Winging or planning (page 3) - CycleBlaze

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Winging or planning (page 3)

Steve Miller/GrampiesTo Leo Woodland

Even though we keep saying how much fun it would be to try being spontaneous and do a tour with just a general notion of where we are headed, making it up as we go along, it seems that every time we say that we end up with a meticulously preplanned route complete with all nightly lodgings booked, GPX files of daily routes loaded into devices, and packing lists in duplicate.  We just seem more comfortable knowing where we are going and how far it is until we get there. This does not preclude a change of plans while we are on the actual trip, but changes are limited by the confines of the prebooked stops. If needed we will cancel and rebook, or take a train to a further stop along the route but not too often.

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1 month ago
David ChavezTo Leo Woodland

My current tour is unplanned. I knew I was leaving in late May, I knew I wanted to go south, then north, then south but everything else has been figured out on the fly.   My bike was out of commission from March to mid-May while my gearbox was in Germany so I didn’t get to train either. I got the bike on May 10, did a weekend shakedown ride and left a few days later. So far, so good. Not having any sort of schedule requirements and minimal required destinations makes it simple. That and enough money, which I almost have.   

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1 month ago
John PescatoreTo David Chavez

I travelled for business a lot over the years and learned to minimize disruption by thoroughly planning and having backup flights, etc. That carried over into my planning for our family vacations and my wife and kids would complain that I had too many activities and schedules crammed in and that vacations activities should be more spontaneous.

So, the next year we rented a house on Cape Cod MA and on the first morning I just hopped on my bicycle and spent all morning on the Cape Cod Rail trail. I came back and they were all glaring at me and my daughter said "We thought you went grocery shopping on your bike, we've been waiting - there is nothing to eat here." My wife was smirking in the background as I pointed out she and her brother could have spontaneously walked a few blocks, spontaneously opened their wallets, and spontaneously bought some milk and Cocoa Puffs...

Flash forward 20 years and my now 33 year old mother of two daughter rented a house in Rehoboth Beach VA and invited us along - and sent us a tentative itinerary of activities for the time slots between nap times for the 3 year old and 1 year old. My wife claims I was spontaneously smirking as I read that...

I actually admire that people that really have that sense of spontaneity but I just can't do it!

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1 month ago
George HallTo Leo Woodland

"Do you set off with a song in your heart and just an apple in your pocket? Or do you research the route and all there may be to see along it?"

I think every tour has to have at least some planning behind it - I mean, you at least need to know which direction you are headed.  And you really can't just sleep beside the road wherever you end the day - at least you can't do that in the U.S. for a long tour - you can do that in some U.S. national forests (but many require permits and that involves advance planning), but "wild camping" otherwise means trespassing on private property and that's not a very safe or sustainable option.   And you have to give some thought to food and water resupply - you might opt to do this by planning one day at a time, but that's still a plan.   Many U.S. roads are not bicycle friendly - some major roads prohibit bicycles, and many others are extremely dangerous - so I don't know how one could do a long tour without some planning regarding the roads to be traveled. 

OTOH, my 2 long tours (coast-to-coast) were the least-planned of my tours.  I was still employed full-time when I rode the Transam, and I started off with only a vague plan for the first week - and even that "plan" fell apart on Day 3 and I found myself winging it day by day.  But the Transam is a mapped route, so at the beginning of each day I knew generally where I was going - I usually tried to plan out the next day's destination the night before, or maybe have a few day's of "possible" destinations in mind.  It certainly couldn't have been called serendipity, but I was flexible with each day's destination.  For example, I camped in the yard of a kind stranger in Virginia when it became apparent that I wasn't going to reach my planned destination that day.  Each time I took a rest day I tried to plan ahead for the next several days.  I did enjoy that aspect of the "unknown" regarding the days ahead - if you had at any time asked me where I would be in 5 days, the best I could have done would have been a guess. 

My other long tour was the Northern Tier route.  That trip had originally been planned to be a repeat of the Transam because my sister and brother-in-law wanted to ride a long tour with me, and I thought the Transam would be a better long tour for my sister than the Northern Tier.  But my sister had some family issues that caused her to drop out with less than a month before departure, and my brother-in-law and I decided we had rather ride the Northern Tier instead.  There was simply no time for much planning prior to departure - of course, it's also an ACA route so there are excellent maps of the actual routing.  But we had not planned any lodging, there was uncertainty regarding whether the Canadian border would re-open from the COVID shutdown (it did not, we had to reroute from the ACA routing twice), the ferry at Ticonderoga, NY had not gone back into operation post-COVID, many restaurants and stores had closed from the COVID shutdown - so each day was "interesting" that way.  As I was driving us to the start at Bar Harbor, ME, my brother-in-law was on his phone trying to arrange lodging for our first few nights - and that's the story for the entire trip.   I had done no research of the route and was pleasantly surprised when we rolled up to the Field of Dreams in Ohio - even a small amount of research would have discovered that we were going to go right past it.  

So then, my 2 longest tours had little to no pre-planning, but they followed an ACA route so at least I knew which way to point the wheels each day.  I've also ridden 2 ACA routes that I would call "medium size" in length; the Western Express and the Great Rivers South.   For each of them, I planned out the entire trip.  The goal was to stay inside each night and avoid the need to carry camping gear, so lodging had to be reserved in advance.  I did carry a sleeping bag on the Great Rivers South because I knew I was going to stay in 2 hostels and a community fire station where I would need to provide my own bed covers. 

