May Fortune: Vacation!

My fortune cookie two weeks ago was alarmingly relevant: “You will soon cross great waters on a fun vacation.” Well, what coincidence…I had just returned from Hawaii and was about to board a plane to Italy. And, I had entered a fabulous fantasy land.

In an attempt to salvage something out of a, ah, challenging situation, I recently decided to take a new approach to this whole bike-as-business thing: I may be hauling 100 pounds of gear and four tons of “must-win” pressure across the world’s oceans, but I am determined to act like I’m on vacation and having a good time. Because, let’s face it, I kind of am.

Honolulu, HI

There were two highlights this month. One was a blissful 48-hours on Oahu for my brother-in-law’s internationally-flavored wedding.

There, I learned some key phrases in Japanese (“I ride my bike mainichi,” or everyday), partied with some newfound-but-fervent German fans (“I can’t believe I met you, you will make Olympics! You will WIN!”), and got recruited by a member of the US Outrigger team to join them for training (“Are you busy tomorrow afternoon?” “Ah, well, there is the wedding…”).

Most liberatingly, to Hawaii I brought only a small backpack containing my swim suit, a pair of flip flops, a yoga outfit, two dresses, and a bottle of sunscreen. I can’t remember the last time I got on a plane with so little. No bikes shoes, no helmet, nary a thought of how/where I would squeeze in training. I had put myself in a nice training overload before getting onto the plane, precisely so that I could just relax on the beach and eat tropical fruit. Oh, Hawaii, I miss you. I will return.

Rome, Italy

The sport highlight of May was a trip to Rome with the US Para-cycling team for the first of three UCI Para-cycling World Cup races.

On the business end of things, I raced pretty well, given the year I’ve had. I was happy but not exactly satisfied to take second in both the DEAD-FLAT 14km time trial, and the road race, which was run on a 5km circuit that had three u-turns (down from the planned seven!) and three short uphill sections.

On the vacation end of things, I enjoyed some blissfully-peaceful yoga in the mornings. I ate three delicious vegetarian meals every day, drank more espresso and cappuccino than I probably needed, and put my feet in the Mediterranean Sea. There was even twenty minutes for touristy sightseeing. (“Look kids, the Colosseum!”)

It wasn’t all fun and games, as my fortune cookie might have led me to believe. We had our rough moments, to be sure. On the first day at our ultra-modern hotel, a five course lunch culminating in a truly delectable tiramisu, created a dilemma. “Is Craig here? I don’t even care, I’m having a glass of this wine, and eating this dessert. When in Rome…” Oh the torture of simply sampling such deliciousness! In fact, self-control lasted all of five minutes. Dessert we ate twice a day.

Every trip has at least one “this will be funny later” moment. Ours happened on the back end of the trip. Half of us arrived at the airport for our flight home to discover that the entire box truck of equipment and luggage, along with one mechanic, had been deposited at the curb….in front of the wrong terminal.

In moments like those, you can’t freak out (or laugh – yet). You just have to say, okay we have a small mountain of items weighing several thousand pounds that needs to move a mile and a half to a building to which it is impossible to walk, so now we just figure a solution to this problem and make our flight.

Actually, we nearly missed our flight to the States – the crew literally held the plane for us. That probably hasn’t happened since 1975. Perhaps there are some benefits to the Italian’s paternalistic “let me take care of you” attitude toward people with disabilities. But perhaps not…

Because, having finally checked our bags and made it through security in record time (thank you, disabled-access line!) we were still in grave danger of missing our flight, simply because we were waiting for a shuttle with a wheelchair lift! “No, no, you cannot ride this shuttle, we bring one for wheelchairs. Is a security reason,” the woman kept saying. We watched three regular shuttles come and go. The fourth pulled up and we said forget this and snuck onto the “non-accessbile” bus. (My teammate led the charge: “I can totally hop that, we’re just getting on. This is stupid.”) But that bus wasn’t moving an inch with someone in a wheelchair on-board. Really?! We’re on the bus! Just drive!! Yeah, they kicked us off. But finally understood our dilemma and talked the gate agents into holding the plane.

Road race course in RomeAs were were standing there, in a parking space 200 yards from a a row of 747s, waiting for the “right” shuttle bus, was I so sad about the prospect of getting stuck in Rome for 24 more hours with cappuccino and friends who make me laugh? Ah, no. Even with the training I needed to do at home. I could handle another day of bike-business travel. I thought of my fortune, and said, “Wheeee, I’m on vacation!”

In the end, obviously, our Italian adventure was not extended. We made our flight. So did the eight bikes, four hand-cycles, five wheels boxes, two massage tables, and ten pieces of luggage we eventually collected in Newark.

And now, I’m back in California. Eagerly awaiting my “vacation” in Augusta, Georgia. Also known as National Championships, my last and only opportunity to qualify for the London Paralympic Games.

Vacation. I’m on vacation.



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