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First tour done - a bit optimistic

Old 09-02-20, 11:17 AM
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billyymc
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First tour done - a bit optimistic

So my buddy and I did our first tour this past week. Rode the Erie Canal trail from Buffalo to Albany. We had plans for a loop into VT and MA but ended up cutting things short a day due to weather and some pain issues.

The original plan was to ride the canal trail in 3 days - so something like 115, 125, and 129 miles respectively. Day 4 would have been 45 miles into VT and camping in MA with a little climbing (compared to the very flat Erie Canal trail). Day 5 would have been 65ish back to Saratoga Springs where we had left a car (we drove a rental to Buffalo).

What we ended up doing was something like 124, 90, 98, then on day 4 with my buddy suffering some knee and saddle pain, I rode ahead to finish the last 66 miles and then ride 34 more up to Saratoga Springs, while my buddy pushed through his pain to finish the 66 and wait for me to return with the car. Days 1 and 2 were VERY hot - heat index in the afternoons was probably around 100ish. The trail is paved in places, but much of it is crushed limestone (and some occasional dirt double track), so that took a little more effort than riding pavement. I was also having some knee issues (IT Band I think) on the last 1.5 days, and the last 34 miles had a bit of climbing and a lot of riding into headwinds.

So we came away from the ride with a great experience overall, but feeling that our original plan was too aggressive and perhaps even 100 miles a day of flat riding for multiple days in a row might be too much.

Curious to see how folks here with more touring experience plan mileage. What is your target mileage for a flat / relatively flat ride? How about a ride that's more hilly (say 100 feet per mile average)?

Bikes were probably loaded in the 55 - 60 lb range including water bottles. We were camping, but did not bring cook sets since we were never far from food.
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Old 09-02-20, 01:17 PM
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I usually ride 75 miles a day on average on unpaved surfaces. A bit more is no problem if relatively flat or paved. A bit less if lots of climbing. Leaves plenty of time for stops along the way.

Last edited by alan s; 09-02-20 at 02:15 PM.
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Old 09-02-20, 01:52 PM
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I am likely much older than you at 68. I am also retired, so time constraints are not tight. I have been touring (and retired) since I was 50. I have developed an approach that works for me.

First, I don't camp and don't carry camping nor cooking gear. Everything I carry fits into 2 rear panniers and a front bag, maybe 25 pounds.

I find my sweet spot to be 50 miles and no more than 4000 feet of elevation of gain. I also plan to rest every 5th day--I ride 4 days and then take a full day off the bike.

In order to do this, I do extensive planning and try to route through a place I'd want to spend the day on my 5th day. When I have to decide between doing more or less than 50, I usually choose to do less, though riding as much as 70 miles is not uncommon.

The first time I rode from SF to LA, I did back-to-back 70 miles days over hilly terrain. I was physically exhausted at the end of every day after day 3. It wasn't worth it to me. I prefer to take more time, ride slower, and experience the trip instead of simply riding my bike through an area.
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Old 09-02-20, 03:51 PM
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In my younger days, I would cycle around 75 miles each day. On a few occasions, I did 100 miles but this was uncommon.
Now I look at 50-60 miles a day while touring alone, 45-50 miles when with partner.
Your body needs time to repair and to build up to high mileages. Reduce your distances or you will not enjoy your tours. Take time to look around and stop along the way instead of concentrating on how far you can ride.
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Old 09-03-20, 06:59 AM
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For me it would depend greatly on the tour. Things like difficulty of terrain and distance between services factor heavily. Also at age 69 I am slowing down a bit. That said I might still do long days. I generally wouldn't be doing really long ones in the early days of a tour though. I figure that taking it a little easy for the first 10 days to 2 weeks is a good idea on long tours. Starting out with high mileage and decreasing it ending in injury is a sign of a poor daily mileage strategy. For me average mileage for a tour might be 50, 60, or 80 miles per day including all days, even any zero days unless the trip has a planned gap to spend a week off somewhere or something. I still might do some 100+ mile days at my age, but after some time getting road hardened. I think my longest day on tour was 142 miles and included one mountain pass.
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Old 09-03-20, 08:12 AM
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Thanks for the thoughts all - quite helpful in thinking about what future tours might be like.

