Sunday, July 31, 2011

Bon Ton Roulet 2011

The Joys of Tourism

This was my second year doing this tour. For the first year I brought heavy bags, did not pack well and did the long routes each day. I did not stop at the designated site seeing places and came home very tired. I was focused on performance and pitted myself against the routes.

This year, I packed lighter, rented a mattress and did the short route, doing all of the little museums and stops along the way. My cycling speed was much faster, I climbed very well and had a great time discovering things from woman's sufferage to antique bicycles in historical centers. I discovered a farm with Jersey cows that made gelato and fabulous cheese, I discovered a produce store that served as a temporary shelter in a torrential rain..that also served the best pie ever.

By being a tourist, I learned to really enjoy the region. I did not rush but was able to pass most people on the hills and arrive at the end point in plenty of time to take a shower, relax, set up my tent and read.

There were adventures as well! My expensive carbon cycling shoe with ratchets broke and I held it on with a used inner tube. Oddly it worked better than the ratchet! My new MSR Hubba tent that was so highly touted and rated actually broke. The pole snapped on the final night. I was saved by Marc who rode a tandem with his 72 year old mother. His mother produced a knitting needle that was able to feed the elastic tubing through my broken pole allowing me to attach the spare pole section. It worked. Luckily that was the last camping night of the tour.

Being a tourist allowed me to take my time and enjoy. At one point I was almost knocked down by a female cyclist at breakfast. "I have lost 10 minutes!!" she exclaimed as she bolted up the stairs. "I hope you find it" I said. There is no lost time, only time wasted in worry about time, or about performance and distance.

This years tour was a true Zen experience for me. I let go of all of my performance driven anxieties and enjoyed my gelato, cheese and company. I rode with two gentlemen from New Jersey who worked at the same hospital. One of them Lloyd who rode a tandem shared all of my interests in history, politics etc and like me, relished the beauty of the hills, the colours of the hay in the fields, the fresh air and the experience.

As it rained, I recalled what a Buddhist sage once said, which is to embrace the rain, and feel its wetness. I did not mind the rain. I embraced it and bought a rain jacket. I found beauty in the wet landscape, the dark skies and the dark shining roads. The more you fight with what is inevitable, the less happy you are. I chose to accept and had a fantastic trip.

This year I did not struggle with the course, I did not set myself against the route and the hills, I embraced them...they seemed to roll easily beneath my wheels as I felt the sun on my skin and the breeze on my face.

Being a tourist is clearly the way to ride.

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