After five years of randonneuring over different distances, through a vast assortment of weather, after climbing hundreds of thousands of feet, after earning a shelf full of rando trinket awards, after a full season of training specifically for this ride, I thought I was ready for the 1230 Kilometer Paris Brest-Paris (PBP) bike ride that starts in the town of St. Quentin (pronounced Can-tan) located in the outskirts of Paris, goes to Brest, a port city located deep in the Bretagne (Brittany) region on the western edge of northern France, and then returns to St. Quentin. After all, according to my friend JB, who completed PBP twice before and would attempt it this time on a tandem, PBP was "just a bike ride." JB has been right about many things, but about this, he was just wrong.
One cannot simply ride this route whenever one chooses and then claim to have ridden PBP.
PBP is more than a bike ride.
PBP is an entire region of France coming out to welcome and support a diverse collection of worldwide adventurers.
PBP is a rolling Tower of Babel speaking the common language of cycling for three plus days.
PBP is an arduous personal challenge, testing body and spirit, that reaches back into history to the very birth of the cycling.
PBP is a moment in time.
PBP takes place outside of time.
PBP is its own reality.
PBP is a dream made real.
This brief account cannot capture the experience of 6000 participants from 48 countries - no one account can. Add to that the fact that I spent the days that followed the ride in a narcoleptic fugue state, sleeping deeply, often and unexpectedly, as my mind and body swam up from the murky depths of exhaustion and sleep deprivation and the challenge of writing an accurate ride report grows greater. But, most of all, telling the story of PBP is like recalling the details of a dream - some are strong and clear, others linger at the edge of recall, slipping away from easy description and some may be lost in the haze of time. But this remarkable event remains a story worth telling, so, with those shortcomings in mind, I shall try to share a sense of living the dream that is PBP.