Two things in particular stand out from the comments: 1 - "Starting out with high mileage and decreasing it ending in injury is a sign of poor daily mileage strategy"; 2 - "Take time to look around and stop along the way instead of concentrating on how far you can ride."

Will definitely keep those things in mind going forward. My takeaway after the ride was that touring does not necessarily equate to endurance riding.
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Old 09-03-20, 09:33 AM
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Originally Posted by billyymc View Post
Curious to see how folks here with more touring experience plan mileage. What is your target mileage for a flat / relatively flat ride? How about a ride that's more hilly (say 100 feet per mile average)?
For me it has changed over time as I've gotten older. I also tend to think a bit more in terms of hours in the saddle than specifically mileage.

For a while, I found a rough estimate of 10 miles/hour including all my stops was a good proxy for distance.
- When I was in college, ~35 years ago, I somehow found it fun to be traveling on the bike from sunrise to sunset. So I did a trip of 1194 miles in 8 cycling days plus one rest day - and many weekend/long weekend rides where essentially I was on the bike from first light until last light and then camped beside the road.
- First time I crossed the US, ~28 years ago, I still got up at first light but was more willing to stop somewhere in the 4pm-6pm timeframe. I averaged 95 miles/day for 38 days including my rest days to cycle across the US.
- Next I crossed Canada, ~23 years ago. By now I had mellowed just a bit further, stopping in mid afternoon. This was an average of 75 miles/day over almost three months including my rest days.
- I cycled for a full year in ~19 years ago including one lap around Australia, a second cross USA trip. I took a break or two of a few weeks here and there, but subtracting those, my US crossing was 75 miles/day including rest days and total time in Australia was 55 miles/day including rest days. I took some more sightseeing and rest days, particularly in Australia
- I cycled across Russia ~13 years ago. My sustained pace traveling was pretty close to a metric century ~62 miles/day and overall adding some further rest days was again closer to ~55 miles/day
- I cycled across Africa ~7 years ago. This was a supported trip and more intense, closer to 75-80 miles/day but including a chunk of off-road as well.
- I cycled across the Americas ~3 years ago. It was 16800 miles in 18 months or ~30 miles per day. However, also some larger gaps in there like ~6 weeks in Austin, ~4 weeks in Bariloche, ~3 weeks in Colorado and one week here and there as well as a bunch of individual days. Sustained was probably closer to ~45 miles per day. More inclined to stop early to mid afternoon than when I was younger or take a rest day here or there.

So average mileages can definitely vary - particularly over a longer trip. However, I am now more in the start early in morning (not first light but still early when it is cool) and stop mid-afternoon with occasional days close to noon. That tends to result in closer to 50 miles/day as a reasonable average - with enough margin here or there that if I need to push things and cycling another 30-50 miles than my anticipated stop - I can also do that, though not repeating that pace day after day.
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Old 09-03-20, 10:44 AM
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Originally Posted by billyymc View Post
Thanks for the thoughts all - quite helpful in thinking about what future tours might be like.

Two things in particular stand out from the comments: 1 - "Starting out with high mileage and decreasing it ending in injury is a sign of poor daily mileage strategy"; 2 - "Take time to look around and stop along the way instead of concentrating on how far you can ride."
As to No. 1, if it ends ďin injuryĒ is a hindsight approach because you donít know if it will due to high mileage at the start. If you are accustom to higher mileage I donít see anything wrong with starting out big. My 2017 tour in MT and ID had a first day of over 95 miles when the run back into town for dinner (grocery store in town was unexpectedly closed) and then back to camp was included. Didnít want to do that many miles, but camping options were extremely limited. When I was back out there last year I cut the first day down to about 77 by camping short of the town where I stayed in 2017. I was fine both times because I had done many long road rides.

In 2016, my first day of a MT tour was 85 miles. Most of those miles were relatively flat. What climbing there was (including some on gravel) was pretty tame. Day 2 included 16 miles of mountain pass. By doing a long first day I was able to shave 18 miles off the harder second day.

As to No. 2, I never plan trips based on how far I think I can ride. I plan based on available services that I believe are in my range each day, with a goal of keeping the mileage manageable. Iíll even do short days if I need extra time to visit a place of interest or to avoid having to do a long day, especially if I have to carry groceries a long way. I did both during my trip last year. Because I cook (as opposed to heating up stuff from cans), I donít like to get to camp late and have to scramble to get things done.

