Today is the exact midpoint of 2009. It's also Hermann Hesse's birthday, and he's got a connection to bike travel. Or any travel, actually.
I was really influenced by two of his books, Siddhartha and Goldmund and Narcissus. They were both about wandering vagabond-type characters whose travel became a big part of their destiny--and that of all humanity.
I think his books taught me the difference between being a tourist and being a traveler. It seems that the term "bike touring" is more dominant, but really when you tour the world by bicycle--or even just your home town--you're embodying the spirit of a traveler.
A tourist goes site-seeing, but a bike traveler has a spontaneous conversation with the places you visit. You may have a schedule, but it's a loose one by necessity. Your plans are tempered by the weather, the terrain, and even by what you ate for dinner.
Bike touring engages you. Wherever you stop for food, drink, or rest you're going to get the attention of the locals simply because you're traveling in a way that's still unusual. People who wouldn't talk to you if you were driving will invite you in for coffee drinks because you're on a bike. You get to know the adventures that go along with heat and cold, hunger and fatigue, being lost and finally arriving at your destination.
Your adventures may not be as long or intense as the ones that Siddhartha and Goldmund experienced, but when you travel by bike you're living in the real world, not just being passively entertained.
It's the middle of the year, the beginning of summer, and a few days from our celebration of independence. Celebrate your own independence, while the sun shines and the open road rolls out before you. Ride on, and enjoy the adventures that await you.