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Down for the Count

by Tara

When I am writing, I sometimes imagine that we are talking to our families, to our friends, or maybe even to ourselves in twenty years. Occasionally, I like to pretend that our future offspring will read this one day and think, "Mom and Dad are so cool!"

The rest of the time, I feel as though I am hurling words into a great black void. In reality, that cloud of nothingness is actually teeming with people who read our journal. Usually, I am reminded of this fact when we receive a kind note from someone who likes our site. Today was a little different.

After an hour spent reading a train-wreck of negativity in an online forum (I like to call it "Bicker Kingdom") that harshly criticized our trip, our photos, and our intentions, I felt like a brawny boxer I'd never met had just delivered a crushing blow to my vulnerable underbelly. I was clearly not myself, feeling as thin-skinned and delicate as a soap bubble. Suddenly, I didn't want to share anything that I valued with anyone else.

Tyler was infuriatingly unaffected by it all, save for being concerned about me. I am usually pretty good about not taking things personally, and about being grateful for honest feedback no matter what package it comes in. But today, I was down for the count.

I hope that someday I'll be neither unruffled by negative feedback, nor addicted to positive comments, but instead, self-assured and steady as a rock.

Russian Forest Tyler Driving

Not a lot happened today, and yet here I am, writing about our journey once more. We drove through Russia in our LRC, and it was hot, and we were sticky, and dirty too. We passed through the city of Nizhny Novogrod and remembered for the millionth time how we really don't like cities. There were some nice houses though.

Nizhny Novgorod Home Russian House

Throughout the day, we had several mishaps – getting cut off by a big black SUV, knocking mirrors with the car next to us, and finding ourselves stuck in the middle of a gridlocked intersection with a mass of cars coming our way. It was a normal drive.

Russia is blanketed in forest fires this summer, and today we drove past one of them. Just a small flame was visible; mostly there was a lot of smoke, some firefighters, and a very long hose.

Russian Roadside Fires

We felt more at ease in the countryside (no surprise there)…

Old Russian Tractor

…and when it came time, we began our now daily hunt for a good free-camp. I opened the laptop and pulled up our maps, zooming in on anything blue – lakes, rivers, streams, ponds, something, anything aqueous. I made a waypoint and off we went, hoping it would pan out.

Often it seems that the third time really is the charm. The first river might be in the middle of a town, and the second point, a lake, might be crawling with like-minded people desperate to escape the heat. We patiently try and try again until we find a spot to call home. It isn't so different than looking for a free-camp when cycling!

Russian Country Road

Tonight, we headed towards a lake located a few kilometers off the main highway. It was along a paved side road (a rare thing indeed). When we reached our turn off, Tyler carefully dipped our LRC into a bumpy dirt track, swerving left and right to ply the smoothest course, praying we wouldn't totally destroy our car. Thankfully, a clearing appeared on the path, as it always does.

We parked, stripped down, and stepped through the initially murky waters of the lake before slipping smoothly into the clear middle bit. We paddled around, sliding on the slick muddy bottom, laughing as we sunk knee-deep into gaping holes in the lake's floor. After bathing, I shaved my legs, one foot propped up on an old tire.

A few degrees cooler, we got out and Tyler prepared supper while I set up the tent. It was just what the doctor ordered to soothe my dark mood – a delicious and lazy dinner of pizza and beer, that's our comfort meal.

Pizza for Dinner

For the first time in days, it is cool enough to slip under our down covers and snuggle up together. We aren't sticky, we aren't dirty, and I am grateful for the subtle and surprising drop in temperature. I listen, staring out into the darkness through the ceiling of our tent as Tyler reads another chapter of Bird by Bird to me. And then, we drift off to sleep.

Russian Lakeside Sunset
Next Entry
Into Kazan


No! Don't! Put down the online bicker forums. They are a maelstrom of negativity and, oddly, seem to bring out the worst in people. Bear in mind that in your journey, you have often found the best and even seen the best when it's been hard to see!

As you know, I've been reading along for ages and love your journey, journal and pictures. I don't often comment because I don't have anything to add to what you say (and also becuase I read via RSS feeder and am often too lazy - shame on me - to click through to the website to leave a comment....)

But to sum up: love it! Keep up the excellent work and chin up about those naysayers - bet they wouldn't dare say it to your faces.


