It’s How We Respond that Matters

It’s not what happens, it’s how we respond. It’s not what happens, it’s how we respond.

I kept saying that to myself while fixing Charlie’s bike on the side of the road. We had a late start, then got sucked in by a lovely bakery, ate éclairs, and now we were burning yet another hour on the side of the road because Charlie destroyed his bike. I got impatient.

OK, as Charlie reminds me, I exaggerate. But seriously, we’ve been at this for over 3000 miles. He should know better than to cross-shift both front and rear derailleurs simultaneously, while applying maximum torque standing and cranking up a steep hill. The whole drivetrain blew. The front derailleur twisted and the chain contorted into a Gordian knot. The whole damn thing was locked up. It took almost an hour to reset the derailleur collar, adjust the cable tension, etc, etc. It was all avoidable.

What made me crazy was the whole damn thing could have been prevented if he simply treated his bike with more respect, rode a bit more gently. Here comes the lecture… I ride a 1992 Bridgestone RBT touring bike. I replaced the chain and rear cassette five years ago. I have old school cantilever brakes. I’ve replaced the tires of course, and the rear wheel, but the front wheel is original. I have no problems with my bike. None. I treat it with care. I’m supposed to be learning patience, but this one set me off.

Erich, meanwhile, has become the Zen master. He doesn’t care when we start, how long we break, or where we end for the day. If someone breaks their bike, he simply pulls over and helps to fix it. He’s been true to his promise of allowing the adventure to unfold the way it chooses to. The Zen master also sleeps, precisely 18 minutes a day, anywhere at all. Here he is at a Subway taking his 18 minutes of respite:


Here’s an example that will blow you away. Before you hear this story, remember Erich is something of a purest about the trip, which means lots of camping and choosing challenging routes. He particularly likes unusual, out-of-the-way roads. We all do, but Erich is more than willing to ride god-knows-where to catch a view or interesting climb.

So listen to this exception. Yesterday, after we had squandered pretty much the entire morning, and rode only 40 miles by 2pm, the kids noticed that as we approached Toronto we were riding alongside a train. At one point someone asked, “Where does the train go?” I explained it was a light rail commuter train and, wait-hang-on-let-me-check, yes it looks like it goes for another 50 miles east through the city.

Boom! Eureka, the kids conspired to get our asses to a train station. So we walk into a train station and discover we can take our bikes on board, and it goes right to Jen’s house. To explain, my friend Jen generously offered to host us for the evening BUT she was over 50 miles away and it was already after 3pm. Plus honestly we’ve all gotten a little weary the past couple days. As Owen reminds us, “everything is awesome except the biking.”

So the fact that Erich was not only willing, but sincerely interested and enthused, to ride a train across Toronto for 50 miles was remarkable. The kids were overjoyed. Take a look:


Fast-forward a couple marvelous hours of riding a train in bliss (I read my book), and suddenly we’re 50 miles down the road by train at Jen’s house and she has made a glorious meal, her husband Don is providing a steady flow of beer, and the boys are in the basement in the PlayStation. Life is good indeed.

We’re in Ontario. It’s lovely. 500 miles to go.

3 thoughts on “It’s How We Respond that Matters”

  1. Wish I had realized your route Jon. My cycling club would have liked to host you when you came past Cobourg. Wha t a great trip! Brenda Nutter ( Freeman Patterson workshop – South Africa 2003ish)


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