"How long before you set off do you begin the planning?"

The Western Express route travels through some very scenic and popular areas.  To get lodging, especially in the small towns in Nevada, you need to make reservations months in advance.  And so I did - my experience is that it would be wise to have reservations confirmed 3 months ahead.  The opportunity to ride the Great Rivers South route opened up for me with only a short window for planning, so I was frantically booking lodging about a week before the planned departure.  The trip was almost doomed when I couldn't get lodging at a couple of key spots - but a call to a City Manager got me in a community fire station when all the lodging was booked in town, and a combination of AirBnBs, regular BnBs, small town motels, and cyclist hostels filled in the gaps. 

"How do you stay on schedule for lodging?"  (not your question, but it was asked by others)

The Western Express was a 5-week journey, and the Great Rivers South was a 4.5-week journey.  Some have questioned how it's possible to stay on schedule for lodging on a trip of that length.  That's a great question.  The key for me is that I try to plan enough rest days into the schedule.   For the 35-day Western Express route, there were 7 rest days built in.  For the 31-day Great Rivers South route, there were 3 rest days built in.  If I was to get behind schedule, I could have sacrificed a rest day to catch up.  There were 2 reasons I built in so many rest days on the Western Express route; 1.) it was to be my Sister's first long tour, and I was uncertain of her ability (indeed, she had trouble and had to drop out for a week of R&R before re-joining me and finishing), and 2.) because lodging can be impossible to get on short notice along parts of this route, I wanted to be doubly certain of having days that could be sacrificed if necessary due to bad weather, etc.   The Western Express route traverses some very harsh terrain and there's often no services for 50 - 70 miles between towns - given the vagaries of the weather, it just seemed prudent to build in plenty of rest days.  FWIW, I felt like they were needed.   When possible, I plan rest days in towns that have a bicycle shop in case any maintenance is needed. 

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1 month ago
John SaxbyTo Leo Woodland

Good question, Léo, and lots of enjoyable answers.  I pretty much have to plan any tour, long or short, to fit in with family activities, planned or otherwise. So, I'm of necessity selective or opportunistic -- a fancy way of saying, I guess,"It depends..." (Thank you, Graham.)

But the journey usually starts, not with a single pedal stroke, but with some place I've already decided for one reason or other that I'd like to visit by bike. Once that's reasonably clear, then the large & small details usually sort themselves out -- what is it that attracts me, what roads look interesting/compelling, are there friends nearby that I'd like to visit, und so weiter.  The length of the journey is usually a result of juggling this'n'that:  my tour from Amsterdam to Vienna in 2012, for example, was also a chance to see old friends in Amsterdam, meet up with our daughter in Vienna, and then for both of us to rendez-vous with my wife in Prague. So, it became a family holiday as well.  

Conversely, in three weeks' time I'll mark the autumnal equinox with an overnight at a park in Québec just 80 kms east of Ottawa, on an island in the big river.  That'll be a mini-tour to celebrate cycling again after two hip-replacement ops in the past twelve months.  It happens that I've never visited that particular spot in the immediate neighbourhood.  So, although the route there & back is familiar enough, the destination will be wholly new. "Planning" is less of an issue, I suppose, than it would be on a longer tour.  At the same time, I've got a new tent and a new bike, and I'm looking forward to trying out various ways of loading the bike.  And, because we're still engulfed by construction season (we have only two seasons in Ottawa, winter and construction), I've already done a "preconnaissance" ride to check out bike paths and bridges on an unloaded bike.  That ride included a splendid addition to our riverine routes -- see the photo below of the William Commanda Bridge, a renamed and repurposed railway bridge across the Ottawa built in the 1880's.  Originally named after a member of the British aristocracy, the bridge now honours an Algonquin elder from a community north of the city.

William Commanda Bridge, looking N to Québec on a clear August morning

Cheers, John

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4 weeks ago
David HeisnerTo Leo Woodland

I’ve been reading a book - Peak Brain. It’s an interesting book about the function of the brain as it relates to attention. How important it is, how we lose it, how to keep it. The author, Amishi Jha describes how people have better memories if they do not take so many photos of what they see. She says it’s because the act of framing, lighting, positioning, angles etc. consume the short term memory.  Because of the limited capacity of our brains, these actions don’t allow the remembrance of many of the details about the scene beyond what is framed in the picture. 

She says - “But it’s very easy to live our lives behind these devices and to create a stream of digital memories without making actual memories.“

All that to say, maybe detailed planning and then the continuous need to stay on the plan, which requires continuing comparison of where we are to where we need to be does the same thing as seeing life through the camera. 

This comment seems to relate to that. - “if you want to remember the things you experience and the things you learn, you need to allow for the free flow of spontaneous thought. If your days are all engagement, all the time, you’re skipping a critical step we discussed earlier: opportunities for consolidation.“ 

Does this mean that according to the functioning of the brain a spontaneous experience is better than a detailed, planned experience if memory of the trip is the most important thing about it?

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3 weeks ago