Posted by oanh on August 18th, 2010 at 7:57 AM
Tara and Tyler,

Reading your journal has genuinely and often been the highlight of my day this past year. When I describe it to friends, which happens all the time, I sometimes talk about following your journey and observations almost as a spiritual exercise. I think your openness to the world and to letting us know what you encounter is something to aspire to. Not to mention the fact that your photographs are stunning and have made me want to learn how to take such beautiful pictures even though I wasn't particularly interested in photography before. I check Going Slowly every day, even though I KNOW you aren't able to post that often...I'm always hoping there will be another wonderful turn the road to follow you on! Thank you for your thoughtfulness, creativity, and this gift.
Posted by Emily Bruce on August 18th, 2010 at 8:50 AM
I don't know what online forum you've been reading, but those people are just wrong! I love your stories, your writing style, your openness, your sense of humor, your photos, your.... Shall I keep going? Do NOT let these naysayers bring you down. And DO keep the stories coming.
Posted by Debbie Black on August 18th, 2010 at 11:21 AM
The Internet is one great, big, open melting pot, and unfortunately there are no shortage of people who I believe you Americans call a "klutz" or maybe a "dork". ;) Ignore the naysayers - they never achieved anything themselves, so they want to bring everyone down to their level! I pity them. Your writing is very good, and the photos interesting and well-taken. I still think the photos of the girl with the bubble gun are among my favourites - you really captured the joy with such simple things we all felt when we were kids ourselves, before we had it all stamped out of us by the dross of our 8 till late lifestyles. I know you will keep going, and there are plenty of people out there routing for you!
Posted by Tony on August 18th, 2010 at 11:58 AM
Nevermind the forums. It is hard to say why people in the those forums get so negative but it seems that is the culture in many.

We love your writing style, adore your photos , and admire your intentions. We read every post and find Going Slowly among the best-of-the-best travel blogs.

Thanks for sharing your experiences!
Posted by Jim on August 18th, 2010 at 12:46 PM
Don't let the negative forums get you down. Your journal is perfect. I have read a lot of them and you guys have a perfect mix of great photos and excellent writing. I look forward with anticipation every day to your posts. In a world of such negativity and problems your trip lets the reader experience an adventure. You also showcase a world that is filled with kind, friendly and generous people, not all the evil enemies the media so often portrays. Be careful and enjoy the adventure. Thanks!
Posted by Allen Thoma on August 18th, 2010 at 1:59 PM
Ignore the haterz (was it bikeforums) and keep on truckin!
Posted by James Welle on August 18th, 2010 at 2:16 PM
Screw those people. Your journaling, photography, and sound recording are a true GIFT you're sharing with all of us, and I am very grateful and inspired.
Posted by Julia on August 18th, 2010 at 2:42 PM
Tyler, Tara - Just wanted to remind you of how much we love you, and miss you back here @ home. Any time you want to come back to the dojo and beat some people with sticks, we'll come in. Day or night. Ok?

We admire, respect, and maybe envy a li'l bit, the trip of a lifetime you guys are having. What ever you're doing to make the best of your trip, keep doing it. Forget every thing else.

Oh, and it doesn't hurt that we like your journals, photos, and website either. ;)

