When I emerged from the pine barrens of France’s western coast, I turned left and found myself in the Pyrenees without any real plan. I decided to ride around in the foothills and see what I could find. At this point, I associated the Pyrenees with idyllic lifestyles, spectacular wilderness, and delicious farmstead sheep’s cheese. I did eat some great cheese. Mostly, I tasted different versions of Ossau-Iraty. It’s a medium-soft pressed cheese meant to sustain shepherds in the mountains through the winter. It’s nutty and sheepy and a little bit grainy and it holds quite well in a hot pannier in the mountain sun.
I also ate the AOC hot pepper of Espelette. I listened to people speaking Basque. I got some amazing views. But mostly, I rode my bike up and down mountains. It was hard. I was starting to feel a little directionless. A little too late, I decided that although the idea of actually cycling over the Pyrenees sounded intimidating, it would have been more rewarding than what I was doing. And then my friend Shelly, who had recently moved to Madrid, offered to meet up with me somewhere. Yes! A destination and a friend – everything I needed. We made plans: Toulouse, over the weekend. I could get there by bike. Shelly would take the bus.
But then something strange happened. Shelly accidentally bought a ticket to Tolosa, Spain instead of Toulouse, France. Oops.
Shelly, of course, had a job and a schedule and responsibilities and she wasn’t going to be able to make it to Toulouse. I had none of the above. So, with the help of some very patient train station employees, I concocted a plan. I would arrive in Toulouse as scheduled, hop on three different trains to the very southwestern tip of France, and ride my bike across the border. Shelly would get a four-euro extension on her bus ticket and meet me in the city of San Sebastian. It sounded like a better city than Toulouse anyway!
For most of my life, I will have responsibilities that prevent me from making such spontaneous decisions. That’s ok. I know that there is value in stability and commitment. But for now, it really doesn’t matter what I do. I can be flexible enough to just ride my bike to a different country. I might as well exercise that freedom while I have it.