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A Tribute to Anne Mustoe

Posted November 30th, 2009

annemustoeWhen people stopped us on our trip and told us how wonderful it was that we were cycling in our youth, since these things get harder with age, I always told them about Anne Mustoe – the British headmistress who, at age 54 and out of shape, set off to ride her bike around the world.

After telling this story to so many people, in the hopes of inspiring them too to reach for their dreams, I felt like I knew Anne.

I didn’t of course. I’d read a few of her books (A Bike Ride was my constant bedtime companion in the months before our trip began) and marveled at her ability to cover such great distances alone, without knowing how to fix a flat tire or carry camping gear, but I never had the pleasure of meeting her. That didn’t stop me from shedding a tear when I found out about her death in Syria, earlier this month at the age of 76.

Anne was still riding her bike when she died. She’d set off in May for her last journey, making it as far as Aleppo, where she passed away after a short illness, according to The Times. She was still riding Condor, the original bike she started on, about 100,000 miles ago.

We don’t know much more than that and it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that while Anne was pedalling her way around the world, following Roman Roads and tracing the footprints of historical giants like Alexander the Great, she was also teaching us a lesson.

Anne’s legacy, in my mind, is the proof that the most important thing for a successful bike tour is your strength of spirit and desire to make the journey. Everything else is secondary. For that Anne, I thank you and will miss you.

Reintegration: The First Month

Posted November 25th, 2009

Autumn leavesYesterday. I swear it was yesterday that we set off from London, leaving our empty and echoing flat behind us as we wobbled out into the street on two heavily-laden touring bikes.

The whole world was ahead of us. Time was infinite. Or so we thought.

Fast forward 3 years and now we are back in an apartment, in Den Haag this time, and learning to readjust to ‘normal’ life. In the past month since we picked a spot and ‘settled down’, we’ve had time aplenty to reflect on our return to society and a few themes keep returning.

  • The Less We Have, The Happier We Are
    We jumped off our bikes and immediately started accumulating stuff. There was the stuff we left behind in boxes. The stuff we decided we needed, like new clothes and a few extra things for the kitchen, and the stuff that other people gave us, thinking we needed it. And yet the more stuff we have, the less we know what to do with it. We try and organize it in cupboards and closets. Some of the stuff ends up piled high on our desk and mostly it all gets ignored. Every day it seems we are confronted with new incentives to buy, buy, buy but we find the idea of yet more stuff a distraction rather than a benefit.
  • A Passion for Life is Everything
    If bike touring taught us one thing, it taught us passion. When we were on our bikes, we felt truly alive. Maybe it was the positive endorphins generated from so much fresh air and exercise or the exhilaration of constantly seeing new places. Whatever the cause, we can truly say we never felt so good – physically and mentally – as when we were on our bikes. Now the question becomes, how can we maintain that passion in our new, more static lives? We are still searching for the perfect answer but so far we have made these resolutions: We will try new things (we’re starting with Dutch and Yoga lessons) and we will take some time to reflect every day on what we really want from life.  And of course we haven’t completely give up bike touring. We still get out for a day or a weekend where we can. It’s good for the soul.
  • We Want to Make A Difference
    It’s impossible to return from any extended trip and not see the world as a smaller place. The evening news is no longer filled with unfamiliar people in unfamiliar lands but stories of the people we met and who were so kind to us on our trip, regardless of their own, often limited, resources. Money and status were never very important to us but they seem less so now. Instead, we reflect increasingly on the inequities in this world, the privileges we are so lucky to possess and the possibilities for us to make a difference.

What reflections will the second month bring? Stay tuned to find out!

8 Ways to Wash Up On A Bike Tour

Posted November 16th, 2009

59-socariver.jpgTouring on a budget or in remote and dry areas, doesn’t mean you have to end the day in a salty, sweaty mess. From swimming pools to truck stops and hammams to baby wipes, we can think of 8 different ways to get cleaned up on the road. Can you add any to the list?

Read more in Keeping Clean on Tour

Touring on a $100 Bike

Posted November 6th, 2009

Such beautiful fall sceneryCan you go bike touring on a bicycle that costs just $100? After 3 years of touring on top-notch machines, we bought bikes at the bottom end of the range and put the theory to the test last weekend. Our verdict is in. Yes, you can, but you’ll almost certainly end up spending more in the long run and your bottom is going to be sore…

Read more about the $100 Touring Bike

Top 10 Places to Ride Your Bike

Posted November 5th, 2009

Roads to the south of MoroccoSuch a big world, so few vacation days…. with so many wonderful things to see by bike on this planet, you need to prioritize a little. With that in mind, here’s our list of 10 favourite rides from our world tour. It’s a diverse list, encompassing everything from Portugal to Iran. The one thing all of these rides have in common? They’re guaranteed to make your heart sing.

Read on for 10 Places to Ride Your Bike Before You Die.