Posted by Dave on August 18th, 2010 at 2:58 PM
I get your blog on RSS and it's definitely one of the few I wouldn't cull if I get info overload. I love your writing and the photography is awesome. You guys inspire me. I discuss your travels with my husband. I basically sound like I'm following the travels of cool, dear friends! I really enjoy your blog. Thanks so much for sharing!
Posted by Michele on August 18th, 2010 at 4:14 PM
I've been greatly enjoying your stories and photos for at least a year now. I'm stunned anyone would hate it. What you're doing is wonderful and amazing. I get really excited when you go through cities I've been. I missed you in Munich by just a month, and I was in Kazan in July. So, here's a Guilford College prof telling you to keep up the good work and ignore the critics. Thanks for the inspiration!
Posted by Don Smith on August 18th, 2010 at 5:07 PM
Hi Tyler and Tara,
I've been blogstalking your journal for months now and just wanted to let you know how much I love it. My husband, Peter, reads it too and we're often discussing what zany adventure you are up to and how inspiring your trip is. From the close up pictures of an exploding car to the wood-fired sauna and dip in a pond with new friends, your blog has been continuously riveting. Keep up the great work and thanks! Cheers, Sara
Posted by Sara Day on August 18th, 2010 at 6:13 PM
Tara & Tyler, you both post such wonderful photos and writing! Don't change a thing. You've inspired me to take better pictures (and more of them), and I only wish I had your flair for describing the ins and outs of a bike tour. You'll never make everyone happy, and forums tend to be a magnet for negativity. Just do what makes you happy. I am so happy you let us follow along.
Posted by Friedel on August 18th, 2010 at 6:45 PM
You should´ve left a stack of cards with me, I keep jotting down your site for everybody in the store who mentions anything your way. Nobody at Därr gets away from me without it! We miss you!
Posted by Nadine on August 18th, 2010 at 6:53 PM
Digging your trip and your words from Au, Switzerland! Keep positive, have an amazing time, and keep the posts coming!
Posted by Ian on August 18th, 2010 at 7:29 PM
I for one love your journal. One reason is that you both seem to remain humble, observant and appreciative even after being on the road for a year. You're not "professional" travel critics who are easily discouraged by adverse conditions or feel entitled to a certain level of comfort. Another reason I am following your travels is the dual impact of your stunning photos and audio clips. Sometimes it literally feels like I am there. I simply am in awe of the scope of your journey, and I'm very happy that you share it with the world. And I very selfishly want you both to carry on traveling forever. :)
Posted by Mark on August 18th, 2010 at 8:53 PM
oh no, I was so irritated to hear that you read nasty things online that I was finally provoked to come out of the dark where I've been reading your blog for yonks! I have always meant to say thank you both so much, my boyfriend and I are currently on a cycle tour and found your blog very useful (and entertaining) when we were preparing, and it really helped me to get enthusiasm and confidence for our trip.
It seems that whenever people become popular and well-known, there will be spectators who have nasty things to say and comments to make - no matter what you do! So since you can't win over these people, the best thing is to simply be yourselves, which I think you always aspire to do anyway. Tyler has the right attitude, take it all with a grain of salt and only take seriously the opinions of people you respect.
Best of luck, and thanks again!!
Posted by Jenny on August 18th, 2010 at 10:40 PM
“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, & and those who matter don’t mind”. - Dr Seuss
Posted by Katherine on August 19th, 2010 at 12:12 AM
If your critics are from the cycling community, they're probably just engaging in the narcissism of small differences. Or are envious of your opportunities and talents. Forget them!
Posted by Andrea on August 19th, 2010 at 1:02 AM
Tara, a wise friend once told me (when I was in a terrible funk): "When in doubt, just stand in front of a mirror, and imagine me yelling at you.. 'NOW LOOK IN THAT MIRROR, AND TELL ME WHAT YOU SEE!' And then you say, 'I SEE A BADASS MOTHA WHO WON'T TAKE NO CRAP OFF OF NOBODY!'" I do love you so!
Posted by JMcJJ on August 19th, 2010 at 1:50 AM
Please continue onward. I continue to look forward to your posts every day; it opens up the world to me. May you be safe and enjoy wonderful adventures to come...
Posted by Jean on August 19th, 2010 at 3:56 AM
Tara and Tyler,
Jo Anne and I both love reading your journals. We've been 'following' you since we met on the train in northern Italy. Your style is so personable, it always feels like we're hearing from friends, your photography is beautiful, I especially love the close up shots of bugs and flowers. Please don't take the criticism to heart. We love you two and look forward to hearing from you.
We're going to be biking in Belgium in two weeks, nothing like you've done, but we are a "couple" years older too!
Fritz and Jo Anne.
Posted by Fritz Seefeldt on August 19th, 2010 at 5:11 AM
You already know I have been enjoying your trip from the very start, so I won't remind you - but I do want you to know you have made a difference by doing what you are doing. My kids shake their heads when I announce "oh, Tara and Tyler are in Russia, I hope the fires aren't too bad" as though you are my closest friends, but I am a very, very long way from where you are travelling and doubt I will ever see the places you describe, so please take heart and keep goingin slowly!
Posted by YvetteDownunder on August 19th, 2010 at 8:28 AM
I have followed your blog for some time now and have never commented. However, I feel rather outraged that anyone could be negative about such a wonderful website. You engage with your environment, provide your readers with a wonderful richness of experience (not the usual miles travelled, money spent, number of punctures stuff) and are wonderful role models for others wanting to get out there. You seem to have a lovely relationship, take amazing photos and maintain a great attitude during the more tiresome days. I for one am going to feel rather sad when you get home (which is rather selfish of me).

Tyler is definitely right! Ignore them! Unless they have travelled as far and as BEAUTIFULLY as the two of you, the negative nellies are just being snipperty!

P.S. This is probably of no interest to you, but, I purchased a walkstool months ago after reading your blog. Best thing I've done in ages. I can't tell you how much more comfy my middle-aged camping and fishing is now (no more hunkering in the mud). Lots of love and appreciation to you both. Don't change a thing.
Posted by BB on August 19th, 2010 at 8:51 AM
Wow, I had a whole lot of encouraging stuff to say, then I saw that six billion people have beaten me to it... So, ditto ;-) All the nay-saying is just limited people with the reptilian part of their brains dominating!

