Yep, this year I won’t be heading west to Minnesota and Wisconsin in May for the annual Lake Pepin Three Speed Tour. I was initially planning on going this year, which would make it my fourth time, but work is going to be too crazy then for me to get away.
But honestly, the past week or so I had been considering not going, even before the decision from my boss came down. And it’s not that I don’t like the event, or that I’m “over” three speeds. No, I started to think about time and money, and my enthusiasm dwindled.
As for time, while I get a decent amount of vacation time each year, because I work in the hospitality industry it’s hard for me to take a big chunk of time off in the middle of summer. The best I can do is a few extended weekends in July and August. So I end up taking a week off in May and one in September. This of course, is good touring season in these parts.
And since I’ve used my week off in May the past three years to travel to the Midwest, that means I can only get one good week-long tour in each year in September.* And that’s if I choose to do a good week-long tour in September. My “tour” last year was more a trip to Victoria than anything else (which was nice, don’t get me wrong, but not as much of a tour as I planned it out to be.) And the Iron Horse Trail tour in 2014 was a comical failure. So, since 2013, I’ve only done one week-long tour, the Eastern Oregon adventure in 2015.
Don’t get me wrong, bike overnights and mini-tours (say, a half week) are great, but it’s not until I’ve been on the road for five or more days do I feel like I’m really bike touring. This is a feeling I’ve been lacking over the past four years, so I’ve been itching for something more substantial. And I need to go to new places, or to places I haven’t been in awhile. Right now I’d rather devote a late spring week off to something different, vs. going back to the same thing I go to every year. There’s a lot of the Northwest I still want to explore, and I can’t do that if I end up going back to Minnesota every May.
And then there’s money. Now, I can travel pretty cheap because I’ve got the hostel connection, and friends (or family of friends) in lots of different places. But there is still the train tickets, which at minimum would be $300 round trip. Not bank busting, but I have been spending A LOT more money on things lately, and it’s been hard to save up cash. Between the Crested Butte and the Bantam, I’ll have spent almost a grand on repairs and needed things. Also, I’m pretty sure I’ll need to buy a new laptop at some point this year. That all adds up. I’m also heading to California next week, so there was travel expenses there, and you always spend more money when you travel vs. being home. Now I know that if I go on a bike tour in late spring I’d still be spending some cash. But I could choose a tour that starts and ends from my front door, so no need for train tickets. And if I chose to use Amtrak or other transit for something nearby, tickets will be cheaper than going to St. Paul. And camping is relatively cheap, too.
So I’ll probably get a week off in early June and go on a bike tour in Oregon and/or Washington. I don’t know exactly where yet, a lot would depend on things like weather and how the Cascades look. So I’ll still do something, it just won’t be Lake Pepin.
Even with all that, I still am bummed that I’m not going. I do enjoy the ride, and I won’t get to see my “Pepin friends”. And I like visiting Minneapolis too. But Pepin will keep on happening, and I know I’ll be back. Maybe 2018? I’d hope to make the next time out be a more substantial affair, with a nice little bike tour added on like I did in 2015.**
It of course would be easier if I lived in the upper Midwest, so Pepin wouldn’t be such an epic trek. I guess I just need to work on some bigger three speed ride here and have everyone come out this way! 🙂
*Of course, I could take some time off in winter and head for a warmer climate, but haven’t gotten around to that yet.
**In the initial planning of this year’s Pepin adventure, there WAS going to a bike camping tour, but that went away after the other folks that were going to do it bailed.