My dad and I cycled around the corner and there it was: Martinshohe. Not a mountain, but a hill, a taxing and demanding hill. It stretched up in front of us, tall trees lining either side, the white median line extending into the distance. It was only a one-mile climb, but my just-pulled-from-bed legs were complaining. My muscles burned and my breathing became forced. All of my happy chattering stopped as I focused on pushing the pedals, first one, then the other, then the first, then repeat. As I looked off to the right, I could see our village growing smaller, an island of homes and farms and shops surrounded by green and gold fields. My dad was dispensing cycling wisdom as he rode alongside me. “Keep an even cadence. Use the entire rotation of each stroke.”
We rode together often in those days, my dad and I, but this day was different: we would be riding a full century- 100 miles. The weather was beautiful, cool and crisp with sunshine. This was unusual; it rained so often in Germany. This sort of weather just couldn’t be wasted, so here we were, riding up Martinshohe early Saturday morning.
I made it up the hill at long last and enjoyed the scenery as we began the descent. Then came more hills, up and down, twisting and turning past fields and through villages with quaint houses and barns. Those were the rides where my dad and I had the best conversations- deep discussions of life and the future. We took a few snack breaks. That was before the days of CLIF Bars; my dad packed bananas and cookies in his jersey pockets.
And then, on that beautiful Saturday morning, Daddy started whistling. Uh oh. I knew that meant trouble. You see, that was also before the days of GPS, and experience had taught me that if Daddy was whistling, we were lost.
“We’re lost, aren’t we?” I demanded, suddenly aware of how tired I was.
“What? No. We’ll just take that road to the right, just over there.”
The road led uphill. So did the next road we took. And the one after that. My dad’s firm belief was that the answer to being lost, or “a little turned around,” as he would characterize our present situation, was just to climb higher. And higher. “If we get up far enough, we’ll be able to see where we are,” he reasoned.
And so we climbed, each pedal propelling us upward.
We turned the corner in a small village and before us was a church, its steeple reaching up to the sunlit sky. Pausing on the cobblestones just before the church doors, we turned and looked down. The valley stretched out into the distance. The view was magnificent. The dark green of the trees and freshly mown yellow fields created a patchwork that surrounded the feudal villages, one or two even marked by a crumbling castle on a hill. But the one thing we wanted to see most? Home. There it was: our village.
“See,” my dad announced triumphantly, “not lost. We just hadn’t climbed high enough.”
In the years since that ride, life has taken twists and turns, ups and downs, but I’ll always remember that one thing. I’m not lost; I just need to climb higher.