean bodies – particularly our legs, buns and abs. Now, not so much. We’ve both put on weight and we’ve lost muscle mass. We’re still on the thin side but hardly lean.
Right after we finished our adventure our bodies complained about the lack of exercise and it was hard to sit still. We tried to do a lot of walking but it’s not the same as 5-6 hours of cycling every day. We resorted to buying an exercise DVD. But finding the motivation to exercise to a DVD is a lot harder than the overwhelming motivation you have to pedal as far as you can from some tiny town where the only place to eat is the local gas station. We are looking forward to our January trip to Ecuador, which will be pretty physically active.
We are has-beens!
Whenever we chose to stay at a motel we’d always ask the hotel staff if we could store our bikes in our room. This would lead to a funny exchange that boiled down to:
Us: “No, the bikes are not in addition to a car.”
Hotel staff: “You mean you rode your bikes here?
Then we’d talk about our cycling adventure and often get a room upgrade or some other little treat. When we’d wheel the fully-loaded bikes into the lobby the staff would usually wave at us and come over to gawk at the bikes. And for the duration of our stay, every time we’d walk through the lobby the hotel staff would give us a friendly wave or thumbs up.
When we’d park our bikes outside a restaurant other guests would wander up to our table and ask about our bikes and our journey. Then they’d wander away either admiring us or thinking we were insane. Either way, we could see they were talking about us as they walked away.
Now, when we check into a hotel or eat at a restaurant, we’re nobody special. Upgrades are a thing of the past, and no one cares when we walk through the lobby.
We kind of miss our mini flirt with fame and it gives us an inkling into what it must be like for ex-famous folks who are now actual has-beens. Must suck for them to be out of the limelight.
We need to be somewhere else.
Since March, 2016, we’ve rarely slept in the same bed more than two nights in a row (with the exception of the 17 nights we spent house sitting in early December).
On a few occasions we’ve spent 4-5 nights with family or friends. While we love visiting, by day three we find ourselves getting antsy to be going somewhere. Fortunately, in the new year we’ll be back to being in a different place every few days. That trend is likely to be the case for the next few years. Call us crazy. Even strangers do.
We need to create weekends.
During our cycling trip we had official rest days. Initially, we would rest day every fourth day. As we got stronger (and the terrain got flatter) we’d go longer stretches between rest days. But even so, we rarely went more than 6-7 days.
In November we visited eight different European cities. We were constantly on the go cramming in sightseeing. About three weeks in we kind of hit a wall and realized that for future travel and cycling, we’ll need to build in some days just to hang out and “do nothing” as a physical and mental break. It had never occurred to us that when you’re retired and your job is “traveling” that you have to create periodic “weekends” for yourself.
Cycling/Traveling in Our Future
We spent October and December visiting family and friends (Austin, Seattle and San Francisco). No bikes. We spent November in Europe. No bikes. We will spend January /February in Ecuador. No bikes.
In the Spring and we’ll head to Europe (with our bikes) for several months of cycling in various countries. We plan to use Europe’s wonderful train systems to get ourselves to someplace interesting, cycle there for a few weeks, and then take the train elsewhere in Europe and bike around that area. We haven’t yet figured the specific countries, but know we’ll start in Spain and expect to cycle in France and Italy. We’re also eyeing Scotland, Ireland, and maybe even some Baltic countries. We look forward to seeing how the cycling compares in Europe vs the US.