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:

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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.


Merci.

Thanks again for all your donations to my, luggage-lost, need to eat fund. You are all beautiful and incredible people. To all the people back home that have helped and that I’m terribly missing, I hope I can make it up personally somehow and everyone else in the world, well, I think of something. Don’t think your kindness will go unnoticed.


Some random photos:

A hypermarche picture:

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I am pretty much in love with the old ladies on bicycles here – they are the primary bicycle culture that I’ve found. This one is getting out the hypermarche. She has an old lady bike and I want you to note the set of panniers and the basket on top of her rack. He cart was pretty full – notice the bagguettes and a huge thing of leeks. Here bike is about 35 years old, mixte frame and about 4 gears. It rules. If old ladies can do it here, anyone can do it in the states.

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Some graf next to the bike path, underneith a highway. Nothing really interesting to report – except the layering of writing over is incredible. If I saw one writeover in Denver, I would think that a turf war was about to erupt in that area.

It seems to be a little different, at least in this town.

There’s some wild style, some cartooning and a long message to…? Probably, another writer. Seems a pretty safe place to do all this.

Here’s one of the lower chambers in Mount Saint Michel:

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Nice vaulted ceilings. There’s a few hundred feet of similar rooms above me, which is an interesting architectural feat – which, I’ll get into in a later post. Most of my pictures here are with the big camera, and I don’t know if it Flickr takes the RAW format natively, or if my camera is writing a JPG version at the same time. Time will tell!

Oh! And Beard Watch, 2008 is on:

Beard Watch, 2008

I’m forgoing shaving, to work on the beardage. At the end of the tour, I’m going to look incredible.

OK. Time to fly to Brest and the Westerly end of France – and the end of headwinds for a while! Looking forward to that. Got some warmer clothes today, so camping should be pleasant. I may even opt for a two star camp site for the shower. I guess we’ll see. I may work on my askance of campsite from the farmers, just to sleep a little better.

Salut.


Apple Trees.

I awoke today, underneath two large apple trees, near a field of clovers, between two farms.

I also slept next to a million pricker bushes, but we paint the pictures we paint to create a certain mood and what you paint with is as varied as the life around you.

I had the oppourtunity to visit another hypermarche today. The closest American counterpart is a Russ Meyers. These are probably a little smaller, but serve the same purpose. They seem so un-French and the stores themselves seem to reflect that, as they’re built out of non-permanent materials and are located WAY outside the center of town. Outside of a mall-like area, or a very large city, these are it for your consumer goods purchasing place. And you really can get most anything, from clothes to electronics, to “camping” (french style) supplies, even food.

The French flair does seem to start at the food part. There’s a bakery, sure and it’s better than in the states. Not as good as a true boulangerie, sure, but not, *bad*. The meat selection is incredible, not that I’ve bought any, but the cut selection is unrivaled and the cuts are incredibly lean. The seafood selection, at least here, in a piece of rock 100km wide, jutting into the Atlantic is pretty impressive, with beautiful fish on display to be gobbled up. Live lobsters and crab, smaller shellfish like shrimp looking, well, appetizing to me.

Along with the excellent selection of food is some crap stuff for filling, surely.

Checking out is interesting, as there’s no bags available to you. You must bring your own bags, which I think is a great move. The US is just catching on to this and we only do it, since it’s somewhat fashionable to do so. We’re slow and vain, I guess. This does pose a problem to me, as I never have a bag. I usually just steal one from the produce department. When I get yelled at by the French, it’s in these super and hypermarche checkout lines. Either, I didn’t bag and tag my produce correctly, or I don’t have change, or I’ve exited without buying something, or a myriad of things.

My worst, “I pissed off the French” story is a simple one about getting some water. I… didn’t know how to ask – I actually, still don’t. It’s very hard to make a complex statement like, “Can you fill up my bottles with water, please?”, when you don’t know the exact grammar for, “Can you fill up” – the closest I’ve gotten to the entire statement is,

Pardon madame, pouvez-vous remplir de eau, S.V.P.?

