Growing Into the Saddle

5th October 1974 |

I think it was in Argentina that I turned professional. I had been on the road for a year; I had been very high and very low, and everywhere in between. The world no longer threatened me as it had; I felt I had the measure of it.

It must have helped that I was in horse country. I felt very much that I shared something of the gaucho’s view of the world, and my seat certainly fitted my saddle as closely as his. Riding the bike was as natural as sitting on a chair. It scarcely tired me at all. I could pack and unpack the bike with the automatic familiarity of shaving, and I did not allow the prospect of it to annoy me. The same was true for minor maintenance problems; a puncture, cleaning a chain, aligning the wheels, whatever it was, I did it without giving a thought to the inconvenience. These things were facts of life. I slept on the ground more often, and my bones began to arrange themselves accordingly. The air bed was punctured and I did not bother with it much. I had a hammock, a wonderful old hammock made for a married couple, and bequeathed to me by Lulu’s grandmother. I treasured it and used it as often as possible, finding it very comfortable.

I felt very much tried and seasoned, and no longer expected to make silly mistakes or confront unexpected hazards. I had also developed a battery of useful instincts. I knew when there were thieves around, when the bike had to be protected and when it was safe. More often than not it was safe. I knew when to expect trouble from strangers, and how to defuse it. I knew what drivers of cars and trucks were going to do before they knew it themselves. At times I think I could even read the minds of stray dogs . . .