December 29, 2015
Do you drool over the latest issue of Adventure Cyclist magazine, wishing you were one of those brave adventurers flinging themselves out to the far corners of the Earth, armed with only a water filtration bottle and a handful of oatmeal to live on? Yeah, no. Me neither.
I know myself. I like paved bike trails. I like eating on a regular basis. I'm scared of a lot of things. It's hard for me to do new things by myself. Maybe you're like me. Our challenges are different than intrepid cyclists, but no less thrilling when we overcome them.
It sounds ridiculous but I'll say it anyway. I had to screw up my courage to plan a bicycle trip along the Loire River in France. The most civilized, organized, gracious, and wonderful country in the world. A country in love with cycling. A country with plentiful signs along a gorgeous route full of vineyards, chateaux, fields of sunflowers, and ancient towns. A country with trains that link towns and cities along the route. A country whose people smile at you, call out "Bonjour" as they cycle by, and stop to offer directions if you look puzzled. It should have felt easy and fun but it was still a leap for me.
I had been cycling for twenty years, starting with bike clubs and charity rides and working my way up to organized tours on other continents and self-supported European rides with friends who planned the route. I was an excellent follower. But now I wanted to plan my own trip. I studied the excellent EuroVelo website, bought maps and guidebooks, and read blogs of other cyclists who went before me.
Still, planning the trip was fraught with the worrisome What ifs? and the constant bombardment of planned tours in internet ads. Why should I go to all the trouble to plan my own trip when the tour companies can do it all for you?
But I really wanted to do this. I was turning 60 and I wanted to mark it with another milestone for me. I wanted to be that person who could overcome the small fears that were holding me back. I didn't want to take the easy way out by joining a tour. I didn't want to follow. I wanted to lead.
Dear reader, I persisted. In September 2015, my wife Jackie and I cycled blissfully from Orleans to Angers, France. Our trip was a marvelous, pleasure-packed three weeks. None of the What ifs? happened. Okay, we did it our way. Which included luggage transfers and lots of regular meals — most with wine. So whatever your next small goal is for your cycling life, I hope you get there. It's so worth it.
Kathy Anderson is the author of the short story collection, Bull and Other Stories (Autumn House Press, 2016), which includes a made-up, highly adventurous story about cycling across Australia.
Kathy Anderson photo
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