Friday, August 21, 2009

To plan or not to plan: that is the question

Some people are planners, some prefer to fly by the seat of their pants. I fall squarely into the planning category. I love to plan. I relish it. I'm one of those people who gets almost as much enjoyment out of planning the trip as they do from following the carefully laid plan...umm, I mean going on the trip.

BUT - I have planned enough to know that there are times when planning really hinders more than it helps. While on a backpacking trip I plan carefully (what I'll eat for each meal, where I'll camp each night) but on this biking trip I put the planning on hold.

If you are biking the Oregon Coast I'd suggest that you consider leaving a few items open to fate. Here a list of what I planned carefully as well as a list of what I just made up as I went along.

Items the I planned carefully:
  • Map - having a great bike map like the one from Cycle Adventures was one of the big reasons that I didn't need to plan too much. The route is clearly laid out along with hill profiles and narratives to make surer you don't miss a turn. And it gives you all the info about campsite locations and town amenities that you could need.
  • Money - And I don't just mean budgeting in advance to make sure you've saved up enough money for the trip. The Oregon Coast is full of small towns and you'll run into many places that are cash only. Meanwhile, the variety of banks available isn't great. If you're with Bank of Astoria or US Bank you'll be fine, but if not considering bringing cash with you to avoid ATM fees.
  • Off bike transportation - we carefully planned how we would get to our starting place and how we would get home from our ending place. This was significantly more difficult than we thought it would be, so make sure you think about this ahead of time (expect a full post on this in the near future).
  • Packing - every pound counts so consider every item carefully before you put it in your bag.
  • Training - make sure to practice some tour-like riding before you actually head out. Not only will you be on a bike for hours in a day, you'll be doing it again the next day. And the next. You'll enjoy the trip more if you aren't aching with pain for the first five days.

But for the following items I found it better to go with the flow:

  • Where to sleep - not only did the bike map outline all the campsites along the way, but the Oregon Coast seems to have a campsite every 15 miles! On top of that they always have space for bikers, so there's no need to make reservations. Keeping your daily destination flexible means that you can take advantage of unexpected events along the way (like stopping for the annual Pirate Treasure Hunt in Depot Bay or riding an awesome tailwind a few extra miles).
  • What to eat - it's strange for me not to think about this because it's one of my biggest planning item on a backpacking trip. But my absolute favorite thing about cycle touring is that eateries, grocery stores, cafes, markets, and convenience stores abound! Finally you get to eat the way you want to when you are exercising all day. The Oregon Coast is studded with quirky diners and fantastic coffee shops. Ask the locals for advice - especially the guys at the bike shops. They never steered us wrong.
  • What to do/see - One of the cool things about the Oregon Coast is that it was developed back in the heyday of road tripping. Therefore, you can learn about pretty much anything cool (festivals, markets, attractions, view points, beaches) right from the road. On top of that, the 101 acts as a main drag for most of the towns that it goes through so you'll find yourself right in the middle of the action pretty much wherever you go. Having a sight or event in mind is great, but don't feel like you have to drive yourself crazy figuring out all the best things to do in advance.

Are you a meticulous planner or do you like to leave your options open? Do you ever find that there's a benefit from abandoning your typical style?

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