Last edited by indyfabz; 09-03-20 at 10:52 AM.
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Old 09-03-20, 02:32 PM
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Thats a long way each day, is my initial thought. My rule of thumb is also about 10mph, especially on gravel, which can suck the life out of you sometimes. 129 miles @10mph is a 13 hr. day, and that’s way more than I would do.

So, Yes, lesson learned. 45-60 might have been a reasonable day.

Begs the question, what was the point of this trip ?, where you just racking up mileage or did you want to actually stop and see anything ?. Even a pavement pace at 12 mph would have left little time to do anything but ride.
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Old 09-03-20, 02:50 PM
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Originally Posted by billyymc View Post
So my buddy and I did our first tour this past week. Rode the Erie Canal trail from Buffalo to Albany. We had ...some pain issues.

...What we ended up doing was something like 124, 90, 98, then on day 4 with my buddy suffering some knee and saddle pain....my buddy pushed through his pain....I was also having some knee issues...

...

Bikes were probably loaded in the 55 - 60 lb range including water bottles. We were camping, but did not bring cook sets since we were never far from food.




unless you mean the loaded bikes were in the 55-60 pound range, there's your problem!!!!

assuming your neckit bikes weigh around 30 pounds, you're still carrying 25-30 pounds each.
or did you mean 55-60 pounds of gear strapped to your bikes**********????

that's insane for a maintained tow path in the (relatively) developed world.

what the joisey was you all carrying?

a single rider should be able to manage that with well under 20 pounds, more likely around
15 pounds, considering no cooking gear or vittles.


edit to add: no idea what those asterickses above are. NOT an expletive. just a whole bunch
of questionable marks. ---> ****************************************????
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Old 09-03-20, 02:59 PM
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Originally Posted by saddlesores View Post
unless you mean the loaded bikes were in the 55-60 pound range, there's your problem!!!!

assuming your neckit bikes weigh around 30 pounds, you're still carrying 25-30 pounds each.
or did you mean 55-60 pounds of gear strapped to your bikes**********????
Bike and gear total around 55-60 range. Neither bike is that heavy - probably 22-23 lbs. Carried three water bottles at a time. Gear wise - tent (fit in handlebar bag with poles strapped to the outside), sleeping bag, sleeping pad, extra set of bike clothes, a set of clothes for off the bike (including sandals strapped to handlebar bag), some toiletries and a chamois to clean up, a bit of food but not much, bike tools, tubes in case of a bad flat (both running tubeless).

Edit to add: I wonder if I got my loaded bike weight wrong...doesn't seem like we were carrying much excess but looking at Miele Man's gear and weight...something seems off.
The only thing I brought that I should have left home was a pair of running tights and a lightweight technical long sleeve shirt. The week before had been quite cool and wasn't convinced the weather was going to stay warm again (it did mostly).

Last edited by billyymc; 09-03-20 at 05:50 PM.
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Old 09-03-20, 03:17 PM
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37 pounds of gear is what my average logging/mining road road completely self-support trips in Norther Ontario, Canada uses. that includes my food, cooking gear, stove, two fuel bottles of white gas, four 750ml water bottles, three 500ml water bottles, tent, sleeping bag, foam pad, and groundsheet plus repair tools for the bike. Water is hard to get and needs to be treated/filtered before being drank. I prepare all my bottles at the same time so I have lots of water available to drink the next day. My motto is, Far better to have it and not need it that to need it and not have it. I also carry an extra set of clothing that has long sleeves and long pant legs for those chilly northern nights, and my rain gear. My tours last two weeks at a time.

How far i ride per day depends on how fit I am, how I feel that day, how many stops I make to look at things and so on. It's quite difficult for anyone to advise a strange as to how many miles they should ride each day or for consecutive days. Even on a flat area, a strong or even brisk headwind can make a big if not huge difference in how many miles one can cover per day and recover enough that evening to ride enjoy ably the next day. Pain, especially in the knees is an indication that too many miles are being ridden or that there's a fit issue, if even slight, with the bike.

I hope your next tour is more enjoyable.

