On an earlier trip I spent a day with a group of Swedes who were touring South America. That was during week one out of nine for these strangers. As an evolving introvert I found this amazing and rather scary. I rarely travel with groups but had previously good experiences with an active travel company called Backroads.
So with only slight trepidation, I left on Christmas Day for Argentina to start my third trip with this organization along with my daughter, Molly. We would be biking, hiking and kayaking in the Bariloche district in northern Patagonia. All would begin at 10 AM where we would meet the leaders, the others in the group and attend orientation. Unfortunately we were held up by traffic and arrived late….an ominous start? I was horrified as I knew I would probably be the oldest in attendance and was worried that others would think I was the “trip spoiler”.
When we were asked to briefly introduce ourselves I quickly tried to reassure them that I was normally punctual. Others put out more promising proposals like we are all probably kindred spirits and hopefully we will become Facebook friends so we can share pictures etc.
Before long we were ushered out to get acquainted with the bikes. I was dressed in my sister’s best gear, looking like a pro until I put on the gloves backwards! My questions about the gears, brakes, seat and pedals were probably also clues to my inexperience or the fact that my only training was the exercise bike in the gym. Again, my internal fear of being the odd woman out led me to push to the front as we took off.
Within the first 10 minutes I knew something was wrong as I was in a very low gear and could not change it. Since I grew up on a bike that only had one gear I wasn’t overly concerned until the first big hill. Everyone started passing me, so I got off and started running with the bike until the guide, Etienne, at the back of the pack, offered to help. Apparently there was a cable stretch or something wrong with a derailleur.??? It took Etienne and the support van driver quite awhile to get it fixed. Meanwhile, I was WAY behind this group I had hoped to impress!
Thankfully Etienne stayed with me, reinforcing how to change the gears and when to do it as I pedaled as hard and fast as my legs and lungs would allow. Before long I was passing some of those who had gone by me and even heard my new friends shouting “go Debby, go” as I flew by others taking a break.
Whew. Not sure that any of them could do nine weeks with me, but at the end of our week together and it came time to say goodbye I knew I would miss every one of them!
Lessons learned: The fact that the Swedes enjoy smorgasbord shows that they enjoy whatever new people bring to the table…embrace the differences and stop worrying about whether your favorite food is featured. Try something new, you might relish it.
Secondly, I think my group would have liked me even if I came in last, I’m thinking they may have even been cheering more!
Buy yourself a cyclocross bike and start going to races…
I’ll leave that fun up to you…the downhill on a dirt road with hairpin turns was enough for me.