March 25, 2010

Riding Bikes Makes Fast Friends

Conversations start easily.
A topic of similar interest is easy to arrive upon.
The pedals turn, the hours pass away and when we part, at the end of the day, a friendship has formed. 

Traveling with your bike in tow is sort of like wearing a florescent pink t-shirt that reads something like, “Dude, let’s ride”.  Most people just look at the shirt and make a quiet comment about bad fashion.  But to the fellow cyclist, waiting for their bike box to emerge from the belly of the plane on a shiny silver conveyor belt, the translation is literal – “Let’s Ride”.  Perhaps tomorrow, after coffee, say 10am?

Venturing halfway across the globe to navigate, on two wheels, narrow Spanish roads and sip small cups of espresso takes a special kind of person.  Someone who finds indefinable joy in reaching the top of one climb only to descend and climb another.  Someone who celebrates the culture of a small island off the coast of mainland Spain.  Someone who loves to ride their bike and has an incurable weakness for chocolate croissants.

No matter where you from, cycling is a common language.  No one is a stranger when you are all away from home.  Holding tightly to the wheel of my newly introduced friend is no easy feat, but I do it for the challenge, for the sense of accomplishment and because I what to see if I can.  Oh, and I to earn a couple extra scoops of chocolate gelato (we had a little deal going). 

Afternoon pastry stops, mountain top photos and evening Cervezas with friends only adds to the enjoyment of a cycling holiday.  Current friendships are forged deeper and what was a new face just days before soon becomes a familiar smile. 

As the dialog unfolds, I learn that my new companions are spectacularly magnificent people; a biophysicist who moonlights as a pro mountain biker (or is it the other way around?), a member of the Scottish mountain biking team, a retired semi-pro road racer who claims to no longer train, but there is no way in heck I can hold her wheel on the decent toward Sa Callobra, the marketing director for a multi-national pharmaceutical company, an Ironman triathlete who also happens to have a couple-few advanced degrees and dabbles in Randonne Racing in the hills of Switzerland.  All gathering in Mallorca from Scotland, England, Switzerland, and Bend – what a fabulous place for a reunion.  New friends to me, Don enjoys the company of old friends he sees only once or twice a year.  He was nice enough to share them with the rest of us.

The love affair that brings Don back to Mallorca each spring isn’t just about the riding, although the roads are pretty darn fabulous, it is the people, the faces, the friendships. 

Seven of us traveled from Bend to Spain; I now know what everyone fancies for breakfast, whether they prefer extra dark or milk chocolate, and what brand of embrocation makes their legs turn bright red.  We stood together in the ice-cool pool after long rides and wished each other a good night’s sleep through the paper thin walls of the hotel. 

It is said that friendships that don’t happen overnight, but I beg to differ.  When you are on two wheels, they do.