Cheers
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Old 09-03-20, 05:44 PM
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Originally Posted by Steve B. View Post
Thats a long way each day, is my initial thought. My rule of thumb is also about 10mph, especially on gravel, which can suck the life out of you sometimes. 129 miles @10mph is a 13 hr. day, and thatís way more than I would do.

So, Yes, lesson learned. 45-60 might have been a reasonable day.

Begs the question, what was the point of this trip ?, where you just racking up mileage or did you want to actually stop and see anything ?. Even a pavement pace at 12 mph would have left little time to do anything but ride.
Steve - very good question. For both of us this was our first foray into touring. I have a tendency to like to challenge myself on the bike from time to time - for example I'm planning a solo 114 mile 11,000 feet of climbing ride i a couple weeks. So I think that my mindset was - we're there to ride, not sightsee and dilly-dally. Haha. I had assumed moving pace of 15 mph - which was about right over most of it.

As I said, I've realized that touring doesn't necessarily equate to an endurance challenge. Will keep that tendency in check on future tours, unless the goal is just cranking out miles
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Old 09-03-20, 06:37 PM
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I never plan a specific mileage. On short tours (weekends) I usually plan to do a trip in 3 nights and usually do finish it it 2 nights. I do like to ride all day but I like the freedom to just roll and enjoy the day and see where it brings me.
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Old 09-04-20, 08:28 AM
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Sounds like a case of what some cyclist refer to as: "RACING WITH PANNIERS"
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Old 09-04-20, 10:19 AM
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Originally Posted by billyymc View Post
So we came away from the ride with a great experience overall, but feeling that our original plan was too aggressive and perhaps even 100 miles a day of flat riding for multiple days in a row might be too much.

.
I think your assumption is correct. Most people that have toured can do 100 miles per day, I believe. Doing 100 miles per day for 2 days, or more, in a row has always been a problem for me. I can do it, I just don't enjoy it. It's not that I run out of energy ( I take a break every hour) but my butt and hands hurt badly. Usually after a 100 mile day the next day is something like 40 miles. If I don't ever have any 100 miles days I can ride 50-60 miles day after day after day without any pain. (p.s. I ride everyday when I'm home, but I wouldn't call it "training")
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Old 09-04-20, 09:01 PM
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Your load weight of 35lbs ish is a pretty common weight, and perfectly fine and similar to my touring load.

but really, those are pretty darn high mileage days there dude. Riding loaded takes a hell of a lot more effort and you've got to work your legs into it.
Seriously, what you can do comfortably is really up to you, but the issues you describe are pretty classic over doing it.
listen to your body and next time adjust and have more realistic expectations based on what you learned this time.

but still have fun
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Old 09-04-20, 11:01 PM
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Also factored in is hour many hours/day you're riding. If you're rolling at first light, minimizing stop time, and riding to sunset, it's one thing. If you're coming out of your sleeping bag at daylight, stopping, eating long lunches, and trying to get into camp before dusk, it's another.

The big plus of the trail is lack of time and energy spent navigating; that's worth some time.

Having said all that, those are still pretty big mileage days in the conditions. It's good to have a plan, but also good to be flexible when things don't work out, like a sore knee. That calls for a super short day.
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Old 09-05-20, 04:23 AM
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Overdoing the mileage especially at the start can spoil the trip, but I don't agree with comments that often come up suggesting that riding all day doesn't allow doing anything else or enjoying the country traveled through. I'd like to point out that the countryside can be enjoyed from the saddle, pictures can be taken on stops and stops can be made specifically for the scenery.. You can talk to the local folks at the stops if you make the effort. You can eat the local cuisine.

I am often surprised when comparing notes with other riders in camp that some of the folks who supposedly are taking the time to "smell the roses" actually haven't really taken much advantage of their down time to do much mingling with local folks or doing much. On the other hand I have found it possible to meet and chat with people, eat local food, and enjoy the wildlife and scenery even on the very longest days. For example on my longest day (142 miles) I enjoyed beautiful scenery, saw a lot of wildlife, met and had conversations with a few folks (some in mixed English and Spanish with neither side having much grasp of the other's language), sat at communal table for breakfast with the locals in a local diner, had lunch in a place frequented by non English speaking folks and ordered from a menu that I couldn't really read, outran a huge thunderstorm, and at the end of the day I negotiated a really nice discount in a beautiful room that would normally not have been in my budget.

