I hung out with April the other night. Generally any time we hang out together, we talk about The Big Tour, or Cross Continent jaunt in 2011. (Five years ago? How time flies!) There were many great moments and memories, like the Many Slopes guy and the You Go To Canmore? Guy and the French dude who was jealous of all the bears we saw. (Yep, all those people were found in the Canadian Rockies.)
With a tour of any length, one is bound to get asked questions by the “civilians”, y’know, the folks NOT bike touring. They typically break down into asking where we are going/coming from and how far we have biked/will bike. Then they conclude with a “I could never do that!” or “You must be brave!” which usually translates into I think you are crazy. Whatever. (It’s funny, but you do get asked the where are you going question from other bike tourists, but you don’t mind talking about that since they are on the same wavelength.)
But sometimes you get asked a really interesting question, something that you remember. We had that happen when, near the end of our tour when we were passing through Iowa City, our host Cody asked April, “What song have you had stuck in your head?” Now that’s a good question, a true question for someone that’s done something like a bike tour or maybe even a through hike. Because that does happen. In this day and age of instant gratification, when one can simply use their Spotify app to play that song and get the song out of their head, it’s interesting to think with the spotty to nonexistent wifi and data on some parts of a bike tour, you can’t do that. (And five years ago it was just a bit harder to do any of that stuff as it was.) So you just had to wait the miles, days, or weeks for that song to naturally leave your head.
What was it for me? It wasn’t a song, but an album: The Replacements last album, All Shook Down, released in 1990. (You can go here to listen.) Now you may know I am a big Replacements fan, and had an iPod Touch loaded with most of their albums for the trip. But that player had only 8 gig, and I couldn’t fit everything on there I wanted. So I didn’t put All Shook Down on there, nor their next-to-last disc, Don’t Tell A Soul. And most music nerds and Replacements fans will quickly tell you that those were their two worst albums, so no major loss there. But that doesn’t matter. And truth be told, I actually like All Shook Down. It’s not their best, it doesn’t have the same energy or classic songs as their earlier albums, it doesn’t have Bob, etc. But it’s Paul Westerberg at possibly his sad-sackiest, when he knew the Replacements ship had sunk. And I liked that.
Anyways, it was somewhere in western Montana, before we hit Missoula, where the album started playing in my head. It kept on going around and around like a, well, a Merry Go Round, I guess. And not only did the various tracks of the album play through my head, but I also was having a conversation about the album itself, the song’s meanings, how it all worked into what rock was becoming at the dawn of the 90’s. I guess this stuff happens with an album you have known since you were a teen. I didn’t get into The Replacements until a couple years after they broke up in 1991, but All Shook Down and Don’t Tell A Soul were the first two albums of theirs I got into, warts and all. (Blame how easy it was to get them via BMG Music.) And I was still a teen at that time, when you listen and listen and listen to an album until it gets imbedded into your skull. So I don’t know how long I was thinking about All Shook Down, but I’m guessing it lasted until Glacier National Park.
But it’s not just music. Sometimes I’ve had a craving for a particular food, and knowing that I’m not going to get it for a bit can be torture. Or sometimes it’s torture because you think it would be easy to find that food, but it isn’t. That happened with me with burritos the time I rode the Pacific Coast in 2006. I figured that I would at least see a tacqueria every day, but that wasn’t the case. Or if I did see one, it would be after I ate somewhere else. And I was no camp kitchen nerd in 2006, just a pop can stove and an enamel mug to boil water for coffee and (shudder) instant oatmeal. I remember the last night of camping on that tour, outside San Simeon, where I watched my neighbors in the hiker/biker site make a veritable feast of tacos with their stove setup. All I had was noodles…
But eventually on a long enough bike tour I start missing some of my things. Even a fully loaded bike tour is a journey of asecticism compared to most First World peoples. And I know that some folks are perfectly happy living out of their panniers for years on end and wearing the same clothes until they wore out, I realized that that wasn’t me. Besides the comfort of being in your own home and not having to worry about where you’ll sleep tonight, I started to miss a few specific things. For one, while the Surly Long Haul Trucker did me fine on the big tour of 2011, there was a point where I would have liked to ride my Raleigh Wayfarer three speed. Yeah, I know it would have been sort of impractical for going through the mountains, but I just wanted the change of riding a different bike. Because when I’m home in Portland, I don’t ride the same bike all the time! But it was glorious coming home, back to a stable place, being able to wear different clothes! And a different bike!
But of course, you stay at home too long and you get bored again, wanting to hit that road…