Pyrenees

Hello Everyone,

A couple of days ago, I pushed into Spain! Crossing the border gave me the sense of being knocked out and not knowing my name. Again. One side of a river – France, the other: Spain and it’s a totally different world. I went west until I hit a part of the road I couldn’t ride a bike on and went, “Hmm”. It was around 21:00, so not much more riding could be done, anyways.

Luckily, there was a Hypermarche and a campsite, so I got some food (bought a map!) and made camp.

I looked to see where the Guggenheim was in relation to myself (about 9km from San Sebastian).

It was about 150kmm away.

So. One, long day there, one day at the museum and then, a day back to the border… hmm.

I opted to skip this little side leg, in the hopes that if I do have extra time, I can spend it in Amsterdam with friends. And three days is a lot of time on my time scale right now.

So, the next day, I got up and went back East right to the border and then… South! into the Pyrenees! I’m currently in a town called, “Oloron Ste-Marie” and have already toppled a few, smaller mountains. Before me are 4 big ones, 2 of which I may get to today, or just got to the base. Getting pretty tired in the legs there, so we’ll see. Slow going, as it’s, well, it’s a mountain range.

Really excited to be here, though as this is the type of terrain I’ve been looking for.

Last night, I must have looked a wreck, getting into camp at the base of the Col d’Osquich, as a couple with their son from another tent came by and offered me… wine! And then more wine, and then dinner! Which was incredibly kind of them, as I was just about out of all food but the bare essentials of a few pieces of crummy bread and peanuts.

Beautiful campsite, overlooking the mountains, small and quite friendly campers as well. My thanks to that family – in the morning, the son even gave me a cup of coffee. Over and above!

Some photos:

From the day after surfing:

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that’s the tan line. And those things that look like muscles aren’t – it’s all sinew, tendons and bone.

Here’s the first, “mountain” I was able to climb. That’s 169 meters, I might add…

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Right now, I’m in the Basque region of… well, the world – it’s almost a country within another country, complete with their own language, called, Euskara:

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Depending on what you’re looking on and where you are, it’ll be the only language of whatever you’d looking at. It’s very funny when you see advertisements, completely in Euskara. Lots of trucks are labeled in this language – and almost all use the same exact typeface. The weekend I rolled through seemed to be festival weekend and I got caught up in many a festival celebrating the culture

Here’s some more:

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“Francia” is Spanish, the other text is the Euskara version of, “France”. Yes.

Some more type – one of those graffiti messages:

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Notice, “Niggaz” is feminine. I’m trying to figure out if, “rap game” means, “to play rap”, or if it’s a term for doing some freestyle rapping.

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A local cafe with a signed photo of 5 time (Spanish) winner of the tour de France – Miguel Indurain “The Alien”

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A giant sculpture on road N121 in Spain.

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Another mountain top’d!: Col d’Ispeguy – 672 meters – still a baby. The view from the top was incredible, though. The ride down was scary as… all hell. There were all these warning signs at the top that basically says, “you’re… gonna die” and then they stop and the road twists and turns – no safety anything after that.

Oh! The view:

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Today, I was riding up another mountain and there was text, painted on the road itself – no idea which language this is:

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I bet it says, “Take it easy, champion” or something like that.

And the top:

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Another baby.

Alright. Away I must go. Wish me luck!


Bull Games

After getting off the internetcom’s yesterday, I found a campsite and made camp and picked up a flier for… bull games! Think a bull fight – but they don’t kill the poor thing. Most excellent, I thought, but the problem was, you get tickets at the tourist office, and they were probably about to close in a half hour. I thought to myself,
do I risk not getting a ticket, and taking a shower, or do I go back to town, and try to race for a ticket?

In the end, the shower beat out – I thought I’d risk it to see if there was, I dunno, a scalper, or someone trying to get rid of an extra ticket out side and if that didn’t work, just go to the movie (X Files – Blech)

So, I showered and felt very much the better, went to town, ate and people watched, until around 20:30 and headed to the stadium. And wouldn’t you know it, they had a box office. So a put down a few Euros and entered the bullfighting ring. And it seriously was, a bullfighting ring.

Not to know what to expect, the first thing that happened, was, of course a… marching band! Hazzah! And we know the love of marching bands here:

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And then, they strolled out and sat themselves, to become some of the music for the rest of the games.

So,

In bull games, the idea is not to harm the animal, but just to sort of, not get hit by it. The bull is put in one of the “corners” of the ring and then the guys in the middle sort of go, “HEY!” and the bull charges.

At the last moment, the guy the bull is charging at does a little turn and slaps the bull on the ass and that’s the trick. The matador-like guy looks all slick for not getting gouged and the bull feels a little astonished it didn’t hit anything.

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Not sure what your opinion of the ethics of this all are, but it does seem to be slightly humiliated for the bull, but less so, that it isn’t DEAD. They actually allow the bulls to live out their lives, to old age.

So, that’s the old-guard and it’s thing.

After they do their thing, the New Guy comes out, not wearing the fancy coat or anything – just white shirt/pants and a small tie.

He does the same type of setup, but instead of simply stepping away from the bull, he goes right over the charging bull, many times doing a flip in the process (and then tumbling again, once he lands).

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It’s impressive.

So that was Part 1 of the bull games.

After a brief intermission, they start putting out props into the ring. A few barrels, a string of flags, and… 4 chairs, a table and a sun umbrella?

Then, they ask for people from the audience to come down and people do! Manly men, here to test their virility. I wanted to come down and join, but being so tired and, well, there has to be a bull in the equation somewhere – and not knowing enough French to, literally, save my life, when the ring leader comes over and says, “OK, look, if you’re in trouble, do this…”, I feigned offering my hand.

Anyways, in a few minutes, they release, the bull! And then,

Then, they release a big giant bouncy ball.

