Here’s an old story, from my 1992 bike trip from Paris to Amsterdam, with stops in Germany, Luxembourg and Belgium along the way…
An old guy on a bike: “Bonjour.”
He said this as he and his buddy pulled up from behind and then alongside me about halfway up a 4-mile climb to the top of what I think is the tallest mountain in all of Luxembourg.
Me (out of breath): “Bonjour.”
Old guy on a bike: (“A bunch of fast French words I didn’t understand.”)
Me: “Je ne parle pas Francais. Parlez-vous Anglais?” (I don’t speak French … Do you speak English?)
Old guy on a bike: “Ah oui. Are you British?”
Me: “No, American.”
He seemed pleased to meet an American halfway up the highest mountain in Luxembourg, which is about the size of Rhode Island, but still big enough to have a lot of steep and scenic mountains. They probably don’t get too many Americans up here.
Old guy on a bike: “It is a beautiful day for a ride. And not so hard for someone 20, yes?”
Me (breathing harder): “I’m 33. And it is a hard ride, yes.”
Old guy on a bike (pounding his chest in pride): “33! I am 60!”
Me (mumbling to myself): “Good for you, you old fart.”
The old guy on a bike then began talking to his friend in French. They both started laughing and looked at me with triumphant smiles on their old, wrinkled faces.
Old guy on a bike (pointing to his friend): “He is 62 and says this is an easy ride.”
And with that they stood up on their bikes, started peddling a little faster and began to pull away form me. What with me being 33 and an American, I wasn’t about to let these two old guys kick my ass. Unfortunately I didn’t have a choice – and they kept pulling further and further ahead and the pain in my thighs and lungs kept getting worse and worse. I sat back down in my seat and began to pedal slower, gasping for breath.
The old guy on a bike turned, gave me a wink and a wave and then they were gone.
Hey, I just realized something: I’m now 60, the same as the younger of the two “old” guys who dropped on the Luxembourg mountain. Holy crap, how did that happen? So fast. And, is 60 really that old? I don’t think so.
I wonder if these guys are still around. They’d be 85 and 87. So it’s possible. And, could they still kick my butt going up a mountain? It’s possible.
And one more thing: I adapted this story in my Numbskull novel. Hey, it’s a really good story.