When people stopped us on our trip and told us how wonderful it was that we were cycling in our youth, since these things get harder with age, I always told them about Anne Mustoe – the British headmistress who, at age 54 and out of shape, set off to ride her bike around the world.
After telling this story to so many people, in the hopes of inspiring them too to reach for their dreams, I felt like I knew Anne.
I didn’t of course. I’d read a few of her books (A Bike Ride was my constant bedtime companion in the months before our trip began) and marveled at her ability to cover such great distances alone, without knowing how to fix a flat tire or carry camping gear, but I never had the pleasure of meeting her. That didn’t stop me from shedding a tear when I found out about her death in Syria, earlier this month at the age of 76.
Anne was still riding her bike when she died. She’d set off in May for her last journey, making it as far as Aleppo, where she passed away after a short illness, according to The Times. She was still riding Condor, the original bike she started on, about 100,000 miles ago.
We don’t know much more than that and it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that while Anne was pedalling her way around the world, following Roman Roads and tracing the footprints of historical giants like Alexander the Great, she was also teaching us a lesson.
Anne’s legacy, in my mind, is the proof that the most important thing for a successful bike tour is your strength of spirit and desire to make the journey. Everything else is secondary. For that Anne, I thank you and will miss you.