Sean’s left hand shot out instinctively to indicate caution. At a hairpin turn, one car up and one car back, his signal was as much for the cars as it was for us. Both cars slowed and then braked. Accident averted. And we continued pedaling.
We weren’t sure what the addition of another rider would be like. I mean, Rick and I have been riding as a pair for the last 40 years. Truly, we had never really ridden in a group before, unless you count a couple loosy goosy tours. Other than that, it’s been just us two. But Sean fell in like we had been together for ages. And that’s not all that surprising given that he has just a few group rides under his belt. You know, things like the Seattle to Portland (STP) ,The Ramrod, a charity ride from Seattle to San Francisco or the Ride to the Sky at Glacier National Park. To say he brought a lot of experience is a huge understatement. Because of this, we quickly became The Trifecta. The Three Amigos. The Three Musketeers. And when we got a little turned around, The Bermuda Triangle. Like a baguette with ham, cheese and butter (jambon, fromage et beurre) We were a perfect trio of aging cyclists.
My Little Peloton.
Some girls dream of having a pony. As kids, these equine lovers collected those plastic horse statues, pretended to be a horse during recess while acting out complex imaginary storylines, and practically swooned when they saw a horse in person. Not me. I was busy riding my lavender Schwinn Stingray with a sparkling white banana seat. I’d zoom around the neighborhood riding wherever I needed to go. Why walk when I had my two wheeler? I was smitten. No Little Pony for me. And that feeling has never changed.
From French, peloton means little ball or platoon. It is the main group or pack of riders in a road bicycle race. While Rick, Sean and I were certainly not in a race, we were on our own version of the Tour de France. And the natural teamwork and cooperation has been striking. During a period of a couple weeks, we covered about 250 miles together. With no one leader, we seamlessly slipped in and out of the position of main navigator. That person leads the group and must pay attention to upcoming turns and signal this information to the other two. Sean taught us hand signals we didn’t know as well as the shouted warnings that are typical for group riding such as “Car back!” when a car approaches from behind. Of course, in typical family humor, our signals and shouts got a little silly. “Cow!” “Wheat!” “Coffee!”
At one point. Rick was leading, Sean was in the middle and I was last. Sean signaled with his left hand in a fanning motion behind himself. I laughed out loud. Was this the signal for “I just let one rip?” That Sean. “He has a signal for everything”, I thought.
Until a car came up fast behind me and I needed to squeeze right.
Indeed. A signal for everything.
Somehow, we’ve experienced most of the “greatest hits” you might expect on a bike pack trip. Starting with the rough “travel” experience of the airline losing Sean’s bike and being stranded in an overpriced hotel in Paris, together we’ve seen the exhilarating, the grueling, the boring and the sublime.
Taking a train from Paris to Rouen, we started our pedaling adventure in this beautiful medieval town. It was a perfect restart to our Paris fiasco.
Down the beautiful Seine, cutting inland for endless rural wheat fields, countless cows (whom we called out “thank you!” for their amazing cheese), to the wild and varied Atlantic Coast and up through the towns devastated by world wars, each pedal stroke moving us to new experiences and shared memories.
When the day finally came for us to see Sean off at the train station, we were all a little sad. These past two weeks have been nothing less than amazing. I am so glad to have had the time and opportunity to get to know my cousin in a way that has created a unique bond. We have a shared experience that so few can completely understand. Not many people will want to hear stories of steep hills, headwinds and finding churches for the sole purpose of using the public bathroom and getting water at the adjacent cemetery.
It’s been pretty special to say the least.
I mean, who needs a pony when they can have a peloton?