Back home in Colorado I was super into bikes. Nothing is better than riding a vintage road bike home from the brewery on a cool sunny day, joint in one hand, maneuvering with ease around the extensive bike path network. After a few brief stints in the hospital, notably for the aforementioned collarbone which I of course broke flipping over my handlebars, I really started to take it seriously and attempt to cover longer distances. When I found out that I’d be moving to Germany in a bit over a month, I made it my goal to train for my first solo bike tour. Biking in Colorado is great, but Germany kinda has us beat in that basically the entire country (and actually Europe) is accessible by well-maintained paths. And I had it super lucky because I was moving to the Rheingau, not a 5-minute trot from the path that extends from Amsterdam all the way down to Basel.
After a few weeks of training and scouting the route, I packed my panniers with the bare essentials – which necessarily included lots of reading material, a bag of stale weed, and 5 peanut butter banana sandwiches – strapped my tent and sleeping bag to my rack, and set off.
I’m not going to lie, I was absolutely terrified at first. Despite all my preparation I just couldn’t shake the anxiety. The only thing that kept me from turning back after the first five minutes was the shame I’d experience knowing I failed myself. I spent the initial two hours agonizing over what the hell I’d gotten myself into – what if my bike breaks in half and I’m stranded? What if I get my period randomly or have to take a shit in the woods? What if I get stuck behind an endless line of fat old people on electric bikes that won’t let me pass?
I realized actually that a lot of my anxiety was a product of the harassment I’d experienced already on the bike paths around here. I don’t know if has something to do with how Germans tend to be rude to strangers, or if it’s more of a sexist thing, like saggy kitted-out German dudes can’t handle a woman in her 20’s in scrappy mismatched gear leaving them in the dust. I’ve had men not let me pass and yell stuff at me while I’m doing so, which I of course didn’t understand cuz I’m past you now, asshat. Nevertheless I staunchly adhere to the rules, klingeln when I want to pass and say “dankeschön” when someone moves over.
I decided I wasn’t going to let these people, or anyone for that matter, instill fear in me that I wouldn’t otherwise have. Because when I think about riding along the beautiful Rhein on a populated bike path, passing countless UNESCO world heritage sites, never more than 10 kilometers from a biergarten (always the best rest stop of the day), totally alone and at nobody’s disposal for the next foreseeable 200 kilometers, I feel a rush of excitement and determination. I dared all the Alte Säcke to crush my spirits.