The Bittersweet Finale

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As seems to be our fate as of late, we woke up last night to rain.  The rain continued to pour well into the morning, once again thwarting our plan to leave early and be off of the road before the heavy, damp Italian heat set in.  Luckily we had some good books to listen so we kept ourselves well enough entertained.

We waited patiently for the rain to stop all morning.  As it usually does – and contrary to most forecasts – the rain eventually let up.  We totally forgot to guy out our fly which meant some damp tent walls due to condensation, but we quickly rolled it all up anyway and strapped our bags and tent frantically on our bikes, in a hurry to get out the door before we lost our window of opportunity.

Bree: Even as we were in the midst of our hurried packing process, I was busy feeling a little bit sentimental.  This was the last time I’d sit in the tent filling panniers and handing them out to Ben to load on the bicycles.  It would be the last time we would consider how much water we’d need for the day in our water bag and the last time we’d worry about the wind and the rain and the traffic as we went about our day. It was the last time I’d get to spend the day with my front wheel following Ben’s wide load that reminds me a bit of a school bus at times.  More than anything, I wanted to savor our ride for the day and enjoy the whole process one last time and I hoped the weather would cooperate enough for the day not to be totally miserable.

Ben: We left shortly before 11:00, and while the skies were not clear, the rain was barely falling.  We set out along the east side of Lake Como, with our intended campsite about 8 km north of Lecco.  Somewhat trepidly, we surveyed the massive mountains jutting out of the water, expecting a rather hilly climb.  It turned out that we only had one real hill to climb, though, and compared to our days in the alps, it was nothing!

The rest of our final ride was a quick ride along the cliffs and steep walls that surround the lake.  We passed through several cute, small towns – some of which even contained a castle – and were glad that this side of the lake was far less busy and built around tourism.  We did have a few unpleasant tunnels, but for the most part it was a good ride.

Bree: Half way in, the crocs that we’d carelessly strapped to Ben’s rack pack came flying off, leaving our unfashionable footwear littering the street, so we pulled over to retrieve them hoping that no one would run them over while we turned around.  We rescued them just in time and re-strung them across Ben’s bag.  It makes me laugh every time when we get them loaded up that way…they look like he’s strung out his “catch” of fish to take to the market or something.  Since we were already stopped and some nice benches were nearby, we figured it was as good a time as any to stop for lunch.  As we ate our little picnic, we talked about our trip and the things we have learned.  We talked about learning patience with the many, many things that are outside the realm of our control, from weather to mountains. Even once we’d gotten back on the bikes, we chatted as we pedaled, discussing the insane amount of teamwork that we have learned and just how good this little adventure has been for our little family.  After three months of following Ben over mountain passes, creating enough inside jokes to laugh a lifetime, and curling up next to him in storms that I thought would wash us away, I have enough confidence to follow him anywhere, knowing that he will take care of me no matter what.  Soon, we were discussing our plans for home, the changes we wish to make, and the things we are looking forward to upon our return.

Before our conversation was complete, we realized that the campground we were looking for was before us so we headed in to see about a pitch.  And with that, our final cycling day was over.  It went without fanfare or celebration, but so has every major pass we’ve conquered, every personal fear we’ve overcome, and every check mark we’ve made on our list of life goals.  We’ve learned to expect no accolades but our own sense of accomplishment, and today that was enough.  I am content to be quietly proud of what we have accomplished: of the thousands of kilometers we have covered under our own power, of the many things we have learned about the world and about ourselves, and with the enduring friendship we have built with every situation we’ve faced together.  I never knew a set of bicycles and a pair of plane tickets could bring about so much joy.

Even with all the sentiment that was surrounding the day, it was just another day in camp.  We had a wet tent to dry out and groceries to track down.  Once we’d wiped things down, we made a big pre-Switzerland grocery run and stocked up on everything that we’d either miss from Italy or that is too expensive to buy in Switzerland.  We ate our compulsory carton of ice cream and enjoyed the quiet evening until the rain looked threatening again.

We crawled in the tent to wait it out, expecting another round of typical rainstorms that are so common here.  Instead, the rain came down in buckets and then somehow got even heavier until I felt like we must have mistakenly pitched the tent at the foot of a waterfall.  The water flowed under our tent and any point that wasn’t being sat on was floating on a couple of inches of water as it flowed downhill across the campground.  Just when I was sure we would be washing away with it, the rain stopped and the evening went back to being just as beautiful as it had begun.  The weather over here never stops surprising us!

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