ExperiencePlus Traveler Peter Petesch Imagines Being on Tour
Wheels down at nine. I grab un petit café, a croissant, and slices of cheese, seated under a vintage poster of Tour de France, Touriste Routier 1925. I switch on Sonos and listen to French or Belgian Flemish radio. I don’t understand them much (which makes the news easier to bear), but the sound supplies a longed-for texture. I visualize a coffee stop in the flower-filled village of Barr, France. In these trying times of social distancing, escapism, an active imagination, memories of past travels and a dash of hope make for essential coping skills.
I select my kit for this chilly and blustery day. There is one constant: I never ride without a cap, and now all my caps are “Ronny caps,” affectionately named after Ronny Buth, one of our tour leaders for the Hamburg-Berlin ride. No one wears a cap like Ronny.
There are no chalk arrows today – only memories and ambitions. We instead take our familiar local ride through Rock Creek Park in Maryland and the District of Columbia – and are fortunate to still have the ability to get out on bike rides. Still, we can try to imagine glimpses of previous rides while on tour with ExperiencePlus! …
Broken chunks of asphalt become cobblestones entering Lüneburg (Hamburg to Berlin). Hills in Rock Creek Park tepidly replicate switch-back portions of Mont Sainte Odile (the Wine Roads in Alsace). Open fields reveal the unforgettable pastoral road from Brandenburg to Potsdam (Hamburg to Berlin again). The delicate scent of spring blooms brings back a whiff of Mont Sainte Jean (Champagne to Bourgogne). Regrettably, the briny perfume of oysters from La Brasserie du Boulingrin in Reims (Champagne-Bourgogne) is nowhere near.
We planned our next adventure (Brittany to Normandy) for early this June, but reality interfered. Luckily, we can stay in touch with our fellow travelers – and do – until we can ride together again. We substitute e-mails for coffee conversation on global affairs, food and cycling routes. We swap news stories, cartoons, as well as photos of current rides from as distant as Australia — and pictures from prior trips.
There will be wine in the evening. Perhaps this is the day to open that bottle we saved from the vineyards of Robert Blanck in Obernai (Alsace) — where his bear of a dog sprawled on the wine cellar floor. Or, we can savor an offering from Mercurey (recalling the scenic ride in perfect sunshine from Beaune for a special lunch at Domaine de la Monette in Mercurey, near the conclusion of the Bourgogne ride).
We are lucky. We have our health, our first grandchild, our jobs, and a good but battered chunk of our savings. We stay largely in trip shape; the miles, the hills and the wine consumption will come easily. And, we have our adventure envisioned for 2021.