Fate, fortune or fortitude
“Why do you like cycling so much?” Cameron asks as he bounces deliriously on the bedsprings of the cheap Augsburg hotel we stumbled into late tonight. Two minutes later he’s flat out on top of the bed in a deep, deep sleep, too tired to even get under the duvet. He’s right to be asleep though. We’ve ridden 65km today, pushing hard to make up for ground we think we’ve lost against a fag packet plan that said we could get from Amsterdam to Venice in six weeks.
I don’t know what to think
And now I don’t know whether I got my distance and gradient calculations right, if we can get there or not in the time we have available, whether we should have ridden further and faster in the first four flat weeks, whether we should change the goal (and all the arrangements we have made for bike return transport, accommodation and onward travel), whether we should keep trying, whether everyone wants to carry on (or even wanted to go in the first place) or whether the whole business has become more of a chore than a happy family outing. And Cameron thinks I like cycling!
Impossible and pointless or part of the journey?
There’s a day like today in all our family expeditions; a point at which it all seems impossible and pointless, at which the pain seems to be outweighing the pleasure, a time when fate and fortune seem to play with us, when our fortitude is challenged and faith in our own abilities tested.
Today the weather cooled off and we made good progress on smooth flat tarmac; was good fortune with us after days on hilly gravel trails in oppressive heat? Then the growing cloud cover threatened rain; is that better or worse than sun? Is the weather for or against us?
Good times and bad times
We arrived early in Donauworth, at the confluence of the rivers Worntiz and Danube. Taking time to relax we viewed skeletons of saints in the churches, picnicked and waltzed the Blue Danube by the river, ate ice-cream, drank coffee, soaked up the Saturday morning atmosphere, bought a badminton set to play with and had fun as a family down by the river. Tiredness forgotten, it all seemed worth it for just an hour or two like this.
Then an accident on the road; Matt got his fingers caught in the chain. Some nasty cuts needed roadside first-aid. Fate screamed STOP NOW and get straight back home you irresponsible parents. Two pedestrians stopped, offered to find a doctor and give us a room for the night in a nearby village. Was the universe saying ‘Don’t be hasty, take time to decide.’
Matt said he was OK, he wanted to cycle on. Only eight yet strong and brave in difficult circumstances, he showed great fortitude. Implicit in his action he tells us all we can do this if we want to, together as a family, even if it hurts a bit. We used the strength in our legs to ride to Augsburg and the first hotel we stopped at had two cheap rooms available. Fate said rest here, don’t give up yet.
We wandered around Augsburg, all lit up and pretty, past Rathaus, church and market place. There was a Saturday night buzz and we picked it up too; we were bike free, out and about, laughing and smiling together, it was magic again. We made it here today, against the odds, through our own efforts, together. We crossed little canals and talked of St Marks Squares, gondolas and the song of the gondoliers. Then back to bed, to bounce, then sleep. A deep, deep sleep. To dream, perchance of Venice.
Addicted to journeying?
There’s no denying we’ve bitten off a challenge in this journey but in a sense that’s the point. Having that clear, stretching goal creates a focus, narrative and drama that shapes the experience of journeying and helps create the rounds of highs and lows that are the holiday from the routine of regular everyday living.
“Why do I like cycling so much?” I’m not sure that I do but I think I maybe addicted to the intensity of experience we create around it and the way dealing with that brings us together as a family and team.