I recently read a column in a newspaper by a man who had realized his dream of buying a motorcycle once he turned 50. It reminded me of my own dream, recently realized, of cycle-touring in Europe.
For at least 25 years I had maintained this dream. I had done a couple of three-day tours here in North America in the late Ď70s, and I came awfully close to cycle-touring in Ireland at that time. I had researched and selected my itinerary, decided that May was the best month to do the trip, had bought some of my equipment, and but for some reason I never did book the flight.
Fast forward to 2002, I was 57 years old, and I was no longer working full-time. I had bought a new bike the previous fall and decided on a touring bike, though I was unsure that I would ever use it for that purpose. I do not know what finally sparked my resolve, but I told myself it was now or never and began my research. During the preceding seven years I had developed a great interest in rail trails so the allure of Ireland was supplanted by the thought of Holland or some other location where there were bike paths. I no longer like sharing the road with cars and trucks, and climbing hills is not as much fun as it was when I was younger.
My favourite European cycling website was the Trento Bike Pages, and I started perusing peoplesí trip reports for a possible destination. The Danube jumped out of me, and I also found a few reports about the Taurn Radweg, a path that starts in the Alps and ends at the Danube in the city of Passau. I had to do it, to combine these two paths for a 650 km trip.
October 1st found me on a nonstop flight to Vienna, just me, my bicycle and my gear. I am not going to describe the trip here (you can see my photos and read my trip report at http://webhome.idirect.com/~brown/austria1.htm ), but let me emphasize here that the trip was everything I hoped for and will remain a highlight of my life for as long as I live. Am I ever glad I didnít leave this dream unfulfilled!
I had set a target to average 50 km/day (30 miles), which a couple people told me was not much. However I seldom cycled that far on a weekend ride, and to do it day after day, with loaded panniers, seemed daunting. I was also worried about knee and neck pain that had been bothering me that summer. However I found that I got stronger as the trip progressed, and averaged 65 km with a high of 91. My pains got better, not worse, as I spent more days in the saddle.
I think I inspired an old college friend, a relative newcomer to cycling. The following spring we did a 5-day tour in the 1000 Islands region of Ontario and New York. That fall I returned to Europe, solo, and cycled the Rhine and Mosel rivers (http://webhome.idirect.com/~brown/mosel1.html ), a trip almost as good as the first. My friend and I have done two more 4-day trips in Quebec and are planning a longer trip next spring along the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal and into Pennsylvania. Next fall I want to get back to Europe.
I turned 60 just before our Quebec trip this spring, a psychological milestone that had me wondering whether it might be too much. I passed the test unscathed. I still feel some pressure to get my touring in while I still can, but if I keep my health I could have many more trips.
I enjoy reading postings such as the one by Digital Gee (Woohoo!!! 500 miles!!!). We should all strive to attain our goals, whatever they are, now that we are 50+.