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Wheels on the bike go round and round 12:
by Mike Jennett
2009-06-04 09:35:22
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The official welcome meeting’s at 2.00pm. It’s a smaller group than previous years, but still a crowd. Some people stare straight ahead as if there’s something of great interest on the end wall, but others are leaning over seat backs like kids at school when the teacher walks out.

I am the stranger. Whilst they were socializing all morning, I was getting high in Starbucks (they should stop pouring water on that stuff and just roll it into joints).

I watch body language, listen and talk, assessing the personalities. Most are my senior, which is strangely comforting. I learn a few names and faces to put with emails, but forget most immediately – such is the problem with ultra-short memory. All I can recall ten minutes later is that Harry has the Liverpool accent and Nancy is the Floridian worried about hills.

Three of the staff are old friends, but now is not the time for idle chat. The Crossroads ritual is imminent. All four – Mack, Rick, Tracy and Margaret – turn to pound a familiar rhythm on the wall.

I’m glad I don’t have the room next door for a meeting of my own – because I wouldn’t appreciate “We Will Rock You” being beaten out if I was, say, giving a presentation, or entertaining foreign executives. But I’m not and no one bangs back, so I suppose it’s alright.

The pounding is telling us – the audience, the riders, those who have spent a lot of money to be here – that it is WE who rock. WE can do anything. WE are the Top Gun of cross-country cycling. Wonderful. Where are the girls doing somersaults in short skirts?

Once the cheer-leading ritual is over, Tracy introduces staff and her parents - who will be present for a short time - then goes into an ego-stroking spiel and we are told how good we are. We already know we ROCK, but now we hear why. I’d waft into a parallel universe if I could but, alas, that’s a talent I sadly lack

One by one, riders stand to tell their own story; where they’re from, why they’re here, what they expect to achieve from the tour. Fortunately, this group is not as self-indulgent as those from previous years and no one gets carried away relating life histories. (I did not know there were so many people whose lifelong dream is to go on a bike ride).

Far too quickly, it becomes my turn. I was intending to throw in a couple of clever tidbits about previous treks or even some words of wisdom about bike maintenance but public speaking is out of my comfort zone so I lose my drift and quickly redden.

The route is described, daily hotel procedure is explained, there is a further dose of ego building (yeah, we really ROCK!) and we are taught some safety tips when riding as a group - verbal commands to warn following riders - Car-up, Hole, On your left, Stopping.

Then we are introduced to some basic concepts of cycling that should be obvious to anyone with an age in double digits or an IQ above 4. Sadly, as I learn from the whispered comments, it is not.

We hear that road signs and rules are meant for cyclists as well as motorized traffic, we learn that we are considered vehicles and are not to ride on the sidewalk or through stop signs and red lights and we are shown correct lane control and use of hand signals for turning.

All through the lecture, questions are asked; the kind of questions no one with an adult mind should be posing. Why don’t you give us the weather forecast? Do I set my trip computer to zero at the hotel door or when I reach the road? Why can’t I start at 5.00am if I want to?

Curiously, for once, Tracy does not reveal the somber fact that the majority of cycling deaths in America involve riders on the wrong side of the road. Personally, I find it sad that so many people of otherwise good sense actually believe that this is the correct thing to do and blindly follow what they are told. I suppose lemmings have their reasons too.

Eventually, it is time for cocktails at the lobby bar, followed by dinner. You will surprised to hear that I waste some of this valuable drinking time by taking a shower. Even I, lush that I can be, realize that smelling like someone who’s slept in the jungle for a week, is not a good way to make new friends and influence people.

All I really want to do afterwards is break the ice in the sports pub across the street, but there are things to do with the bike, otherwise I will be going nowhere in the morning except by van.

By the time the bike is prepared, it is after 10.00pm. That’s when I discover that my neighbor in the next room is the kind of snorer that you can hear through a hotel wall. Trying to ignore it is like trying to get to sleep at Christmas before Santa comes.

Maybe I should bang on the wall to wake him up? But then he’d know it was me. I could call his room and then hang up – several times – but that would be cruel. Besides, there might not be enough time to fall asleep before he starts again.

But hey – who really cares?

Tomorrow, we’re crossing America by bike.

We rock, baby!

Read more at: www.mikeonwheels.com OR www.wheelsonthebikegoroundandround.blogspot.com   

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