Since last year I’ve been planning a bikepacking trip, a week of riding and camping, a late spring road trip. I have a list of necessary gear with a few items checked off, a touring bike on layaway, and good intentions for a “midlife” adventure that gets me outdoors, facing all the inevitable challenges head on and starting the summer off feeling strong and balanced.
Though I still have a lot of miles to ride for practice and gear to acquire to be well prepared for a long distance bikepacking trip, I booked a campsite for my shakedown ride in order to give the timeline an anchor. I’m grateful to have fans in my corner, who supply me with gear I’ll need, and who share their knowledge graciously, excited for my dreams, and invested in my success, making me humble and so very thankful.
My history with biking is not new. When I was 13 years old I went on a YMCA Adventure bike trip from Portland, Maine to Acadia National Park, an experience that undoubtedly shaped who I am today, and that 40 years later still fuels my love for biking and desire to take a long distance trip.
So with the intention set, I’ve been riding whenever possible, more than the few commuter miles I put in getting to my job and running errands. I’m a cold-weather lover and here in the Northeast the weather has cooperated for the most part this year, allowing me to ride all winter. I’ve been doing longer rides on roads and exploring local rail trails. I include the West Essex Trail southbound in my expanding loops, a quiet gravel path that I enjoy riding on the return leg of my 18+ mile rides.
I’ve been slowly exploring the Morris Canal Greenway, locally it’s more a series of small parks in different locations than an actual trail. It will be years before the entire Greenway is connected. It covers six counties and I look forward to finding the sections that are bike-friendly as my prep rides get longer.
I embrace my everyman approach to biking. I live car-free by choice in an overpopulated community where parking is a contentious issue and everyone is always in a hurry. My dependence on two wheeled mobility forces me to slow down, plan, and appreciate the experiences I have. I think everyone should try grocery shopping by bike. It makes the food taste better when you go to the effort of riding home with your thoughtfully chosen purchases stowed in your backpack and basket or panniers!
As I write, I’m nursing a fat lip, bleeding knee, and aching muscles all over my body from a spill I took on loose gravel and dirt in the road yesterday while delivering an order in a neighboring town. Nevertheless, my focus is solid and I’m excited to learn the bike maintenance and riding skills I’ll need to be self-sufficient on the road. Undaunted, my motivation for adventure comes from a deep desire to do something familiar in a big way, making new memories and fueling a belief that I can step up to a challenge with healthy fear, with curiosity and authenticity, learning much along the way.