Best and worst days on tour? - CycleBlaze

Bicycle Travel Forum

Best and worst days on tour?

Keith Adams

We're nearly at the start of the Silly Season here in North America, when the weather drives all but the hardiest souls indoors.  For me, that often translates to (even more) time in front of the computer, looking at photos from trips gone by, reading other people's journals, and hatching plans for new tour opportunities "next season".  Oh, and reading what's been posted here in the Forum area.

It seems Forum traffic has been quite slow of late, which presumably reflects everyone being busy doing other things like actually riding their bikes.  (Good for you, if that's the case!)  That makes it a perfect time to start a tale-telling thread, that anyone can add to at any time.

As you might surmise from the thread title, I'd like to hear about your favorite / best day on tour (feel free to link to the relevant journal page(s) too, of course) and equally about the not-so-great day that you remember as being particularly bad (tell us not only what happened but why it was so bad).  If you're like me, it's the difficult days that make the best stories; adversity seems to have a particular fascination and provide extra grist for stories.

I'll start.

Best Day

My best day was, I think, the day this past summer when I rode south on the Bitterroot Trail and U.S. 93 from Missoula MT to just short of Sula, MT.  I hadn't planned to get that far when I started the day, but it was "one of those days" when I was riding well, the weather was pleasant, and everything just "clicked".  I could have stopped in Hamilton but it was only early afternoon.  

I could have called it quits when I got to Darby but there was still plenty of daylight and I was still feeling good.  The next day would take me over Lost Trail and Chief Joseph Passes, and I wanted to minimize the distance I had to cover before arriving at the base of the climb, so I pushed on.

Arriving at the Spring Gulch USFS Campground, I was pleased to learn that there was not only a dedicated campsite reserved for cyclists, it was attended to by a really first-rate campground host who goes out of his way to provide clean, safe, pleasant conditions for bike bums.  The day was, in short, one of those "magical" days you remember fondly forever after.

Worst Day

On the other end of the spectrum, there was a cold, rainy day in May of about 1990 or so that was among the hardest I've ever had.  A group of my colleagues and some of our customers were on a three-day, two night ride from Front Royal, VA to Waynesboro VA along Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park, then back to Front Royal through the Shenandoah Valley. 

Our first day out was in the low 50's, with a mewling, mizzling drizzle that made everything soggy.  I was not only inexperienced at touring (this was only my second or third touring adventure), I was also under-trained and somewhat poorly equipped.  Tackling something as ambitious as Skyline (long climbs, of a sort I had no prior experience with) was probably not my wisest decision ever, but it's good to be young.

It became clear partway along that I had a none chance of reaching my intended overnight at the Big Meadows campground, even after I unloaded my gear into the support van with which we were traveling.  Another rider in a similar situation agreed that we should see if accommodations could be had at Skyland, which if they could would shorten the day by 13 miles.  I got ahead and found that yes indeed there was a cabin available, which I booked on our behalf.

After a long hot soak in the tub (getting clean and warm and DRY never felt so good) life became livable again.  My buddy arrived soon after I got finished, and was equally glad of the facilities.  

We enjoyed dinner in the lodge dining room with many others from our group, then a local entertainer put on a concert for us (he'd been booked by the Park to provide entertainment in the Lodge's bar that evening), so it turned into a pleasant evening.

That evening the wind rose and moaned and howled in the window frames of our cabin, and blew a fog up the mountainside.  Camping- my original plan- would've been absolutely miserable.  I've seldom been so glad to be warm and snug indoors rather than cold and wet, as I was that evening.

Reply    Link    Flag
4 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Keith Adams

I’ll have to think about what might be the worst day on tour of my life, but the best one is easy.  Five years later, our train ride from From Foix to Carcassonne still ranks as my best day on tour, maybe the best day of my life.  It feels like the closest that I, a lifetime atheist, have come to having what I think must be like a religious experience.  It still makes me grateful that I took the time to write it all down at the time so I can relive the many details that I’d undoubtedly have forgotten by now.  Like the cat.  How could I ever forget the cat?

Reply    Link    Flag
4 weeks ago
Jacquie GaudetTo Keith Adams

Best day:  No idea, there have been so many good days!

Worst day:  There have been a number of cold, rainy, miserable days, especially the one that also included Al's flat on the way up to Domme (  However, the worst day wasn't rainy.  In fact, the only thing I remember about the weather that day is that it wasn't raining.

It was 1989, perhaps.  We were doing a road trip, car camping with Al's truck, and had left the truck at the home of a former classmate of my mother's in Radium Hot Springs to ride the Golden Triangle (Radium Hot Springs--Golden--Lake Louise), with an extension to Banff.  We were on our return leg from Banff, unsure whether we would get all the way to Radium or where we would stop if we didn't.  There's not much along the route.

Al had a flat early on, somewhere along the Bow Valley Parkway.  Being the slower rider and facing a possibly 140-km day, I continued, expecting him to catch up.  At some point I stopped at an outhouse, and when he hadn't caught me by the turn at Castle Junction, I waited...and waited.  I waited for what seemed a very long time.  I finally decided he must have passed me while I was in the outhouse, and made the turn onto Highway 93.  I got to the top of the pass, and he wasn't there.  There wasn't anything at all, so I carried on, worried that he might have thought I was still ahead.  Obviously, this was well before mobile phones, but there isn't coverage along that route now either, as far as I know (I just checked).

I finally came to the first real stopping place I'd seen since Castle Junction, about 80 km from our start at Tunnel Mountain Campground.  Vermilion Crossing consisted of Kootenay Park Lodge and little else, as far as I could see.  I stopped in and asked if any other cyclist had been by.  No.  I decided this was the best place to wait, as I'd now realized Al must be still somewhere behind me.  It seemed like a long time until he showed up.  Apparently he'd had difficulties fixing his flat (he's normally very quick) and had been trying to catch me ever since.  We decided to stay at one of the log cabins there after our stressful day and continue to Radium on the morrow.