And then,

And this is when I just sort of cracked,

They started playing football.

WITH THE CHARING BULL! The charging bull is in the middle of all these men, playing football, with an over-sized ball. The barrels and flags were make-shift goals. There’s women sitting on the tables and chairs, just hoping not to get hit,

and of course in about 3 seconds the bull just plows through them, women going everywhere (mostly, after they get on their feet, in back of a defensive guard), the tables/chairs are reset and the women sit back down (just to be plowed through again immediately)

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And someone actually scores a goal. The people playing? They’re good. You can tell they’ve been playing soccer… hmm… all their lives and probably bull-gaming (if they’re a local) most of that time as well.

So that happens, and it’s so unbelievable, since nothing like this would happen… I think? In the states. There’s the rodeo, of course, but they don’t just pick the clowns out of the audience, you know.

Speaking of,

And then the clowns come in, and do clownish things, like dress up like cows.

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Your guess is as good as mine on what the “escaped convict” back story works in on all this, but the three clowns came out initially on a bicycling built for two. The most bizzare thing they did was decide to get in that violet tub thing, with one of them on top of another’s shoulders and take a huge, HUGE roman candle and kind of, parade around the bull ring, while the BULL IS CHARGING THEM. And of course, they get plowed. If there’s anything I like more than marching bands, it’s old-school clowns and now rodeo, bull game clowns have a special place in my heart.

So that was bull games. Basque is a weird place.

The next day, I got up bright and early and went to the surf shop in centre ville and rented a board and wetsuit. I got a long board – it’s not like I surf every day and hey, I like long boards.

Went to the beach. Overcast. That’s OK – because I like overcasts. I burn like, well, like a farm potatoes and distill whiskey for a living, so it’s a plus.

And there’s no surf to speak of. It’s so entirely low tide, the beach is a different place from yesterday.

That’s OK (Thinking positive – positive! Positive.) I can wait – hey, I can wait all day. So, I do. I take a walk, I take a snooze, I put on the iPod accessory.

And then, it started raining.

Uh… That’s OK! Just a passing shower. I’m sure of it. Sure beats being in the hot hot sun – huh, that’s for sure.

And, it keeps like that, I keep snoozing, and iPod-ing and reading my travel book and all that.

And you know what? It cleared up. The surf? High tide started coming in. Time to suit up.

I have the littlest of towels. And I tried using it to take off my knickers and put on the wetsuit. I flashed the entire beach multiple times, but the entire beach either didn’t care, or – well, they were all eating lunch, like smart people, so no one saw my great big… upper thigh muscles.

I go to zip up the big huge zipper that’s in the back there – it’s just like putting on a dress and I hear that sound – the sound that sounds
like a broke zipper. Cripes.

So, I flash the beach again my… my thighs that are going to get me up the Pyrenees (in like 3 days! YEAH!) and inspect the zipper. It’s broken. And you know. YOU KNOW, there’s no way to fix a broken zipper, when one size of the zipper is completely off the track.

Merde. I didn’t get the wetsuit because I was going to be cold – I got it, because I thought – well, less that’s going to burn underneath all this. So, thinking positively on all this, I thought – I could get burned and surf – pas de probleme.

Or, I could go to the surf school hut thing, about 50 meters away, and ask to rent a wetsuit from them.

And I do. At half the price of my other one. And, with conditions getting goooood, I go into the water and have a grand old time attempting to catch waves in fucking France. Which. Just the idea. I think I crossed something off my list – A third coastline “surfed” in my lonely 27 years. Yes.

The long board was a horrible choice though, as I’ve never seen a beach so difficult to paddle out. There’s no real way to duck dive with that big thing, so I had to wait forever for a magic lull in the wave activity and then, Jump! Paddle my little brains out and then, hopefully get through whatever late bloomers come may way. And I did. For hours and hours. So much fun.

Let it be known that surfing is hard. I am no expect, but I would jump at any chance at a month+ long journey to surf the world’s oceans with only the skills I currently have.

I gave the board back and got a refund on the broken wetsuit, without a problem. *Phew*.

Tonight – I don’t know what I’m going to do – perhaps see that dumb movie, but I’ll have to ask the trip’s accountant (my wallet) about that one. Tomorrow, it’s bright and early, bound for Basque Spain and a whole lot of unknowns. Awesome.


LE MER! Vieux-Boucaules-Bains – 2548.1 km

So,

I freakin’ turn the corner in the road and it’s Southern California. I park my bike next to a sand dune and an ice cream shop, pass the surf school stand and up a bluff and I see this:

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LE MER!

The scene looks like San Diego, except the water is warmer and not so polluted – and it’s SO BLUE and SO CLEAR. The beach is, well, French with French rules (wink wink) and the sand is so hot on my poor feet and the water feels so good.

I stay and watch some of the most mellowest surf roll in – slow and easy to catch and the wave median is about 5 feet, I’d say.

So I pack it up and find the board shop, and tomorrow, I’m renting a board, a wet suit (more so I burn horribly – and I will, burn, in less places) and I’m going surfing – all day. I’m at this cyber cafe mostly to find what the surf report is. Between the cyber cafe and the board shop is a… cinema! So, tonight, I’m going to watch a cheesy movie dubbed badly in French. Somewhere in all this, I’m going to find a campsite as well. So excited.

Yesterday was a very very long day – not so long, but crazy mileage – 183.1km – The area south of Bordeaux is something like a forest – the roads are very straight and the terrain is incredibly flat. I feel somewhat like the scene in Dumb and Dumber, thinking the South of France has, I dunno, “Mountains” or something, and finding this – as if someone is full of shit. The, “forests”, upon close inspection, aren’t forests at all! The trees themselves are extremely young, of only a few species and are planted in neat little rows. I think it’s a giant farm for wood.

