In our "normal" lives, both Tyler and I are known for our easy-going demeanor. Our friends have even jokingly referred to us as "zen masters" on more than one occasion. While it is fine and dandy to be even-keeled at home, the day to day life of cycling around the world almost constantly puts our shared nickname to the test. Though we often face challenges large and small, it is unquestionably the smaller ones that inexplicibly make us lose our sanity.
For example, Tyler tries his best to keep his panniers clean, organized, and "presentable". If I pack the food panniers (they are on his bike) so they look "as if an alien life-form is growing in there" he will stop in a huff, and, with a frantic look in his eyes, start chucking every single thing out of the pannier until the surrounding area is strewn with its contents. He will then very meticulously re-pack everything until it suits his sensibilities.
I, on the other hand, become a two-year-old when I am trying to wheel my heavy bike through deep sand or scrubby bushes. I push, I push some more, and either the bike stays put, or it goes every-which way with a mind of its' own as I trip over rocks and get scraped by bushes. It's a very humbling experience to find that while I thought I was very mature and even-tempered, I am entirely capable of digressing to toddlerhood.
We get through our miniature crises with a lot of compassion, humor, and supportive encouragement. When Tyler senses I am about to lose it, he orders me to "step away from the bike", while taking it from my hands and wheeling it for me. Somehow, he always manages to do it right before my gut reaction kicks in: to scream like a madwoman, knock it over, and throw large rocks at it.
When things aren't going well at camp, and I feel that Tyler might take our tent poles and throw them into the ocean or woods, I pry them from his determined fingertips and calmly work on whatever the problem is while assigning him to a different task. Our rule "if you are upset, you don't get to make decisions" has proven invaluable.
For me, unexpected climbing is one of those things that, without huge feats of mental gymnastics, makes me want to kick and scream and die right then and there by the side of the road. A quick 50 kilometer flat coastal ride was what we thought was in store today. When we left camp and began climbing almost immediately, it took hours to wrestle my inner monologue into shape:
WTF, we're climbing.
Why are we climbing?
We're not supposed to be climbing.
It's supposed to be flat.
Why aren't you flat?
WHY AREN'T YOU FLAT DAMMIT!?
Shhh just chill.
Why did that sign say 70 kilometers to Rethymnon?
It's supposed to be only 50!
Just look around. You're in Greece, remember?
So? That doesn't mean it doesn't SUCK.
This is just a good workout, that's all.
Who works out for four hours everyday!?
Look at those flowers blooming.
Flowers blooming…. flowers blooming… flowers blooming…
Keep concentrated on those pretty flowers.
They smell good.
UGGGGGGHHHHHHHHH F*CK THIS, I'M TIRED!
You just climbed mountains the other day and you were fine. This is not a big deal.
The mental games continued like this for what felt like a very, very long time, and wouldn't even be quelled by the loud music I played to drown it out. My attitude was so out of line that it was even hard to appreciate this truly awe-inspiring flock of birds swooping around and around in the sky over a particular area. The photo really doesn't do it justice.
Eventually, after much unnecessary mental anguish, we called it a day at 50 kilometers when I spotted a gravel path leading off the road. What we found was a perfect free-camp overlooking the ocean! I found it a lot easier to be a "zen master" here:
Ignoring a painful incident involving me being off balance, being crushed by my heavy bicycle into the thorns of a giant prickly bush, having to be rescued by Tyler who swiftly removed the bike and wheeled it along so I could squeeze numerous thorns out of my bleeding skin… setting up camp was a jubilant affair.
The coastline was stunning, the weather was a balmy 78°F, and there were lots of rocks and caves for us to explore. Best of all, we had it all to ourselves! After setting up camp on a perfectly-sized flat area of earth, completely surrounded by sharp uneven rocks, we went off to a pool that Tyler discovered.
We both went for a frigid dip (me, the slow way, inching in, and Tyler the fast way, with a leap). After the heart-stopping shock of cold, we both felt much cleaner and very refreshed.
Although I may still want to have a tantrum every time I have to climb something unexpected on my bicycle, I have grown in other ways. Nine months ago, I was absolutely terrified to climb up and down a cliff in England. Today, without even Tyler's steadying hand, I scaled the rocks by myself, finding hand holds and moving gracefully up the jagged cliff face to head back to camp.
I was so proud!
Now we're settled in for the night, enjoying the view and excited about the days of rest we have waiting for us.