Another day in the bank, and a little further across Europe. Today we made it to the shores of Lake Annecy after traversing nearly the entirety of the Alps. I only came to that realisation when I made a comment to Conor on the changing scenery, going from the massive Cols, to rolling hills.
“We’ve crossed the Alps mate!” he said. And it kind of blindsided me. We did this all on our bikes? You see, the thing is, we did this whole trip on a whim. No real plan, just an idea, a thought, and eventually action. Each day, we’re still surprised by what we are doing and if I’m going to be completely honest, we still have a hard time believing it’s real.
Today we hit the halfway point. We made it to the northernmost point of our trip, just south of the Swiss border, and then we turned south to the east shore of the lake. We have had quite a bit of debate about our route and each day we waffle back and forth on where to head the following morning.
We still aren’t sure how we’ll make it back to Nice and each of us have different ideas of how to get there. Yesterday, Conor told me we needed to ‘make a big circle’. I laughed. The point of this trip, I argued, is not the shape of the line we draw on the map. It’s us going where we want to go, no matter what anyone else thinks. The second turning point came today as I was hell bent on making it to the west shore of Lake Annecy, rather than the east, again solely because I thought rounding the lake would make for a nicer story. In the end, he convinced me to go east.
This has been the story of our trip. The push and pull between two “nice guys” who don’t want to piss each other off. We’re both pretty agreeable, which sometimes makes it tough to make decisions and while I was touched by his journal entry yesterday, I can’t help but think it’s some sort of psychological warfare. We set off the first day thinking it would take us a maximum of six hours. It took us seven and a half.
When we arrived, Conor told me we should just try to do the most epic week of our lives, every day the same as the first. I argued against it, it would not be a good idea, I thought, as too much stress would kill us both for the rest of the season. A reasonable amount would be the right way to go, pushing us to our limits, but not over it. And every day since, Conor has argued for doing more while somehow convincing me to do less. He hits me at the right time, while I’m tired, I’m vulnerable, maybe a little hungry, and each time I seem to agree. Then we reach the hotel and I feel almost let down, as if I’m not totally smashed when I arrive, maybe I didn’t do enough…
It may be a bigger symbol for my cycling career, never satisfied. Always wanting more, better. In just a few short days this trip has taught me to enjoy what I have and where I’m at. And for me, that might be the most important point. I left Nice, thinking it would be really good for the legs and maybe help my head a bit. But what I’ve realised the last days is that this bike tour has made me the happiest I’ve been this entire year. Cruising around the most beautiful roads I’ve ever been on, without a real destination or goal. Just pedalling. And laughing. And smiling a lot. It feels damn good.
I’ve hardly thought about real life at all the last few days. My biggest concern has been how to get Conor from A to B as quickly as possible. Well, that, and my tax return… That’s the real reason I gave him my gummy sharks (not my tax return). He’s my friend and I knew he needed them more than I did. There was a somewhat selfish motive, a trick taught to me by my mentor as a junior rider, a guy named Jeff Koch.
Jeff used to take us on what everyone in the area called ‘Death Marches’, or epic rides that would kill nearly everyone other than himself. When I was 14, he used to bring me along. We would do five, six, seven-hour rides, hitting every hill we could find, and pushing everyone to their limit. And we used to have another team-mate or two who would come along, but never bring enough food, bonking every time.
So each time we stopped at a fuel station, Jeff would buy double, and keep extra in his pockets to give to the others when they didn’t have any more food for themselves. Because of that, we all got home a bit faster. So I’ve been channeling my inner Jeff and I can’t help but think this is one big weeklong ‘death march’.
Conor seems to be moving slower every day, but I’m not referring to the bike portion of this journey. Any time I want to get him out of the room or the hotel in the morning, he just dillies and dallies until I nearly have to physically move him to leave. Each time we stop at a café, we lounge just that little bit longer than previously planned. But yesterday, as soon as we had the lake in front of us, Conor moved with the swiftness of a 6-year-old. I couldn’t keep up! He convinced me to cut the route shorter so we could swim longer and when we arrived at the hotel, he ran up the steps to jump in the shower and change into his trunks…
“Where has this been the whole time?!” I wondered. I barely had a minute to sit on the bed before he was pushing me out the door to go down to the lake. We both jumped from the diving board, and while I went out to the raft to sit and admire the water, the mountains, and the sunset, Conor just jumped and jumped and jumped again. I couldn’t believe it.
I’m not sure if I’ll be able to find a diving board as we head back south, but maybe the beach in Nice will be the ultimate carrot.