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Which, if you think about it, is sort of… *strange*. And, sad, I guess. If anything, France is very dependable when it comes to scenery. If you’re in farmland areas, dab-gummit – you’re going to see farmland – and it looks exactly the same, everywhere. If you’re in the forest, it looks exactly like this. If you’re in a medieval town – well, you’ll know. Not to complain, it’s better than seeing strip malls – but even French strip malls all look the same.

Um… here’s a cathedral – and my bicycle! And the foreground is the cafe I stopped to have breakfast:

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Yesterday night,

I rolled into the campsite very tired and got a space. It was a circus – popular town, I guess. Everyone in board shorts, with surfboards – you really do have to do a double take sometimes. There was a bar at this site, so, I said, hey let’s get a beer – that’ll help with the horrible pain of my sore muscles, that just did 100 miles fully loaded.

I sit down and realize they’re about to do Karaoke. In French! So amazing. So I get the waiter and try to tell him and I want a big huge beer and not a wussy beer that they usually serve – and they do serve the smallest of beers around here.

He makes some weird arms motions – as if s zing up a freakin’ tree. I see, “yeah, ok, whatever, I’ll take a big one”. Grande Biere! Which is what Rick Smith fuckin’ told me to say.

He goes to pour – but comes back. I mean, I guess it’s THAT big. He asks for 24 Euros. That’s… I’ve never order a round that was that much.

I go, “Uh, not that big, tough guy”. I look around and see a guy with a mohawk and go, “Monsieur, “mohawk”” (he has a huge liter of a beer – as if he just stepped out of a ’76 London Pub) . I don’t think I did a good job explaining – he goes and gets the manager, who gives me the, “What’s the problem, this huge thing is what you ordered, correct?” And I do my, “I barely know what I’m talking about” rap

It occurs to me just what exactly I ordered.

They have these… almost mobile beer taps – 3 feet high, with a spout at the end. About the diameter of a gallon paint can – but much higher. Woah boy. Oops. Las Vegas my have something similar… but I’ve never seen a pitcher that you keep on the *floor* because putting it on the table would be a hazzard to your health, if it pitched over.

Anyways, a server butts in and says something to the manager. The manager tells me, “Hey no problem” (he was getting a little short with me) and does the motion you do if you steal a base in baseball successfully (safe!) He comes back, with a mug-o-beer and we’re both happy. That was close. I guess someone actually ordered what I actually didn’t want to order.

So, with beer in hand, the show starts. And it is hilarious. Seeing French people do karaoke to ABBA, in English, is special. And I’m not putting them down – they’re *great* at it. It’s just,

so hilarious.

And then I realize how so amazingly educational this is all for me. Here I am, watching French people talk French, while the words they’re talking go across a giant screen.

I learned so much just sitting and watching.

And at 23:00, I was sleepy, so I went to sleep. Everyone else, loudly, did Karaoke. Amazing. Usually, campsites have quiet hours. This one had none of that jibber-jabber. It was almost like camping within LA (USA) County – but even they had quiet hours. No bother to me though, I could sleep through anything. And I awoke at around 8:00am to even more noise. Incredible. Again, no worries, I had to get up anyways.

So. Tomorrow, surfing the Atlantic from the other side – I couldn’t pass that up – all day and “resting” mon chiens for a day, before a push into Spain and absolutely no idea what to expect. I can tell my Spanish – all four years of classes, will slowly come back to me and I just hope there’s a campsite I can find, or I can bushwhack it with no problems. The only business I have is to get the, “I’ve been to Spain” merit badge and to visit the city with the Guggenheim. Lame, I know, (I guess?) but Spain is another trip entirely. I got a local map, since my main map has no small roads into Spain – but now I have that.

After Spain, it’s a solid maybe… week? in the mountains, as I take the route through the Pyrenees to Toulouse – I’ll be doing I think stage… 9? of this years tour de France backwards and hitting two or three of the famous mountain passes. In terms of what I usually do, they seem the size of what I trained weekly (or bi-weekly) on, so I’m not too concerned of exploding, or anything, but with my gear, it may be a bit tough. But I’m excited. The actual stage is 2 or 3 summits, so I’ll break it into 2 days itself. I don’t have anything I want to do in Toulouse, but right next store is Albi and Albi has the Toulouse Lautrec museum, which is absolutely required for me.

After Albi, I’ll check on time and if I have enough, it’s a push South and West for Nice and a dip into Italy, and then North, all the way to one of the main things I’m looking for:

L’alp d’Huez

The most famous tour stage mountain of them all. The route I’m going to do is a 180km loop starting near that Alp, but going around and hitting two other summits, including the highest alp in France and ending at the 21 hairpin turns of Huez. I’m getting some sort of accommodation, so I can do the route without bags – which will make it a million times more fun and I can finish it in a day. So excited.

After that? North to Paris, I guess. Stay
for a few days… some where? And then North to Amsterdam. Depending on time, that’ll be via my bike, or by train. We’ll see.

Did I mention surfing tomorrow? Yes. Yes. Yes.


Merci.

And a small note to say that you all rule and thank you for all your help (however small)

I’m in McDUH, and JUSTICE comes on the radio, which is funny enough. I almost bought their CD at the hypermarche I just passed to give to Shannon, just to have the French pricing but thought, naw….

That’s it,


2236km

Hello Everyone,

I’m somewhere between Bergerac and Bordeaux, France, heading toward Bordeaux, with not much interest in checking out the city. I’m hoping South of Bordeaux will be beautiful. The current scenery is dismal.

Yesterday was a day off! From cycling and I took the opportunity to get up really bright and early and get in line for the 40 or so tickets that are available to see one of the last open caves filled with prehistoric paintings. The most famous one, Lascaux, is CLOSED and has been, since about the 60’s. There’s a copy-cave for hungry visitors, but who wants to see that? Me neither.

