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Spinning my wheels & dreams come true

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Last fall, I took my beautiful turquoise mountain bike out of the cellar where it languished for 15 years. I cleaned and lubed it, pumped up the tires, rode a few short minutes a few times, put it away for winter, and anxiously awaited spring. Then I broke my wrist in January and needed surgical repair with hardware. My first question at followup was, "When can I ride a bike?" "At least three months, then we'll talk about it," the surgeon said. "Good," I thought,"it should be okay by summer."

I live in the mountains. Walking or riding uphill gets my heart doing backflips so mostly flat is where it's at. I don't want my implanted defibrillator, aka Frank Zappa, to get excited and give me a jolt! The neighbors got used to seeing me pedal back and forth three times a week for a month on the only level ground in front of our home as I eased back into cycling. Then one sunny day miles of road and trail in a nearby state park beckoned. I planned on maybe a half-hour ride. When we got home and looked at the clock, 2-1/2 hours had passed! I stopped a lot, but spinning my wheels I loved the feel of wind against my face. It got my other wheels spinning too which took me back to one of the happiest times of my life.

About 30 years ago, my husband, our son, and I met a young couple traveling for two months by bicycle. Cycling was a favorite family activity of ours, and we were intrigued. Weeks on a bicycle? Could we do that? We knew people in the UK. Wouldn't it be great to visit them there and tour the country? Within a few months we came up with a plan and set to work on it.

We read everything we could about our destination and about biking. We bought nice 18-speed touring bikes, joined a cycling club, and talked to others who'd done extensive touring. We took classes that taught us how to completely disassemble our bikes and reassemble them as well as make emergency roadside repairs. My husband and I worked up to riding 100 miles over varied terrain weekly, our then 12-year-old son 25-50. R and I completed a few half-century and century events, and all three of us won badges for metric half-centuries. Then we took a few bicycle camping trips of 4-7 days' duration to get a taste of what lay ahead.

Money, school, home, my husband's business, and my job: We calculated the cost of the trip, how much of our incomes we could afford to save each month, and how long it would take to reach our goal. We met with our son's teachers in the alternative school program we participated in. They supported our plan and said they'd mark him present as long as he wrote to the class weekly, which he did. (When we returned he presented a slide show travelogue at school and received a standing ovation :-)

We considered renting our home to increase savings and avoid leaving it vacant. Coincidentally? some friends received notice of impending rent increase. They lived on the same block we did. We knew they'd been good renters and were honorable people so we sealed our rental agreement with a handshake (yeh, risky but in this case it worked). Soon after, we moved into a few empty rooms at R's business. As for that, R spread the word that he needed an assistant. He found one with the qualities and skills to keep things running in our absence. I had a profession I could easily return to so no problem there.

Six months later, we prepared to board the Canadian charter flight we'd booked. Flying from Canada was less expensive than what we had found here in the US.

Though most bicycle tourists buy or rent bikes in their country of destination, we took our own. The airline told us two pieces of luggage were included in the cost of airfare. Per their instructions our lightly padded bikes, tires partially deflated to prevent them exploding in flight and handlebars turned and secured, were accepted as one piece. Each pair of panniers strapped together and bundled with skinny sleeping bags and tent parts divided between us counted as the second. We stuffed those panniers with lightweight backpacker camping gear plus very few clothes and essentials.

On a sunny August morning, we and all our "stuff" arrived at the airport in Vancouver, B.C. A friend had agreed to come with us and drive our van back to her farm, keeping it for us until we returned. From Vancouver we flew across the Arctic Circle to Gatwick Airport south of London. I can still picture the lovely green island visible through scattered fluffy white clouds as the plane began its descent. For the next 10 weeks, we explored parts of England, Scotland, Wales, and South Ireland. We met wonderful people, some of whom we still correspond with; enjoyed fantastic bakeries (there's nothing like a cream puff with real cream after a long ride); devoured fresh fish and chips bought from roadside "chippies"; received a history lesson from a kind Scotsman who escorted us to the train station when we were lost; pedaled through picturesque landscapes and quaint country villages; toured Stonehenge (that pile of old rocks, as our son called it) and ancient castles; plus much, much more.

During our stay we usually tent camped. Occasionally we indulged in a B & B. And sometimes while pedaling country roads we'd see posted by a driveway a handpainted sign with the words "caravan to let." This was a trailer for rent by the night at a very reasonable price, often in a farmer's field which sometimes had the advantage of fresh eggs and milk available for our breakfasts.

As an American family touring together by bike we attracted attention. People especially wanted to know what a 12-year-old boy needed for a lengthy tour. Only halfway through the trip his bags were filled with TinTin comic books, seashells from the Irish coast, a tiny portable stereo with headphones, cassette tapes, small toys in addition to his few clothes, comb, toothbrush, and his own mess kit. On seeing our son's bulging panniers, one customs agent remarked, "Will ya look at that? He's carryin' more than his father!" We eventually had to package up the souvenirs and send them home.

Riding through the park brought back these treasured memories. School, work, other interests, and ill health took me away from cycling. Somewhere along the way I stopped dreaming as much too. Spinning my wheels again reminded me that I need to dream and that we made a dream come true with planning and the necessary work. Thank you, my trusty turquoise steed, for the reminder.


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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Thanks for sharing your memories. It is nice that you have an old mountain bike that is really a time machine.

    I also live in the mountains. Every time I ride it is uphill both ways. Flat ground is really rare. My house is about 8,000 feet of elevation so breathable air is in short supply.

    Thanks for reminding me that we need to dream. As I have gotten older, I just don't think much about adventures. You got me thinking that I still need to try new things.

    Wishing You All The Best,

    1323 days ago
    What an amazing and delightfully memorable way to spend such quality time together as a family! Very, very impressive!

    Thank you for sharing your cycling chronicles with us!

    1330 days ago
    Thank you all so much for your kind comments. I hope it sparks dreams in you too.
    1794 days ago
    Amazing! What an adventure you made come true!
    1806 days ago
    Thank you for sharing your beautiful story! I really enjoyed reading it. The planning the three of you did before your trip is incredible. You should write an article for a magazine! Very cool that you're still riding. Modified for today, but that's what being flexible on this journey is all about. Bend with the wind, and we don't break. Big hugs dear friend. emoticon
    1809 days ago
    maybe you cant take as long of a trip but you can still go on a trip, see what your doctor says what is allowed. hugs for a beautiful story
    1809 days ago
  • ONUTHIN125
    emoticon What a lovely blog! Thanks for sharing your adventure. You have Sparked and idea for me. My Hubby was an cyclist before we married. He bought me a bike, but I only road once and I ended up crying all the way home (I was even pushing the bike) I could not ride it. Maybe I will learn to ride with him. He gave up his hobby, now I guess I should retry to ride? Again, thanks for the lovely story. You can not put a price on your memories. Spark On! emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon
    1809 days ago
    Wow, this blog brought tears to my eyes.

    I really enjoyed reading what you had to share.

    We are created to dream and have visions because a man's heart and soul will perish without a dream or's get busy and dream dreams and envision visions emoticon
    1809 days ago
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