Well, I've quickly found that one of the hardest aspects of this event is getting home and writing. So, here I sit on Sunday morning at 5:30 am. It's day six and I'm trying to peck out a few words before the day really begins.
Friday was great. It started in glorious sunshine. It ended in snow. I felt great going out... miserable coming home. I had said for years that it was harder starting in the rain, but I'm having to rethink that notion... riding all day in decent weather then getting soaked over the last 10 miles ain't much fun either.
Friday was a pretty quiet day overall. I didn't take many photos, I just rode. I've been asked; "What do you think about while you're riding?" Well, I think about all kinds of nonsense and too, I think about some interesting things. For example; I think about code and this blog and what kind of gadgets I can build. So sometime Friday, somewhere along the road, I designed (in my mind) the progress bar shown above this post. I don't know if I'll keep the thing... but it was entertaining thinking for a few miles.
I also don't know if I've read it somewhere (probably) or if I came up with it myself (doubtful), but I keep this mantra in my head whilst riding; "The worst day out on your bicycle is far better than your best day in the office." And yes, at one time in my life I had a corner office on the 12th floor at One Park Avenue in Manhattan... so I I think I know these things. HA! (and man-o-man was that ever a lifetime ago?!?!) But don't let me digress because this is about now... and what I'm doing today.
Because out of the blue, these kind of things happen...
I was sitting at a picnic table in Sirhowy Parc having a snack on my last break. It was a quiet mid-afternoon on Friday, day four. I could hear the birds chirping about and the wind blowing through the tops of the trees... really peaceful and relaxing and not many folks are generally out during this time of day. A man came toodling down the cycle path on a cool little electric bike. We smiled at each other, said our "hellos", when he turned and came over to me.
He was an older fella; fully "geared-up", gloved & helmeted, weather-proofed head-to-toe and he clearly recognized our shared "professional" aspect to cycling. Hmph! We began chatting about bikes, bicycling, and our various travels when he asked about the "55" I was wearing. (As you do.) I launched into my spiel; arms-a-waving, marbles rattling about in my hillbilly mouth as I proceeded to explain my crazy efforts.
I try to be modest and cautious, because I can easily sound rather bold or worse... cliché. But he just nodded, reached in his wallet, pulled out a £5 note and said; "Here ya go. Good luck. Now let me tell you how I got involved in cycling..."
In 1949 his dad bought him a new bike and said; "come on son, we're going for a ride". It was four years after the War and his uncle had been a bomber pilot that was shot down somewhere along the Dutch border. Most folks were poor, didn't own a car, and communications with far off places to people you didn't know, practically impossible. But somehow the family had heard that the soldiers bodies had been recovered from the wreckage and hidden, possibly in Holland.
After the bombing raid the Germans scoured the countryside looking for downed planes (and bodies) so that they might recover any type of military documents, plans, etc. But the Dutch people in this small village found the plane first removing the bodies and hiding them. Much to the ire of the rampaging Germans, this act was contemptible as aiding and abetting the enemy. Many families were brutalised and some villagers were tortured during the search.
But the Dutch were fearless and strong and kept the bodies of the dead men hidden until after the angry Germans left thus keeping the Allies' secrets secret. Then after the war, the liberated villagers gave the men a proper burial adding a special military marker for recognition of the brave men who had paid so much to save their little village and country.
News of this unique event spread, slowly making its way to the UK and the families of the men who were killed.
So off went little Doug and his dad in search of this small village of the people with big hearts that had made such an effort to show their gratitude to the Allies. It was a ride that turned into a two month tour of France and the Netherlands.
They eventually found the village and marker; a roundel of coloured stones in the shape of the British Air Force Insignia. They met with the Dutch people who welcomed them in their homes for days, then they came home.
And that's how Doug was introduced to cycling. He was just 10 years old.
now just pause here for a few moments...
Because then, not 10 minutes after my heart had been warmed by this lovely man and his wonderful story; the skies turned dark, the trees started to sway as the the wind picked up and the temperature dropped maybe five degrees. And... and... (wait for it...)... it started to snow!
That's right kiddos. I rode home in the snow. It was cold. It was windy. It was beautiful.