Anyways, my guidebook said, “Get there by 8:00am to stand in line”, which I promptly thought meant, “Get up by 5:00am”

And that doesn’t happen with me. I got up at 6 and was actually there by 7:00am, very nervous, as I thought I’d stop by the bakery and get some food. But, when I got to the line, there wasn’t any, so I opened up a book – not really knowing *where* the line was going to be. I thought I’d just queue up where the first person was.

And in about a half hour, the first people came – Jolly people from Belgium (I think?) that knew three or so languages, so we could all take pretty well. So, we all had fun waiting for the person to open up and when the line did queue (and with a bunch of people getting nervous about their place in line) they made sure I was the very first person in line, which I thought was really nice of them and sort of cute. I blushed.

And, I got a ticket, for something any respectable person would have reserved months in advanced. And I also got a ticket for another cave, filled with etchings – so two caves were on the itinerary, instead of one. Yes!

I went to the first cave, first – called Cambrella (which is a beautiful name) with a group of 6 other people, plus the tour. I have to say these etchings and paintings look 13,000 years old. Not much left, but extremely interesting.

The second one – Font de Gaume – almost didn’t happen! The last tour ended about 15 minutes after I was supposed to meet up for the next cave (If you’re not there early, your ticket gets re-sold! But I tried to explain and the women by the gate didn’t think of it as much a problem, so I attempted to “run” up the hill, 400 yards up to the entrance in time to start. Running, erm, walking fastly, was hard, but I made it.

I think the only thing I want to op about, after saying how fortunate I am to see these drawings (only 120 people are allowed in Font de Gaume per day) is that – well, I was thinking that everyone was missing the point, but the point was sort of wheeled around. These drawings were seen as, “drawings”, or, “Etchings”, but what’s really amazing is that they aren’t – they’re a part of a larger installation that includes the cave itself, their inaccessibility (the actual area and the crawlspaces in the cave itself) at the time, the lighting (by torch), etc. That’s what I found so wild – it’s all site-specific. The drawings themselves were using the contours of the wall to add to the piece itself – which they noted and the guides also noted the the three dimensionality of the surface was further used when the lightsource – a flickering torch, was applied – the shadows would go all over the place and make the drawing sort of, “dance”.

Forgive my mind, melted from countless hours in the hot sun, while riding on the tarmac, but it seems that installation is very old art form – and is one of the main forms of art , up there with dancing, music and, probably… jewelry? I think most everything we do now is an ancestor of those things – or parts of those things. Crazy, init?

The rest of the day, I ate copious amounts of food, practiced my French in the cafe and lingering around the campsite, on top of a hill overlooking everything, up a 3km road.

That 3km road, the day before, wasn’t a treat at 21:30, when I had been riding for a good 11 hours, tired from some long rides in the days before. It actually almost killed myself, getting up, but I got up, so no worries. The rest of that day was just more of getting lost and a few more small hills to get up.

After my last post in Amboise, I went looking for the cinema, to see a cheesy movie, badly dubbed, and I ran into a…

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Marching band! And they were great – I realized they had the same color scheme going as I have and felt a little silly, taking pictures so close. But I love marching bands. I seriously do.

Here’s a night photo of the Chateaux in Amboise at night:

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After Amboise, I went to another Chateaux in Chenonceaux that was completely a waste of time for me. I kind of just wanted to see the thing – not go inside. But, to even look at the Chateaux, you have to pay, and it wasn’t much, so I thought, the heck – I will.

It was flooded with tourists. And European tourists suck. They really do. They photo op. everywhere and just like to get in the way of mild-mannered people like me that give people room and all that. I’m preparing myself for the Louvre and the way I’m doing this is to learn to put on a mask and be like one of these tourists. It’s the only way I’m going to get close to a few of those paintings. Sigh.

Anyways, it’s pretty and all:

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And there was a modern art exhibit on the top floor, there. And modern art isn’t my favorite. The guy who was showing was a colorist – lots of spans of… well, monochromatic color fields, with a dash of color and impasto here and there. The colors were great and all and his background for theatrical stuff was really great – and his use of push brooms for his BIGGER work (which wasn’t shown) was kinda also cool, but the show itself was ho-hum and was filled with loud tourists. The book on the table of his other work was glued to the little stand it was on, which I thought was silly, so I didn’t check his other stuff out. I kinda just got out of there after I finished lunch. Ah, well.

One of the towns I camped at, had a velodrome just a little ways away:

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Which is a treat, coming from a country with I think, 7 or 13 in the entire country. This is the second one I stumbled by and it, like the first was in pretty bad shape – we’d rant about the cracks for hours if it was here. I didn’t see any riders on it – and didn’t ride it. Some people were setting up, what looked like a race for Saturday (that day) and they weren’t really in a talky kinda mood.

So that’s that. I good spirits, bike is in good shape – but I got my first flat! After about 2,000km. Not bad and patched up, just fine.

I think the plan is to go West until I hit the ocean and again and then south, until I hit, well, Spain and then stop in Spain for a day or two – mostly for the Guggenheim and maybe, if I can find rental boards, surfing and then that’ll be my second leg.

From there, it’s East into the Pyrenees and do some epic tour mountain stages and take some dopey photo ops, so look forward to that.

Not sure what Nikki
is talking about, but my beard is certainly at least at,


Security now stops me and asks me for my backpack” length. I’m starting my rap sheet for a reply to when they want to security check me – Something like, Si Vous Plait, Monsieur. Je suis vingt sept ans. est-ce le barb? Ah, le barb – Je suis un voyaguer, J’a camper, Ja ne dance pas en un discotique... or something like that. The older I get, the more I feel at one with my father – who had a tremendous beard. It’s not just that – it’s the way I look in total – the way my hands are molded and how the wrinkles are forming. It’s my thought trails and my ways of solving problems. There’s major differences, but the older I get, the more I feel as if I’m just an old sailor, on a small sailboat, somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic, all alone, sans for a little brown dog.

