Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Splendid Surprise of Company

Up until now, I had never traveled with anyone on my bike tours.  It isn't always easy to convince others to sign up for a bike tour for their holiday.  The idea of pedaling 100 km a day with weight, camping and crossing your fingers in hopes of a hot shower at the end of the day, and being "okay" with sweating incessantly as you sightsee isn't for everyone.  So I've always set out on my own, and never really known anything else!  And to tell you the truth, I've never felt lonely, because you are never really on your own! You always end up meeting other people, whether they be other tour cyclist, curious and hospitable elderly couples, families,....there is always someone to talk to and keep you company at different moment through out your trip, and when you encounter them, it is an rewarding moment.
Take for instance Day 4 of our trip on our way to Montpellier.  Prior to my departure I had stopped by Espaibici in Barcelona to get a few last minute items for my bike.  The guys at the shop were asking me about my trip when they told me they were expecting a Japanese tour cyclist shortly who was cycling throughout Europe selling coffee on her bike.  It caught my attention, first because it is such an unusual project, and second, because it is so rare to run into Asian cyclists.  Well here we were on day 4,  450 km from Brcelona, desperate for a lunch stop on our way to Montpellier.  We randomly chose to stop in the next closest village on the map to see if there was a supermarket.  Sure enough there was a Spar and to our surprise there were two bikes parked outside, fully loaded, and one with a coffee shop bumper sticker.  What are our chances of finding these two cyclists in a small village, not to mention, one happened to be Rie, who was on her way from Berlin to Barcelona, selling coffee on her bike as she rides.  We didn't know each other at all, but the simple feeling of empathy and pride brings you together even if your visit only lasts ten minutes  There is a common understanding and respect amongst cyclists that acts as support and encouragement when you encounter one another.
We had the same feelings when Vicens and I decided to use the Warm Shower network to host  us in Castellane.  Claude, aka "Pere Noel" told us he would gladly host us at his camp site in town.  We were getting excited thinking that maybe he would let us stay in a bungalow for a discounted price.  However, we barely had our bikes unloaded before he had prepared a giant 4 course dinner for us, putting us up in his luxurious apartment, and made us feel like we had known each other for years.  Not to mention our visit coincided with that of 2 other cyclists and the 5 of us had the most enjoyable dinner and evening sharing stories and learning about one another.  In the morning, we had a "petit dejourner royale" as I called it, spoiled with fresh baked croissants and baguettes, homemade jams, yogurt, and delicious coffee. 
For the start of The Loong Way Home, I've been fortunate to be accompanied by Vicens for the first week.  He deserves a prize for his patience and companionship.  I can be rather stubborn and bossy at times, and he's been the most easy going companion.  It took us awhile to get in our groove and figure out our daily routine.  It's a shame that he has to head back now that we've developed a certain understanding traveling together.  I've been spoiled with good company, a photographer, and entertaining conversations.  We've had burping contests, and played trivia, hum, and make funny grunting noises as we climb.  It's been a fun way to set off on my loong way home! 
We'd occasionally get a few strange looks from people we encounter, especially if we tell them how far I'm cycling, but for the most part, two tour cyclist don't seem to make the heads turn like a solo female tour cyclist.  I can't wait to see what those Italians say as they see a young blonde woman cycling by with 30 kilos of gear on her bike! Oh boy, let the good times roll!!!
Dinner at Camping Les Lavandes (Castellane) with Paul, Marc, Claude, and Vicens
Random encounter with Rie on her way to Barcelona selling coffee on her bike
My loyal trip companion: Vicens
Lac de Ste Croix

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