A day in the life of the SFT

What do I eat? Where do I sleep? How far do I ride each day? Usually I try to avoid this mundane travelogue style of blogging, but I’ve had more and more requests for a glimpse into an average day of the SFT. Perhaps this summary will inspire you to hop on a bike the next time you’re looking for adventure. Bicycle touring is truly a fantastic way to travel!

Life on the road has its own cycles. Your schedule quickly shifts into alignment with the rhythms of the day and your focus narrows to concentrate on basic needs such as food and shelter. My day usually begins around 6:30 a.m. as the morning dawns overhead. Snuggled in my tent, I take out my iPhone to check the weather and plan a tentative route. Once the sky lights up it’s time for tea and breakfast on my trusty Jetboil stove. Oatmeal is my most common choice – 2 packets of plain organic instant oats, a handful of instant quinoa flakes and a spoonful of peanut butter – tasty and full of energy for the day ahead. By the time the camping gear is packed, the tire pressure is checked and the sunscreen is applied it’s usually pushing 8:30. Time to hit the road!

The first half hour of the day is always a bit tough. This is when your legs are still warming up and your body is settling back into its familiar position on the bike. Depending on the terrain, wind direction and road surface I can travel anywhere between 8 to 14 mph. My fanatstic Garmin Edge 800 GPS unit tracks my velocity, elevation gain and metabolic data. I keep an eye on the screen and regardless of my speed I try to keep my heart rate low and steady – hammering up a hill at 160 bpm is unsustainable if I have another 5 hours of riding ahead of me.

Along with monitoring my GPS data and route, I also have to keep track of my food intake. It’s important to stay fueled if you’re riding for an entire day.  I try to stop once an hour for some sort of sustenance – sometimes it’s a quick energy gel and other times I’ll have some trail mix or a tub of yogurt. I aim for a mix of carbohydrate and protein in every snack.

Usually I’ll take one long break from riding every day. I might stop at a grocery store to restock my food supplies or visit a library for some much-needed internet access. Traveling by bike isn’t about the speed, it’s about the ride, and I try to take time to appreciate the freedom of life on the road. This means occasional sightseeing, taking the scenic route and having conversations with curious strangers.

Late afternoon my destination generally draws near and I become antsy to finish up riding for the day and rest my legs. When I arrive at the campground (or if I’m lucky a hotel), showering is my #1 priority followed closely by an early dinner. Again, a mix of carbohydrates and protein are in short order – this could be anything from a peanut butter sandwich and a salad to a dried soup augmented with veggies and instant quinoa.

After dinner I’ll do my best to catch up on as many outstanding emails and blogs as possible before my eyelids start to get heavy and my bed begins to call to me. Early bedtimes are the norm on the SFT and I have been known to call it a night as early as 8 p.m. I always fall asleep with a snack by my side as often I’ll wake up quite ravenous in the middle of the night!

Pedaling across the country certainly isn’t glamorous but it is most definitely fabulous. Although I can’t wait to return home after the SFT is over next month, I’ll miss the peaceful existence of life on the road. I hope each and every one of you have the opportunity to experience the joy of a bicycle tour. Get out there and explore!


The side effects of bikes

On bike tours, as in life, it is often a stranger who imparts on you the most valuable pieces of wisdom. Such was the case for me today in rural Georgia. After a morning of excitement in the form of charging pit bulls, overexcited golden labs and beautiful scenery, I stopped for a quick break at a lonely mini mart perched on the intersection of two lazy secondary highways.

As I sat drinking a cold juice in the shade of the building’s eaves, a slightly bedraggled gentleman sauntered up muttering under his breath. After being a [cycling] transient for 5+ months, I am now quite used to interacting with the down & out types that one often encounters while living on the road. I smiled politely and said hello, but before I could return to my beverage he began to comment on my bike.

“Ya’ll ridin dem bikes, ya’ll be crazy!” he exclaimed. “Not crazy, it’s a challenge,” I replied. “Well ya’ll sure do look good. Everyone one of you on a bike. Is that why you be doin this? To look good?”

My answer was reflexive. My mouth spat out the words before my brain was done conjuring them, “No, I ride to feel good.” And with that my new friend nodded in approval, tossed his soda into the trash and continued on down the line.

It was heartening to see a stranger agree that a healthy body is a result of treating yourself with respect – giving it the exercise and movement that it craves. I’m out here riding to feel good about my body, to feel good about the SFT and to encourage others to feel good too. As it turns out, looking good is just a pleasant side effect.

Celebrating bikes at Santa Barbara High School

Bikes, smoothies, rockin’ music and lots of smiles – those words pretty much sum up last Thursday afternoon at Santa Barbara High School. The fantastic students from Don’s Net Cafe hosted me on campus for the day. After a few class presentations, a campus tour and lunch at the mobile cafe it was time for the big event: SFT at Santa Barbara High School.

The High School has a great new bicycle repair center and bike club down near the automotive shop. This location was showcased during our event through a DJ, bicycle blender & raffle prizes. DJ Rayne turned up the tunes as soon as the final bell rang and soon students were pouring into our bike zone. Smoothies were made, stickers snatched up and dance moves busted out. I spoke for a few minutes about my bike trip and then drew the grand prize ticket from the bag. Someone was about to win a refurbished bicycle donated by Bici Centro, the local bicycle co-op. The young man with the winning ticket had acquired a new bike just last year – so he decided to spread the love and give his prize to another student. This petite gal was ecstatic with her friend’s kindness and cruised around the parking lot on her new ride, smiling and waving to the crowd.

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I had a wonderful time getting to know the Don’s Net Cafe crew and their incredible teacher Miss B. A HUGE thank-you to everyone involved with this event. It was a great success and I hope the momentum will carry forward into future projects for the school. I (heart) SB!!