The People We Meet While Riding

When the temperature reaches the mid 40s after a long cold winter, people get out and do stuff. There were walkers, runners, bicyclist and motorcyclist out today. I decided on the old standby route into Rochester and Mattapoisett, which are located on the south coast of Massachusetts. It was very difficult to get going today and I didn’t get into a rhythm until slogging through 7 or 8 miles. After that it was head down and go, go, go. The slow start kept my average speed way down, but speed was not the point of this ride.

I had just made the turn onto a road that begins the loop back to the start of the ride when I noticed a rider on the opposite side pull over. If I was in the city I would have pegged him as one of the poor souls that roam the area around the bus terminal. I almost kept going when I noticed that he was possibly looking for help.
“You OK”, I asked.

“Just pulling over for a rest” he responded.

I wasn’t sure so I rode back the few feet to look him over and make sure everything was copacetic. It only took a few seconds to realize he only wanted to talk. His name is George Brault and he is 83 years old and has been riding bikes, like forever. He wore a child’s purple helmet without straps. Jeans that had both cuffs contained with an elastic band, and a blue and white windbreaker.

The initial conversation was us bantering about our riding. Soon enough I realized George had some great story telling to do. His first comment was about riding to Scusset Beach on the Cape Cod Canal. “That’s 55 miles” he bragged. Then he told about some of the bike trails he has done recently and a tour in Vermont he did with his 55 year old son. He then looked at me and said. “Don’t you wear a helmet?”

“Sometimes” was my reply.

He then asked about my riding and listened intently until I said that I like to tour. That got him to tell me a story about his Army days in 1950 Italy. He had 30 days of leave owed to him and decided to see the country. He bought a bike pretty cheap, packed up some of his Army gear and set out on the Mediterranean Coast. He wanted to ride south to Rome but along the way he met a young girl who was riding home to Florence. She invited him to ride with her and he agreed. He spend much of his leave riding his bike across central Italy and when his time ran out, he gave it to a stranger and bought a train tickey back to his base. It was fascinating listening to George’s stories and when we parted I felt so luck to have met him. As I was riding off I thought of turning back to get a photo of George but decided to let it go this time. It would be nice to run into him again when we are both on our bikes.

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