Anyways, I have to get the grammar correct and all, but it’s a fun exercise when I’m in my camp, about to go to sleep. And they have actual discoteques here, *called* discoteques. It’s awesome.

Salut! Dunno when my next update is. I had to stop today to refill the copious batteries I have (ipod, camera, phone, computer) and I don’t know what to expect in the near future. Sometime soon is the first, so it’s time to make sure money is in order for my rent stuff back home,


Amboise

Hello everyone,

I’m in Amboise at the moment, taking a much-needed rest. The “half day” ride I thought I was having turned into quite a long, “full day” – about 160m at around 24km/hour, as I was trying to beat the setting sun. Such speeds aren’t what I’m trying to go for, and I’m def. feeling it today. This was the fourth day of such distances, which is again – fairly unheard of and I haven’t taken a break since Mount St. Michel – 700? or so? miles away? Yikes.

I didn’t mean to do that. But, um, I guess I’m pretty good at plowing through distances, when I want to. I do have little fantasies of doing something like the RAAM, but they seem to stay little fantasies. Time commitments and all.

Anyways, yesterday, I got up fairly early to fix the spoke, which turned out easy, since I broke it 4km from the most bike-friendly town in all of France. Bike drawings, made out of grass on the side of the sidewalks, bike paths everywhere, bike sculptures hung up in the tree and a bike shop, wherever I tried to go. Typed a bit, and got lunch and headed out, getting lost about an hour in. Not that big of a problem, but in getting lost, found a bike path all the way to Tours – about 60km away, so I took that.

Although it got me away from cars, the path itself was bumpy and twisty. Some of it was pleasant, since it was designed to be scenic, but I sort of just wanted to get to my destination in Amboise and take a shower and collapse. But, onward! I rode, through vineyards and immense plots of sunflowers, entering towns from alleyways between hotels, going between towns, using 5 meter wide farming paths. Twisting and turning.

But, when the sun started to sink and I was out of food and water and,

and then I hit cobblestones? Cobblestones of DEATH?!

Yeah, I had enough, and entered onto the rode, toward Tours. For some reason, I didn’t want to go through, so I tried going around, getting lost.

It was really getting late – I was indeed racing the sun, which seems to set peculiarly late out here – is it me? Is it just, France, or is it that the mountains where I live make night come earlier (that sounds a little naive)

The exact time the sun sets here – the limelight, I guess it’s called, is absolutely stunning. It’s just beautiful, it doesn’t cease to be light, the light just gets… dimmer – without becoming dark with stars. At 9:45 I was still racing – seriously racing myself at that 25km/hour to get to Amboise and off the road.

The French, ever to tell you courtously that you’re doing something wrong will, “beep beep” their horn if they see me without a light, which is my cue to turn mine on. Hard to explain how they always do this. It’s a country of systems and engineers I guess. I have found my iPod, loaded with Daft Punk’s “Homework” perfect for such situations, as careening down a busy street to an ancient down, at night, incredibly dirty, with 1,000kms of road all over you and finally finding the center of town.

I very nearly collapsed while finding the Loire again – people had to help me with various items that were falling off of me. I met two guys from Italy, who were touring between towns and we chatted a bit and they directed my collapsed body to the campsite. Hi, guys!

(Oh! I’m at an, “Internet Cafe”, hooked up to an, “Ethernet” connection (sooo 1999) and I fellow eee pc user sat down and we had an eee PC moment of, “hey – you too huh? Thing rules, doesn’t it? Then I helped them get online, since it takes a few steps to get it to listen to the ethernet port)

The campsite is situated on an island on the Loire – how cool is that? It also looked completely full and, of course, I was too late for the receptionist. As I’ve done for the other 2 real campsites, I just made camp, got up early, stumbled through what I did – which is hard. I don’t quite have a handle for, “I did arrive yesterday”, “I need to pay”, “I’d like to stay one more night” – but I’m close. Learning a new language does make you incredibly aware of how absolutely conceptual language itself is. Being fluent in your everyday language, you tend to forget. It’s only when you want to say something – and you *can’t* that you really begin to feel what language, as a tool, is all about.

Got that all straightened away with no problem, so I’m here for the day. Legs are now officially sore – more for racing to Amboise than anything. I went over that limit of speed and just blew out my legs. Aww well.

After getting things squared away, I got some breakfast and started my day of Eating A Lot. I don’t mean to be a pig, but I have a caloric deficit to deal with. The servings here are fine, but I still need more than… one of those servings. For breakfast, I had a chicken and egg sandwhich in a bagguette, a pain au chocolate and some sort of almond crisp thingy. Yum! I then went to the store for some more junky food and then to the chateau in town and scoped it out. Interesting, but what’s REALLY interesting is what’s not there, what got destroyed during the French Revolution. Did that and I think I have my chateau fill for the tour – unless one just jumps out of me. I then went to the da Vinci house and it was much like the chateau – what’s really strange is that there wasn’t one da Vinci original. Which is sad, just a lot of, “here’s where he ate/slept/painted/entertained”, which I like, but it would have been nice to have a, “here’s some original drawings!” room, but that’s what I’m more interested in, granted.

What they did have is a models of his inventions, from the drawings – and multiples of them! So, they had little ones and you go, “hmm, yes, interesting”, and then the next room, they have a little bit bigger ones and you go, “ah, yes, here they are again” – and then you go outside and there’s a whole damn park of them! Full scale! And you can play on them/with them/on top of them. Yeah! Tanks! Flying Machines! Helicopters!

