Once upon a time there were three guys who wanted to cycle somewhere. Nay, better: Let’s start a year earlier. Once upon a time, there were two guys who wanted to cycle somewhere. I – living in cyclist’s Eden, the Münsterland region – would have taken any destination; alas, I lacked a bike-affine travelmate for a long while. Until there was Nelson, who back then hadn’t rode a bike for ten years, since he had been a child, but who complied to go along nevertheless. When he moved to Kraków in 2015, he suggested we start at my place, close to Münster, and go to Poland. That’s what we did, and 63 days, 3300 km later we were sure we had to do something like this again.
Considering all the bruises, the thunderstorms and deluges, the terrible people on the road and the constant lack of money, the accidents and multiple murder attempts at each other, the chores and routines and the mountains and the bloody, bloody sand paths in which you get stuck and lost even when already pushing your bike instead of riding it — considering all that we still found that the whole thing was fun enough to be repeated, that it was mandatory to do so and that anything else would have been a crime.
That was in the summer of 2015. One year later we’re at the threshold of our holidays once more. A third companion has joined us, Nelson’s old friend Jorge, who has a similar biking experience as Nelson did last year, i. e., splendid prerequisites to manage a transalpine crossing. For weeks we tried to negotiate a route: Starting in Kraków? In Münster? Right at the middle point (that’d be the bridge between Görlitz and Zgorzelec)? And where to, what destination could possibly compete with Kraków, that having been the place Nelson chose to move to, after all?
Jorge, at that time, had been planning to go to North Italy. That was something we could work with. And the worthwhile destination was determined by Ausschlussverfahren, method of elimination: The Queen didn’t invite us to tea, the Duchess of Alba was dead, Vladivostok or Tehran were just a wee bit too far away for a ride of two months (after all, we’re no racers, but tourists who want to see a bit on the way). That left us with a visit to the Pope.
To Rome we shall go!
And still the negotiations carried on: Our holidays don’t synchronise perfectly, and all the starting points we had considered were unrealistic for various and different reasons. To cut it short, in the end those Spaniards suggested one that was most easy to reach for me: Paris.
Connect the dots …
… or rather, let me place a few more first. How I would have loved to descend into the Midi, perhaps spending a few years at the Plomb du Cantal, then following the Côte d’Azur and exploring Liguria – instead, that madman Nelson, who likes an impossible athletic feat better than a decadent countryside ride, insisted on traversing the Alps. We had a similar issue before when I carelessly told him about the existence of the Brocken. One day on the trip to Kraków we thus ended up climbing about 1000 m, and from what I remember of the week before that it’s completely pointless to even try talking him out of crossing those Alps.
I’d like to file a complaint about whoever is responsible for all those cursed mountains loitering around all across Europe. The commission, perhaps? Then I should, in spite of the rain, pick a journey to John O’Groats for the next trip. Now, however, we’re definitely stuck with the Alps.
Otherwise we’ve set only a few waypoints – Pontarlier, for we are quite fond of absinthe, Fribourg in order to visit a friend of Nelson and Firenze for obvious reasons. The rest will be discussed en route: How much time to spend in Switzerland, whether to head east towards Venezia or west towards Torino afterwards, all that will be figured out by our future selves. Jorge, who has early holidays and a gig in Stanford afterwards, will leave us somewhere in Italy. I, on the other hand, am the late joiner, because when I told the Spaniards I’d only be ready at the end of July they eventually resolved to meet me in Paris after starting a week earlier in Nantes (Nantes? Nelson, do you happen to ever have looked at a map of France!?).
Wish us luck, or rather: Success.