When we first met many years ago I soon realized that bicycling would no doubt be an important part of the relationship. Skiing was my sport, but I liked to ride bicycles, too. My idea of a ride was a leisurely hour-long jaunt on flat terrain. That was sissy stuff to Bicycle Bob (BB). The higher the hill, the happier he was.
Soon after we met he suggested we ride from his apartment near Stuttgart to the company Fourth of July picnic near the city airport. It seemed like a nice adventure, so off we went. The first few hills were a struggle, but I was determined not to wimp out –until we came to the killer. It was long, never-ending, and very steep. He was far ahead as I huffed and swore. This was not my idea of fun. How could he do this do me? I had to get off and push. It was hot. I was miserable, torn between anger and tears.
We made it to the picnic, but I was wiped out, drained, ragged. I refused to speak to him until a beer calmed my spirits. I couldn't comprehend his dedication to this torture. Give me a ski slope. Fortunately the ride home was mostly downhill, and fun. Maybe it's because of skiing, but I love soaring downhill at top speed.
I had a choice — tell him to ride by himself, or learn to climb hills on two wheels. I've never understood those relationships where the guy goes off and does his thing on the golf course or at the bowling alley, leaving the little woman behind. I wanted a together rapport. I would have to conquer those hills.
Since those early days we've ridden thousands of miles throughout Europe, in Holland, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, Italy, England. (I still hate hills and lag far behind on the tough ascents). We especially like to set out on lengthy journeys of several days with our gear loaded into panniers.
Our very favorite biking country is Switzerland where I mastered mountains — not just hills. The Alpine country is criss-crossed with nine national bike routes. We've ridden six, all a joy. With true Swiss precision, the routes are well marked with signs so you rarely need to get off and consult a map. There are books accompanying each route with strip maps and symbols indicating when the going gets rough (extra steep, heavy traffic, etc) with alternate means of transportation suggested — train, bus, boat, even ski lifts. We've used all. Personnel were always very helpful with loading the bikes.
BB even rode to the top of the Goddard Pass (elevation 2,108 meters) on the north-south route from Basel to Chiasso. There I did wimp out and took the easy way to the summit, a bus with my bike and gear and BB's gear. The Lake Route, from Montreux on Lake Geneva to Rorschach on Lake Constance (500 km) was my favorite with incredible scenery. BB liked the Jura Route, from Basel to Nyon (275 km). We're hoping to find time next summer to add another Swiss challenge to our list.
Since we lived in Germany for many years, we pedaled lots in Deutschland. The country's extensive network of Radwege (bike routes) is impressive, marked routes mostly off road on trails and lanes, through fields and forests, around towns and villages. We enjoyed riding the Danube route to Passau, but never made it as far as Vienna. In Austria, however, we did ride the Salzkammergut route around hills and lakes near Salzburg which was another winner.
It's thanks to bicycling that we live in this part of France. Years ago I joined a press trip to introduce a new velo (bike) route, 236 km around the Luberon in Provence. We only rode a small section, but I was impressed. I knew BB would like it. He was nearing retirement and we had hopes of moving to France. This might be the perfect area.
Several months later we returned to ride the entire route. Along the way we stopped at real estate offices and inquired about an unfurnished house to rent on a long term basis. Most of the representatives we spoke with were discouraging. People rent for the season here, we were told. Our luck changed in Forcalquier where an agent said she had not one but two houses to rent. One was in the town of Cereste on our bike route. We pedaled off and met her at the house. It was perfect. We immediately agreed to rent it and moved the following spring.
We've since bought a house and moved again. Now that we are homeowners, somehow we don't seem to find as much time to ride as we had planned. And, in the summer, it's often too hot as the terrain here is challenging. BB gets his dose of hills.
Now fall is in the air. We're gearing up for more rides, but probably not up to the top of Mount Ventoux, the famous Tour de France peak. BB once said he wanted to take on this mountain, but after driving to the summit, he changed his mind. The last six km are straight up. He's happy to leave that to Lance Armstrong and crowd and cycle with me – even though I'm still far behind on the hills. But, I get my revenge on the ski slopes where he brings up the rear.