A succession of never-agains. We pass through towns and lives and businesses in one direction; returning to a place more than once feels unusual. I realised this when we ate breakfast at a motel we’d had a beer at the night before and returning stood out as a novelty.
Temporary companionships, with varying lengths of temporary. Ranging from short conversations in gas station forecourts, to shared campsite evenings and maybe breakfasts, to a few days riding together. Encounters are always fleeting, but enriching.
An ever-expanding patchwork of knowledge. People value different things and have their own unique experiences to recount and advice to share. So we accumulate a great cross-section of knowledge including Canadian history, local tips, French slang, opinions on the world, solutions to its various problems, and an endless amount more.
Gradual depletions. Of energy, food, money, cleanliness, quality of gear, lubrication of moving parts, concerns about wild-camping or encountering bears.
Gradual increases. Of endurance, daily distances, distances between rest stops, stories to tell afterwards, people met, names learned, moments shared.
Delayed gratifications. You think about a cold soda for thirty miles before you can satiate the thirst and wash away the fatigue of cycling for two hours. You know there’s a toilet in the next section, but you don’t know exactly where.
Inordinate pleasure in restoring yourself to the baseline. Laundry is a privilege, as is a cup of proper coffee in the morning. In town, sleeping in a bed is incomparable to tent and sleeping bag and roll-mat, but at the end of each day camping, tent and sleeping bag and roll-mat is inordinately luxurious.
Arbitrary decisions. Our destination, route, time-frame, diet, budget and attitude is completely up to us. Many times we’ve found ourselves walking with conviction through a town for several minutes before realising neither of us know where we’re going, then bumping into someone or something interesting that makes the decision for us. Curating some of the experience and having this supplemented by random encounters and experiences is rewarding and liberating.
Small accomplishments. Getting to the top of a hill is an achievement, and one you can enjoy multiple times in a day. This is why hills are preferable to headwind: even though you put in the same effort riding each, you can turn around an look at what you’ve achieved when you hit a summit. Arriving in a town that was 80 miles away this morning gives you a buzz of satisfaction every time. As does looking at the ever-lengthening lines we’re marking on our maps.
Occasional hassles. These are inevitable, manageable and forgettable (except for the lessons you learn to prevent them happening again).
Small, simple, frequent and constant pleasures.