I had thought about, planned for, and trained for my bicycle tour for at least a year. Last January I went back to the US and returned with the equipment I couldn’t get here, so I was serious about it even back then. Now that my trip is behind me, what do I think?
Am I glad I did it? Yes!
Would I do it again? Yes!
As I expected, bike travel is very different. You go slower than a vehicle so you see more, experience more of your surroundings, and interact with people along the way more. You can stop where you want, enjoy a view, cool off in a river, break for lunch, and do whatever you wish.
But, it was also challenging. I don’t usually bike 50 miles, so doing that distance every day was hard especially in the heat, and worse if there were a lot of hills. Aside from being tired I felt well except for my sore seat. Thankfully though I didn’t have any sore muscles or joints. I usually woke up at first light and was anxious to take advantage of the cooler morning, but by mid day it was hot enough to drain your energy. In the evening I was usually tired enough to only want to shower and fall in bed. I heard as the trip goes on you get more used to covering longer distances and this was indeed true for me. I think if I was going to do it again though, I might save more energy to enjoy the places along the way and take more time. Of course, this time, I was also motivated to get there because I had left Joel at home and didn’t want to be away any longer than necessary.
After a while, the trip felt surprisingly normal. I biked with Elza only for three days and then I set off on my own, something that I am very used to from biking around David. The scenery was different, and the experience was different but ultimately, it was just riding your bike down the road which, for me, is not new at all.
I think I packed well. I took as little as possible to keep weight down. There was a beach towel that I never used, and I should have taken another t-shirt for evenings so I could wear one and wash another. I should have taken more inner tubes. I didn’t realize how hard it would be to buy another, but thankfully I finally found some and never needed them, nor did I need some of the other tools and spare parts I brought along. In general though I felt I had everything I needed and nothing (except the towel) I should have left behind.
Why do we take bicycle trips? Why do we look for new and interesting things? Why do we seek adventure? I think this guy summed it up very well. Check out this National Geographic Video.
I don’t plan to bike for 7 thousand miles! But, I can certainly relate to what he says. Maybe that is why I love living in a different country, and why I want to travel more. It’s exciting, challenging, and makes you feel so alive and out of any routines.
I would like to travel more and I would consider doing it on the bike. I came back on the bus and it was very frustrating. You have to wait for the next scheduled bus, and you sit there and go where they take you, and stop where they make a stop. I so wanted to just get back on the bike and go now, and go where I wanted to go! I had to keep reminding myself that it would take me five days to do the distance the bus could do in one.
The bus from San Jose, Costa Rica to David, Panama was very interesting though. They came down from the city to the beach road, and drove along the very same road I had traveled on my bike. I saw so many familiar places where I had ridden, taken photos, taken breaks, and wandered off the main road. It was really fun to relive it all over again.
So what now? I have spent the first week back home just resting, settling back in, goofing off, and catching up on things. I don’t have the same training motivation to spend a lot of time on the bike. I sure feel strong now though. I went downtown for some errands and coming home felt like nothing, and I remember in the past how the long gentle uphill could be a challenge. And, I was coming home loaded with art supplies and four pineapples.
I still haven’t biked up the mountain to Boquete. This is my main unmet goal right now. That should keep me busy for a while and help me keep my conditioning. It’s only a 1166 meter (3825 feet) climb in 37 kilometers (23 miles) per http://www.cycleroute.org. Wish me luck 😀