My favorite was the Archimedean Screw, which is just a simple way of funneling water upwards. All things should be so simple.

After that it was… lunch time – and I find a pizza place and had my first hot meal in a very long time. They totally caught me at the end, when they said, creme glace?

oh, oui!

So that’s that. This town, to my surprise has a… movie theatre! So, I’m going to treat myself to sit down for two hours and see some cheesy film, dubbed in French (badly) and eat popcorn. I think. On the popcorn.

Tomorrow, I think I’m away again, due South to Sarlat and the cave paintings my multiple Art History 1 classes have told me I should see. It’s around 450km, so 3-5 days of riding, which I think I can hang with. Dunno if there’s anything in between here and there, but I may just appreciate being no where in general, work on my French, take it a *little* easier on the bike and appreciate the countryside.

After that, I’m tentatively thinking of going into either Bordeaux – west of Sarlat to do…??? Or just keep going South into the Pyrenees and do some of the more historical mountain stages of the tour de france.

As for time, I’m making insane time, but I’m almost going too fast. I’m going to burn out.

And that’s about it. Oh! Somehow, I lost my cheap, cheesy, point and shoot, so that’s why there’s no pictures recently. I still have my dSLR, so I have some pics, but they may not be compatible with Flickr. I’ll find out tomorrow, I guess.

Till then,


Here’s an update on the beard. Lookin’ GOOD! I think I’ve officially crossed the line from, “Guy with beard on bike to, “Spooky guy with beard on bike.
That will murder my children.”


se marche

Well, good news, I couldn’t have picked a better place in France to break down. Slept about a block away from where I’m typing this, although there’s (I find now) a million campsites in town. I slept in a wheat field – terribly hard to get the stakes in the ground – the ground itself is just.. gravely. No weird sounds in the night, although it’s the most in town I’ve ever camped. One car zoomed by the tent and parked, but it looks like they were, you know, *doin it* and not caring about me, so that’s fine.

Woke up early and walked the bike to the tourist office – which wasn’t open for a little while, so I took breakfast and did some French busy work and watched the world go by. Visited it again and they gave me 3 places to check out. The first place, a Peugeot dealer of bicycles and scooters fixed it in 45 minutes. Parfait!

I also bought a replacement thingy for my handlebar bag, so that thing works well, for the first time and visited the Decathlon and finally finding shifter cable housing, so I’ll have 18 gears again, instead of 9 – yeah! Picked up a fleece top, so I also won’t be terribly terribly cold in the morning.

So, I good day of re-setting myself.

I know my last post was a little ranty, but when you’re tried, you can’t help but to point fingers and get, well, a little mad. I don’t know how it’s done by The Normals, but I grew up in a family that had a sailing ship and when something went wrong, or someone screwed up, we said, “OK, what happened, why did it happen and what can we do to not make that happen again?” Like, when my Father was showing my Mother how to start the engine and when pulling back on the started cable, socked my Mother in the nose with his elbow. BANG! We all took a break on that one and I think ended the day early, with Dad taking us all out to eat.

My bike is a lot like a sailing ship – it’s a simple machine that has a purpose, it takes me places – it has to run well to work well and you need discipline and respect of The Machine, or it’ll, well, not be very nice to you. For me to think it’s entirely automatic is foolish.

I was thinking about the wheel. I think it’s a bizarre choice for a touring bike, but I trust the shop that sold it to me. The spoke did break and in a short time, but it was fixable. I’m out a few lovely hours in a very picturesque town. Things could be worse.

Looking back, I think the spoke broke when I took a very bike curb very slowly. The weight of >200lbs of Stuff onto the wheel at around… 7?” is what probably did it. I’ll take the blame and say that, although it *should* have survived such a thing, I probably shouldn’t do such things as a precautionary measure. Now I know.

As for the handlebar bag attachment thingy, I probably installed it incorrectly. I used an old inner tube around the handlebar, as a way to better hold the attacher..ment…thingy to the handlebar.

What I assumed was a good thing to do, probably wasn’t a good thing to do – and, as I’ve bitched, the thing just slips. This time, I didn’t use the rubber. It’s holding well. At the Peugot shop, they had many different types of baskets using the same attachment, some baskets that would hold much more than what I’m holding. The attachment thingy is probably well designed.

As for my shifter cables kind of… exploding – dunno! It may be a installation issue – maybe not. But, for 4 euros, I have replacements and I shall try again. If it doesn’t work again (and… explodes) I’ll show the guy, go, “ne marche pas!” and have them figure it out.

And, that’s about it. Onto the Supermarche to get lunch and then to Amboise, to find a campsite and tomorrow (tomorrow!) take an honest day off and do some big huge house… looking at.


ne marche pas

Ne marche pas. Ne marche pas. Ne marche pas.

That is the theme for today.

I’m heading Southeast towards Angers, but I have no interest in *going* to Angers, so I pick a route that goes around. No problem. Just turn off that one road. Road never comes and bang – I’m in the middle of a stressful situation, with a large city and a million suburbs, just trying to get out. Ne marche pas.

I got out of that, but not after one of my panniers continuing to fall off every 20km or so. Go down too big of a curb, falls off. Brush up against something, falls off. Swerve, falls off. Ne marche pas. They’re not the panniers I wanted to use, but it’s what the store had, but they should last more than 1500km.

My handlebar bag just slips down, so the map on the top is unreadable. Ne marche pas.

*I’m* on about my third day of around 100mile rides – that’s a lot and I’m started to not work.

And the kicker – I find, The LOIRE! The mythical river, that separates Northern from Southern France. After the pannier incidents, which is really trying for me, since, while lost, and hot and tired, this thing falls off, I have to take everything off the rack to put it back on. Ne marche pas.

