Pont Aven, sept 7 th 2013
Biking, hiking or simply traveling as a tourist, it is always good to be ” back home” after a long journey abroad. We get back to our comfort , our habits, our familiar places, people, food, schedules. It is called the “Cincinnati syndrom”. What is the story behind that, and how does it apply to bikers?
Cincinnatus was a famous general in the Roman empire, who was called two times in his life by the Senate to lead the roman legions to victory in difficult times. Each time, having done his job, he went back to his farm in the countryside, shunning glory, pomp, reward and honor, and preferring his life as a simple gentleman farmer ( although with lots of slaves at the time, it made things easier…)
At the end of the 18th century, Greece and Rome was the absolute model for the Enlightenment men, in France as well as in America. Therefore General Washington , as well as Thomas Jefferson or Lafayette, following the example of Cincinnatus, hurried back to their country estate as soon as their duty was performed: Mount Vernon for Washington, Monticello for Jefferson, La Grange for Lafayette. Here they could , far from the hustle and bustle of political life, enjoy their property, tend to their farms, read and write books and write letters.
Cincinnati is also the name of a big city in Ohio, and of a prestigious French American Fraternity, the Society of Cincinnati. Why such name? The Society , established in 1783, is open only to the officers who fought in the American Revolution, and their male descendants. The value they promote is to serve one’s country, and the values of American democracy, without looking for reward and honors, and go back mission accomplished to a modest and simple life.
Well, it might appear overstretched to compare our bike rides to the feats of the Independence war, but still there is something from it: the friendship developed while sharing hard physical efforts, first, and then the values of frugality and simplicity. After all, we all could afford powerful cars , fancy hotels and great restaurants, but we huff and puff on our bikes, eat sandwiches and camp in tents or stay in 2 stars hotels.
I am not sure that the Cincinnati Society today keeps the frugality extolled by Cincinnatus, but that’s another story… What I know is that we bikers traditionally get back home after our rides with a strong sense of satisfaction, having ridden hundreds of miles with the simple strenght of our legs, and having won the only battle worth the fight: the battle against us, the fight to go beyond our limits. In that sense, we are modern Cincinnatis.
Vive le vélo!