I've been camping the last few days, and it's been kind of weird. I probably could have couch surfed in Missoula or Spokane on the way, but I decided to just camp my way to Seattle, where I'll stay for a little while visiting friends, watching frisbee, and seeing the city. But since leaving Gallatin Gateway, I've just been roughing it. And it's been... isolating, I suppose.
The thing about camping is that I don't really have to stop and talk to anyone. At the beginning of the trip I was making sure to talk to people at the restaurants I stopped at, but the last few days I've been mostly keeping to myself and just traveling. Part of it is that I've got a destination to get to - Seattle - by this weekend. Part of it is that I often don't have internet when I'm camping, so when I am sitting around, I've been doing it at coffeeshops and catching up on blogs, reading, etc. and mostly keeping to myself. And I've been out in less populous areas, so there aren't as many breweries or restaurants to stop at.
Before, I would go through periods of wanting to meet new people and be surrounded by friends, and wanting some time to myself. Usually, they coexist - I'd see people at work, I'd see people at frisbee practice, and the rest of the time I could choose if I wanted to go out or just sit at home and read or play video games.
But this trip has seemed to lengthen that particular cycle. Instead of dealing with a cycle measured in hours, it's in days. If I'm not couchsurfing and I'm traveling in a less populous area, I may not talk to many people for a few days. And then for some periods, I'm seeing people every day - for example, I couchsurfed Des Moines, and then saw friends in Minneapolis for 4 days. Or I hung out with couchsurfing friends in Rapid City for 3 days, stayed with a high school friend the next day, stayed with another friend the next two days, and played frisbee with people.
But out here in Montana and Idaho, I'm mostly camping and keeping to myself. It's been good - not having plans or needing to make it to a certain place each night is nice. I can sit in the coffeeshop for 5 hours like I did this morning, and not worry if I'm going to have to cram in a bunch of travel in the afternoon. I can ride until I feel like stopping, and just do a search on google maps for a campsite, and stay there. I can camp out early and watch West Wing episodes on my laptop, or keep riding until it's dark.
It's nice, but... it's lonely too. Until today, I hadn't really been lonely at all on this trip. The periods when I was by myself were short enough - two days at most - that it wasn't an issue. But after camping out the last two nights, and possibly camping out tonight and tomorrow night too, I'm feeling it a little. And I've noticed it affecting the trip somewhat too, because I haven't taken many pictures in the last few days.
But I think overall this is just part of the cycle of the whole trip. When I step back and look at the trip so far, it seems broken up into different parts. There was the start of the trip through Minneapolis, which was mainly visiting friends and seeing places I'd been before. There was Fargo to Fort Collins seeing places my family had vacationed to before. There was the Rockies to Bozeman, scenic rides but not much to do when I got places. And now Bozeman to Seattle - the empty, solo, camping section of the trip. And I'm sure it will continue to break itself up into portions, and maybe I'll see an overall cycle even bigger than that.
It's cycles upon cycles upon cycles. The cycle of each day (Wake up, ride, coffeeshop, ride, camp/meet friends/meet couchsurfer) gives way to the cycle of a few days (scenery/camp day, city/couchsurf day, scenery/camp day, city/friend for a few days), which gives way to the cycle of weeks I talked about above. Perhaps that will turn into a cycle of months as the trip goes on.
This post feels weird to write just after writing a post about busting cycles - I could bust some of these cycles, to be sure (wake up and ride all day, no stopping, for example), but these seem like a different type of cycle to me. So what do you think? Are these cycles I should try to bust? How would I go about doing that?
I meant to post about it, but a couple days ago was almost exactly 25% of the way through my trip - 25 days and 12 states into a 100 day and 48 state trip. And by that point in the trip I had put... 5,000 miles on my bike. Yikes. Apparently I'm going to do a little more than the 10,000 my original route had planned. I'm already at 6,000 miles, just four days later. And I will most likely put in another 3,000 or so on the way to Las Vegas (though I'll only get to 17 states by then). This may end up being a 20,000 mile trip.