What a typical day is made up of:
1. Things you can control. This means that every day you wake up and decide what you want for breakfast, you brush your teeth, you pack your bags, you hit the road and eventually you pedal along and get to your destination. These are things that are 100% in your control regardless of external factors.
2. Things you can’t control. These are things like the weather, both temperature (which can be horrible if cold or hot) and wind as well as humidity levels which can make an easy day turn into an impossible one. Other examples include random kinks and pains, ailments, injuries, and mechanical failures.
Now, the aforementioned will affect the outcome of your day in a few ways:
A. Speed. A tailwind means you can easily coast through the day with little effort, covering long distances with as many or as few stops as you’d like. However, a headwind means you are forcing yourself even to pedal on the downhills and unable to make much noticeable progress throughout the day. This is both mentally and physically exhausting as there is absolutely nothing you can do about a headwind. If it’s hot outside, you can wear less layers. If it’s cold outside you can pedal harder to get the internal furnace going or bundle up. But a wind is unbeatable, you just need to fight slow and steady against it.
Not only does wind affect speed but your legs are sometimes left at home, you forgot to put them on in the morning, or you picked up the new supercharged legs from the shop and you are invincible, whichever one you wake up with in the morning will determine how hard an effort you can put out.
B. Route. You can control and plan your route ahead of time but without a vision into the future there is no way to determine exactly how accessible certain areas of your route will be. You can run into street closures, construction, traffic, debris, difficult to maneuver terrain on trails or bumpy sidewalks.
So…at the end of the day, the distance you cover is made up of the speed you travel on the route you’ve determined, which is always affected by things you cannot control.
I found myself in one of these uncontrollable situations when I had a day that involved low mileage and good weather. Departing Myrtle Beach relatively late, stopping for a long, relaxed breakfast, I arrived at what I thought was one of the entrances to Francis Marion National Forest. Planning to camp on the other side of it where I had located a campground prior to planning my route, I was excited to have some calm solo riding through the trees in the forest, on small trails, away from traffic and noise. However, the trail started getting narrower, the brush thicker, and the ground softer.
After about thirty minutes of challenging riding through rocky and sandy terrain, I really wished for that cyclocross bike from Santa this Christmas, the trails were unmarked and my gps was not picking up my location. The direction I needed to head towards was north west, but on my map I noticed a major highway which I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get across.
There were a couple of stumbles and a couple of falls, mostly from the front wheel locking itself in the sand, and over correcting that and shifting my weight caused the rear wheel to spin and throw me sideways. Which was frustrating, but not frustrating at all compared to the mosquitoes that would swarm you if you weren’t moving. So by the time I got back on the bike (and unable to take off quickly in the sand) there were a few bites that started to itch. This happened a number of times until I passed a little village of trailers, jeeps, grills and old metal crap and scraps of old junk lying around in a clearing in the middle of the forest. Some of it seemed as though it hasn’t been touched in decades, while other trailer homes seemed to have been used a few years ago.
I had no idea where I was.
The village was left behind as I continued off another trail and shortly thereafter ran into a bearded man in a camouflage suit on an atv. I asked him about directions to where I was headed and he told me to turn around and make a left, and to be careful, as this was a “hunting grounds”. I did as I was told and was out of there like a bat out of hell.
In total, I spent about an hour and a half traversing the grounds when I should’ve been through it in under an hour, either by reading up on this park online and studying its maps, or by completely avoiding it and staying on road. After some more stumbles and run ins with mosquitoes, I ended up exactly where I started and looked at an alternate route around the grounds.
At this point, it was about 4:30 and I knew I wouldn’t make it to the campground I had planned before sunset, so I decided to pass some houses and start ringing bells, hoping someone would let me camp on their land. This was Thanksgiving day and I figured people would be in a good mood. One house had a number of people in the driveway outside and as I approached them, a dog started barking, which they told to heel. They listened to my story, and suggested a campground nearby and even offered to throw my bike in their pickup and drive me over. They were two brothers, about my age, and when their mom came out and listened she went back inside and returned with a warm plate of thanksgiving dinner.
We had a great ride up to the campsite, exchanging stories of our travels, what kind of fish can be caught around these parts, and the awesome thanksgiving dinner I was about to eat! Arriving before sunset, I set up camp and said goodbye to my fellow outdoorsmen.
After rushing inside my bivy for fear of mosquitoes, which I heard buzzing outside the bug screen unlike any buzzing I’ve ever heard before in my life, I got my warm thanksgiving dinner: brisket, sausage rice, Mac n cheese, mashed potatoes, turkey, and sweet and spicy BBQ pork, chow’d down and thanked the kind folk down south for helping out a friend in need.