When planning our cycle adventure down the West coast of the USA, we figured out a lot of the details and necessities. Every micro-aspect of what we needed and was most efficient was considered. Each item was assigned a value based on whether it was multi-purpose, low in weight, and necessary for survival or comfort.
We chose our camping bowls because they nested into one and had a lid to store or cover food in transit. We cut down to having three pairs of pants as that was most weight efficient, allowed for varying weather and provided an alternative when one needed washing. We estimated we’d spend every fifth night or so in a motel after camping and had budgeted for that…All the functional, nuts-and-bolts were measured and decided to ensure we survived in relative comfort with the bare necessities.
Adam and I had a lot of understanding of how we planned, communicated and made decisions from working together for the past ten years…but being in business is very different to family travel adventure where your happiness and optimal survival is based on basic decisions like where you will source your food, water and shelter each day. We were comfortable with adapting along the way as we had an agreement that we would go with what worked, or so we thought.
What we failed to plan for was how we would work. How would we make decisions along the way? And who would do what? We were naturally casual – we’d made it this far together without killing each other, right? Our relaxed attitude to just taking the challenges as they came had suited us so far…until dun dun daaaaaan…our journey was figuratively and literally re-routed, and we were forced to set some ground rules in order to avoid one of us riding off into the sunset – solo.
I’ll just backpeddle a little bit to fill you in on how it all went down on the way to Sequim, Washington. The day started out typically lovely, cast in sunny Port Angeles, and headed towards the rain shadowed town of Sequim. An easy, scenic day of cycling was predicted, and we were happy to learn we could cycle along the Olympic Discovery Trail, a completely off-road trail reserved for cyclists and trekkers. Just a happy little family right on the cusp of a big adventure. Adam took the lead with Tahlee in the Wee-Hoo and I maintained my usual comfortable distance. The night before we’d lazily checked the route on Google maps (check it the map for the actual, proper route, not our squiggly version), and I assumed (warning bells should be going off about here) that Adam had our route under control.
There’s your problem right there. Assuming is just like Not Planning. Assuming is already deciding that you think you know an outcome. It’s uninformed decision making due to lack of planning – or, communication. But, there’s more…
We reached the esplanade of Port Angeles; quiet, unassuming back streets that belied a beautiful beachfront recreational path beyond the dune scrub. I pedalled behind, complacent that Adam was almost on the right track because he had planned where we were going. My plan was to assume that all was well, and let Adam fulfill a stereotypically male role of knowing the directions to anywhere. How wrong I was. How unplanny we were was just about to send us into a tailspin.
Adam had simply been winging it the whole time, assuming that a popular tourist recreation trail entrance would be well-signed. A fair enough assumption, you would think. But after turning left, right, and down dead-end roads with no trail in sight, I spat it. What the hell, I thought he knew where we were going? I didn’t want to be wasting time on the road to nowhere, when beautiful, car-less trails awaited!
There we were in the car park of an auto parts franchise on the corner of a major highway, yelling at each other. Classy. What was supposed to be a beautiful stretch of ride along beachfront and nature trails, had disappointingly turned into a drudgery along the highway, interspersed with missions down side-roads to scout the Olympic Discovery Trail.
The biggest learning from this rogue journey, was that planning is more than organising the practical elements for success. Planning includes communicating about your expectations of each other – what you think each person will contribute, how you will work through unexpected situations? What will be your attitude to failure? What’s acceptable and what’s below the line? How will you handle the complete unknown? What does going rogue or off-plan mean to you? For me, not knowing our exact route meant an unpredictable and busy ride, wasted energy, not taking advantage of our scenic location, and potentially not making it to our destination in time to set up camp before sunset. These things were important to me, but until then, I hadn’t really known that. The benefit of global planning – looking at a situation in its entirety – is that we can prevent issues before they occur and take advantage of opportunities as they come. If we’d planned how we would organise each day’s ride, clarified who would be responsible for what, and expressed what going off-plan meant, we may not have been sitting on the curb of that auto parts store in shitty moods with each other, and could have enjoyed some of Washington’s elusive sun on the bike trail.
Eventually, after spotting a cyclist shoot through a hidden path down a side street, we found our way on to the remainder of the Olympic Discovery Trail towards Sequim. It was quiet, secluded and beautiful. We settled into our first ever hiker-biker campsite in Sequim Bay State Park – a lovely seaside introduction to camping in a more town-like setting than our first night in Heart o’ the Hills. The next morning Tahlee and I wandered down to the shore to chat to the local clammers who come to collect the clams and oysters that have washed in with the morning tide. Then it was time to head onwards, this time with much more of a plan in mind. We’d tried going rogue, it was time to knuckle down…