Perils of Poor Planning

A well-planned launch and close is one of the best favors "Planning-You" can do for “Touring-You”.

Launch: The first thing that “Touring-You” wants is to get to the start of the tour and commence having fun.  What “Touring-You” doesn’t want is to deal with snags and problems that get in the way of the fun, and could have been avoided by just a bit more effort on the part of “Planning-You”.

Close: When “Touring-You” gets to the end of the tour, what she wants is to get herself and all her gear safely and efficiently home.  What “Touring-You” doesn’t want is to spend the last moments of the tour racing around and panicking about how to get the gear (read: beloved bicycle) home.

Prior to any tour, do "Touring-You" a favor and be a good “Planning-You”, and never a bad “Didn’t-Plan-Enough-You”.

Australia - Setting Unrealistic Expectations

Brent Prepping "Dewey"
My first cycle tour away was to Australia.  Brent did the planning for that tour, and he did a fantastic job of sorting out the logistics for launch and close (with some help from the city of Hobart, plus his sister).

When we arrived in Hobart, Tasmania, we put our oversized boxes containing our bicycles and gear into a cab and were whisked off to a hostel where we stayed for two days to prep for the tour.

A Hike with Carleen and John
Our tour ended in Sydney at Brent's sister’s house.  She had pre-arranged replacement boxes for our bicycles and our gear, and then delivered us herself to the airport when it was time for us to leave.

Things couldn’t have gone smoother, and that smoothness set some extremely unrealistic expectations in my burgeoning cycle tour brain.

It was such a non-event that I don’t even have any photos of the packing.  Instead of dealing with nonsense, we spent our time hiking with Brent’s sister and her partner.

A Perilous Launch in Paris

Making a Mess at the Paris Airport
When we arrived in Paris on my second cycle tour away, I expected that we could do the same thing – toss our great big boxes, and ourselves, into a cab, and be whisked off to our AirBnB.

Nope!  Peril: Paris doesn’t have great big cabs to take great big boxes.  We engaged the largest cab we could find (a small minivan),  

Our Shameful Discarded Trash
and by unpacking, and then partially (but not entirely) assembling our bikes, we were able to squeeze everything in.

We ended up having to leave all the boxes and packing materials in the airport, much to the extreme displeasure of the Visitor Info lady.  It took us a few weeks to fully re-hydrate from her withering stares of scorn.

Disaster Averted in Budapest

Laura's Relief at Finding a Bike Box
The biggest perils we’ve faced with regard to poor planning, though, have to do with getting bikes home at the end of a tour.

In 2015, our favorite “cycle touring third wheel”, Laura, joined us for a portion of our six-month tour.  She flew in to Frankfurt, rode with us for a month, and was flying home from Budapest.  To date we’d always had an easy time getting bicycle boxes, so we assumed that would work in Budapest as well.

Nope!  Peril: Budapest has few bicycle stores, and mid-August is really late in the season for those stores to have cardboard boxes to give away.

Making the Bike Fit the Box
Time was marching on towards Laura’s departure as the three of us raced around Budapest desperately searching for a bike box.

Thankfully we found a box, albeit quite a small one.  Laura’s bike had to be stripped right down to fit in, but everything came together just in time.

Disaster NOT Averted in Riyeka

After the experience in Budapest, Brent and I started discussing what we would do if we couldn’t get boxes for our own bikes when it was time for us to go home at the end of October.  I vacillated between “leaving my bike behind would be ok” and “I’ll leave Dewey behind over my dead body”.  Brent was very unhappy with the idea of leaving “The Tank” behind and was determined to bring the bike home.

One poor-planning peril that we faced on our 2015 tour was the Schengen Area.  Are you asking “What’s a Schengen Area?”  That was my exact question when the immigration lady in Iceland told me that the tour that we had planned probably wasn’t going to go as expected because we couldn’t spend more than 90 days “in the Schengen Area”.

