[Ken Kifer's Bike Pages]
ARTICLE: Why I Tour from Door to Door
Explains why most of my touring trips -- whether long-distance touring trips, overnight trips, or day tours -- start and end at my home.
Questions What is loaded bicycle touring? What is credit-card touring? What is day touring? What is club touring? Why do I start and end my bike trips from home? What is the risk in taking a car? How much expense does using a motor vehicle involve? How does driving spoil the day's mood? Which is more tiring, driving a car or riding a bike? Are there special places to ride a bicycle superior to places nearer home? Is there satisfaction in being self-sufficient? How can riding a bicycle help Mother Nature?


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Why I Tour from Door to Door

Combining all the definitions of touring, I do more touring than any other kind of riding. The most extreme form of touring is self-sufficient travel over long distances, carrying all necessary nightly supplies for cooking and camping. Nearly one-third of my total bike miles has been that kind of touring, usually alone. I have also made many shorter bicycle camping trips, down to just 80 miles. A second kind of touring involves carrying less gear and spending the night in a motel, hostel, or home, sometimes called credit card touring, although most of these cyclists carry a lot more than a credit card. I have made over a dozen overnight trips of this nature myself, but no long trips, due to the expense. A third type of touring is a casual ride in the country for recreation and exercise, and I have made these trips much too frequently to count. On many occasions, I was not even really thinking about riding the bike; instead I was thinking about visiting a cave, looking at birds, going fishing, going for a hike, visiting some friends, exploring my surroundings, or visiting a nearby town. Finally, I have made quite a few touring rides with friends or with clubs with the goal of enjoying the countryside and cycling at the same time.

On the vast majority of my trips of all kinds, I have made it a point to start at my doorstep and finish at my doorstep whenever possible, rather than carry my bike in a car part of the way. To many cyclists, my desire to start and end at home seems a little strange. Why have I persisted?

First (beginning with the least important reason), I wanted to avoid the risk and expense of using a motor vehicle. One problem with using a car or van for part of the trip is that the motor vehicle ends up being parked in some remote stop where it could come to harm. One time, when fishing rather than cycling, I left the vehicle by the side of the road and returned to find the gas cap on the ground and the rear window broken. If I had used the bike to go fishing, as was my normal custom, I would have carried it back to the stream with me. There's also the cost of driving as well. Ten miles of driving is equal to the cost of my dinner. A thousand miles of driving is equal to the cost of a new bike. So, I have more money to spend on bicycles if I spend less on the car.

Second, I have left the car at home because I did not want to spoil the mood of the day. To me cycling is a pleasurable activity that I do of my own free will, while driving a car is an uncomfortable activity I have to do in order to meet other people's requirements. My behavior while driving is different from my behavior while cycling. When I was younger, I used to curse and fume at other people's slowness and stupidity while I was driving. Now that I am "over the hill" or "mature" (take your choice), I feel threatened by other people's kamikaze driving. Five hours of driving makes me lethargic and dreamy, gives me aching legs, and leaves me out of the mood for doing anything active. Five hours of cycling passes pleasantly and safely. I feel less at risk, my mood remains cheerful, I remain alert, my legs arrive full of energy, and I arrive happy.

Third, I really don't believe that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. It's quite common to encounter messages saying, "Where can I find a pretty place to ride?" Certainly, there are some parts of the country that are superior to others, but within any region, the roads are basically similar in quality, with an occasional exception. Within a few miles of almost anywhere, there are some beautiful places to ride. Therefore, it makes no real sense to get in a car and drive 50 miles to another road when there are roads beginning at my door that are excellent for riding. Rather than driving long distances to travel the same "most beautiful" road over and over, I use my bike to explore all the local roads. This gives me a greater variety and better options than if I kept going back to the "best" rides. Over the years, I have lived in Alabama, North Carolina, Kentucky, Georgia, and Pennsylvania, and in each state I was always able to find plenty of scenic roads by starting at my doorstep. As a reward, I was able to devote more of my day to cycling.

Fourth, it gives me great pleasure to be self-sufficient. I have done lots of things for myself that other people normally pay for, including designing and building my own bee hives and my own cabin in the woods, making my own pannier bags for my bikes, building my own bike wheels, designing my own web site, and creating my own graphics. I certainly have no intention of being dependent on others when I begin a bicycle trip, especially a long one. For that reason, I start from home on my own, and I return to my home on my own, and I don't depend on anyone rescuing me along the way, even when the going gets tough. As Henly over-dramatized in "Invictus," "In the fell clutch of circumstance I have not winced nor cried aloud." Or at least, I dried my own tears and continued on. This ability to cope and carry on and get there on my own two legs is one that I highly prize.

Fifth, I am environmentally conscious. I see Mother Nature being destroyed so people can live in lazy and unhealthy luxury. I don't want my pursuit of Nature to create a need for wider highways through the forests (as they are building in North Carolina), to create more ozone and oxides of nitrogen to kill forest ecosystems, or to add more carbon dioxide to our global warming weather disaster. Instead, I want to engage in a guilt-free communion with Nature and the God that made me.

This decision of mine to begin and end my rides at my doorstep whenever possible has cost me little and enriched me much. It has been a good decision for me.

NOTE: Between 1985 and 1998, I operated my motor vehicle seldom, sometimes going three or more months between cranking the engine. The vehicle has now sat since May 1998 without being cranked; I doubt I will ever use it again.


Why I Ride a Bike On a similar theme to "Why I Tour from Door to Door," this essay provides six reasons for riding a bike and expresses them more colorfully.


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