Which I think translates to, “Excuse me, Ms. Can you fill with water, please?” If so, it’s nothing short of a miracle I’ve strung that many words together.

The French like you to do things their way – like the bag thing. I tried once just to keep the small hand cart thingy with me in line. I got yelled at. I tried entering in an exit. Got yelled at.

I tried once, to sneak into the back of the store – where the bakery was and where I knew there was a water faucet and just, you know, fill up my own water bottles.

I got yelled at. By the manager. He gave me a stern look that could wilt flowers and to make me feel more embarrassed, got one of the bakers to stop his work and fill my bottles for me. A lot of, “pardons” for that one.

And then I exited and the same cashier that yelled at me for not having my oranges marked correctly, that yelled at me for entered at her exit, now yelled at me for… I think… coming in without purchasing anything, and going a very long way around the store to do so. I think she thought I was stealing something.

So, the manager hears all this, comes over and they have a nice chat about me. She tells him my shenanigans and he does the same. A lot of head nodding. Then they both look at me and cringe.

I feel two thinks. I feel like crap, since I did something stupid, and I don’t know enough language to explain myself. And I also feel like I should kill these two for getting in my way, and that made me feel worse, since I realized I *expected* to be able to do these things and also, to get away with them, since – well, since I’m American and that’s what we can do. We do it. And then we do other things. And the hell with you, or your ways at your stupid supermarche and… and… and somehow I’m superior to you. I have pieces of paper on my walls… and… and.. I run my own business and you and your supermarche can stick it.

And what a horrible thing to feel.

So I tried to learn how to ask for water.

And the next store – the same company, in fact, I trampled over the French language and asked for water from the meat girl. She looked at me very strange, as if to say, “Yeah, OK – but gonna buy some… meat?”. I made the dumb decision to do my shopping and then come back in for the water. She thought I wanted something for nothing.

Sigh.

The next time I wanted water, I brought my bottles into a boulangerie,and they asked ME if I wanted my bottles filled. The boulangerie is very mother-like, you know.

So, slowly but surely, I’m trying to be a better visitor here. I know these are silly stories, but this is France for me. It’s not these charming little towns with their little shops – or perhaps it is – or it’s both those little town centers and these HUGE suburban-type things. I’m interested in how they related and the role each play and how they work together. It’s not like no one goes to the hyper marche. A lot of people go. And then they go to McDonalds. They must find the convenience worthwhile.

I do wonder how much of the old way of doing things is simply dazzle, with smoke and mirrors – something heavily subsidized by the French government to make France a tourist and vacation destination and not have France turn into… well, into what most of the United States is. The number of Cafes are dwindled and the amount of families with televisions is rising. I can’t find a McDonald’s in the middle of town, but I can find a video game store next to the town’s 500 year old cathedral. French people’s cars are smaller on average, but they’re getting larger and driving schools are everywhere. The people I see on bikes are older people.

I don’t truly know. Just another half-formed thesis statement. I’m not really worried about filling in the gaps. If I do, cheers to that.


Fashion Report

Bloomer-like pants seem to be in style here. The Rastafarian look is also in for, “the teenagers”. And they put them together – so especially into-this-style people look like brightly colored skateboarders from like, 1993.

The pants are what are really crazy – extremely billowy and then tight tight tight at the ankles, with elastics.

Which is interesting, OK – but they also have shorts of the same type – billowy pant legs, elastic bottom – but they stop mid-thigh. This one women had these pants stop at around mid calf, with knee-high socks, stripped red and white. Denver isn’t known for its rapidity in fashion, so if you see this look in 3 years – you heard it here first. If not, well, chalk it up to Euro Trash.

