Monday 21 November 2011

Joy to the world

"A Joyous Perspective"

Greetings to the followers of the Sore Bum!

Beach fire
Joy here. I've literally followed (and been followed by at times) the Sore Bum from Berlin to Stockholm. Ben's indulged me for the moment, and given me the opportunity to describe for you some of what goes on between the adventures he's been relating. I hope you will find the banality a bit interesting.

Yum yum, pastries and coffee!

Our days began with a reluctant emergence from the cocoons of our toasty sleeping bags. Change into the cycling clothes, eat breakfast of cereal and fruit and yogurt, pack up camp, ride bikes! Ben certainly spent the six months prior to my arrival honing his packing skills and developing an efficiency that I couldn't come close to matching. Although he did wear shorts for all but 2 of the days we cycled together, while I stacked on layer after layer against the ever-plummeting chill, so any head-to-head competition in preparing for the day would have been immensely tipped in his favor at the outset.

Even with all the baked goods....

With easy riding and favorable conditions, we trucked along nicely at the outset of most of our days. Until we would encounter a larger town with a bakery or grocery store, that is. Without any kind of certainty that we'd encounter another such oasis at some point that day, stopping in to pick up a pastry or six became a habit that will not be an easy one to let go of. A bit more riding before we would stop for lunch: I'd lay down a sarong and we'd make sandwiches in the sun or in a shelter from the wind. We spread our spread on many a bench of village greens, in bus shelters, next to lakes, even once in the lobby of an office building when a brief respite from the cold and wet was needed as much as the caloric fuel. Eating became something I looked forward to beginning from the last bite of any meal break, and it took me far too long to realize that Ben was munching snacks at a near-constant pace out of his handlebar bag. I was quick to follow suit.

Who's in the lead?
Back on the bikes for more riding through farmland and forests; along orchards and strawberry fields; past heaps of harvested root vegetables and lines of lettuces ripped from the ground leaving only a bed of soup greens behind to wilt into the soil. In every small village we passed through, we were greeted like heroes home from war with a ticker-tape parade by the domesticated (though unmannered) animals. The barking would spread from house to house as we rolled through, and the dogs would deepen the runways they'd grooved next to the fences that (usually) held them at bay. A squirt from the water bottle was often necessary to prevent the unfenced and unleashed canines from becoming our traveling companions. The cows would turn their heads, slowly following us with their fixed gaze, before occasionally letting out a surprisingly loud moo. Chickens seemed the only ones nonplussed by our presence, and I spent a great deal of time contemplating why the chicken did not actually cross the road. One does tend to have some pretty deep thoughts when spending most of one's day on a bicycle.

Dead ends
Tourist games
Navigation proved to bring its own adventure. I got a big kick out of the days when we had an enormous distance to our next destination and we picked a direction and ambled generally along it. We used what tools we could: maps, road signs, and bicycle path signs; on sunny days, we followed our long shadows north; we chased rivers downstream toward the sea or kept them as best we could to one side of our path; we encountered dirt and gravel roads that we would take a gamble in following. Ben asked once how long I'd be willing to try one such road. "Let's just commit to it, it's gotta lead somewhere", I replied, which was usually true. Except when that somewhere was a river bank with a long-gone bridge, a sand quarry, or a house at the end of the multiple kilometer long driveway. We did manage to continue along in a forward motion most of the time...only twice did we find ourselves riding in circles when trying to make our way out of a city.
Don't cry over spilled it!

Working for posterity
As the sun sank slowly, we would look for a place to call home for the night. We managed to find some exquisite campsites that people would have waited in line to camp at in warmer weather. We'd set up camp and cook dinner. If there was wood and a bit of seclusion, we'd have a fire to make staying outside the tent past dark bearable. We'd read, write in our journals, discuss the finer points of life, make a treat of rice pudding or popcorn. before diving into our sleeping bags for the long cold night.

So there you have a bit of the routine that we fell into. I hope all of you who know Ben can appreciate what I've endured, er, "experienced" in our travels without either one of us resorting to physical violence. Big thanks to Ben for letting me share in a good bit of his adventure (and for letting me make use of so much the gear he carried), and may fortune continue to be his constant companion!


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