Four Thousand Miles on Three and a Half Continents
Today we got a break from the wintry ice of the last two weeks. I, along with two good riding buddies took advantage of fifty degree weather to get out on our bicycles for twenty five glorious miles of Connecticut countryside. Coming back late in the afternoon, with the sun low and powerless, long shadows were cast by the roadside trees. I felt like a laser beam cutting through bar codes as we descended down Long Hill Road from Lake Quonapaug. We were giggly and silly getting back home knowing we “snuck one in” this early in the season.
Today we got a break from the wintry ice of the last two weeks. I, along with two good riding buddies took advantage of fifty degree weather to get out on our bicycles for twenty five glorious miles of Connecticut countryside. Coming back late in the afternoon, with the sun low and powerless, long shadows were cast by the roadside trees. I felt like a laser beam cutting through bar codes as we descended down Long Hill Road from Lake Quonapaug. We were giggly and silly getting back home knowing we “snuck one in” this early in the season. We all joked about our recent holiday weight gains and promised to get back down to summer trim soon so we could be ready for a Trans Pyrenees trip next June. That is going to be nearly 600 miles in eight days so we better be ready. Today was a tiny head start on that 2008 riding and traveling program.
All during the ride today I kept reflecting on all the places I had been in 2007: In summary I had ridden a bike on three and a half continents. Let me explain.
I started off 2007 riding in Panama. This is where the half continent comes in. Panama is on the isthmus between North and South America. It is clearly in Central America, but which America does that fall into? Geographers will say North America, but here is a little peanut country which is south of much of Venezuela. It is Spanish speaking but uses US dollars as currency. We turned the canal back over to the Panamanians sometime late last century. So it is mixed, right between North and South America. That is why I call it a half in terms of continents bagged on the bike in 2007.
Plus the riding was fascinating but really compromised: short stuff on rough old mountain bikes. The amazing thing was that I was there and we did it. I was riding with my partner and friend, Allen who is building a house on Boca's del Torro, an archepelego on the Caribbean side of Panama. Mostly, I used the bike for local transportation for a week but a couple of days we crossed the island and met some young locals, Winston and Duncan. The roads were pot-holed and irregular, often flooded after tropical rains. We kept hearing howler monkeys but never found any. However, we did find the far side of the island and white sand beaches
In June I went to the Orient and rode first in Taiwan and then on mainland China. Now this is really another continent and even another world. In Taiwan, I had a difficult time cracking out of the city of Taipei. I was again on a compromised bicycle, but it allowed me to blend in with all the other commuters and suck the sweet, noxious fumes of the myriad motor scooters. After a week in Taiwan primarily around Taipei University and environs, I leaped over to the mainland. In China I was again with compromised equipment as I rode an old tandem bike with my wife. She had broken her arm when she took a terrible tumble between the temple and the teahouse high in mountains above Taipei. The tandem however, kept us honest and slow on the treacherous single tracks between the Karst mountains along the Li River. Here we biked for over 200 kilometers and never saw a single mechanized vehicle working the verdant farmland. It was all man and water buffalo power. The bicycle remains essential transportation for many of the peasants. They use it to carry most of their goods to market. I saw some amazing rigs ingeniously loaded beyond imagination. There were the usual crates with chickens and live pigs, but the best load was probably seven 5 gallon carboys filled with water and a little grandmother for good measure. These farmers are sinueing and beneath those black pajamas have some legs.
I also made it to Europe twice this year. In July, I was back in the Alps for the Tour de France and did some hearty climbing on superb equipment. Because I am a part of Thomson Bike Tours and we have a partnership with Orbea, I got to ride Haimar Zubeldia's 2006 Orbea Orca - an extremely light, highly responsive carbon fiber bike that made all my earlier cycling conveyances just plain laughable. And, I did laugh when I could but usually I had to save my breath for the Galibier or some other major climb like the Pyresoude or the Tourmalet.
I cannot forget my home continent, North America. Here is my home where I garnered most of my miles. I did not get to California or Minnesota or Florida this year. For me that means I did my riding in New England where the small back roads and stone walls are so fine that I wonder why I ever leave. All in all, quite a year as you can see. I think my score of four thousand miles on three and a half continents is noteworthy and accurate. Now with 2007 behind us, I am well into planning 2008 cycling trips and that usually leads to ocean jumping travel. Let's see, first back to the Caribbean in February, then Spain in June and got to plan something for next fall...