With: Jude (born 1965?)
Date: 15-20 September 2016
Where: Swedish coast between Helsingborg and Goteborg
Jude spends quite a bit of time in Sweden and has learned Swedish, so our gentle bike-borne adventure up the coast from Helsingborg and Göteborg felt parts of the time like Jude welcoming me into her world, at other times like me welcoming her into mine.
I'm bending the rules a bit to include Jude in this series, because - though we certainly talked - we barely walked at all! In fact the most we walked was probably across the odd sand dune at the end of the day, in order to watch the sunset after selecting a camping spot amongst trees. When I sent this account to Jude to check she responded: 'One thing. At one point we could have walked, but ended up concluding 'why walk when you can cycle?', as I recall.'
This was a lovely, memorable leg of my journey. I was doing a 'month off booze', which meant nothing dulled my senses. Most days we covered distances much smaller than I typically do, which left a lot of space to notice and enjoy - and in many cases discuss - all the little routines and details. Had Jude brought the right combination of stuff? How exactly to pack and balance the panniers? What kinds of pants - if any - should one wear for cycle touring? Shall we stop for a swim and a cup of tea? Where exactly to put our tents? I wasn't surprised that Jude slept much better than usual; cycle touring does that!
In addition, a year after embarking on this nomadic lifestyle my time with Jude served as fascinating opportunity to reflect on how much easier certain things have become. From little things like knowing that if you don't lean your bike quite right it'll topple and you'll feel irritated, to big things like overcoming a fear of the dark. Jude's openness to discussing these these was so interesting and helpful for me.
One day we rode along a fairly busy road for a while. I think it was the afternoon rush hour. Drivers were passing us impeccably but frankly it just isn't relaxing to have that much traffic whizzing past you. I don't enjoy it, but I guess I've developed strategies for enduring it. At one point Jude pulled over for a respite from the shoomshoomshoom and its mental and physiological effects, and said with amazement 'are you READING?' I said there's nothing I can do about the traffic so I read (my Kindle, attached to my handlebar bag) to take my mind off it! I think I was reading about Stalin.
I feel I should mention, since I'm sure it was one of Jude's favourite moments, the time she passed me going uphill saying 'sorry, I just can't go that slowly'. (My bike is geared very low like a mountain bike, which means I can ride all 100kg of it - with me included! - up even the steepest hills, but yeah, very very slowly!)
Thank you Jude for taking the considerable risk of trying something new and challenging with someone you didn't know all that well beforehand. Here's hoping we'll share many more gently growthful adventures in the coming decades!
[Addendum: At some point I said to Jude 'I should re-read (Tove Jansson's) The Summer Book now I've been here', so she mailed it to me in France! A decade or so ago I seem to remember finding it rather boring because nothing much happened. This time I loved it, for exactly the same reason.]