One of the realities of living on a bicycle and in hotel rooms as a couple is the challenge of finding solitude. And I say this is a challenge but it’s probably only a challenge for me as I seem to thirst for some alone time more than Eric.
Sure, when we’re riding there is the physical distance between us which provides a modicum of solitude. Unfortunately, the distance can get too big if one us gets “in the zone” and forgets to look in her rearview mirror and when she finally realizes it, she must stop and wait for what seems like hours contemplating whether she should extend the effort to start pedaling back up the big hill to see if he is OK. But by then the solitude has been broken and the admonishment to slow down and use the rear view mirror more often makes it harder to get back in that zone. And, the reality is, for our safety – real or perceived – we do like to stay within viewing distance…so there is not as much solitude there as it would seem.
That leaves finding solitude during the non-cycling time in that night’s lodging or outside in the village or town.
Here’s how I find solitude in a hotel room:
For a one-night stay, a tiny room with a hard bed and no chair (or one chair covered with all of Eric’s clothes) is not so noticeable because basically we only have time to shower, eat, sleep and read a book or plan tomorrow’s route. I bury myself in a book and Eric checks elevations and maps on electronic devices and then interrupts me to look at his little elevation maps which is cute but also gives me nightmares worrying about the next day’s hilly ride.
For a longer stay, I look for room size. I’ve even been known to pay a few extra dong (well, like 100,000 extra dong because 20,000 dong is like $1) for an extra 2 or 3 meters of space. For Christmas, we treated ourselves to a bigger-than-usual-room with a lovely river view. The bigger room meant two side chairs and a coffee table where I’s sitting now, a desk with another chair where I often sat because I can almost tune out the TV. I say “almost” because I could hear the inane dialog of Bruce Willis during the “Die Hard” movie marathon on HBO that Eric was using for his “solitude”. I also found solitude in the modern bathroom where I enjoyed several glasses of wine and a book in the large-enough-for-Western-legs bathtub filled with unlimited hot water.
I also find solitude in the dark in the morning at my computer. I’m even getting smarter by going into the bathroom to turn on my laptop so Eric doesn’t hear the MacBook turn-on sound that usually wakes him like an alarm clock. My heart sinks as I hear his loving, “Good morning. Are you going to make coffee?”
Here’s how I find solitude in the city:
I make up an excuse for some shopping…
Me: I need to buy some toothpaste.
Eric: Reading glasses sliding off his nose and his face buried in his cell phone. Just a minute. I’ll go with you.
Me: Knowing that “just a minute” never means 60 seconds and really just wanting an excuse to go outside alone…That’s OK. I’ll be back before you’re even finished. Can I get you anything? I head out the door before I hear any objections.
Breathing in the fresh, almost crisp winter air, I walk to the local Han Market and indulge myself in a new Christmas outfit – foundations, leggings, shirt and, my favorite part of all, rhinestone flip flops. Nothing cost very much and if the ensemble makes my bike too heavy, I’ll look at “downsizing”. But, until then, my outfit feels like a million bucks compared to spandex and hi-vis biking shirts.
Continuing on my journey for solitude – I mean toothpaste – I find the local Kmart, which looks more like a 7-11 which they haven’t got here. There I find the obligatory Christmas stocking stuffers of toothbrushes and paste, top-up cards for our cellphones (they look like lottery tickets) and a 5-liter bottle of water. Well, the water won’t go in the stocking but it will go a long way to quenching my midnight thirst.
My need for solitude is nothing new. For someone who used to ride the bus from Boulder to Denver and back for a 4-hour escape from 40 sorority sisters, I’d say I’m doing pretty well living like this with Eric 24-7. And, we are having a lot of fun and getting along very well and enjoying this cycling experience very much.
And, even though he may not express his need for solitude like I do, I’m convinced Bruce Willis and the cell phone are his “alone” places.
But now the sun is up, I’ve had my “space” and it’s time to make coffee and pack for today’s ride.