Upon waking up at 5:30 am, I turned back over to, perhaps, wake up at a more agreeable time. Waking up was becoming an increasingly larger problem in my life. My mornings slipped to afternoon and then, later afternoon, until I was by last Tuesday, getting up nearly at 5:00 pm. A vampire.
Summer totally flew by for me, but I was able to take a few little trips out and about to check out the, “backyard”. I’m moving soon, so it seemed like a good idea to see what’s out there. Here’s a small 4-day trip to Leadville and back, with a little side-step hiking.
First, here’s where we’re going:
Starting in Denver, we’re going South East on 285 to Leadville, CO, where we’re gonna climb Mt. Elbert, the highest point in Colorado. I’ve been scheming to do this for a while and finally found time to do it.
A short note that I’m back home in Denver, CO but will flesh out some entries from entering Paris to, well now – but a quick note that the airline
LOST MY LUGGAGE. AGAIN.
Once again, the bike came, the bags didn’t, I’m left with the clothes on my back. Sigh.
This time, it happened 20 miles from my house and not 9,000, so it’s not really a big deal and I will, mark my word, get these bags back.
The funniest thing started happening to me yesterday.
Amidst my small sorrow that the ride I was taking was one of my last of this tour and the pain of my spent legs, pedaling up small hills at a meager 9 km/hr for hours,
people started to cheer for me.
Small hills would be accented by small beeps from cars and yells of, Allez! GO GO GO GO GO!!!
The closer to Paris, the more cheers. I must have had a look of most amazing tiredness at the final stretch.
The day turned into night around Meux, France. I put on my lights and slowly inched to smaller roads, ever careful of cars coming towards me. Sometimes, I’d think a car was about to pass, but the light was actually from an oncoming *plane* landing at the nearby airport. Foggy this night and the sight of a giant plane in the sky with lights pushing through the fog, coming at me every 10 minutes is hard to escape.
Last night, I slept in an apple orchard as close to Paris as apple orchards basically *go*, before the farmland I had been traveling the last 600 kilometers – or even since Basel, Switzerland, my last one day break, turns into urban sprawl of countless generations and cultures. General exhaustion, coupled with the sounds of nearby sounds of scooter engines and talking made for a fairly sleepless night.
The relative quiet of everything around me only amplified these sounds, with me never knowing if people were right outside my tent or on the other side of the town. I never know what to do if I was to be found out. Would I have to move? Would they understand? I lost my glasses with the luggage and felt defenseless near blind. I put my contacts in and hid my knife in my pillow; kept half a watch as the other half of me snoozed. Shadows and silhouettes of trees. Did something just move?
This night, counting sheep was replaced with counting airplanes, as they landed into Charles de Gaulle airport, so low to the ground that the sound of their engines shook my tent canvas and the lights from the wings flickered by my eyes., even while closed I tried making a sandwich of Nutella and bread from the morning past, but the bread was weather and travel beaten. And stale. But, it was all I had.
Woke up as early as I could, legs as dead as fallen oak trees, but I pushed on.
The traffic started light, but became heavier and hectic. Scooters buzzing around, taking every which way possible to get to their destination, cars, people, THINGS all around me. And me. Tired, weary and slow. A needed sudden burst of acceleration to remove myself from danger brought sharp pain in my legs and for a minute or so, I couldn’t really move them at all, just sort of faked pedaling.
But it was as if I realized I couldn’t control anything but myself and just pedaled straight into the center, playing the game of a sperm trying to find its egg, trying to reach the perimeter before, before
And then I hit it,
And then I got lost.
So I just went. Straight.
Until I saw a sign that read, “Champs-Élysées” and I f0llowed that sign, onto a small road, congested with traffic and I knew it was the right way to go.
I took a small victory lap and the tour, basically, was done, 5,600+ kilometers and little more than a month and a half later.
I yelled obscenities at the cars, buses, scooters and whatever else was flying around me making my way around the Arc de Triomphe. If I died here, I guess it would all be OK. But I didn’t die. I wept a little, but that was it.
I found my hotel easily enough and they let me keep the bike in the room (or, rather they didn’t say I *couldn’t*). I walked outside as hungry as one could be and had the most delicious kebab sandwich. I couldn’t eat it fast enough. I then bought a baguette at a bakery. It was so fresh and so warm that steam came out of it, as I bit into its flesh. It, as well, tasted amazing. The metro line was not two blocks away. Exhausted and everything else, I began my wanderings of Paris…
Thank you all for your help.
RIP iPod. If an iPod cruds out within a year, free replacement, no? We’ll see. Sigh. I didn’t *really* think of putting music on it, but 25 minutes before catching the flight, I put a few theme albums on for fun. Maybe 10 in all.
