Solo.

Riding alone used to be my favorite way to travel, before I was intimidating.

Beholden to no one, I could go reallyreallyfast!! or reaaaallllly slow or sometimes both in the same 10-mile section. I could stop on a dime to take a picture. I could eat lunch three times a day. Mealtimes could get a little lonely — sitting alone at a big booth in the middle of nowhere — but they were good times to jot down thoughts from the road. Road descriptions, people descriptions. Eveningtime in a hotel meant more jotting down before crawling into bed early with a book. I could be back on the bike in the morning as quickly as it took me to dress and reattach my saddlebags.

At some point, I started riding with other people. I think Alaska was really the turning point: three weeks of riding with people, every day. We had to learn to love it or we’d all go insane (well, more insane). I learned to expect someone ahead of me, someone behind me. A person to chat with at mealtimes. Someone to pose for my photos.

Now I expect it all the time. I find myself looking over route maps and thinking “who’ll come with?” as much as “where’ll we go?” If I think of an overnight trip, I get cranky if Peter doesn’t have the time or inclination. When I imagine myself standing in front of some huge piece of scenery out in god knows where, I imagine photographing someone else there. My self-timer and tripod don’t even register.

But now there’s no one to ride with.

Peter says I’m intimidating. He says that it creeps people out a little that I pore over maps so much and plan routes and know all the history of an area before riding there. I need about a half-hour’s prep work to head out on an overnight trip (maybe an hour if the ride would be a week or more). Intimidating.

I’ve never been intimidating. I’m always the well-meaning girl who sort of grasps the conversation but is better at just looking up the details later. I trip over things. I really like cats. This is not what I would consider an intimidating combination.

The answer, I think, is to get back to riding alone. I’ve become almost frightened of it again, which is an unequivocal sign that I need to do it. I can get back to reading history books at the dinner table and spreading maps out all over hotel beds and not worrying about anyone else. Is he bored? Is she hungry? What if they’re miserable and just not telling me? The only things I’ll fret over will be “will my camera battery hold out?” and “will the restaurant tonight have good beer?”.

I think I’ll start next weekend. Luckily, I know just where my California map and Roadside History book are….

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