Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The freedom of the road

Do you remember the freedom that came with learning to ride a bike? As the training wheels came off my blue bicycle complete with rainbow streamers, so did the limits to how far I could travel (at least in my mind). I could ride to my friend's house. I could ride to school. I could ride to the moon if I wanted too!

Luckily, some of the childish glee of that day remains with me. Unfortunately, I lack parental supervision. If I have an excellent idea of somewhere to go - I can just do it! Which brings me to yesterday.

Yesterday morning during my morning nanophysics class, I came to the sudden realization that it was the only class of the day. This meant one thing: endless long hours of light to bike by. I began to daydream, and concocted a plan. I would bike to Lyon, the capital city of Rhone-Alpes, about 100 km from Grenoble, then take the train back.

It was a completely brillant plan!

Several hours later, I was on the road. I was not enjoying the gently rolling countryside ride in the sun I had imagined. In fact, it was raining hard, all of my toes had been numb for the last hour, and I was on a road frequented by large trucks (cue the splashes of water). Also the entire ride so far had seemed to consist of a gradual uphill.
Selfie: because the rest of the world was grey and I was hot pink.
I told myself this had been a stupid idea. I should have said it out loud: "I'm biking to Lyon today," before doing it, just to run the validity of the idea by someone. I decided I would get off the highway, even though that would deviate from the cues I have scrawled on an increasingly wet piece of paper from Google maps.

I left the highway, and promptly got lost in the next town. I promised myself I would quit - soon. I got back on the highway a few kilometers later, and passed a sign. Lyon - 80. It seemed impossibly far. But I was free and I could do whatever I wanted, even if that meant riding down a highway in the pouring rain. I grabbed a Werther's original from my jersey and relished the creamy sugary warmth sliding down my throat. I would keep going until I found a good place to quit.

And so I kept going, and I kept finding excuses not to quit. The rain stopped, the sun poked its head out, and the road began to soar downhill through charming French villages. I could ride wherever I wanted to, as far as my legs would take me. I was free.

See? Charming French architecture. Actually, I kept seeing stonework like this on my way and thought it was pretty cool. Any idea what type it is?
I arrived in the metropolis of Lyon and navigated my way through the traffic-choked streets to the train station, my GPS ticking in a solid 120km total. I bought a cup of pasta and got on the first train to Grenoble.

As I quietly ate my pasta and enjoyed the countryside flying by, the fatigue of a long journey sinking into my legs, all I could think was, that was a fairly pointless exercise.

But somehow oh-so-satisfying.

- The Wild Bazilchuk

2 comments:

  1. Hey I just found your blog through Mary (Inside the Mountain's Skin). My husband and I are hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc this summer, any insider tips? :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hey, that's great, TMB is really beautiful, you have a lot to look forward to! Definitely be prepared for the change weather of the high mountains. We had everything from harsh, sunny, 30-degree-C weather to freezing rain. Also I don't know if you've done any hiking in the Alpes, but the breakfasts at refuges tend to be very minimal (like just bread, jam and coffee), so make sure to bring/buy lots of snacks. When I biked the TMB last fall (you can read the report here: http://wildbazilchuk.blogspot.fr/2012/09/tour-du-mont-blanc-mountain-bike-style.html if you haven't already found it), we were actually eating two lunches. Also, even though all guide books will tell you this, call ahead and book all of your refuges. Good luck!

    ReplyDelete