It’s beginning to become a little less bright – and oh! A bike-only path, right by the Loire, to the town I’m going to camp at – perfect! Turn onto the path, down a hill and,

CRACK!

Thud thud, thud thud, thud thud,

from the back there. Now, it could be anything, from the brake, to the derailler,

to the wheel.

And, it’s the wheel. Ne marche pas!

I broke a spoke, first time ever I’ve really done this but again – only 1500km into its use.

It’s on the drive side and I don’t have the tool thingy to take off the cassette cluster, so I just go, “Hmmm” and fiddle with the 23 remaining spokes with little avail and go, “um…” and wrap the broke spoke around one of the working spokes and say to my shadow, “Well, I guess I’ll limp to the next town, pray they have a bike shop that’ll look at this dirty, bearded American and when I say, le rue ne marche pas! and point to the hole the spoke should be at, they’ll light up and go, Pas de problème! and I’ll get that fixed up and maybe get a nylon spoke for next time and that tool thingy for the driveside spoke – not that I know what to do with that nylon emergency spoke or the tool thingy. “

Shadows are as patient as you are, so it’ll wait and listen to all this.

So, with not the best judgement, I unhook the back brake to allow the wheel to spin and limp to the next town, which I find is a scant 4 km away. Good. The first round about has a sign for the Office du Tourisme, has a, Decathlon – a sports store that, if they don’t have a bike mechanic, will be able to point me to one, and a McDonalds (where this free intartube access is coming to).

Which goes to show you, I’m not in the middle of nowhere, I’m in the heart of France, about 2 hour drive (on a bad day) from Paris, and I’ll be fine – at least for the back wheel. Best case scenario: a few euros for a new spoke put in and a truing. Worst case, new wheel. The worst case does allow me one incentive though, I get to go to, le poste and give the man at the counter my rue, and go, ne marche pas – `a Denver! and send the wheel back to the shop who said the thing was bulletproof, with a note saying, (in french, of course) that, “You didn’t believe me when I said I murder bikes, this wheel,

ne marche pas!

Other than tiring my little self out, health wise, I’m fine. knees feel great, even. Have some… well snot. I’m blowing my nose a lot. Maybe a cold? Un petit rhume. And my French *is* actually getting better. In a month, I’ll be able to, well, stumble through a conversation better than I stumble through one now.

The rest of the night, I hope to find a site to camp, hopefully near the Loire – although it’s a bit buggy even inside as I type – in the dark, though, get up and do my ne marche pas jig and then do a scant half day to, Amboise, near Tours and grab a campsite for a couple of days and hopefully, *hopefully* see da Vinci’s final place of residence, and maybe catch a cheesy movie, and lunch.

Wish me luck!


Le Mer!

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Brest was interesting – I had lunch there and dawdled around downtown for a bit, but didn’t stay long. I had lost my knife the night before and it’s a requirement to have one – so I found an army navy store and bought a nice small cheap one. A little momento from Brest I guess and a little connection to Querrelle, which is really one of two reasons I even know about Brest (and a knife plays a poetic role in the book). The other poetic part is the build of Querrelle and his Brother – both being almost exact in size and shape. I couldn’t help but to look around and notice that almost all the navy servicemen in the area had the same build: completely compact – but also WIDE. Very bulldog like. My first turn down the long hill towards the water was to the Naval base – which ended at a gate with barb-wire and a lonesome gaurd who stood attention (attend…ed?) as I approached – as if I was going to just fly through. I turned around, actually and made the long ascent back up the hill, just to go down the same hill a half a kilometer later to the actual downtown.

I zoomed around the bay and checked out the huge wall , and visited the castle there, which had a maritime museum. I opted not to go in – it was only 5 euros, but if everything is in French, it may not be too fun. I thought most of this city was destroyed by allied bombing to keep the Germans from using it as a U-boat port (crazy idea), but the castle was still there and that huge huge wall – don’t know how much has been rebuilt since then.

Played around the port and took some pictures. Was somewhat chasing the ghosts of that Genet book, but didn’t find too too many. I think traveling is a lot of chasing after long-gone ghosts – at least that what I seem to do. San Francisco for the Beats – well, a lot of places for the Beats – I even moved to the Boulder/Denver area for that connection (a few pages in On The Road, basically).

The other thing Brest is known for is a long-distance cycling event called Paris-Brest-Paris, where you do a long path from Paris to Brest and back – 1200k in all, in which you have to complete in 90 hours. My route was similar – I went from Paris to Brest, but I sort of rolly-polled it, able to capture over 1,000k in… a week? A little less than a week? More than a week? I’ll have to check my notes – but it wasn’t 90 hours. That’s a tidy time and the next time they do the event, three years from now, I may, in fact, be ready. I’ve done 300k in 20 hours, which itself is probably as fast as I need, but that’s a lot more time in the saddle.

The tour de france actually had its first stage as well, so I search for rements of it and road a few km of what must have been the course – it’s pretty easy to figure out, even without looking at the map. Which was fun.

Right now, I’m at 1321km, in Redon, France.

Yesterday was dimanche and almost nothing is open on dimanche. I thought ahead and bought enough emergency food for the day, but I have just so much space to store food and my appetite is large from mashing the gears. At around 8:00pm I was both tired and hungry and the muselei I had with… water? didn’t seem to appealing. Ran around the town I was in and nothing is opening.

Rode to the canal – and there he was.

Kabob Man
In the Kabob Van
Working the Kabob Stand
Down by the Canal

I picked up 2 of his Kabobs, which wasn’t what I’d call it… more of Gyro – anyways, the, I called it GOOD and fulfilled the needed protein I desired in the form of twice cooked multi-meat. Had dinner by the canal and road to the outskirts of town and made camp in back of a Hippodrome, complete with cornfield in the middle and white stadium seats.

