Sunday, November 17, 2013

Yes to sandwiches

Here comes Mittagong, the first control! Learning them as we go… And collecting reasons to stop. More than the obvious, a stamp in our cards that says we were here.

A refuge from the freeway, packed with cars and trucks. Plenty of shoulder for bikes but noisy, unpleasant. Head down, hold your breath.

On the old highway into town, heads up! A huge field of debris in our path, full of pieces of glass. As the rider next to me unfortunately finds out. The sudden pop and hissing sound of universal dread. Maybe I'm lucky, or maybe these Continental tires are the bomb.

More than anything a randonneur needs to eat. It's noon, 8 hours since breakfast. Eight hours of rolling hills! In Picton we passed a couple of bikes leaning against a building that I told myself was a bakery. We pressed on. But every few minutes my thoughts keep going back there.

Stopping comes with its own perils. For one thing, it's truly cold. The workers are all bundled up in fleece and hats and big jackets, and they're not even riding into the wind. Soup from a packet, with hot water from a camp stove. Yes to chicken noodle. Hot chocolate with instant coffee, yes to that.

Deb sinks down into a chair, everything folded inward. From the looks of it, chilled and weary. A few minutes later her head goes into her hands. "Everything hurts. Everything. Feels like I'm getting sick or something." What would help? A good night's sleep, another week to heal some cracked ribs. Neither is available. She doesn't want to medicate at this point. I'm concerned but don't know what to do.

When in doubt, eat something. There's a huge box of sandwiches, sourced from a real Italian deli (just a guess). Full of protein, carbs, and fat. I grab one marked Prosciutto. Fast and available trumps gluten-free. I just hope it vaporizes on contact, before my stomach knows what's happening.

A rider from Japan takes one out and reads the label aloud, slowly. Sa-la-me. He's wondering, what the heck is that? In Japan there are 8 million words for tuna. In Italy and France, it's all about the pig.

I try to help. "It's a kind of cured meat, thinly sliced, usually beef and pork. With pepper." He pulls out another one, Cop-pa.  "Another kind of cured meat. Usually pork. A little more fat than salami. A milder flavor." Pro-sciut-to. "A type of cured pork." He just shrugs and sits down with friends and they break open some sandwiches. Whatever it is they're eating it.

In 25 minutes we're back on the road.

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