“You did what?”
I could hardly believe it myself, and so I felt a little awkward repeating what most certainly did sound absurd.
“The Klausenpass, I did the Klausenpass this morning.” Gathered around the lunch table, barely after noon, Janine’s family looked at me with even more curiosity. The fact that I had ridden my bike to the Klausenpass from their house in Luzern seemed impossible, the fact that I had done it and been home in time for lunch seemed a bold lie. I was even a little surprised myself at getting nearly 200km in before lunch. That was 2004, and my first European Hors Catégorie pass. It was just the beginning.
The year before, Janine and I had been on an assignment for National Geographic Adventure, the job was to photograph a section of the Alps Via Alpina Trail. 2003 was the year our business really exploded, work was coming in on a regular basis from magazines and outdoor industry advertising. As a result, we had spent the entire summer and fall in the Alps, going from one job to the next.
Living and working in the mountains was nothing new to us, we had just spent the previous three years shooting photos and building our business from our home in California’s Sierra Nevada. But life in the Alps was new, there was much to learn and see. I was falling deeply in love.
One day on the Via Alpina assignment, we were hiking up yet another pass, yet this one was paralleling a road. As we neared the top, I distinctly remember looking down and seeing the narrow, snake like paved road twist and turn away beneath us to a valley far below. I immediately knew I had to ride this road. The cyclist in me had been asleep since 1999, the year I turned my attention to being a photographer. Yet still, there was no other sport I was more passionate about than road biking. That road, the Klausenpass, reminded me that I had to resume my life as a cyclist.
Yesterday I rode the Klausenpass again, at sunrise, while on our way home from another assignment in the Alps, ten years since that first sight of it. Inside of myself, nothing has changed, and yet everything has changed. I still gaped at the towering peaks above, to the glaciers and mountains I’d love to climb. I rode as fast as I could to the top, not because I was in a hurry but because I wanted to hurt. Intense feelings, be they physical or mental, give us life – for me, riding my bike gives me both.
When the ride was finished, Janine and I got in our car and continued our drive home. Since 2004, I have ridden hundreds of passes and spent countless hours on my bike around the Alps. Yet I was just as happy yesterday as I was sitting at that lunch table trying to explain to Janine’s parents that my morning had really been something wonderful.
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