This past summer, I experienced my first “Tour D’Admission.” Like the more famous “Tour de France,” it involves cycling but instead of 23 grueling days of professional racing covering over 2,000 miles from the Pyrenees to the Alps to the Champs-Elysees, the Tour d’Admission consists of one week of educational counselors covering a couple hundred miles peddling from one college to another to meet their professional responsibility of keeping abreast of the latest developments on campuses.
I was the only Tour D’Admission rookie in the group of eight that met up in Hartford, CT at Trinity College on a sunny Sunday evening in July. The others had already established a strong camaraderie, bonding over previous tours through Southern California, the Carolinas, Pennsylvania and upstate New York/Vermont . As they shared memories and inside jokes, I felt like one of my college candidates who was just starting out as a freshman, wondering if I would fit in.
After dining with Trinity admission representatives, staying overnight in a dorm and then touring with students, we set out on the first leg of our trip – a short 20-mile or so jaunt down to Wesleyan in Middletown. Whoops, everyone is ready except me. Something’s wrong with my bike. The back wheel is stuck, and at first, I can’t figure out why. Ah, the two screws attaching my new behind-the-seat rack have popped out and the rack’s bracket has jammed into one of my rear sprockets. I look around and find one screw, but not the other. I can’t do this tour without having a securely attached rack to hold my panniers where I’ve packed the clothes and personal items I need for the week. What am I going to do?
Again, this evokes empathy with the college freshman who faces some immediate discomfort or dilemma after moving on campus. Is this really going to work? Is it right for me?
I decide to practice what I preach to my candidates – “stay calm and carry on.” I go to our Tour leader, Bill Dingledine. He’s the leader for a reason – he has an extensive collection of bicycle repair tools and materials that he hauls with him on each Tour. He looks around and finds an extra screw. The other counselors are all packed, helmets on and ready to start riding. I’m feeling very self-conscious. I hastily try the screw Bill gave me. It’s not the right size.
Now what? I’m probably just imagining it, but the rest of the group seems to be getting impatient, like they should just leave without me. Then, both Bill and I come up with a possible solution almost simultaneously – I have two water bottle holders – why not see if the screws attaching those to my bike frame are the same size as those for the rack? Sure enough, they are. I fix the rack, discard my second water bottle holder and I’m ready to go.
Although it seemed like an hour, the whole ordeal with my bike rack takes only about 15 minutes. I apologize to the group as we pedal through the streets of Hartford and make our way to a bike trail in Wethersfield. They convincingly respond that it’s no big deal, that there will be other small glitches and delays, there always are on each of these tours. I think once again of my candidates who are starting out as college freshmen and how analogous this is to their experience.
And as we ride on to Wesleyan, I feel like I’ll fit in.