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     Bicycle Tour 2003 page 7 ...



A full accounting of various aches, pains, and other afflictions.

The next morning came far too early.  I awoke feeling refreshed, with a condition I would describe as “pleasantly sore”.  My tush was glad to hear that it would not be battling the bike saddle today, and would have an opportunity to heal its tender parts.  Unfortunately, I was exhibiting one unusual symptom, which concerned me.  My hands were feeling numb and a tingly, especially on the back of the hands, and along the little fingers.  When I got to the office, I did a quick Internet search and found the root cause.  “Ulnar nerve compression”.  Despite my continuous use of gel-padded cycling gloves, pressure from the handlebars (and the fixed hand position) had caused irritation and inflammation around a nerve.  This nerve, which passes along the base of the palm just beyond the wrist, is the same same nerve which passes around the elbow and causes the “funny bone” sensation when bumped.

Apparently, this condition is common amongst cyclists, and can persist for several weeks.  Bummer!  Not only is it mildly uncomfortable, but I have lost some of the dexterity in my last two fingers on each hand.  I tried playing the guitar, and that is out of the question – my fingers simply won’t do what my brain tells them to do.  (Come to think of it, that’s normally applicable to my guitar playing).  All the typing at work (not to mention this travelogue) seems to only aggravate the condition further.  The good news is that my symptoms do NOT seem to indicate any predisposition to carpal tunnel syndrome.

I’d like to say that I had a great time on this ride.  But if I were to be completely honest, I’d have to confess that much of the time, I was quite miserable.  I’m sure that many people would consider it absurd to call this a “vacation”, unless you enjoy pain.  Why would anyone intentionally choose to endure muscle cramps, cold weather, dangerous traffic, and sleepless nights?  Was I supposed to enjoy fixing a half dozen flats in the middle of nowhere?  Is it healthy to spend three days being exhausted, frustrated, anxious, sore, and discouraged?  In the end, the answer is YES.  To borrow a cliché, it was an opportunity to get “out of the box”.  For three days, I didn’t worry about the bills, the next software release, or whether or not the kids’ homework was completed.  I was entirely preoccupied with continuous problem-solving.  In a sense, I was concerned solely with SURVIVAL.

I learned an important lesson from this trip.  That lesson is PATIENCE and PERSEVERANCE.  Anyone who knows me would not disagree that I have a tendency to be impatient, and to give up too easily.  It would seem that the well-humored “powers that be” had an agenda for me this particular weekend.  I found myself responding in an uncharacteristic fashion to the challenges I encountered.  Instead of the usual impulsive response to challenge and frustration, I found myself maintaining a serene calm, and responding with ingenuity and resolve to each new difficulty.  When you realize that you have no other choice, there is no point in throwing a fit.  Only patience and perseverance will save the day.

Here are some other things I learned:

One spare inner tube is not enough.  If you’re going to ride a hundred miles from home, you’d better have at least two.
Puncture-resistant Kevlar tires may SEEM expensive, but they seem like a great value when you don’t have them and you get a flat.
It may be heavy to carry, but you just can’t have too much water.
Gatorade is nasty.
Candy bars are a good thing when you need carbs.
If you don’t pitch your tent correctly, it blocks the ventilation.  This means that all that snoring that you do in the night will result in copious amounts of condensation on the inside of the tent.  And that’s a bad thing.
You just can’t have too many nylon straps and buckles.
A mummy-style sleeping bag is a bad idea for people who toss and turn a lot in their sleep.
Is there some kind of Federal law that dictates that all campgrounds must be located with 1/4 mile of a railroad track?
Never travel without a bicycle “multi-tool”.  I used mine extensively.  I am thankful that my kids got me this nifty tool for my birthday; without it, I would have been in trouble!
Cotton, bad.  Synthetic, good.
Die-hard, purist cyclists who say that you should not use a gel pad on your saddle are completely nuts.
A cyclist, like a motorcyclist, must always assume that cars cannot see him. 
There’s no such thing as “bad water” when you’re really thirsty.
“Plexiglas” is the breakable plastic, “Lexan” is the unbreakable one.
Dogs are to be avoided at all costs; Vicar is not man’s best friend.
When you ask for directions, always consider the distances with a grain of salt.  People who do not ride bikes nearly always underestimate distances.
It is true that whatever goes up, must come down.  What they don’t tell you is that it takes ten times as long to CLIMB a hill as it does to descend it.  In the big bike ride called life, best to resign yourself to the fact that you’re going to spend most of your time enduring an uphill climb, just so you can feel the windswept joy of an all-too-brief downhill run. 
I’ve learned THIS lesson before, but it was firmly reinforced on this trip.  YOU GET WHAT YOU ASK FOR.  I’ve spent much of my life dreaming, scheming, and imagining – but far too little DOING.  I spent twenty years contemplating a bike tour like this one, without actually doing it.  In the end, it all came down to a single moment:  When I finally pushed aside an avalanche of self-doubt, and my brain screamed “Screw it!”.  That’s when I threw the rest of the gear on the bike, and peddled away.  The road to self-actualization starts with ACTION, and not feeling.  Fate has cruelly destroyed many a dream, but it rarely stands in the face of simple motion.
Slow and steady really DOES win the race.  Or at least ensures that you finish.
No matter what…  KEEP SPINNING.

Now, who’s going with me next time?


Copyright 2009 Brian A. Moffet