The Partner

Fly fishing and long-distance road biking have this in common: they’re individual sports that are best enjoyable with partners. During those long hours on the water or the bike, no one will cast the line or push on the pedals for you. It’s a solitary effort. Yet it’s better to share the experience with a partner who, besides keeping you company, can back you up when the tide rises or when you have a flat or a fall. The fear of a flat is especially acute among female cyclists.

On Oct. 7, after few days of a bad cold and few days of bad weather, I finally embarked on my first bike ride of the year on Cape Cod. My goal was to make my way to the beach where my husband — without a partner that week — planned to go fly fishing and meet him there. The temperature was in the low-50s (11 degrees Celsius), with strong northwest winds. I had forgotten my rain jacket at home so I bundled up with three layers of shirts. Most of the first 12 miles (20 km) were in the shade, on a straight and fairly flat bike trail going north — an otherwise pleasant route when you’re not fighting the cold, headwinds and a runny nose.

There were very few other riders to venture out that day. It was a fight between me and the machine: I tried to push myself as hard as I could. My main enemy, that day and in my subsequent rides on the bike trail: squirrels. When I first visited New York in 1990, I remember taking many pictures of those little creatures in Central Park. We don’t have them in France and I didn’t know, back then, how lucky we are. The squirrels typically waited the last minute to jump away from my wheels or, in several instances, into my wheels. They’re very fast, very nervous and prone to make very wrong decisions. I had two near-misses in three rides.
At the end of the trail, I took a bike route, shared with cars, that took me along the beaches in east Wellfleet. The sun warmed my back. My muscles slowly warmed up too.

About 23 miles (37 km) later, I found our car on a parking lot near Pamet Harbor, changed shoes, wrapped myself into a warm jacket and started the long walk on the beach to seek my life’s partner.

On Oct. 8, I met my husband, fishing south of Chatham. The weather conditions were better than the previous day, with temperatures in the mid 60s (18 degrees Celsius) and no wind. I took the bike trail south, down to Harwich, and came across a cranberry field.

My final honeymoon bike ride, on Oct. 10, was a five-hour, 70-mile (112 km), solitary exercise that took me close to Provincetown, at the northern tip of the cape, and back. The weather was ideal, with temperatures in the low 70s (over 20 degrees Celsius). I took the road, which has more hills and fewer suicidal squirrels than the bike trail, so I could push the bike a little harder. I’m used to cycling in the French Alps, where a ride consists in climbing up a pass, and then coming down. Here I had to pace myself to last the distance and to avoid leg fatigue from constantly going and down. There was no fishing for my husband that day, so I was truly without a partner. I encountered ghosts, cadavers and gory creatures on Route 6 — the Halloween decoration of a garden. But I didn’t have a flat, so it’s a happy ending.

One comment

  1. Just listened to your very interesting interview with Tom Kean on Bloomberg News. Congrats on your finish and good luck in the future. Jack


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