Monday, July 20, 2015

Technology Can Empower and Encourage Cycling

Doing long distance cycle tours in the 1980's and 1990's meant I read maps, followed signs, and relied on asking strangers for help with directions. Interaction with locals was important. Sometimes my partner and I rode father than we had intended just to locate a campground, or relied on the goodwill of others who offered lawn space for our tent. Sometimes we dashed into the woods and stealth camped. Often we did not know where we'd rest our heads for the night, which became part of the adventure.

Isn't to explore the unknown why anyone heads out bicycle touring? To set one's sights to cross a state, a country, or the world?

But in this day and age must this also include using tech gadgets? Does anyone really need to know where every store, road detour, or bike store is en route? Or, say you are traveling long distance without a tent, using Warm Showers' hosts, and send out mass e-mails in one region, planning on one generous host to bail you out with a comfortable bed? Except you send your regrets to 10 hosts while all you really needed was one. Ask me how I know.

Where is the adventure in that?

Until recently I used to believe it makes us emotionally stronger to disconnect from technology and be forced to rely on one's wits, whether it's dealing with headwinds, mechanical problems, or finding a night's lodgings, all without the aid of a digital device.

Until Willie Weir—a skeptical, tech gadget-resistant cycle tourist of my own generation—marveled at the wonders of the Internet connecting a 13 year old precocious boy with savvy travelers to make this child's dream come true. And secondly, I personally saw technology motivate our son to ride 25 miles with his friend.

Okay, so if I was a dog, my tail is between my legs.

I'm talking about e-mail and cell phones primarily, providing the contact necessary for planning. And while admittedly I've seen users go overboard, digital gadgets can actually be a huge help.

In the case of Willie Weir's teenage acquaintance, the use of technology helped secure seasoned cyclotourists to accompany an underage traveler on a 1,000 mile journey. Think of the piece of mind that gave the boy's parents.

With our son, he decided to set out with a friend on a one-way journey, crossing the causeway, then instead of returning by car was coaxed by the friend's parents to head back because there was enough daylight. Both boys couldn't change a flat, nor had they brought any tools—not that they would know how to use them—but they could call in an emergency. And though as parents we are continually after our 16 year old to get off the Internet at home (the 21st century parents' never ending battle), this was an instance where technology empowered a teenager to keep on pedaling or at least know they had back up for a rescue—though I wonder if any 16 year old consciously thinks about it in advance.

So, if technology lends comfort or motivates cyclists to give long distance riding a try, when they otherwise wouldn't, then who am I to judge what constitutes an adventure?

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Riding Acadia National Park's Carriage Roads

A perfect blend of loop roads, gradual inclines and descents, over and under beautiful old stone bridges, beside ponds. Safe, alluring, and teasing also. Do I have time to circle one more gravel path?

Making family memories. Bike dates. Pedaling into the park from Bar Harbor.

Taking pictures over my shoulder.

Everyone has big smiles.

Our GoPro loving son captures a descent.

Later, I ride solo on paved park roads, stop for expansive ocean views...

...admire an unusual dwelling, then return on public road to town.

There is so much more to do in the region, of course, other than cycling. We stayed in Bar Harbor, a very walkable city. Twice, we hoofed it to the "bar"—the "bar" that named Bar Harbor—where low tide reveals a half mile long sandy causeway, which now leads to a national park island.

A great place to visit tide pools.

I can't help but notice a bikey window display.

Acadia National Park in Maine deserves a week of exploration. There are numerous hiking trails, light houses, more carriage roads to pedal, test your lungs and legs on a ride up Cadillac Mountain, endless possibilities for a future vacation.