My partner and I were away for a few days on a bike trip to visit his parents. It's a long ride, with some very large hills (mountains?) and I guess this is the first time I've ever done it without at least some trace of a hangover. What a revelation.
First, even without the hangover, it still wasn't easy. To get there, we rode about 85km of bigs ups and downs, then took a short ferry, then rode another 30 km with one big uphill plus lots of rolling hills. Coming back it's the same distance, 30km+ferry+84km, but somehow that part seems even longer. Holy mother, that's a lot of cycling! My legs were rubber by the end. A couple of times late in the ride, when I really didn't think I could do it anymore, I said it might be easier for my partner because he is stronger. (Can't you just hear me whining?) He said no, being strong makes it doable, but it's just not easy. Ding ding ding! Remember this, me who tries to shirk out of hard stuff. It's not easy for other people, just because they are strong/fit/capable/whatever. I'm not the only person struggling here.
Having said that, the big hills were a lot easier than I had remembered them. Each time, once I got to the top, I was surprised. I had remembered them as being a lot higher. On the other hand, the smaller hills seemed bigger! How is this possible? I think I only remembered the huge, nearly impossible hills. But really, the route is a long, beautiful bike ride with a lot of big hills, a lot of medium hills, and plenty of little rolling hills.
What else? Starting out, I wasn't as edgy and scared as I used to be. I felt strong, happy to be out riding. But towards the end of the ride--and this happened both on the way there and back--I was exhausted, and I had that same irrational, nearly weepy, feeling. My "I can't take it, I need a drink" feeling. Except I didn't need a drink. I just needed to bike another 20km, and I was tired. I don't think I'm expressing this well, but this was amazing to me: before I quit drinking, every day, at some point late in the afternoon, I used to have the kind of mental exhaustion that now I only get after 100km of hard riding!
Anyway, we had a great trip. Up hills and down. We rode in the sun and in cool cloudy weather. On the way back we got rained on and missed a ferry, then dried our clothes and carried on when the next boat came. We ate cheese and sausage and tomatoes and plums at a lake that's at the highest altitude of the route, and read signs to call the "turtle hotline" if we saw turtles trying to cross the highway. Alas, no turtles. We did see ravens and bald eagles, and one brown bear. A few turkey vultures fluttered above me when I was creeping slowly up a steep hill, but they didn't quite take me for carrion after all.Close, but still moving.
During our visit, I had been worried about not drinking because we always drink wine in the evenings when we visit, but no one cared. I didn't bother making an any big explanation about not drinking, and no one asked. Sometimes people drank wine or beer, sometimes not, but it absolutely didn't matter one bit what I did. I bought enormous quantities of sparkling water to make myself my
special drinks (not boozing but still obsessive, me!) and that's what almost everyone else drank most of the time, too.
I guess my one big lesson from the trip is that nothing is as hard as I think it's going to be, but it's not easy either. Once again I'm realizing that I remember things in black and white, while they mostly fall some surprising place between the two. Roads are neither vertical nor flat. Not drinking is neither impossible nor dead easy. Pretty obvious, I guess, but it seems I have to learn everything the long way round.
The other big thing, and it's not new at all but it's worth mentioning: I love riding my bike! Love it love it love it! It's one of the best things in the world.
Now the wee vacation is over and I'm back at work, about to start classes again in a couple of days. More steep hills ahead, but I'm facing them better than I had before I started this sober thing. Fifty-eight days today without booze. So far so good.
Happy hills, everyone!