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Some Last Thoughts On Cycling The World
Last week we published what we thought would be the final instalment in our 10 part series, ‘Reflections on Cycling the World‘, by Henry Gold, Founder of TDA Global Cycling.
Henry, however, managed, not for the first time, to surprise us. He hammered out a few last minute additions to his collection. So without further ado, here are the very last of Henry Gold’s ‘Reflections on Cycling the World‘.
On Cycling and Beer
They simply go together. Like fish and chips, wine and cheese, peanut butter and jelly, gin and tonic, pizza and coke, Caesar and Cleopatra, uphill and downhill…well, you get the idea. Imagine cycling a century, somewhere in the tropics. When you get off your bike, someone hands you a cold beer. Nuff said.
On Those Long Cycling Days
When the cycling is easy, when the grass is high and the wind is singing. When you spread your wings and you simply fly, there will be a moment when you will feel that this will never end, that this is what you were meant to do all of your life, that the universe was created just for you. Go with it and dream away. Because soon enough, someone will wake you up.
On Everything Conspiring Against You
Conspiracies do exist. How else can you explain the ability of car manufacturers to convince us their vehicles should be treated better than people, have more rights than people, certainly more than cyclists? So on those days, when you get one flat tire after another, when you loose your water bottle, when you forget your wallet at the last coke stop, when you make a wrong turn and cycle two hours into the wind, when, in short, everything conspires against you, remember that, like Job, the gods of cycling are not picking on you for nothing. No, you have been ‘chosen’ so pull yourself together and push harder. That or get off your bike and become a chef.
On Cycling in Utopia
One day somewhere, somehow, we will all be cycling where the wind is always in our backs, where there will be no cars, trucks or buses, where the road will be smooth and clean of debris, where the sun will always shine and the temperature is a steady 20C all day long, where the beer is always cold and the wine is good and cheap. Somewhere that your bike never breaks down and no one hates cyclists. However, when we have nothing to complain about, maybe we will all be miserable, crying for the good old days of adventures and disappointments, days when the head winds hit 100 km/hr, when the beer tasted better and the wine was sweeter, when we were all young, healthy and strong.
On Guide Books
Guide books are handy. I use them quite a bit. Having a good travel book about the area is good way to pass those moments when you just need some quiet time. Reading a local newspaper will give you an insight into the here and now but if you really want to understand the soul of a country read its authors and poets. “A traveller I am, and a navigator, and everyday I discover a new region within my soul.” – Kahlil Gibran
On Eating Watermelon While Cycling the ‘Stans’
Whether you are cycling east to west or west to east on the Silk Route, sooner or later you will pedal past piles of watermelons, their owners bidding you to come and taste one of their juicy red melons. Try to hold on, to overcome the temptation – at least until the sun is setting. Otherwise you risk sleeping somewhere on the side of the road, recovering from, shall I say, an overdose of an intoxicating liquid, one very popular in the former Soviet Republics. This will happen not because this liquid is injected into the melons but rather because the sellers will insist that you raise a glass or two (or more) in honour of your cycling the Silk route. You will find it hard to turn them down.
On the Pure Joy of Cycling
There are many activities that require incredible skills and practice. When perfected, one can only marvel at the resulting magic. Think LeBron James, Tiger Woods, Serena Williams, Babe Ruth, Lionel Messi and Wayne Gretzky. They take a ball, a bat, a stick and they make magic with it. A joy to watch to be sure but for the rest of us, simply a spectator sport. Not cycling, however. A small child can learn the rather impressive trick of moving on two wheels and, like a Gretzky goal, the result is simply magic. I remember this every time I pick up my bike from whatever it is leaning against and simply throw my leg over the bar and start pedalling. I am performing magic.
On Remembering What is Really Important
It was the day from hell. I was sick at night and subsequently left a money belt in a cheap provincial hotel, one with enough money in it to cover few nights in a five star hotel. I only realized this after cycling a full day and putting on fresh set of clothes. With no other option, it was back to the provincial hotel. The next day while trying to recover the money belt I was exposed to, what some like to call, the dark side of human nature. I spent hours watching the police ransack the employees’ houses with, of course, no results.
To catch up to the other riders I spent hours sitting in van built for nine passengers – sharing it with another 15. Stopping every few minutes to load and unload passengers, this ‘express’ bus took hours to reach its destination. At the last stop, still needing to cover few more kilometres in the dark, I negotiated a rate with a taxi. When we arrived at my destination the taxi and I seemed to have a different understanding of what the deal was. I said $15, he said $50. Exasperated, exhausted and frustrated, I added 10 dollars to my offer. Apparently this was not enough.
We were standing beside the car being watched by some bemused people who had heard the ruckus when suddenly I heard a loud bang. I felt something flying by my nose. It turned out that a lorry, speeding along in the dark without any lights and therefore not seeing the taxi on the road, had slammed into the vehicle at full speed. It was one of those miraculous events in one’s life. There were no injuries and also no more taxi. It sure as hell taught me to keep my focus on what is really important.
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