I first began riding as an adult in the 80’s when I was working as a silk screen printer in Attleboro Massachusetts.
The shop also employed a beautiful young woman named Lola. She had completed century rides and had ridden to the tip of Cape Cod and back, an impressive accomplishment that boggled my mind and first introduced me to the idea of traveling by bicycle. I agreed to get a bike and begin training so we could do some rides and maybe a bike trip during the 2 weeks the shop closed for vacation. I bought my first adult bike, a Lotus Eclair from Rob Folkes of East Providence Cycles. I began riding a lot locally and with the Narragansett Bay Wheelmen. on the weekends.
The first real ride Lola and I took was nearly 35 miles from Alton Bay NH to Alpine Ridge Ski Resort in Guilford NH and back, I was very proud of myself.
That ride was a training and test ride for a more ambitious one, a multi day round-trip from Maine to Quebec City, self-contained and camping. How hard could it be?
I don’t remember what I had for a vehicle at the time but some calamity struck right before we were to leave for the drive to Maine. As a backup plan we loaded both bikes and the gear into her pride and joy, a baby blue VW Beetle for the 8 hour ride to West Forks Maine. I remember riding along listening to Little Feat, little did I know my life was about to change.
After a day or two in camp we ran the Kennebec Gorge in a 6 man raft, lead by Lola’s friend who was a river guide at the camp we stayed at, then off to Canada. The bike part of the trip itself was only a partial success. We stealth camped and rode along for a few days I can’t remember how long now. Logging truck traffic buzzed us and frazzled nerves. I’m sure leading an inexperienced rider who was climbing like an arthritic turtle and descending like a lunatic was taxing on her as well. We decided to modify the route short of the destination city to use less busy roads. An impromptu detour loop was assembled & I remember the quiet little towns on the detour route being so tranquil and the folks so friendly to two vagabonds on bikes. I specifically remember not being able to speak enough French to order breakfast properly and pantomiming the process of making toast.
I believe that is what bicycle touring’s principal appeal is to me, and I was lucky enough to discover it on my first tour. To this day some of the most memorable touring experiences are the ones that were off my planned route, just seems to work that way.
When we rode back into the rafting camp I thought Wow! I had completed my first real mini-tour. I didn’t know it at the time but that Lola’s nature of being an all around wonderful person and patient soul, had started me on a path that continues to this day some 30+ years and 10’s of thousands of miles later.
I know that week is when my life changed. I don’t remember a time prior to that trip when I wanted to travel and just be on the road heading towards something new, nor can I remember a time since when I haven’t.
If given the opportunity to find and see her again, I could never in a million years adequately express my thanks for all of the great times and miles I have covered since. I hope she is still well and riding, and that our paths cross again someday so that I may at least try.
Once I became a hardcore tourist I adopted the practice of naming my bikes, it seems fitting that they should be named in her honor.