Published: August 17th 2011August 15th 2011
"To travel by bicycle is a humble, nonabrasive way to get close to people. It is a way of saying we are passing through with no thought of invasion or conquest, only the simple will to share a part of the road." Claude Herve
The magic number is 4226 -- kilometers that is. That's how far we have cycled since leaving Lisbon on May 29. Not the longest distance we have ever biked, but certainly the longest in the number of days spent on the road.
A bit about cycling in Europe. The bicycle is an accepted mode of transportation in all the European countries thru which we have traveled. Bike routes, bike lanes, and bike signs are everywhere. Yes, we have gotten lost a number of times, but we've always come to another bike path and sign that put us back on course. Drivers are courteous and attentive to cyclists, probably because bicyclists are so common and there are so many signs telling the drivers that cyclists share the road. It is unfortunate that the United States has never developed this infrastructure and attitude. It would go a long way towards reducing obesity, health problems, and our
dependence on foreign oil. A national system of bike routes is being planned, but what we really need in the US are local routes to get to the bank, the market, to town, etc.
But enough about that. At this point, I guess, we should have all kinds of deep philosophical revelations to make . . . maybe later. Right now, just some general comments.
First and foremost, thank you. Thank you to the many of you who sent us encouraging emails, who prayed for our safety, and who kept an eye on our house. Without you, we never could have managed this trip.
Secondly and just as important, thank you. Thank you to those of you who welcomed us into their homes. You provided warm showers, comfortable beds, food, laundry facilities, and FRIENDSHIP. As we have said many, many times, international friendships erase the imaginary borders between us.
Third, as we contemplate the last few months, we find ourselves thinking of both the highs and the lows we experienced. The high was definitely the El Camino Way from Santiago, Spain to Le Puy, France. Meeting the "Pilgrims" as they traversed the continent, each seeking something
Flowers Near Langen, Germany
I just can't resist taking a photo of a pretty flower!
different -- peace, solitiude, spirituality, self confidence, whatever -- brought us, in our way, a sense of peace and spirituality. Gazing at the chapels and cathedrals along the way; sleeping in the auberges and gites with dozens of other pilgrims -- there is no way to describe the sense of interconnectedness we felt with each of those we met and with the God who created each of us in His own image.
Fortunately, we had few lows. Occasionally, we got a bit frustrated as we found ourselves cycling in circles, struggling to find our way through a village. Occasionally, our bodies ached a bit after sleeping in the tent. Occasionally, the rain dampened our spirits or the hills weakened our knees. But these were merely inconveniences that paled in comparison to the high points of each day.
Finally, we are ready to fly home. After nearly three months away from our family, we can hardly wait to see Bill's parents, the four kids, the grandkids, and our siblings and their famiies. We are ready to sleep in our own bed, shower in our own shower, and drink iced tea and Pepsi with lots of ice cubes!! Of course, I have to get ready to teach on Monday and Bill will be busy putting all those photos into an album.
Right now, it is Tuesday evening. We have just returned from seeing Manfred and Maria's newest grandson, the child of the young man, Chris, who first brought us to Europe 13 years ago. In just a few minutes we will be leaving to have dinner with their daughter Magdalena and her husband. Yesterday, we spent some time with their other daughter, Sophia, and her sons. And our thoughts also turn to their daughter in Sweden with whom we hiked five years ago. And we look forward to Manfred and Maria visiting us in Arizona this coming winter.
So, you see, friendship is not based on language or even culture; it is international, and such friendships can encircle the world, dissipating the hatred and violence that so often makes the front page news.