Time-Out For Parents: Ride, Rest, Relax & Restore!

Time-Out For Parents: Ride, Rest, Relax & Restore!

By Donovan Grant

When the opportunity arose to ride a cycle from Paris to Geneva 55 of us from the office couldn’t resist it. Two great cities separated by a mere 324 miles and all for a good cause the UNICEF children’s charity. I’ve been to Paris and France several times before but never on a bike!

What makes people including mums and dads want stretch beyond their normal comfort zones?

The thing is- when you break up your normal routine and try something you’ve never done before you can discover more than you already know.

Here are five lessons that our team found while taking part in the cycle challenge. Maybe these gems may inspire you to look at travel breaks in a totally different way.

Lesson #1 – Life looks different from the other side

At time this ride really to the sting out of life. Riding through the French villages and countryside there were so many interesting sights that us city folks seldom get to see as an everyday thing. Beautiful fields filled with fully opened sunflowers, aromatic vineyards filled with grapes and even the quaint vision of an old man riding away from the bakers with a two foot long baguette tucked under his arm. You can’t help but to relax in these surroundings.

The visions of medieval villages and churches plus the silence of sleep towns invited us to feel relaxed. Relaxation often leads to life reflection. So it was quite normal when there was no conversation, for cyclists to go into their own worlds. I really didn’t realise that cycling could be such a peaceful thing to do. When you are in such surroundings it sure is. This would account for the number of elderly male and female cyclists that we met on the roads. It seemed to be a way of life to ride in France. We Brits could definitely learn a thing or two from this. It could even help to keep more pensioners out of the doctor’s surgery.


Lesson #2 – If you have ignorance, make sure you have confidence


If you are going to commit a road traffic offence in France, make sure you have a French speaker in your party. Steve, one of our cyclists decided to take the short-cut around a roundabout in the wrong direction. He was laughing about until a policeman on a motor cycle pulled him over.

Steve was given a police escort back to the scene of the crime and the inquest began in French. Marie did the interpreting…

“Why did you go the wrong way?”

“Because in England we drive the other way, I just forgot.”

“If there was a car coming you could have been killed!”

“Yes, I know I did a really silly thing”

“There is a €90 fine for that offence”

“I’m really sorry officer, I did not mean it”

The conversation carried on for a while and the tipping point came when Steve mentioned that we were doing a charity ride to help disadvantaged children. The policeman thought UNICEF was a great charity as he had children too. He let Steve off the fine and told him to pay the €90 to the charity instead. As you could imagine Steve was the talk of the town for the rest of the day!


Lesson #3 – Tastier than 'roast beef & yorkshire'


As a lover of great food, one of my hopes for the trip was to sample some nice French cuisine. The breakfasts were not that exciting as we had various versions of continental breakfast. The routine in the morning was simple – eat and drink as much as you can to get powered up for the long ride!

The evening meal was a different story. After a tough day cycling, a long cool shower, a comfy padded chair and a gourmet meal were just the thing. Each chef had their own signature so over the four nights we were treated to traditional beef, fish and chicken dishes. The meal that stood out was the Beef Bourguignon. Just imagine cycling 101 miles, feeling tired and hungry and then being treated to the perfect meal.

Wow! From the first bite, we could tell this was prepared by a lover of food. The meat literally melted in your mouth as it was tender and juicy, and the accompanying carrots and potatoes were the ideal complements. It was worth the whole cycle ride just to enjoy that meal. Ps. I only wish that we could have had seconds!


Lesson #4 – It really will rain on your parade


It was the final and the toughest days riding and the rain came down. There was no option, we had a job to do, a schedule to keep and excuses were not possible.

Fact: We never know when it’s going to be a bad day where everything just seems to go wrong.

It was wet, it was cold and we were miserable. Not only did we have a steep climb on leaving Lons-Le-Saunier, we also knew we had the prospect of climbing the Jura Mountains later.

The mood and the pace of things were noticeably slower but we kept moving forward. The atmosphere was so damp that we had not needed to refill bottles at the drinks stop. The temperature was dropping and we were all shivering a bit too much for comfort. One chap had to be picked up by the van that was hovering like a vulture for casualties. Every blessing to the owners who permitted 8 dripping wet cyclists to shelter in McDonalds, a laundry and a coffee shop. 

On another day there would have been more sightseeing and photos taken. Today was about survival. Maybe next time.

Lesson #5 – Sometimes the greatest moments happen by chance

The decent from 2,300 feet Col De La Faucille was probably the most fun and scary part of the whole ride. After taking near an hour to climb it, we reached the bottom in a fraction of that time. It is definitely a good idea to do a break check before we came down because mine were not actually working! Thank you Mark (our bike engineer), probably saved my life!

It’s not often you pass an International border without showing your passport; maybe riding a bike gave us diplomatic immunity. We pressed on to the hotel. The approach in Geneva was the first time that we had faced busy traffic for the best part of four days. There were cycle lanes; however it seemed that the Swiss were as keen to run cyclists off the road as the drivers were in London. A couple of the team had a couple of real close shaves so we decided to be a bit more cautious as we were close to the finish line. The final few orange route marker arrows took us left and right and eventually we arrived at Nashville Hotel. Being one of the last teams back meant that we got one of the biggest cheers! This really was a hero’s welcome.

This trip was not a holiday of a life time. It was more of a journey beyond our normal lives. We saw parts of France and Switzerland that on a typical tourist holiday we would never have seen. We learnt some valuable lessons. To top it all, we raised approximately £70,000 donations on behalf of UNICEF.

Over 50 different voices and each having their own reason to be cheerful:

“This was the toughest thing I have ever done in my life”

“The six hours of rain almost made me quit”

“Now I can tell my father that I did it!”

Let's rest, relax and restore and be the best parents we can be!

Donovan Grant is a coach, mentor, blogger, speaker and IT professional who brings his wisdom of parenting for the last 21 years and coaching clients through the stages of raising youth and empowering leaders with life lessons that are changing generations.  He is a passionate and committed leader who believes that we all have the ability to help to change someone else’s life. Actively doing so as a catalyst for many years he teaches how to live a life of success, balance, integrity and fun, whether at work or at play. www.donovangrant.com



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