Over 8 weeks have passed since I shelved my outdoor cycling gear and wrote my post, A Tough Road Ahead. At that point, we were only 1 day into total confinement meaning # stayathome, no more outdoor fun and only limited trips to the grocery store. I am now writing in stage 0 of our de-escalation plan - whatever stage 0 means; we are still under full confinement but now 3 days into being able to go back outdoors, for a limited time and within a limited parameter, to do exercise. We are regulated in time slots based on age; kids under 14, people over 70 and then rest of us (referring to the group most of us fall into). I can't begin to tell you how muscles and lungs feel being able to work to full capacity in the real, live outdoors! And we can't really complain - it was only two months, not two years. In spite of indoor training efforts to keep active, avoid any muscle atrophy and moreover, stay sane, it just ain't the same as pùshing your butt or your bike up a mountain grade with the wind in your face, the lactic acid pumping into your muscles and your lungs adapting to the demands of the elements and altitude gain over an uneven surface.
I don´t know about you, but these months have driven home that fact that I am probably a cycling and hiking enthusiast because I can do it outdoors. In the illustration above, artist Pablo Sangüesa successfully captured my ability to grind through Kinetic, Zwift or other indoor training programs; only because I could dream of being able to go back outside at some point in the future and resume what I love doing most. If I couldn't have my dream of returning outdoors on my bike or in my hiking shoes to my beloved mountains, I probably would have become a yoga junky - which is another good alternative because for me cycling and hiking are about the journey and what you discover along the way; both the outside and inside journey.
So still only partway along this Covid19 journey, we have learned a lot of things about ourselves and our world; notably, our capacity, not only to survive and adapt but more importantly to innovate (or renovate) or reinvent. This goes from what we have learned about the virus itself; how to prevent it, how to treat it, to new education and working models (from home; competing for workspace, quiet time and bandwidth), to new business models, collaboration and volunteering models to help those in need. I have local fashion designer friends here in El Escorial making medical gowns and protective clothing for front line workers, a group of ladies in Gredos, Avila who many years ago worked in a clothing factory, long since closed, making masks for healthcare workers in factory numbers, local businesses pulling together through our local chamber of commerce in Gredos Norte, offering free accommodation/food/activity packages to healthcare workers for when things calm down, to come Rest In Gredos...you deserve it, the name of the initiative. We have witnessed overnight hotels turning into hospitals or resting places for healthcare workers not wanting to risk passing on the virus to vulnerable family members, restaurants preparing and donating delicious meals to keep the moral of these and other frontline workers from succumbing to the daily brutality of the difficulties and tragedies they faced. Cosmetic manufacturers now making hand sanitizer, car and other machinery manufacturers, respirators and the list goes on. I know there are many stories from around the world of acts of bravery, solidarity, compassion, generosity, ingenuity and resolve. I can only say I am proud to bear witness to and collaborate with those in the Go Cycle Tour communities. And our day still culminates every evening here in Spain at 8 pm cheering from our windows and balconies to express gratitude to our front line workers keeping us healthy, fed, and safe.
So the next fork in this road is how we can safely bring you back to cycle and hike with us. As I work both as a volunteer on the local Gredos Commerce Association, ASENORG, and as a consultant for a well established equestrian tour company in Gredos, I am in close contact with the regional health and tourism authorities who are leading the implementation at a regional level of this de-escalation plan and return back to business but under a new model. This plan follows the directives laid out by our National Government, the European Union and WHO directives and recommendations. Of course, for many of you who live abroad, your mobility will greatly depend on the de-escalation plan in your own region and country.
In addition to directives, plans and protocols being put into place, it has come to light that the first type of tourism best prepared to SAFELY reopen for business is rural, off-the-beaten-track, small scale, responsible tourism. Guess what?? That is us! Given the fact that we work in these pristine rural areas, elbow to elbow (but at a safe physical distance) with our local providers, we are in the best position to be able to ensure that any place we take you will be 100% safe and compliant with the regulations and directives implemented around Covid19. We already had that advantage before all this broke out; meaning our ability to be able to personalize and ensure quality service and attention to detail. Well, now, that is even more important than ever. Despite the rampant outbreak of Covid19 in some of our larger Spanish cities, Gredos, most areas of rural Segovia and even my home town of San Lorenzo de El Escorial have seen, thankfully, few cases. While our healthcare system certainly faced some very, very trying weeks, it was amazingly resilient (cleary credit to our healthcare professionals). In this country, thankfully, everybody has access to quality healthcare - no questions asked. It is not perfect but is considered amongst the top 10 in the world for universal care. Now the country is actively tracking cases in what we call health/hospital catchments, this means clear pinpointing of towns and villages that may indicate risk. This also means that Go Cycle Tours has the risk assessment information as well as the protocols and materials to ensure the safe running of our tours when this makes sense.
While it is difficult to predict the pace of de-escalation worldwide, there are indications that maybe we can look forward to some international travel late summer/ early fall. With that in mind, Go Cycle Tours is working on a provisional late summer/fall guided tour schedule and can readily assess and advise at any given moment, enquires for self-guided or bespoke tours that you may interested in for the remainder of 2020. Also, remember your money is safe with us and no tour deposits will be taken until we are confident the tour can go ahead safely. Your reservations, in addition, are Covid19 safe, meaning if there were any Covid19 related restrictions impacting your tour with us, you get your money back - it's as easy as that. These are extraordinary times and we need to strive to provide extraordinary service to both delight and safeguard our customers and these cycling and hiking paradises.
I will be adding a Covid19 update page on the latest news, information and Covid19 protocols that impact us as well as adding additional Covid19 specific information and requirements to our regular safety brief.
Keep pedalling and keep smiling - we hope to see you again soon!