Reply    Link    Flag
3 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Jacquie Gaudet

That sounds so unnerving.  It reminds me of the day Rachael and I got separated from each other by Agnes Pass in the French Pyrenees, not knowing which of us was in front.  That would be on my short list of awful days too.  With that in mind though, I’m pretty sure the day Rachael got her concussion must have been the worst of all, closely followed by the dog bite incident in John Day 3 years ago - my scar from that is still well visible.  

Well, or maybe the worst of all was in Silver City on November 8, 21016 watching the election returns after a long day biking in from Lordsburg.  Yes, that was the worst.  Rachael and I have recovered from our injuries but our country is still hemorrhaging badly.

I’m going to stop here.  It more fun to think of the best days, of which there are thankfully vastly many more.

Reply    Link    Flag
3 weeks ago
Jacquie GaudetTo Scott Anderson

Luckily for us, neither of us has suffered real injuries on tour. As for your worst day, that (and the pandemic) is why we haven’t been south of the border for a tour in years. 

Reply    Link    Flag
3 weeks ago
Bob KoreisTo Keith Adams

I can't pick out a best day because they are all best days. It's like the saying, a bad day fishing is better than a good day working (or something to that effect). Anything added would just be preaching to the choir. But I don't leave the person I'm riding with. I've always essentially been the ride leader and felt a responsibility toward the other person. 

The worst day was still on two wheels, but with a 1096cc motor between the legs. Caught a ferry from Vancouver Island to Horseshoe Bay. Shortly after debarking we came to a stop for road construction prior to the Vancouver Winter Olympics. As we sat, rain started coming down. Just as we started to reach for rain gear, the pilot car pulls up. So it's 40 kilometers of torn up road, in the COLD rain, on a motorcycle, with no place to pull out to put on rain jackets until we reach Squamish. Farther on at the top of a pass we make a stop for a hot meal. Soup. Back on the bike and feeling better, the road on the far side of the pass is not the quality represented on the map. Looks like a single lane that was poorly expanded in to two. There is a gap in the pavement going down the middle of each lane and it's about as wide as my tires. Then the pavement would end at the bottom of a hill, so there would be a dirt surface where I'd need to take a 90 degree turn onto a one lane bridge. Finally we get on to wide, 4-lane highway and my stress went down significantly until we came around a sweeper and across three lanes there were boulders and smaller rocks that had come down. Almost needed a change of clothing after that one. The day ended with my pillion getting off the bike while I rode it down a dark, steep, dirt driveway.  

Reply    Link    Flag
3 weeks ago
Pete StaehlingTo Keith Adams

For the most part even the hard days are good days, but getting sick on tour is tough.  It happened to me a couple times.  Once I bailed with HAPE and once I was just really sick with some unknown bug.  I spent 48 hours in a Best Western in Larned Kansas.  I was sick enough that I don't think I could have traveled home if I wanted to.  I was completely out of it for 24 hours.  Then slowly bounced back a bit for the next 24 hours before hitting the road again.  I'd pick that first 24 hours as my worst day on tour.

I had so many good days I can't pick just one.

Reply    Link    Flag
3 weeks ago
John EganTo Keith Adams

I've been thinking about whether to respond since this was first posted.
I'm of two minds, but it may be helpful to some.

I've had many "Best" days both before and after my "Worst" day.
I've had rain and wind and hail and snow.
Day after day of unrelenting heat. Ice on my tent in the morning.
I've had flats, broken spokes, snapped cables, even bike failure.
And sometimes a combination of the above.
But I continue to ride.

Why?  Well, of course, it's for those magical moments.
Practically flying on a tailwind on an empty road in the Oklahoma panhandle.
The very first time I rode into Yosemite with the valley opening up before me.
Riding through blazing October colors in the Virginia Appalachians.
The ladies at the cafe in Rulo, Nebraska who fed me a feast on a 100F+ day.
As others have said, the "Best" days are too many to count.

I'll provide a link to the worst day.  In the summer of 1995.
I was seeking shelter during a tornado warning in west Kansas.
I was sexually assaulted and feared for my life.
Because it was a same-sex assault, I was treated with contempt by police.
At the hospital, the so-called counselor turned out to be a preacher.
He told me that I had to change my evil ways or burn in hell.

I post this because what happened to me could easily happen to someone else. Particularly solo riders. Particularly women.
Up until this tour, I frequently accepted hospitality from strangers.
I rarely do, anymore.  And I don't go inside their houses.
I cringe all the time about other people doing this in their journals.

What are the odds?  I don't know.  Very low.
But it only takes one.  One sick individual.
For predators, solo cyclists - even couples - are ideal targets.
Far from home, hungry, tired, maybe a little turned around.

It is a sad commentary on humanity. But it happened to me. 
My hope is that it happens to no one else.

Reply    Link    Flag
3 weeks ago
Jacquie GaudetTo John Egan

John, I think your story is truly awful. My condolences. 

Reply    Link    Flag
3 weeks ago
Gregory GarceauTo John Egan

Oh my god, your story was so horrific I don't even know what to say.  I'm guessing it must have been difficult, yet cathartic, to write that article.  I know for sure it was harrowing for me to read it.

In the first paragraph you said you "hope it may be helpful to some."  It was helpful to me.  I tend to avoid people while touring anyway.  I generally don't want or need "trail angels" and, like you, I cringe when I read about cyclists spending nights in strangers' houses.  After reading your story, it's not likely I will EVER do that.

Reply    Link    Flag
3 weeks ago