Even *earlier* that day, I missed a turn and found myself lost in Carhaix-Plouger, France and ran smack into a… Town Festival! with thousands of people. I walked around, but didn’t know what they were celebrating or what the celebrations were. I couldn’t hear any faint feedbacked and echo’ing sounds of a large stage, so I guess, no music?! Weak Village Festival!

There were Frat kids looking dumb and people with fake rastafarian hats (and hair) as well as activists giving out fliers about living care free (to me, even), as well as the gypsy kids riding in old army transport-like trucks. One girl was hitchhiking the other direction and I was hoping to get out of town easily, but I got very lost. No worries really, but the first part of the day, je roulais en socquettes légères. and when you have a good thing going, you just want to keep going. Awww well.

A lot of people were camping and camping everywhere. I really wish I knew about the festival beforehand and planned my trip to hit it, but, aww well, next time. I got on course and made around 167km for the day. Fairly tidy. Pretty tired today, of course.

As of directions to go… I’m heading South. South East actually, to Amboise, France – outside of Tours, to tour the da Vinci pad. Then, it’s south some more to see the cave paintings and then…? Probably to the Pyrenees to hit up some of the tour routes (and over into Spain?) and then East and then I don’t know. I always have one eye on the amount of time I have and is why I’m trying to get more mileage a day (by hopefully, getting up eariler), but there’s just so many hours I can do, at a steady pace without blowing out.

As for injuries, I managed to cut my thumb on my new knife yesterday (DRRRRRRR) and my left knee has been giving me problems, I’ve been working through. I moved my saddle’s tip up a fraction of a centimeter the other day, which helped the pain for a while, and yesterday, I upp’d the saddle by less than a centimeter and I haven’t felt pain from it all day (for two days) which is, great! The arch in my right foot hurts – probably because my shoes are incredibly floppy and the back of the peddle platform is biting into my foot. Not sure what I’m going to do about that yet… I still only have 9 gears and I’ve become a firm believer in friction shifting, for no-bs touring. It’s pretty nice to just know how much to hit the little flipper to get a the right gear. I keep losing my lowest gear and I have to use the barrel adjusters about twice a day – my shifter cables are very whack.

Dunno what the rest of my day will bring – just riding – hopefully to a somewhat larger town and maybe a day off, since I don’t think I can make it to Tours without one of those.

Salut!

Justin


Brest

Hello, everyone!

I’m in Sunny, partly cloudy Brest, who has great bike lanes and a lot of other stuff I have yet to explore.

Yesterday was quite trying for me I have to admit. The weather was bleak and the headwinds finally cracked me. I started riding with my iPod on – something I never do, even at home, but a Stereolab soundtrack helped, while getting lost in all these crazy French towns.

I finally found the town I wanted to camp at, and I was tired – Je suis fatigue. I found the municipal camping site, but couldn’t figure out how to… well, use it. There was a tiny office, but of course, no one was in. It was getting late, and I visited the three or so sites, but all seemed full. There was another site across the street from the first municipal camping site, but I didn’t know the story to that one – it looked like overflow or something. It was getting late and I was very tired and defeated, so I thought, “Hell with it” – I’ll go in here, and just have a snack and if no one says anything, I’ll set up camp, sleep, leave early and that’ll be the end of it.

So I do. I start by just eating some granola and yogaurt and this large man comes from one of the setups and says, hello, hello and I say, hello and all that,

and then, he offers me some Sangria. Well, of course! And we talk in broken French (me), until he calls someone who kinda knows English and that happens for a little while. And then, he goes away. I fall down, defeated again – and someone *else* comes by and tells me to come on over and there’s a HUGE table with a bunch of drunk French people laughing and being jovial and they put a drink in my hand and give me a seat for my ass and we all talk and try to communicate. The drink they give me is very strong and we all just joke at our lack of being able to communicate. I find it’s alright to camp there for the night (Yeah!), and then they start feeding me! Cous-cous and I think a chicken stew and another dish of Curry and sausage! Which was extremely nice of you – then they brought out the red wine and it was a nice little picnic.

Fed and drunk, I said bon nuit and woke up and explored the beach a little and came back – and they served me petit dejeuner! Which, was mostly really really good coffee. I found out the story: They were camping sauvage next to the *real* campsite, but got permission to do so for the entire summer. I guess it cost them 50 euros to do so – much cheaper than the real campsite, so they let me stay on their plot for free. And they fed me. Twice. And got me drunk. I thought that was exceptional of them. I was camera shy, so no pictures, but they took a few of me and my, petit ami whom we we all joking I would marry. When I get that, I’ll post it.

Some random pictures:

The roadsigns out here look like this:

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The writing underneith the French is… Gaellic? Lots of redheads and frecklefaces. It’s almost like an alternative Ireland out here.

My shifter:

IMG_0607

Those wires coming out that have started to poke my finger and make it bleed are actually from the red cable housing. I don’t know why this is happening. The left shifter cable is completely destroyed – I haven’t had more than 9 gears all tour. Haven’t yet found anyone to get that fixed, sadly, but 9 gears with my low front ring has been enough.

Yesterday, I had to stop around 19:00 and re-cable me rear derailer. The method to do so is usually: Find a supermarche to stop at. Buy icecream. Consume icecream. Do work you don’t want to. Go on your way. Voila.

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A good dyadic of old and new, I thought.

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Some more graf. I stopped and snapped this, not knowing if it was a Gaelic sort of symbol (the three circles) – or a new Nazi one (the gun sight type thing)

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Just a town sign. “Bertrand” caught my eye – as in, “Plastic Bertrand” – another muscian I’ve used as a soundtrack for when I’m down.

And finally, an outside shot of Mount Saint Michel:

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Which is very story-book like.