We did it! We survived our first day of retirement and cycle touring! Even though we’re tired, got absolutely soaked in a typical, torrential, Taiping downpour, and couldn’t find our hotel without asking, we still had fun.
Here’s what we learned:
1.The bike Garmin does not necessarily choose the same routes as the car Garmin or Google maps. But, what it does do (or at least did today) was take us down some very secondary roads which were quite fun, especially when the local high school had just let out and we were going against the stream of boys and girls racing home from school on scooters, motorcycles, and bicycles, hooting and hollering and riding 3 or 4 abreast with 2 or more students per scooter in a downpour.
2.We need to drop another 10 pounds (5 kilos) from each bike. Those extra tubes of American sunscreen, toothpaste, and shaving cream are just not worth the extra weight and volume.
And the best part of MY day……
Eric said he would like to do the laundry! I guess after 30 years of laundry, I get to retire, too!
Today is supposed to be our first ride with our bikes fully loaded, new panniers clipped on, handle bar bags attached, rear view mirrors adjusted, route with hills (if you can call a large bridge over a river a “hill”) planned.
To ready ourselves for this first ride, we spent most of yesterday afternoon emptying the few remaining clothes from our closets, piling supplies in front of each pannier, and discussing the merits of items that may or may not be useful…we just don’t know. Here’s a typical conversation:
Eric: (excited and genuinely wanting my opinion) How many wash cloths should I pack? I’m thinking of two. What do you think?
Me: (a little snippy, hastily replied) I don’t know how many wash clothes YOU need. I’m not taking any. You’ve got to decide that for yourself.
I know why Eric is asking this question. Washcloths, or lack thereof, has been one of those things small cultural annoyances that has bothered Eric since we got to Malaysia. Many hotels (actually MOST unless they are a Marriott ) don’t have wash clothes. I, on the other hand, can make do with a corner of a towel or my hands or an old t-shirt. In fact, I feel that I am much more concerned about moreimportant things like: Western or squatty potty, toilet paper or hose, can we survive retirement, sunshine or rain…
Which brings me to my next dilemma. Rain. Lots of it. This morning I was awakened to the sound of large, heavy thick rain drops pounding on the roof, pouring down the rain gutters, and pooling into large lakes on the pavement. A quick glance at my phone’s weather report indicates rain for the next 5 days. What will we do? Where will we stay? Will our trial ride be our actual first ride? Is this journey of a lifetime going to work?
N.B. The sun came out. We rode for 50 km. We had a great time. So far so good.
It’s 12:09 am and I’m trying to keep myself awake until I board the plane for Malaysia at 1:30 am. I’m tired. No stores or restaurants are open. The few seats in the waiting area that don’t have arm rests separating them are already filled with sleeping travelers. The rest of us are engrossed in our technology. The man to my right is translating the Boy Scout Promise into Chinese. The man to my left is watching a Korean movie. I’m typing nonsense, afraid if I close my eyes I’ll miss my flight.
Over the past month, I’ve said my “see ya laters”. I’ve visited family, met with friends, and tried to help where I could. My emotional cup could be viewed as either 1/2 full or 1/2 empty. It’s full because it’s been filled with fun experiences, memorable encounters, and bucket-list accomplishments. At the same time, it’s drained to almost empty from dealing with normal life passages: aging, love, and reverse culture shock.
I suspect that once I land in Malaysia, get back on a regular sleep schedule, and start our pedaling adventure, the mental exhaustion will be a thing of the past. Physically we may be tired, but mentally I hope we are re-energized and motivated to make the most of our journey.
In the meantime, de de de de de de de de….I’m in the Twilight Zone…..
I just finished listening to the audio book The Mockingbird Next Door: Life with HarperLee by Marja Mills. In it, Harper Lee, famous for writing one bestselling novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, explains to Marja Mills that “journey proud” is the feeling you get before you take a trip, the sleepless nights, the planning, excitement, anxiety all wrapped up into one Southern term.
“Journey proud” I am. “Journey proud” I’ve been for over a month. It’s currently 4:30 am, 3 days before my return flight to Malaysia, and I’m awake. Before I left Malaysia, I was “journey proud” for both my return to the United States and our upcoming retirement ride. After I arrived in the US I blamed my sleepless nights on jet lag and I’m sure that was the case for a few days. But it wasn’t until I heard the term “journey proud” while driving 80 mph on I-80 across brown, dry, barren Nevada, that I had a name for my ailment. In my journey proud sleeps, I’m packing my panniers, planning trips to REI, wondering what I’ve forgotten, and frustrated that I haven’t been able to improve the appearance of our website.
So, here I sit, propped up in bed, in a hotel room, somewhere in Oregon, heading back to Washington, where I’ll leave my truck and dump my excess baggage. I’m mentally organizing the next few days, trying to empty my mind, knowing I need some sleep. I’m “journey proud.”
Shopping….I’m not a big fan. But, I have a list of things for our trip..things I can’t easily find in Malaysia…things that are really cool but I could probably do without except that they’re cool and lightweight and well made and wisely marketed to a cycle-tourer who wants to be comfortable.
The problem with shopping for all these cool things is that “necessary” and “want” becomes blurred..And, since we’ve never done something like this before, I’m not really sure what “necessary” actually is.
These things were on my original list:
Flat, super light-weight, Park bicycle wrenches in size 14,15, and 16 – Eric requested these and since he’ll be doing the repairs, I’ve got to trust that he knows the sizes he needs.
A rear-view mirror – Anytime I turn to look backwards, I lose stability. With a fully-loaded bike I need as much stability as possible.
Below-the knee cycle shorts with super nifty zipper pockets – I’m still bringing my spandex the dark brown knees and the lack of pockets are forcing me to find alternatives.
A two-person mosquito net – This is totally precautionary. The day I put this up is the day you know we couldn’t find a hotel…and I hope that day is never….
Waterproof cell phone bags – I think we are starting our journey near the end of monsoon season…but if you ask the locals, they don’t actually know when monsoon season is. In any event, we need our phones to be dry and functional
Waterproof stuff sacks – Biking in wet clothes is one thing. Sleeping in them is another.
Compression bags – These seem like a gimmick but we’re probably taking too many things so now we need a way to squeeze them in our panniers. I suspect about 2 weeks out, we’ll be shedding ourselves of some excess weight.
These are some things that were NOT on my list but seemed like a good idea:
Fast drying, guaranteed easy to wash, “the only pair we’ll need” as the package reads, underwear
Lightweight towels – these go with the mosquito….hopefully, never to be used. I hope our “hotels” have towels.
A shirt with zipper pockets, UV protection and bug repellent all wrapped in one. I’m going to look like a poster child for Eddie Bauer, REI, and Patagonia all in one.
Croc flipflops (aka shower shoes) – These are super light-weight, actually quite comfortable, and an option for use when we’re biking in the rain.
Items I’m still deciding on:
Light weight Merino wool long-sleeved shirt – lots of bikers swear by these shirts. I’ve even read that they are relatively cool in hot weather and warm in cold weather. But I can’t decide. When I went to the Patagonia store and talked to the sales person, she said Merino wool is great if you can stand to wear it. I immediately though about my itchy head with my wool winter skiing hats. This seems like a lot of money and volume to give up for a shirt I may not be able to wear because it makes me itch. The sales person mentioned some alternatives, but , since they are made out of man-made materials, will eventually smell bad…a problem with so many of our sports clothes…
All these decisions are making me crazy…. it’s time for a bike ride.