I am not saying that all folks who do short miles sit in camp and do nothing, but I have been surprised how little correlation there is between mileage and actually seeing the sights and enjoying the trip. You can do long miles and still see and do lot if you make an effort to do so.

I think one of the things that does make a big difference is that I am not inclined to sleep in or sit around in camp in the morning. If you roll out at 5 or 6 am it gives you a huge advantage over someone who rolls out at noon or even someone who rolls out at 8 or 9. You have a lot more time to ride, a lot more time to take breaks, a lot more time to talk to folks, and you can knock of earlier for the day if you don't want to knock out long miles.
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Old 09-05-20, 05:42 AM
  #20  
imi
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Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
... I still might do some 100+ mile days at my age, but after some time getting road hardened.
^^^ Road hardened! Exactly. For me something magical hits in after about two weeks - my legs get stronger, my average speed increases and daily distances go up.
That said, I love listening to my body, not planning the days ride... stop, or rest whenever... or ride on and on... Seldom is a day shorter than 60 km or longer than 120 km, though both can happen
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Old 09-05-20, 12:25 PM
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I like to be on the road by 7 at the latest. Almost never do I stop for a sit down meal if Iíve got more riding to do. Not only can that chew up time (pun intended), I prefer to snack/eat somewhere scenic.
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Old 09-05-20, 12:47 PM
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Originally Posted by indyfabz View Post
I like to be on the road by 7 at the latest. Almost never do I stop for a sit down meal if Iíve got more riding to do. Not only can that chew up time (pun intended), I prefer to snack/eat somewhere scenic.
indys comments really touch on the old expression, "You've gotta ride your own ride"
pace, when to stop to eat, take a break, chat with folks, when to start, when to finish, days off......so if you're happy with a 200km or 50km day, it's all cool.

on my recent 6 day trip, was first time in a long time I was on my own, other than the first day, and it was really nice just listening to my body and going with what felt right for all this stuff.
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Old 09-05-20, 01:27 PM
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Unfortunately, I donít have flexibility unless Iím doing a long weekend from or close to home and could conceivably take Monday off if something were to go awry. And close to home there are usually very limited legal camping options. Otherwise, I usually have a flight to catch. Thus, I plan each day and often have a backup plan for each day that may entail a shorter or longer day. But in the end, I ultimately have to be back at my departure city the day before my flight, at the latest.

Wasnít always like that. I started touring when I volunteered to be downsized back in 1999. First trip was ACAís unsupported Northern Tier. Daily mileages were usually kept on the easily manageable side. But then I rode home to Philadelphia solo with only a drop dead date that was far off for the distance, so I could make daily decisions about mileage. My next two trips the following year were like that. Although I had to catch a flight home from Spain after the second one, I had seven weeks to play with. Did a lot of original plan altering during that one. The third trip involved no flight home. I just had to arrive at Mesa Verde NP some time in the month of July. Took several unplanned rest days and some unplanned short days. IIRC, I finished a week later than I thought I would. A week after my arrival the park caught fire and I and the interns I was hanging with had to evacuate the campground, But thatís another story.
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Old 09-05-20, 01:31 PM
  #24  
Steve B.
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I've enjoyed watching some YT's from Darren Alf, AKA as "The Bicycle Touring Pro". He's had a few useful tidbits based on his near 20 years of continual touring. Among them is that he rarely rides (self supported gear) more than 40-60 miles in a day. He's certainly fit enough to do more and often will extend out to 100 miles or so, but not when he doesn't have too. He also tends to sleep late if he's solo, that accounts for less mileage and he spends a lot of time somewhere charging electronics (that support his videos, which is how he earns a living).

Another is that the first 4 days of a tour can suck and that's very true as your body gets used to being on a bike and you get into the rhythm of riding every day, camping, being outside 24/7, etc.....
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Old 09-05-20, 03:02 PM
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Originally Posted by Steve B. View Post
being outside 24/7, etc.....
That was a new experience for me on my first tour. Other than being in stores, campground bathrooms and sleeping in Adirondack shelters one night, we spent all our time outdoors for the first 6 days. At the end of the 7th day we had a day off after crossing the North Cascades Highway in rain and snow. We went out for dinner that night and someone remarked that we were sitting in chairs with backs for the first time.
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