Posted on April 14, 2019
It seems that border towns are funnels for bicycle tourists. More often than not I meet multiple long distance riders at or near borders. When I was near the Thailand/Myanmar border I ran into a number of long distance bicyclists.
We always have the same conversations: where are you from, where are you going, how long, how far. I started noticing a pattern from the cyclists that have come to Southeast Asia from Europe.
They have all traveled around 12,000 kilometers to get this here.
Wait a minute! That is the same distance I have covered. But I didn’t ride from Southeast Asia to Europe. I am less than five-hundred kilometers from where I started a year ago but I have over 12,000 riding kilometers under my belt.
How did they ride the same distance as me but make it so much further?
Looking at the route of my travels I don’t think I can find a decent straight line anywhere. I wiggle right and wiggle left. When I see something I like I head in that direction whether it be north, south, east or west. Sometimes I feel like a feather in the wind being directed by forces beyond my control.
Many of the fellow cyclists I run in to may have a time limit of a year or two. They might not have the luxury of wandering aimlessly. Maybe they didn’t find a reason to wander while they were riding. That is something that makes me wonder if wandering is in my future as I make my way towards Europe. Is it easier to make straight lines in central Asia? Is there less to see if one wanders or is it just a timing choice the other bicyclists have made. Maybe I was lucky to start where I did.
I know there are some straight roads in my future. The ‘90 Mile Straight’ part of the Eyre Highway in southern Australia is on my map in the coming months. Ninety miles without a turn. Straight as an arrow. Most of it through barren landscapes that will have me yearning for a curve or a bend to break the monotony.
Other than government imposed visa time limits I am blessed with the ability to ignore the calendar. I am free to wander at a snails pace if I wish or if mechanical issues dictate. When I was experiencing bicycle issues in Thailand I wasn’t pressured by a time crunch. It didn’t matter how long it took other than extra costs for more visas. I don’t have an end date on my ride so I made the best of each and every delay.
I will admit that I look forward to looking at a map of my ride and seeing some long continent-sized lines taking me across wide expanses of country after country. My route will become more forward moving than random and will cease to look like the first crayon entry in a two to three year old child’s art show.
One thing about cycling through different countries – it really doesn’t seem to matter how fast I move forward. Wherever I am I gain more experiences that make the ride worthwhile. There isn’t a single best route that will give me, or anyone else, the ultimate trip. Each day is different. Each road is different. Every day I ride I see new places, new people and I gain new experiences.
Leaving an hour later or an hour earlier will change everything about the day. Wouldn’t it be cool to be able to re-live each day with just a small adjustment to see how everything is affected.
When I have a great meal I wonder what the meal would have been like if I started riding at a different time and became hungry in a different place. When I pass someone and I get a great big smile and a hello I know that person would not have been in the same place had my ride started just minutes before or after my departure.
All in all I am happy to experience the things I get to experience. It doesn’t matter how straight my miles are since something new will happen to me wherever I am. There isn’t a day that I won’t give and receive smiles as my tires roll towards my next destination.
All of the people that have some from Europe to make it Southeast Asia have the same opportunities for experiences that I do. We all ride a certain distance each day making everything in our future a new experience whether that happens in minutes, hours or days.
It just happens to them there, and me here.
What do you think? Wiggle away or straighten it out?