A TDA Bike Trip, 20 Years in the Making
By Judith Gold
So after 20 years of planning, I finally got to ride on a TDA biking trip! Lest you think I am exaggerating, you should know that I am the younger sister of TDA’s founder, Henry Gold. So yes, 20 years is about right, as that is when he first conceived of Tour d’Afrique, and that is when I first started planning to join his trips.
Alas, the universe had conspired against me (not always in bad ways). Kids, work, husband, mother, were all reasons why I did not join a trip earlier. And then finally, about to retire, with kids out of the house, I signed up to bike Madagascar in 2020, this was going to be my first trip. Well, we all know how that turned out (COVID, need I say more?)!
Finally, despite lingering COVID, a trip was going, and yes, I was going to join the Great American Road Trip. But the universe had one more surprise for me. I broke my foot about two months before the trip was to start, not least, while walking with the one and only Henry Gold.
I got the boot off my foot at the end of August, and started training, hoping that I could get into decent enough shape, to join the trip. If not right at the start, sometime soon thereafter. However, after seeing the detailed plan, the number of daily kilometers to ride and meters to climb, I nearly backed out (yes, I am a coward, or you can say, I also know my limitations). Encouraged by Henry, I instead delayed joining till Roswell, New Mexico, where I thought I could manage the riding somewhat better.
So here I was, finally on one of TDA’s trips, yes, 20 years after I first wanted to ride on of them, but sadly, for no more than 3 weeks, and not in an exotic locale but mostly in Texas. Yes, my TDA ride was about 2/3rd in Texas, hardly my dream destination. But guess what, it was truly amazing!!!!
Ok, let me say it right away… I found the riding hard…, and I mean really hard! There were many moments, especially in the first week where I questioned my sanity, and notwithstanding loyalty to my brother, I thought of bailing out. I nearly broke several times; I will share two of these episodes.
The first was on entering the great state of Texas. Only on my second day of riding, I was getting intimately acquainted with Texan roads, that is ‘chip and seal’, which, if you did not know, can be excruciatingly difficult to bike. Especially when the wind is against you, and there is an ambitious climb involved. Somehow, I managed to complete the morning ride (about 82 km, lest you think I am just a total wimp), just to show my brother that I can do it, but I barely managed it. However, after I did, I started to feel a real sense of accomplishment, and I thought, I go this, I can do it!
But just a day later, the already strong wind picked up further, and I had a second breakdown. I planned to bike only in the afternoon, following my brother’s wise advice, and it was only 54 km to camp. But with the strong wind, I was barely moving 8 km an hour, and this even before the climbing began. But somehow, I stopped worrying how long it was going to take me (since there would always be a vehicle to pick me up) and started to look around, realizing that the part of Texas I was biking looked exactly like Namibia—a place where I lived for a year, and totally fell in love with. I was hooked. Every turn of the road was magical. I don’t know how, but I completed the ride, and even had time to visit a winery with one of my fellow riders, and it was one of my favorites riding days.
After these two days, I had an attitude adjustment. Yah, this was going to be hard, but so what, I was going to love it!
And I totally did! There was the constantly changing landscapes, the dramatic sunrises, and sunsets, some beautiful campgrounds, by rivers, or lakes, to swim in or canoe, idiosyncratic rest stops with always something special to find, but most of all, amazing riders and staff. I don’t know if this was a special group, or all of TDA riders and staff are so unique, but this group was especially fun, interesting, funny, lots of stories and endless things to discuss. I felt like I was back in my early twenties, having the time of my life, without a care, just having fun. Maybe it was the adrenalin, or the daily happy hour, but whatever it was, it was magical and just lots of fun.
It was with great sadness that I left the group just ahead of New Orleans, but with a new determination to do a full trip. Yah, I know it will be hard, and I will again have several breakdowns, but I also know that the trip will be everything I imagined it would be in the past twenty years and much more. And I do hope that I see my many new friends on other rides or just visits. Oh yah, it was also great to finally ride with my brother!!!