Hindsight Bias #3: Watches & Maps

I wore a Casio wrist watch during my cross country bike trip from Vermont to California. I bought it along the way, from a Kinney Drug’s in upstate New York in a thunder storm. It’s initial purpose was to be an alarm clock so that we could save our phone batteries during the night.

Somehow I enabled a bonus feature that made it beep every hour. The time on the watch did not correlate with real time. Through a combination of time zone changes and daylight savings, it was consistently about an hour and 15 minutes off. But an hour’s still an hour (ding) or about 10 miles further on the map (ding) or 1 listen through of Bob Dylan Blood on the Tracks plus repeats of tracks 1 and 2 (ding). There are many markers of time. Sometimes I would hear the dings and know what hour it indicated. Sometimes I would hear the dings and have no idea what hour it was, but was contented to know an hour had elapsed. Sometimes I would not hear the dings at all, and yet time went on.

My watch: cleanest thing on my body.

The first leg of the trip was from Middlebury, Vermont to Missoula, Montana. We left on May 28th and set our trajectory and pace to get us to Missoula, Montana by July 5. This was pretty ambitious because neither of us had ever done a bike tour or even really cycled aside from campus commutes. My friend/bike partner Kate is really good at reading maps though, and honestly that’s half the battle. Adventure Cycling Association makes really great bike maps that break the journey into legs, and then the legs into bite-sized panels. I wouldn’t say it’s necessary to buy the maps—there were some stretches where we were on one road for many days/there weren’t even any other roads around—but they definitely make planning MUCH easier, serving as a calendar almost. On the back of the maps, there are EKG-like drawings to represent the elevation profile of the terrain. I chose not to look too closely at these.

The only downsides of the maps were that:

  1. Because Adventuring Cycling kinda has the monopoly, there’s a bit of a Disneyland ride effect…and by that I mean we’d see other cyclists on the same ‘Northern Tier‘ ride, occasionally. And when we did it was always pleasant so it’s not even a real downside…only if you’re a Sacagawea trail blazing purist.
  2. The panels orient north differently in every window and break the stretch into such small segments that it’s easy to lose sight of the greater context. This downside can be leveled by the upside of getting a physical map of the state you’re in, emphasis on the physical.
The maps are waterproof too!

So in summary, watches and maps are good trackers of time and space though it may be your watch you look at to see how far you’ve gone and your map you look at to see what day it is.


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