One year ago I was at the beginning of a great adventure. An adventure that changed everything.
The preparation for it began two years earlier than that, but one year ago I met up with 31 women in San Diego and we embarked on a great journey. We rode bicycles across the United States on the Southern Tier route.
We were a group of women from six countries and all walks of life. We were tall and short, young and old, thin and fat. We had varying levels of fitness, skills and experience. And there we were, all in one place to do one thing.
Little did we know.....
Whatever we had expected and/or hoped for paled in comparison to what we actually experienced. It was everything and nothing that we had expected. And it turned out that the riding wasn't even the most important part. It was the journey and the people that turned out to be most significant.
Thirty-two women and not a shrinking violet in the bunch. All of us successful and competent in our lives. And yet......all of us with some level of trepidation. All (or at least most) of us wondering "What the hell have I gotten myself into this time?"
Mostly strangers to start with, we began to become a group, even a family of sorts - and we all know what families are like. In the beginning we focused on the riding and the logistics of a big tour and people began to sort out into groups of similar skill and riding styles. As we moved along, and changed roommates every night, the pairs and groups morphed and shifted as situations changed. Sometimes the groupings were riding related, sometimes they were focused on common interests, like COFFEE, or ice cream, or hobbies. Sometimes everyone got along and sometimes not so much. But no matter what, we were in it together.
We learned how to read cue sheets, and how to change tires. We learned how to manage when the cue sheet and the road didn't match up (where DO those road signs hide?). We learned to find food in some rather unpromising places and we learned not to be bashful about using the "green room" in the absence of indoor plumbing. We learned to help each other and encourage each other and support each other. We learned how to seek support, comfort and advice from others and we learned how to eke out some "alone time" when needed. We learned what out bodies will do, and sometimes what they won't.
We also learned how to appreciate people who have differing strengths and weaknesses than we do and we learned how to share our strengths with them. Some of us found friendships that continue to develop as time goes on. Some of us will do other tours, others have had enough. We all grew and changed with this experience, each of us in a different way.
Thirty-two women, each one on her own tour but all of us in it together. It was magical.