Giving up the Fluff

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Bree:Although both of us had been nursing a mild sore throat yesterday, we were hoping we’d wake up feeling good and ready for departure.  Instead, we spent most of the night tossing and turning and sniffling until finally we took some Benadryl which knocked us out for the night and well beyond the normal hour we usually get up.

When we finally crawled out of the tent, it was well after 9:00 and the debate began. To head out or to stay another day?  Our campground was already getting uncomfortably warm and our pitch (as well as the rest of the campground) lacked a bit of shade to speak of which meant that if we stayed, we’d be hiding out in other locations all day long, which wasn’t exactly conducive to the resting we were hoping to do.  Finally, we figured we would just hit the road and hope for the best.

By the time we actually got out of camp, it was 10:30, perhaps our latest departure on record.  Beyond that, the day was already really warm and we hadn’t even gone anywhere yet.  We had figured that since we’d climbed a gentle incline to get to Konigsee in the first place, it would be an easy downhill ride for most of the day, and we hoped to pick off almost 90 kilometers to camp by a nice lake at the foot of the Alps.

That idea went to pieces before we’d been out of camp for more than ten minutes as our route took us up and up and up a steady set of hills.  Normally we check on this sort of thing before we plan a route, but internet availability in Germany has been sparse to none, so we were relying solely on our GPS and cached terrain maps for routing.  The fatal flaw of our trusty navigation device is that it provides us no elevation information about any given route until after we’ve ridden it.  It quickly became apparent that our ride would be anything but easy and we had a nasty headwind blowing in our faces just to remove any doubt that the day was going to be tough sledding.

This prognosis might have been a bit discouraging on any given day, but with both of us feeling downright ill, it was really disheartening since we had actually hoped to take it easy and let our bodies rest a bit.  With the growing heat and the steady inclines, it quickly became apparent that we were going to need to re-adjust our plans.  The only redemption for today was the absolutely stunning Bavarian alps that rewarded us with view after view of wildflower covered meadows and snow-capped peaks.  If only we had felt a bit better, we might have enjoyed them more.

With a couple of hours under our belts, we had made pretty slow progress and by this point the heat was becoming overwhelming. With a sore throat and throbbing sinus pressure as well as the discomfort riding uphill for too long on a very warm day, I was feeling pretty disheartened. We stopped by a fountain on the side of the road to eat some snacks and figure out our next move.  We searched the GPS for alternative campgrounds and found a handful within a much shorter reach than our original selection.  With a much more manageable goal in mind, I soaked my shirt in the fountain (which works amazingly well as a form of air conditioning when you are riding) and we started off again. Having cooled down, and with my short lived AC plan in place, I felt a bit better for a while, but then, despite the loveliness of every kilometer, I was ready to get off the bike and rest.

Ben:
Rerouting to an alternative campground proved to be a great idea.  While the hills didn’t end, we rode through small villages set up against the first line of the Alps.  Since we were both feeling downright miserable, we had not taken any pictures of our gorgeous ride, so Bree mandated that we take out the camera and at least snap a few photos.  After what seemed like forever, we finally rolled through Bergen, a delightful little town where not much English is spoken, and is set against many meadows and fields.

After setting up camp in the hot sun, we vowed never to leave at 10:30 ever again.  If we aren’t on our bikes and hitting the road by 9 at absolutely very latest and preferably by 7:30 or so, we are staying put.  We are usually half way done with our ride by the time we even rolled out the door this morning!  Once we were set up, we did make it to the upscale grocery store, where there were more bicycles in the parking lot than cars.  Bree even saw ladies carrying 4 potted plants on their bicycle!

We returned to camp to devour another carton of ice cream, quite pleased with our grassy campground.  It is always nice to have manicured grass, instead of gravel (which is still pretty good) or dirt pitches (which turn to mud which splatters up onto the tent walls in the rain).  Unfortunately, credit cards and internet are still nowhere to be found, so our route and logistics planning for our return trip home will have to wait.

While hanging out at our luxurious picnic table – a rare commodity in European campgrounds – a lady from Holland came to talk to us.  She was curious, of all things, as to how we got our gear over here from the states.  The expense of bicycles on American owned airlines apparently has a reputation.  We also talked, as she asked about what we think about Europe as a whole, and was impressed by all of the hills we have climbed.  It was interesting to hear her views on the various cultures that we have visited, as well as their driving styles.  Some of the countries over here have serious reputations for their terrible driving!

Parting ways, she wished us good luck and we continued to hang out in the cool air while discussing at great length some of our concerns for suburban life.

As we have traveled, we have had the luxury of our time belonging to nobody but ourselves.  With nobody demanding us to be anywhere at a particular time, we have been able to step back and see how legitimately unhealthy the over-scheduled American suburban lifestyle is.  It is interesting to hear about other cultures’ perception of the American way of life.  While they see our culture as a whole as deservedly gluttonous, they recognize that Americans work for what they have – and that they work hard.  That is not to say that being busy and productive is not a bad thing, but the ability to slow down and enjoy each day without having quite so many places to be is something we wish to emulate when we return.

At home, we find ourselves pulled in so many directions with work, school, church, and family obligations that sometimes it is all we can do to sit down and eat a decent meal together.  We have realized that while a lot of these commitments are good, they often get in the way of our spending time with each other and building a stronger marriage.  Furthermore, we have realized that a lot of the time we give to others is possibly not getting the most bang for our buck – that maybe we are giving time to things that do not build relationships or help others as efficiently as it could.  When we return home, we hope to be able to choose and maintain priorities first and foremost in strengthening our own family, then those relationships with our extended families, and finally helping people in our community.  We are ready to give up the “fluff” and focus our limited time and energy on the stuff we care about most, recognizing that we may need to learn to say “no” a little more often.

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