What “Hola!” will get ya

It’s a truism that the road scene is often less-than-welcoming and that bike touring seems to be less threatening to civilians. Is it the lack of the spaceman-in-goggles-outfit and crazy-sleek bike? Is it the fact that most tourists look like normal people on bikes, i.e. Freds, and are therefore more approachable?

I dunno. But I know that when I finished one of the harder rides in memory, the return leg of a 6-day tour from Los Angeles to Lake Isabella, I dismounted in a fog. The ride had taken me from sea level in Long Beach up and over the La Canada-Flintridge climb, and from there another ten miles of miserable climbing along Angeles Forest Highway to the Monte Cristo USFS campground.

I could barely pedal. The final six miles had all been uphill, my pack was crushingly heavy, my bike was light as a concrete truck, and I had bonked.

The first thing I did was make a cup of coffee, then sit on a stone and stare, dazedly, as I drank. The campground was empty except for a family next to me. They were cooking something delicious on the grill and chattering away happily in Spanish.

Coffee finished, I began pitching the tent but had to take a break after a few minutes, I was so tired. The ladies next door and their kids were walking by my campsite to get some water.

I looked up and said, “Hola!”

They all stopped, smiled, and a rapid conversation ensued … on their end. On mine it was slow, rusty Spanish trying to answer their questions about when, how far, how could I do it by bicycle, and of course how tired I must be. Then they went on.

I got the tent up and sat for a few more minutes, shoulders hunched, thinking about the huge effort that awaited known as “preparing dinner.”

One of the ladies, Josefina, came over and proffered a plate covered in tinfoil. “For you,” she said with a smile.

Inside was a stack of hot tortillas and a mound of amazingly seasoned, deliciously barbecued beef strips. The words “muchas gracias,” repeated effusively, didn’t communicate my appreciation as much as the ravenous hunger on my face.

I walked over to their campsite and we all took a group picture. They told me that they picnicked most weekends to “refrescar” from life in the city. The guys were putting things away and I thanked them, too.

Back at my table I enjoyed a memorable meal, with the amazing seasoning of that initial “Hola.”

END


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7 thoughts on “What “Hola!” will get ya”

  1. ” I believe in the world and its bigness and splendor,
    That most of the hearts beating round us are tender;
    That days are but footsteps and years are but miles
    That lead us to beauty and singing and smiles;
    That roses that blossom and toilers that plod
    Are filled with the glorious spirit of God.

    I believe in the purpose of everything living,
    That taking is but the forerunner of giving;
    >That strangers are friends that we some day may meet,<
    And not all the bitter can equal the sweet;
    That creeds are but colors, and no man has said
    That God loves the yellow rose more than the red."
    – Edgar Guest

  2. Wow, that food looks good. How many miles on the the Molteni sweater.. its classic.

  3. Back in the early 80s I was commuting on my bike from our apartment to LSU. Most of the ride was on a MUP, but the last half-mile was a tiny fog line and 6″ shoulder of pavement before it dropped off into the swamp. I was about 6 months pregnant, riding home from classes, and met a French bike tourist on the MUP. He was in Louisiana because he’d hoped to meet some French speakers. (He couldn’t tell us if he did, or if he understood them.) He had a mechanical so I invited him to follow me home, where he could shower and have a hot meal and fix his bike. His English was marginal, my French nonexistent, and my husband’s Tex-Mex added to the mix made for a delightful, if occasionally confusing, ratatouille of language that night. We had a blast. Thierry enjoyed a night of comfort and (I hope) fun, and we felt really good about helping a fellow cyclist get back on the road. Sometimes language gets in the way of gestures. And sometimes it all works out for the best for all. Humanity FTW.

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