Have you ever found yourself on an uphill with no more gears to shift down into? That was me last weekend. Two mile uphill. Couldn’t see the top and Jim, the tour group leader sweeping the route (yes, I was the LAST cyclist) shouts from behind me, “Don’t save your gears!”
“I’m not!” I called with what breath I had remaining, “I’m in my lowest gear!”
Thank goodness for 12 (or is it 14?) speed bikes. In the lowest gear you can pedal almost without going anywhere. Which is exactly what this felt like. Pedaling for all I was worth and going nowhere. The nerve of that guy to yell instructions.
He was trying to be helpful. And he did pedal next to me. Somehow we managed to chat and pedal, chat and pedal all the way to the top. Distraction is a wonderful thing. So is company, when the going gets tough. And you’re in your last gear.
Jim and I fist bumped at the top. He gave me the requisite encouragement: “You did great!” Then added, “You’re not even breathing hard.”
And I wasn’t. That was funny. In my younger years I would have saved my lower gears, just in case the hill got steeper. Now I wasn’t ashamed to go ahead and shift into the granny gear and pedal, pedal patiently all the way to the top. It wasn’t me against the mountain. It was just me and the white line ahead of me. There was only one way back to the Inn for dinner and it was up that hill.
Of course after the big uphill there was an outrageous downhill. Several miles of steep and then steeper, winding down and around, through shadow and shade, past…I’m not sure what. Because I was too busy pumping my breaks hoping not to fly face-first over the handlebars. Funny that the uphill doesn’t faze me but the downhill can be terrifying. Oh yes, and I knew Jim would be closing fast from behind. He had warned us that he really zoomed on those down hills. Great. Bumper bikes at 45 mph.
Thankfully, most of the Vermont terrain was neither steeply up nor downhill but rolling. And feeling neither the need to lead the pack nor embarrassment about bringing up the rear, these rolls I road with great pleasure. Taking in the sights, left and right, front and back. Stopping here and there to snap a photo or follow a goldfinch in flight. To wander into a very old cemetery or count the horse stalls by the church, leftover from the days when this was the mode of transportation on a Sunday morning.
“Your head is on a swivel,” Marilyn, our other bike tour leader told me. “You see three times as much as everyone else.” She coined me ‘observant.’ Perhaps this is something I have adopted as I’ve seasoned a bit.
I had thought I was just slow. But perhaps moving slowly can be profitable. You notice stuff. Stuff like the inchworm making his way across your husband’s shocking yellow jersey. Stuff like your neon pink clad teen, jumping and waving her arms wildly while running back down the hill (and then back up!) to celebrate your arrival. Welcoming you home to the room designated for you at the Inn. That’s a welcome sight, especially when the journey has been long.
The Norwich Inn, Hanover Vermont. Finally, a resting place.