My last co-leader I had who I shared two trips and a unit drive with had a wonderful way with words. Has a wonderful way with words. Her name is Nancy and she comes from Wales. Her accent makes everything sound fabulous (“Go on now, take the mickey out on my accent, and go onto your bikes!") but her word choice and ability to express herself was outstanding. Where fatigue had me stumbling in situations Nancy could wrap it up concisely, cleanly, completely hitting the meaning I was struggling for. It was nancy who highlighted the idea of constant evaluation that I am now contemplating as I write.

Nancy's whole theorem goes something like this. As guides, professional tour guides or 'Trip Leaders' as Backroads bills us, there are week(s) in our lives where we are thrust face first head on into a fairly intense situation of care giving, people keeping, people minding, personality and expection managing, handling safety, baggage, picnics, meals, and other small and large crisis all while maintinaing (externally at least) an even keel and a keen smile.

These weeks also give us the opportunity for constant evaluation. Do I like my job? How did I do this week? Could I do this again next week? The week after? Do I like it here? Do I want to be doing this in a few months/years? If I don't, what else would I want to be doing?What was really great about this week? What was really awful about it?

So this constant theme of evaluation arises as I finished my last two trips in Piedmont (and somewhere in there turned 25, the month changed to October and I got a cold and drove a van and trailer and bikes to our headquarters in France) as I have my year end evaluation with Backroads, and I evaluate for myself... what exactly has this last spell of trip leading brought?

Some really good things. Two batches of no-problem guests. A few er....eccentric guests including one who gave the whole group pictures-signed pictures at that- of herself and Sarah Palin as GIFTS for everyone at the end. Some beautiful spells of weather. A fantastic co-leader who I adored who I laughed with almost every day. Our spells of fatigue were epic by the end... is this what it is like to have children?! I am not ready.

Piedmont held a relatively large challenge with the language. The biking was supremely difficult. Maintaining a smile and am even keel when you want to collapse was difficult. As I posed it to Mom and Dad before my last two trips in a row: I have 10 seconds left on the clock in fourth quarter, 3rd and goal to go with a touchdown to tie the game and I am missing a whole bunch of starters to injury. I have no choice. I must plow on.

Being in France has brought another frenzy of activity as hoards of people come pouring in from all parts of Europe bringing with them full vans and trailers, stories from the year and exotic alcohol from all over. It feels a little bit like a freaky high school reunion as you meet up with people who you haven't seen in months. There is a temptation to get caught up in 'Groupitis' (my own term)- the movement and plans of the group instead of yourself. To pause and collect and figure out for ME what I want has been tricky (especially when you are sleeping with 8 other people, living with 16 and 26 are in France at the moment.

Although the movement is constant and a bit wacky, I have had some lovely moments here. Yesterday myself and Lesley (another leader) biked Mount Vonteaux to celebrate our birthdays. 2 hours and 29 minutes of straight climbing up a mountain on your bike gives you lots of time to think... about anything except the burning in your legs. We made it to the summit, tearful and very excited, to fog and wind and rain. It was a proud moment for me and an incredible biking accomplishment!

I had some great meetings... some other lovely rides... some time with Nancy before she headed back to Wales. I am feeling lucky. A little tired. A little sad. But looking forward to next weeks epic 'Staff Ride' where we bike from Venice over the mountains to Slovenia. I think only a company like Backroads would hold their AGM this way.

Thanks for following along. A presto! xo