Stephen

One More Randonneur

Today’s post is not about Seize The World at all, but rather, it is about a tour that has just begun from Barcelona to Lisbon, and about the people who make bicycle touring possible.  While I was staying at the Barcelona Mar Hostel in Barcelona, I met a traveler there, Vitor, who was moving around the world by plane, train, etc. and traveling with his guitar.  In other words, he entered the hostel as a tourist and left as a bicycle tourist.  After some conversations about Seize The World, and after taking a look at the website, Vitor decided to buy a bicycle and panniers from a sporting goods store, and go on tour himself.  Vitor was at a point in his travels where an encounter with any person on a bicycle tour would have likely tipped him over the edge, but it was somehow an honor to be that person.

It was remarkable to witness, over the course of the five days I was in Barcelona, the excitement as it began to build.  He can be a sort of a quiet, pensive person at times – other times just the opposite – and he would ask a question about cycling, and then he would get the look in his eyes.  The look that he was thinking about how everything would go into action, how things would play out on the road.  It was exciting to see.  He had thought about traveling by bicycle before, but had not, until hearing about Seize The World, and reading the website, quite known where to start.  Now he has that start, and he is on his way to Lisbon.

I told him, while I was at the hostel, the night before he bought the bike, that the most difficult part of the entire tour would be tomorrow – the day he had to go to purchase his bicycle, his panniers, and his tent.  That if he made it past that day, that he would surely be going on a bicycle tour.

It does not matter if he makes it all the way to Lisbon, or if he has crazy mishaps along the way, or if he takes buses for certain segments.  He will have experienced traveling on a loaded bike, he will have known what the distances between the larger cities are like, how big they are, what you find in between those cities.  Cool.  He will actually feel what it is like simply to get on a bike that has a load on it – something that few cyclists, even those who ride their entire lives, ever experience.

I will look back on that conversion Vitor into bicycle tourist – temporary or one time though it may have been – and likely attribute it to the magic of Barcelona.  A place where anything can happen.  I felt during my entire time there that I could wake up and go to China – in a way I did, I suppose – or if I wanted to, I could do anything that I thought of.  Vitor really did do that.  He arrived holding a guitar and left pedaling a bike.  Even though I felt that vibrance while I was in Barcelona, I did not truly allow it to take me the way that Vitor did.  I did not, for example, leave town by train holding a guitar, with a new destination in mind.  Because to me, freedom is beautiful, but experiencing it within the context of a bicycle tour seems to be about the best way to have it.  Somehow it makes me really happy to know that there is another bicyclist out there, touring, even if he is going in almost exactly the opposite direction.

On the topic of touring, I would like to take a moment to write about an organization in San Diego which has been very supportive of Seize The World during the past month.  They are called the San Diego Randonneurs, and, as you might have guessed, they are based in San Diego, California.  The Randonneurs are an organization based on, in their words, “Adventure and Camaraderie of Long Distance Cycling.”  Bringing people together who enjoy riding bikes.  For a long, long ways.  What has been such a pleasant surprise for me is the generosity that they have shown for a randonneur so far from San Diego.  As any long distance cyclist knows, adventure and camaraderie are difficult to avoid when cycling over a great distance, and I seem to have found camaraderie with the San Diego Randonneurs.  You will find, on the site, maps and route descriptions, of rides and races that have been established in California if you feel inclined to repeat.  However, my favorite part of the site is the “Reports” section, in which members write about their own tours, races, and rides.  Pay them a visit, register for a Fleche if you are up for the challenge, and most importantly to them, I am sure, just get out there like Vitor, and try some Randonneuring yourself!
San Diego Randonneurs

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