Something I just commented to Katherine though - I totally feel like we've been to Russia now, sights, smells, feelings and all, and that's quite a thing. We get so excited when we see new posts!
Posted by Michael on August 19th, 2010 at 12:48 PM
Dear Tara and Tyler,

As you probably know your journey and your blog are already part of our lives and many others too. Don't read such silly comments in forums. By the way, please give us the name of this forum. I also would like to know what people have to say about your site.

We think of you every day. Take care! Vigilaaaance!

Ingrid and Yves
Posted by Ingrid on August 19th, 2010 at 2:17 PM
agreed. i don't comment, but i check your site every day and am frequently telling friends and my fiance how inspiring your journey is. don't consider stopping writing and sharing for even a second.
Posted by ashley on August 19th, 2010 at 4:10 PM
Ah my sweet Tara. Being another female addicted to positive reinforcement who strives to understand the steady swell of my own magnificence I'd like to quote the infinite sages of the band Journey:

"Don't stop believin'
Hold on to that feelin'
Street lights, peopaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahle!"

Dance parties aside, you are a super hero doing super things. That's really threatening to some, particularly if they are miserable/bored and can hide behind a computer screen.

If all else fails, I'll just quote you back to yourself:

"Sheeeeeet, I do what I want." :)

Love you, miss you, and wish I could kiss you, girlsistergirlfriend!
Posted by Karina on August 22nd, 2010 at 1:37 PM
There are thousands of people who love you! Don't despair Tara.
What you guys are doing is bold and amazing and inspiring for everybody, including Russian people like me. Thanks SO MUCH for sharing your experience!
Posted by Anastasia on August 27th, 2010 at 2:21 AM
You guys! I just wanted to thank you all for your encouraging comments. It was a tad overwhelming (in a good way) to feel this sudden flood of support, like a zillion e-hugs, and I definitely got a bit teary reading all of the nice things you had to say. So thank you for your support.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have even MORE writing to do. :-)

PS: No, it was not bike forums.

PPS: BB, of course we care! Your bum will thank you.
Posted by Tara on August 28th, 2010 at 2:28 AM
One of the few blogs I look forward to reading, like a good book in the middle of a juicy bit. Daily! Your adventure is proof that you can pick-up and go anywhere when you make a decision to do so. I enjoy taking the ride with you as I experience my own adventure. Tara I understand when you talk about wanting to stand solid like a rock...I too hope for the same. In the meantime these moments of triumph and disappointment are the only way there. You are loved and supported around the world, I see it in the pictures, read it in your words. Thank you for taking me with you. It has warmed my heart to know the world is a good place to be. It is the world you carefully detail and notice.
Posted by Diana on August 30th, 2010 at 12:13 PM
Hi Tara and Tyler,
By reading one week of entries per day(ish), I've slowly been catching up with your travels. I've shared your ups and your downs, marveled at your beautiful photographs and cringed at some of your bad experiences. I've recognized many of the places you've visited (including your starting point in Scotland, just a few miles from where I was born) and I've enjoyed traveling vicariously through the places I've yet to see. You've brought back many memories of my own travels round the world, many years ago.

I love the Internet for many reasons but one downside of it is that now, every sad, unhappy, angry person has a platform to spout their negativity. Please do NOT be discouraged by anything anyone says on line. Your journals are a magical record of your adventures, and they ARE adventures. Treasure them.

I for one, can't wait to find out what happens next.
Posted by Andrew on September 27th, 2010 at 2:50 PM
I'm so sorry that you got criticized, but the only thing I could think was, "How awesome is it that these guys have such an audience and can inspire emotions so strongly in people, both good and bad, that they have an online forum discussing them!" You guys rock! Keep the faith, and know that it makes me smile to think that there are so many people out there loving you, and so many out there that are affected enough by your writing to want to comment on it!
Posted by Jeremy on January 6th, 2011 at 5:12 AM
Over a year after this post, people (me) are still discovering it and loving it. Found your site through another touring cyclist and slowly have been working my way through your journey. Love your writing, recordings and especially the photos.

Humph. Let the hataz hate. You guys are awesome.
Posted by Jennifer on September 7th, 2011 at 6:27 PM

Over a year after this post was written, after a really horrendously crappy day, your comment could not be more appreciated or more timely. Thank you so much! I'm glad you're enjoying our website. :-)
Posted by Tara on September 7th, 2011 at 9:56 PM
Make that 6 years after this post people (me) are still discovering this blog for the first time and getting inspired from it!
Posted by Zev on January 10th, 2016 at 3:45 PM