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Archive for August 18th, 2009

Enjoy the Ride

Oh to live in a country with a proper train system.  I am aware that the trains in England drive the average commuter mad but, as a mad American, I love the British train system.  When we first moved to Wimbledon, IGERMANY-WEATHER-FEATUREwould venture with my road bike out only on the roads I knew.  But for me this was bound to change.

I am the “fly by the seat of your pants, go without map or plans” kind of girl.  I will concede that maps, plans and reservations are good some of the time – New Year’s Eve in New York City, getting a hotel room in an Olympic city in the middle of the games or even for special occasions where not getting a table could mean a night spent in a screaming match with your much loved spouse.  But in everyday life, I prefer to let it all hang out and see what happens, which is why I love a country with an intricate train system with hundreds of stations throughout the countryside.

Within weeks of getting my bike out on the roads I discovered a need to explore.  A map is fine for getting you from point A to point B but it doesn’t tell you about the lane through the holly trees that dips down just so, calling your name and begging to be explored.  It can’t reveal the traffic that will impede your progress.  You may be able to plot and plan your ride by car ahead of time but, isn’t it more fun to pretend you are five again, out on the common, convinced that the path through the brush will lead to a hidden cave?

Combine this extreme need to explore everything around me with a very real need to increase my mileage and the need for trains becomes more reasonable.  I could head out in the morning and ride for a hundred miles in any direction with only the road signs to guide me.  Do I want to head toward Windsor today, or toward Richmond?  There are train stations at both and plenty more in between.  Do I want a ride along the Thames or through the deer park?  How about a tour of the sleepy little villages far from the main roads?  I could explore them all and I did.

I could do it the other way as well.  Head out to a city I hadn’t seen and ride toward home from there.  Maybe I would make it all the way home, maybe I wouldn’t, who knows, who cares – there is always the train.

I confess that this isn’t for everybody. There were days I got caught in traffic that I couldn’t wind my through.  There were days I was stuck in the middle of nowhere, not sure where the next train station would be, having to ride an extra twenty miles in the pouring rain before I found it.  But without exception every single one of my “getting lost” rides was adventurous, exciting, and educational.

Officially, I was an expat, living in Wimbledon but, what some expats have failed to see is that we are really extended tourists in a country we may never get back to.  We can go on living the life we lived in our home countries or we can be adventurers, exploring everything around us.  Isn’t that what we all forget though?  We may live our whole life in one place but shouldn’t we all be adventurers and stop looking at our trains or even our cars as a means of getting from point A to point B but instead see them as a portal into a world we may not know.  Isn’t it more fun, at least once in a while, to take the “road less traveled” and just enjoy the ride?

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