Brent had researched our travel restrictions for all the countries that we wanted to tour in:  France, Spain, Belgium, Netherlands, the UK, Ireland, Germany, Austria, Hungary, and found that we were allowed to spend up to three months in each.  We weren’t planning on spending anywhere near three months in any one of them, so we thought we were golden. We were wrong.  The Schengen Area is the collection of border-free countries in Europe that, for immigration purposes, function as one country.  So, we ended up having to scram out of the Schengen Area after we’d used up our 90 days (thankfully the UK and  Ireland aren’t in Schengen, so we spent some extra time there).  See my post, "Stumbling Around Schengen" for more (potentially interesting and informative) whining.

Now, you know that I’m “faint of heart” when it comes to riding in traffic, and let me tell you, all of the great cycling countries (for the faint of heart) are inside of Schengen.  So, toward the end of our trip, Brent and I ended up in Croatia where there was some good cycling and some scary cycling.  We decided to stop riding in late September rather than late October and just do some touristing instead as we were running out of good places to ride and good weather to ride in.

Brent Looking for Bike Boxes in All The Wrong Places
We concluded our riding in Rijeka and started looking for ways to ship our bikes home so we could continue on without them.  Long story short, even if we could have gotten some boxes to put them in, the shipping costs from Croatia were crazy high (like, 2x the cost of the bike).  We’d looked into using DHL from Germany, and it was surprisingly affordable, so we were not prepared for discovering that there really was no reasonable way for us to get the bikes back to Canada. 
Brent's Last Sad Spin on "The Tank"
Ultimately, we gave our bikes away.  We tried to make the experience less traumatic by giving them away to some nice, deserving people, but, dang… we still miss those bikes.  Here are our “giving away our bikes” days:

Rhonda’s bike, Dewey, makes a friend in Dado the cook 
Brent resists giving The Tank away (but ultimately does give it to the hostel guy)

Disaster NARROWLY Averted in Frankfurt

In 2017 we did a tour in Germany for the month of June.  

Having not completely learned our lessons in 2015, we assumed that, (1) as Germany is a very cycle-friendly country, and (2) as we were closing our tour at the end of June, which is in high bicycle-buying season, we’d have no trouble procuring cardboard boxes to bring our bikes home.  Or, actually, to bring Laura and Brent’s bikes home.  I’d brought a bike that I didn’t particularly like and had planned from the start to leave it behind.  But Laura and Brent were attached to their bikes and determined to take them home.  

I’d planned us three days in Frankfurt for preparations to go home, which should have been ample.  It was not.  Spoiler alert: Laura and Brent got their bikes home, but the process was arduous, stressful and expensive:
  • Peril: Complete lack of WiFi at our AirBnB.  It was promised, but not delivered.  We had to find a WiFi hotspot just to do what ended up being a significant amount of research.
  • Peril: We couldn’t get boxes from a store.  Let’s just say that Germans are very (very) efficient at disposing of their Müll (trash).  We visited several bike stores, none of which had any boxes (I think all the boxes had been whisked away to "Müll Heaven" before they could even touch the floor).  
  • Peril: The €100 price to ship from DHL that we were counting on doesn’t include boxes big enough to hold a bicycle.  In 2015, Brent and I had misunderstood the size of box that could be shipped for that price.  
The Expression on Laura's Face Says it All
Boy, I thought I had the close of this tour planned, but I was so woefully mistaken.  Our precious three days (and way too much money) was spent searching for good enough WiFi to research options, running around, fruitlessly, to bicycle stores, buying packing boxes that were the wrong size for bikes, but which Brent and Laura thought they could “retrofit” for the job, and, finally, buying proper bike boxes from the luggage wrapping guy right at the Frankfurt airport.  Wish we’d known about THAT guy all along.
Disaster Averted

In case you’re interested in reading more of my whining about this utter failure of a tour close:

France 2019: Will I Get It Right?

We are doing our next tour to France this coming June.  This time, we’re using plastic bags instead of cardboard boxes, and we’re taking full-sized folding bikes instead of solid frames.  Have I got it right this time?  Or are fresh new perils awaiting us that I haven’t considered?

Follow us live this June to find out…


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