Who would’ve thought a race like that could be so fascinating? In a household where the sports channel (whispering here) isn’t king, it’s surprising that a pack of sweaty guys in stretchy suits could so capture our attention.
Mr. Schrock was riveted, cutting away from our favorite news channel to check their progress. Breathless, we watched as they dashed through the cobblestone streets of France, up and down mountains, over rivers, through the woods, and right past grandma’s house.
“Quick,” I said as updates flashed on the screen. “What’s a peloton and why is it chasing those guys out in front?”
Whipping out his smart phone, he Googled it from his two-thirds of the couch. “It’s the main pack,” he said, squinting at the screen. “See that guy in the yellow jersey?” I nodded. “They all want his shirt, and they’re working hard to get it.”
“Haven’t they heard of sharing?” I said, disgusted at such behavior.
“Um, hon, it’s a bike race,” this with a manly sniff of offense. “The winner each day gets to wear it.”
“Oh,” I said meekly, settling back into my corner and reaching for the Diet Coke.
The term “bike race” doesn’t do justice to the Tour de France. It’s a 2200-mile of torture, a trip of terror over treacherous terrain of every type on an itty-bitty seat the size of a postage stamp.
For 22 days, those riders do what seems humanly impossible, and they make it look easy. They pedal blithely up steep mountainsides that have my own thighs bursting into flames. They sail back down at breakneck speeds and around hairpin curves ‘til I’m reeling with vertigo.
In the sun and the rain, they pedal. In hunger, thirst, and heat, they pedal. Through spectacular crashes and resultant injuries, they pedal. And ever and always, the peloton chases the leaders and that guy in the yellow shirt.
Come to think of it, marriage is a lot like the Tour de France. It’s a long, arduous journey full of ups and downs. There are mountaintops followed by steep plunges into the valley. There are stretches of monotony where the scenery doesn’t change, and there are hairpin turns that you didn’t see coming.
There’s some jockeying for the lead, so to speak, and the privilege of wearing the proverbial jersey. Then you remember the peloton, that pack of crumb crunchers behind you, and you remember that you’re a team. You know you’d better stick together ‘cause if you don’t, they’ll divide and conquer (that’s their motto), and you’ll be a flat spot in the road. So you keep pedalling.
If you’re like us, you discover en route that you’re just plain different. One likes it loud, one likes it soft. One likes it spicy, one likes it plain. One likes his chocolate brown, and one likes hers white. One likes a party, and one likes his – I mean a cave.
While one is a tube squisher, the other one is a meticulous roller-upper. One of them flies by the seat of her pants, and the other one, a planner, wants to know what’s coming. Then you discover that you both agree on how to hang the Charmin. You think, “Maybe we can do this after all,” and you keep pedalling.
You learn, as you’re riding along, that humor helps. A lot. It binds you together, turning catastrophic crashes into minor pileups.
Let’s say, for instance, that Someone gets a brand-new Keurig, a high-tech coffee machine, from her parents for her birthday. Naturally, that Someone is over the moon. At the press of a button, she will have fresh, hot caffeine sputtering into her mug. No filters, no measuring, no cleanup; just one tiny, plastic cup that she will toss away.
Then, before the box has even been opened, Someone Else comes along, with the best of intent, and offers this little factoid: “Oh, I just read an article that said those (premeasured coffee cups) have three times the amount of toxins because of the packaging.”
Through the sound of the rain on her once-happy parade, the Birthday Someone snaps, “Any day now, they’ll come out with a study, warning about the toxins in carrots.” Peering darkly at the Eager Informer, she adds, “And you know good and well that almost everyone who ever died ate carrots.”
Silence. Then one starts giggling, the other one snorts like a dozer with a sticky carburetor, and you share a good belly laugh. The tension evaporates and the rolling pin slips back into the drawer as the Wondrous Machine gurgles in the background. Crash averted.
In the end, it’s not about who gets the jersey. It’s not so much about the scenery or the day-to-day difficulties. It’s about learning to appreciate our differences and working as a team. It’s about the commitment for the long haul and finding along the way that you really are best friends. It’s about crossing the finish line, pedaling strong. That peloton, after all, is right behind you.