Bicycling with Daniel
Now in the days of the shutdown I have been cycling less. Sitting at home my thoughts go back in time to earlier cycling days. I rummage through the boxes of unsorted pictures and leaf through photo albums - all from the pre-digital days and a bit chaotic.
When traveling in the days of film cameras, we didn't take as many pictures as we do now. With few photos to back up my memories of the towns we rode through, where we slept, what we ate, how many kilometers we covered, my reconstruction of the past can be pretty spotty and occasionally downright wrong. Nevertheless, I cherish those memories and the mood they convey is perhaps more essential than all the statistics I could have kept. And I do have a few pictures and diaries.
I love to think back to my first bicycle tour. Or almost my first which I will write about here. The very first was a ride with my son Daniel. This was in early 1981, Daniel was 14 and I was 41. We set out from home with our clothes and tent packed in plastic bags which we strapped to our bicycle racks. I did not know what I was doing, I was such a beginner. I have no pictures from this three-day jaunt, but remember my thighs burning like fire from the efforts of the first day. I was a total newbie to cycling. Fortunately, Daniel knew how to repair a flat tire, I didn't. We had a tent and slept on the ground in our sleepingbags, no pads! In the morning the forest ranger came by and told us camping wasn't allowed there. The second night we took a hotel room. On the way home we got lost and had to push our bikes uphill through the woods on the bank of the Isar. What an adventure. It was love for cycle touring at first sight.
Shortly after this initiation, I planned a two week tour for Daniel and me in Italy. His two older brothers had their own plans. I got the maps and had an idea what towns in Umbria would be nice to visit. I didn't realize that many of those medieval towns would be situated on the top of a hill. In those days train travel with biycles was easier. You could send your bike with panniers ahead by train, no hassle. They took a few days to arrive at the destination, but when you got there, they were waiting. I wish that were possible now!
Of course we had innumerable adventures, good times as well as adversities. This was just the beginning of many years of traveling by bike on my vacations. I was hooked. I wonder now how I had the courage to embark on this first biycle trip in a foreign country with no previous touring experience.
I considered whether I should transcribe the original journal here. In it I describe headwinds, quirky rooms we had, a storm in the night on a hillside in our tent, pushing up steep gradients and coasting down, the kindness and generosity of the Italians, the times I felt no longer willing or able ... the stuff bicycle tours are made of. My cyclist readers are familiar with it all.
Daniel is now 53 and has three children of his own, Luci (21) and the twins Nelli and Valentin (15). He is a social worker specialized in addiction prevention.
And here's something for the music challenge. Daniel also plays trumpet in the Express Brass Band.
January has been kind to us so far ... knock on wood. We haven't seen a single snowflake and have had plenty of sunny days. It's cold, yes, but not often below zero and I am managing to get out on my bike often. This year my goal is not only to ride as often as possible but to increase my mileage. Nuff said. I won't commit myself here to what my km goal is. But I have one.
This is not the end-of-the-month post, that is yet to come with more pictures, stats - kilometers.
Famous Last Words
"we haven't seen a single snowflake"
That was yesterday. Today we got some snowflakes.
The Polar Bear Club
It was an abrupt transition from +30°C at 10 pm in Bangkok to 0°C at midday a day later. But we aren’t letting that deter us! Our local bicycle club as of this winter has introduced winter rides. We were away for the first three, but on this frosty but sunny January day we decided to join them. Actually, I felt obliged since on a warm afternoon last summer I had asked if the club also rode in the winter. It was an innocent question but Sebastian, our group leader, took it seriously and initiated the "Eisbärtouren".
Yesterday when we met it was -2°C and Sebastian had planned a 35 km ride. So far my winter rides have been at the most 15 km, usually more like six or seven, nothing to brag about but just enough to make me feel good about being out. I was surprised to see that 12 hardy cyclists turned up! We rode a good 25 km before we stopped for lunch at a Greek restaurant for warmth and energy. The remaining ten were then no problem.
On our way home from a walk on dusty tracks leading to the temples, we got a chance to observe first hand how roads are constructed today, probably not only in Bagan but in all of Myanmar. I usually don't like to take pictures of people without asking, but for these shots I found a good spot where I could unobtrusively capture the scene with my zoom lens.
A Simple Meal
For lunch we went to the closest restaurant, the one right next door that we visited on our first day here. They only serve curry, to foreigners at least, although it looks like the Burmese at the other tables have different things on their plates. But four kinds of curry - beef, fish, lamb and chicken - is easily understood. The curry itself is a small dish with three modest sized pieces of meat or fish in a puddle of oily sauce. This is then accompanied by side-dishes of stewed eggplant, fermented bamboo, spicy tomato puree, dried fish fried with onions, green beans and a bowl of broth. A pot of rice is placed on the table, you help yourself. Perhaps the fermented bamboo shoots are an acquired taste and probably the smell of a stinky French cheese is just as unappetizing to a Burmese as the smell of the fermented bamboo shoots is to us. All the little dishes make a nice array to look at, perhaps not my favorite Asian food but good enough and it all seems to be very authentic.
So perhaps if we haven't seen as many temples and pagodas as we wished, I feel the lethargy imposed on us by my illness has given us time to take in the flavor of our surroundings.