I’m really enjoying some of the fashion here. Some of the more creative teenagers here kinda take the, “ripped and put back together with safety pin” punk thing, with like, very beautiful couture stuff. It embarrasses all that is Hot Topic, which I find embarrassing to start with. It does put the idea of the, “punk look” in a bold type though. I remember myself with green hair, mohawk, etc, etc – without realizing that, there was no scene for me to be in. It was gone – like, *very much gone*. Decades gone. The scene itself was this weird echoing of the past look that had no foundation. And this is somewhat of our contemporary position – I think a lot of contemporary art is similar in this way. A look, looking for a scene. And that’s why it seems all so… empty and souless.

OK, I have about 20 minutes of daylight left.

Bon Soir,

Justin


Plerin.

I’m in the St Brieuc area (Plerin), right now, left the Mont St. Michel area around 10:00am. Pretty long haul and very trying. Lots of getting lost, but it’s not so bad. The worst has been attempting to enter St Brieuc – the larger highways really take over and I had a very hard time finding a local road.

I finally couldn’t, but following a sign to Brest (hey, where I’m going anyways) to a, “N” highway, the on ramp including, of all things, a bike sign, so I followed that,

and wouldn’t you know, there’s an on ramp exclusively for bicycles. This lead me onto a beautiful bridge with a view north of the bay, a castle on a hill, the neighborhoods surrounding me and a marina below. I’m on the outskirts of the town and although the 2 star hotel (probably around 40 euro) just across the street from this Unmentionable Place looks tempting, a quick Google Map check shows that the local road I was looking for all this time is about 400 meters away, so I’m taking that and crashing in the first lush field I find.

Mount St. Michel was pretty interesting, but deserves its own post. I will say that right before I went, I decided to treat myself to some food, as the donations allow me to… eat!

I found the dirtiest looking cafe on a forgotten side street which had a big sign for, ” Moules Frites – 8 Euro”, sat down and told the guy, I’d take that. He said some things I couldn’t understand (which is usual for me), so I , “oui!” my way out of it, and waited. The patrons of this place were awesome. People missing teeth, with horrible haircuts. Everyone’s a local except me and I stand straight out.

Ten minutes later this gigantic bowl of mussels and fries landed on my lap. I mean, big. French are foodies. They love food, but the portions are manageable. I’m an Eatie. I love to eat. 4? 5? 6? Dozen mussels in this bowl? So Many mussels and i was to eat them all. I wanted to take a picture – you would have never believed, but thought against such tom-foolery. Not here.

But I got sort of worried. Was this the 8 euro Moules Frites, or did I “Oui!” my way into a much larger bill?

I was really hungry and in the very immediate present, I didn’t quite care.

And, I managed to eat every single fry and every single mussel. I took every piece of bread on the table and sopped up the rest of the mussel juice. And I was beginning to get high. Mussels – shellfish get me high. I love everyone and everything and I just stumble around going, “I love you” and, “I’m high”. So,

so that was setting in.

I get the bill.

There’s the 8 euro figure on there. And then I completely freak out, as there’s some sort of other large number – to the tune of something like, 53.48.

No label – I can’t figure out what’s going on.

Did I eat my way into a problem? I had the cash, so I put 60 euros down and the guy looks at me like I’m a stupid tourist, gives me back the 50 euro note and takes the 10 euro note, only to come back with 2 euros.

That was, indeed the 8 euro Moules Frites.

And I was happy. In this state of elation that I didn’t do something stupid and high from shellfish, I strolled to Mount St. Michel.

What also was in my mind was memories of making mussels with my family. The recipe here really wasn’t so different.


ne inquitez pas

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This is my eee PC. I thought at the beginning of the trip that it would be a little silly to bring along, but it’s proved itself most useful during downtime (like now). I can now touch type with it – which is amazing and along with a mouse it’s very useful. The desktop linux distro is alright, although some apps don’t work quite like you’d hope and the machine gets a little underpowered while multitasking. But all in all it does pull its weight.


camping sauvage

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The reason I’m able to do this trip at all is that the majority of my stays are in camping sites around the country, ala, camping sauvage. In the states, you’d call this bushwhacking, I suppose.

This is just before leaving one campsite. Not the worst place to spend the night, eh?