Thursday, June 11, 2009

A Ride to Remember

FINALLY an opportunity to get some long overdue exercise, and it came in the form of a bike ride from Musanze (Ruhengeri) thru Kinigi to the Headquarters of Volcanoes National Park,… and back. Rebekah Lewis, who used to run this course, tells me that it is approximately 8 miles each way, but let’s be honest, it must be closer to 80 miles (at an elevation of 8,000 feet). And (how is this possible?!?), it seems to be uphill BOTH directions! But I was grateful to get out and shake it up and breath deep and hard. And with every stroke of the pedal, I was extremely grateful to Dale & Judi Dawson, Melissa Yates, and other unnamed angels for providing a high performance mountain bike that was capable of putting out much more than was I.

[Brief interruption and confession: I really have been working VERY hard (if you can call it work), 24/7, since the end of February,… a non-stop stream of WONDERFUL, fascinating (and overlapping) visitors. Very fun (and very exhausting). But not only did I get to do this solo bike ride (while all current visitors went off to Gisenyi for two days), I am now back in Kigali, sitting in the garden under the gazebo, drinking a beer (still trying to re-hydrate after the bike ride), watching the Crested Cranes and other indescribable birds, gazing across the little valley at the U.S. Embassy (wondering if they are up to good or mischief), thinking about the Von Trapps’ arrival later tonight,… and now here comes Chantal with a big bowl of goat stew she just made. I can really relate to Esau! A delicious bowl of well seasoned goat stew. Life is GOOD! What more could one ask for?!?]

Back to the bike ride: It was a beautiful learning experience and another lesson in humility (… just how many of these are necessary?). I was on a brand new high performance mountain bike, but somehow I was constantly being passed by boys on 1955 vintage wrecks that took curious forms because whatever once existed has been completely replaced by repair welds,… with nothing original remaining. Their bikes must weigh 200 pounds. And I should mention that each of these boys was transporting a passenger, and I none, unless my weight gain should qualify. Check out this seatpost,... and the nice wooden and rebar frame:

But in my defense, I had some equipment problems: First of all, my sunglasses kept fogging up (I suppose it had something to do with my heavy breathing and perspiration), allowing me clear vision of the cataracts that lie ahead, but not the road. And then there was the issue of my seat: It was set too low. (No mean comments now. No, I was not riding a tricycle, but the person who rode it before me was apparently a twa.) The real problem is that I did not bother to readjust the seat until about ¼ mile before my destination. What a difference in performance and the exertion required! And then the issue of shoes: I have no cycling equipment. I wore my UCSC t-shirt, board shorts, and (seldom used) running shoes. I always thought that cyclists wore Velcro shoes because they didn’t know how to tie shoe laces,… until my shoe lace came untied, got caught in the pedal, and made a real dangerous mess of things. The many children were quite amused.

The ride back was, in truth, all downhill, only because the ride out was, in truth, ALL uphill. It was better than skiing from top to base of Whistler Mountain. Yep, life is good. I did not want it to end, so I diverted onto a footpath and rode deep into the… well we don’t say “jungle” for some reason, but it was. It was indescribable! Every shade of green, including some that I had never before seen. Smells, good and not so good, that I had never before smelled. And I frequently came upon little villages of subsistence farmers who would have been less surprised if a space saucer landed in their midst and purple Martians emerged. The children went crazy with excitement, except for the very little ones who were hysterical with fear of the ghost. It is times like this that I pinch myself to confirm that this is not a dream.

Some of these kids even ride WOODEN bicycles that somehow out perform titanium! I am in awe of their ingenuity and resourcefulness.