There are 19 other riders in total, and I thought I might share a bit about all of them. We have the front three, the back three, and those in between. We have mostly settled into groups with some movement in the middle riders.
Making up the front three are the honeymoon couple from Canada: Jan (pronounced Yarn) who is 29 and Darnya who is 30, as well as Scott who is in his 50s, a retired accountant. He was born in Australia but has lived in Canada for years. He met his wife there and they moved back to Australia at some point, but he didn’t really like it so moved back to Canada. We do not see them all day once we leave camp until we get to the next one. Their average riding speed is about 32k. Jan is Mr PC Savvy and sorted my iPad for me. He has also helped me get and install the app for Skype, so I will have a go at using that sometime soon.
At the back are Walli, Rob and Jen. Walli (who’s real name is Walburga) is a 71 year old income tax consultant. Walli was originally born in Germany but moved to Canada 18 years ago. Walli is the same age my mother would have been if she was still alive, hard to imagine my mother at 71, even harder to imagine her on a bike. Walli is not built like a biker and trails the field, she has done one ride with this company before, and plenty of other rides. Walli does not always ride a full day, and will either go in the lunch truck at midday on to camp or to the lunch spot and bike from there. Everyone admires her ability to keep going, often we have set up camp, had a shower, done our washing and a cold beer before Walli arrives.
Rob is a 67 year old retired accountant from Australia, and his daughter Jen is a 26 year old registrar on 6 months leave. Neither Jen or Rob have done a lot of road bike riding, though they are reasonably fit. In preparation for this trip, Rob did a couple of 50k rides, and Jen bought her bike in Singapore on the way over. These are the only two who have spent every night in a tent, even on the wet miserable night. They are quite used to tenting and happy to stay in a tent. I say any time I can have an indoor toilet at a reasonable cost I’ll take it.
I was talking to Gergo – one of the guides – and he told me about a women who turned up to do the Tour d’Afrique African tour (4 months cycling 12,000kms through African desert etc). She took her bike out of the bike box and said “I haven’t done much riding”. The first day was 150k through desert – hot, deep sand, the longest day of most of the riders lives, the next day was the same but 160k. Gergo said there were tears along the way – and not just her – but she made it.
Those in between
Jules (mid 60s) is an architect from Israel and he is still working. Rodney is in his 60s, I think he either ran/runs or owns/owned a hotel in Israel. Don is 60 and is Canadian. He works as an ED consultant as a locum part time, and the rest of the time he minds his 14 month old. All three are friends and have done rides before. All three are very nice and have a good sense of humour. Rodney and Jules leave us in Warsaw and Don left us in Vilnius – what a day to have as your last ride, doing 170k!
In Riga, Walli and I were looking at the Wall of Remembrance for the victims of Stalin and Hitler. While we were looking at it, Jules and Rodney came past. Jules was talking to us about his personal history with his family. There was one photo on the wall which bought me to tears – it was a photo of a group of teenagers, a couple of young women and a small girl about two years old, on the beach just before they were shot. Their crime was being Jewish!! How can this happen, and yet it is still going on in parts of the world as I write this. 6 million Jews – the population of New Zealand and half again.
Dan is in his early-to-mid 60s, and is a Canadian retired accountant. He has done about 3 of the Tour d’Afrique tours before. Garth is also Canadian, he is 67 and works in the film industry. I am not sure if he has done any of these rides before but he doing really well. He is a nice person, and married to Louise. Louise has done rides before, but not sure if they were with Tour d’Afrique. I am unsure of her age, she is a volunteer and also Canadian.
Daphne (72) and Shirley (69) are both retired ex-nurses. They have both done two rides with this company before and plenty of other rides. David joined us in Vilnius and is going to Barcelona. David is from Melbourne, he is a lawyer and semi retired. Michele is a 60 year old retired Canadian. Brian is 60ish, he is retired also but was a stock broker, from England. John is a 67 year old retired professor, from Canada. Brett is also retired, he was a Sea Captain. He is Australian, and is 60 years old.
The riders that are going all the way to Lisbon are Brett, Jan, Darnya, Michele, Dan and myself. John and David are going to Barcelona, Rodney and Jules are leaving us in Warsaw, and everyone else finishes in Venice.
The rider’s priorities depend on the time of the day: in the morning we are looking for coffee, as soon as we get to camp we are looking for a cold beer, we have hardly drunk any wine at all. The next concern – but very secondary – is whether there is Wifi?
The Lunch Truck
The lunch truck parks along the route each day. There have been a few occasions where the locals have turned up and have wandered around looking at the food, picking up the lids, obviously thinking it was a good stall.