One of my favorite parts of cycle touring is meeting other cycle tourists. These encounters provide conversation about common experiences, information about future rides, and a bit of extra security when the opportunity arises to cycle together for a couple of hours.
We were lucky to have joined company with another cycle tourist during the recent “hardest ride of my life” day and I’m so glad we did.
The length and difficulty of the ride suggested a 5:00 am departure. (Really, a 3:00 am departure would have been better) But, packing up panniers, loading a bike, and checking out of a hotel with a husband who is “retired” and has a different sense of “on time” is difficult.
So, we were late. We missed our rendezvous by 30 minutes so we started riding in the pre-dawn darkness by ourselves.
About 30 kilometers into our ride, the sun had risen and a coffee shop appeared before our eyes. While making the left turn towards the shop, I noticed a familiar touring bicycle with white panniers. I looked up and “lo and behold” there was our cycling friend. I was so happy to see him and know that we would be traveling together on this difficult journey.
After a quick coffee, the three of us set off up the first of many very steep hills. As the day progressed and the mountain got steeper, it was nice to have a cycling friend to chat with and snap pictures of the two of us together.
When the daylight ended after 12 hours of riding and the night became pitch black and the frogs croaked and the crickets chirruped and the traffic died down, and the hills kept coming, and the stars came out and the night became blacker and the hills became steeper, and the shadows became spookier, and road became rougher, and our legs ached, and the sweat dried, and the cold crept in, and our patience wore thin, it was nice to have another cyclist to share the experience.
First of all, we were able to encourage and support each other at different times when one or the other of us felt too tired to go on.
Eric: I need to stop and rest.
Me: Ok, make it quick. We’ve stopped 3 times in the past kilometer. At our current 4 km/h pace we won’t get there until midnight. I don’t like riding in the dark.
Cycling Buddy: (quietly stays out of this conversation but takes a good picture capturing the emotion)
Traveling in a group provided three sets of flashing back lights, head lights, helmut lights so that our wavering and wobbling up the last 200 meter hill made us much more visible. At least that’s what we were telling ourselves.
And most importantly, when we reached the first lights of Dalat we had more people to share in the glory of accomplished by snapping photos, giving virtual high-fives, and (in my case) thanking God that we were all safe and alive.