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Day 66 – Living by principles

(73 miles)

The Goldilocks Principle (as applied to cycle touring): Everything (body, mind, soul) must be in just the right condition for you to totally enjoy cycle touring. If one of those things is ‘off’, then it becomes a chore. Yesterday they were firing on all cylinders, so to speak. This morning though I just wasn’t feeling it. It was overcast and windy. My legs felt tired for the first time in weeks. My stomach wasn’t happy. And the headwind was messing with my mind. The first 35 miles seemed to drag on for ages.

Its not all plain sailing. This morning was bleugh! (But check out Mt Hood in the distance!)

Fortunately it often doesn’t take much to improve the situation. We stopped at a gas station and thanks to a bathroom break, some Chex Mix (love that stuff!), some good banter with Matt and Pat, and the sun coming out, when we rode off I was ‘back in the game’ and the rest of the days ride passed much more easily.

The sunshine makes most things better :-)

4000 miles in and our first tunnel

What are the chances that we'd tick over onto 4000 miles INSIDE a tunnel?! Had to stop just after to take this pic.

 

The ACA maps of the route always list the population of towns we pass through. This is a useful way of gauging the extent of facilities we can expect in each place, and plan accordingly. After several weeks on the route we began to notice two trends:

  1. There are almost no towns with a population between 2000 and 3000. There are loads with less than 2000 and loads with more than 3000 but very few in between.
  2. Towns with a population of more than 3000 are almost guaranteed to have a ‘good’ (depending on your perspective) selection of fast-food chains and other large chain shops etc. Towns with a population of less than 2000 almost never have these type of restaurants/shops.

This has led me to form a new theory of town lifecycles. We’ll call it ‘McCulloch’s Fast-Food Population Coefficient Principle’. Snappy, eh? Here’s the theory:

  • When a town is growing in size, the fast-food businesses will only open a branch once the population reaches about 2000. Below that number, it’s not economically viable. The presence of popular fast-food restaurants attracts more people to the town (I know – it’s tragic!) and the population quickly rises past 3000.
  • Conversely, when a town’s population is falling, the big chain fast-food restaurants pull out when the population drops below about 3000. Without the comfort of their favourite fast-food round the corner, many more people pack up and leave town and the population quickly drops below 2000.

This explains the lack of towns with a population of 2000-3000!

(Disclaimer: the above light-hearted ‘Swiss cheese’ explanation should in no way influence your opinion on my general intellect and business acumen. I’m not that naive!)

The point is this: when we approached our destination for the day, the little town of Bingen, pop 650, we were 100% confident there would be no air-conditioned, WiFi’d, dollar-menu’d McDonalds in which to hang out. Imagine our disbelief/delight when we saw a huge billboard advert for McDonalds in the town. Bingen officially bucks the trend! (Just wait – within a year it will have ballooned in size…)

Bingen also contains a certified nutcase – and, just our luck, he spotted us in McDonalds and came over to chat. Having found out we were on a long cycle tour, he disappeared into his car (which seemed to double as a portable trash can), reappearing 15 minutes later with a hand-drawn map on a strip of cardboard box. In painstaking detail he proceeded to talk us through his plans for the rest of our cycle trip to the coast, right down to which tent pitch (‘R32 is the best, but R34 is pretty good too’) in a particular campsite (60 miles off our actual route) we should camp at.

Adventure Cycling cartographers - I think your jobs are secure...

 

Having finished his instructions for our onward journey, we we saying our polite goodbyes when out of nowhere he asks ‘So, are you guys all single?’. Now, at this point my mind started racing: Was the conversation about to get really awkward?! But he proceeded to tell us that he was writing a book for single men, some sort of ‘pilot’s manual for men in relationships’ as he described it. That’s nice, we said. But he wasn’t finished. Not until he had given us a few specific tips. And by specific, I mean the length of time and the way in which you should rub your wife’s feet every night. And which ingredients to avoid in the massage oil. (Sorry ladies – I’ve forgotten already). It was all so entertaining though that I snuck my iPhone out and began secretly videoing him as he talked. I’ll try and get the video up here sometime! (If that’s legal…)

We camped at the RV park in town. On my way back from showering, I stopped outside a huge motorhome as there was a funky ‘frog-on-a-bicycle’ wind-ornament (photo coming soon) outside. I asked the woman if I could get a quick video clip of it. Immediately she asked (in a English accent) where I was from. And so began our evening with Nigel and Jill, originally from Manchester but based in Florida and now retired and touring the country in their luxury motorhome. They are both avid cyclists and do about 40 miles a day, picking nice paths and routes in the area around wherever they’re parked up at the time.

I only wish my wheels were this cool

All through the trip it had been a desire of mine to get to look inside one of these massive motorhomes. So I was properly chuffed when Nigel invited us in to show us around. It was like a very nice hotel suite inside. A full kitchen, bathroom, bedroom and lounge. The sides of the lounge/kitchen area and the bedroom area all expand outwards at the press of a button to create a larger interior space. It was a totally different world from our tiny tents and two panniers of possessions.

Rubbish photo of a magnificent motor-home!

Inside Nigel and Jill's motor-home.

 

Later, Nigel and Jill cooked for us and kept us stocked all night with beer, wine and tales of their adventures all around the country. I don’t think I’ve ever met a couple that have seen as much of the US as Nigel and Jill have. They knew all the best places to stay and cycle around in all the states. Nigel could write a book on the subject!

We all had a great time and the food was delicious. I’m really going to miss the American grill cooking when I go home. Thanks so much to Nigel and Jill for a quality evening – you were very generous!

Nigel and Jill - thanks for a superb evening, you guys are fantastic!

 

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