And I’ve listened to them almost continuously, to the point of insanity. And now, funnily, I miss the music that I can’t play. The silver lining is that I know all the songs, *ALL* the songs by heart, so I’m rolling through these little French towns towards Paris singing songs out of tune. There’s your image for today.
Yesterday, the art station had Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars movie playing, which is amazing in of itself. He ends the entire Ziggy Stardust everything with a cover of White Light, White Heat. Hot.
My legs are extremely spent, but there’s nothing between myself in Paris to check out, so it’s just slow going until right before and then find someplace secret.
Last night, I figured the descent in and was pleasantly surprised that it should be easy enough, both getting in and getting out. I’m barely in Paris – I think across the street is a different town. It’s also fairly close to the airport and I think I can find a road that isn’t a HW with the maps I have. The only thing I need is a velo shop that has a bike box.
Today, I happened upon another tourer, with his bike upside-down and himself with a wrench. I asked if he was OK and he said the wheel was a little whobbly. So, I stopped and tried to help.
We got the wheel a little better and I did my best to explain how to true a wheel (not that I’m an expert), but it’s a good, “Yeah, this has happened to me, too” experience and I was happy that I could finally help someone, as a lot of people ask for help and I’m clueless on what to do.
He was from Belgium on his way to Bordeaux. 5th day. His bike was pretty old. Rusted rim, with little dimples on the braking area, which means it’s old and also made of steel (heavy, not as strong). Bonne Route! To him.
15 minutes later, I happened upon a little bird in the middle of the road. Aww, man.
So, I had to stop and see what the matter was. It was a young bird – I think some sort of pheasant. I picked it up and moved it to the side of the road, and looked for a mother, but not trees, really in sight. I left some crumbs from my breakfast, not thinking it would really help matters, and sadly, rode off.
I guess sometimes you can try and help a little and something you can try and help a little, but it doesn’t really help the inevitable.
Some photos of the portal of the cathedral in Reims, taken at midnight:
Yesterday, I bushwhacked into a space near a giant lake. The tree branches above me made a wonderful arched
canopy and the ivy vines around me made a soft bed. I passed out almost immediatly, but my spot was so secluded, there wasn’t a chance of anyone ever seeing me. I could have stayed for days…
They surely do not make them like this anymore:
(Notre-Dame de Reims)
Which means, I’m in Reims. Sorry, I couldn’t let myself be lost for long.
Here’s the Marc Chagall Stain Glass, put in, in 1970-something:
Chagall was Jewish. His wife was a master stain glass maker. Their son still lives in Reims (I think) and carries on the tradition.
I very strange thing happened on my return to France. This week is the last full week of August, I guess. Children start school soon, the sun is setting every so earlier and there’s a briskness in the air. And, France is chilling out. I go places and it’s not overrun with tourists. The ones that are there are polite and quiet.
I can navigate a Sueprmarche and not want to have blood spill.
My French, although still baaaad is better than before. I can make up spontaneous sentences, instead of relying on Traveling French. I can almost have a conversation. My spirits are high.
And, I only have one or two full days of riding left and I’m in Paris, where I play tourist for a couple days, then an iron rocket-powered eagle whisks me away to the middle of North America, on the other side of the world. Sad times, really.
This little guy:
Started the change for me. He begged for a crumb from my breakfast, instead of ignoring me, or growling at me. The cafe was playing a French dubbed version of Before Sunset, which I found strangely bizarre:
France is a very strange country – I’m sure of that. The fascists aren’t too worried about being plain about things:
At least they don’t say one thing and do another, but it’s still incredulous that this party still exists.
So, I hang my hat up in Reims tonight. Finding my way out of the city at night doesn’t particularly sound interesting, as it was a bit of hell getting in (lots of highways almost entered into), so I go a room in a traveler’s hotel, that’s just about big enough for the twin bed and my outstretched arms to fit. The sink and toilet are in the shower (no, really), but they will all be utilized well.
Reims has a pedestrian center filled with British-Style pubs and I haven’t a clue what that’s all about. So, I’m going to plan my route into Paris and then maybe see if I can’t get an honest pint.
Last night, I was trying to make up time, so I was riding late. At around 22:30, it started raining. I was on a fairly busy road with a shoulder that kept disappearing. I decided to ditch it, as riding at night in th rain is my limit. I happened upon a forest and a underneath pine trees, I found absolute darkness. And peace. 6 hours later, I was back on the road, eating up tarmac on my way West.
Little things like that.
For the past few days, I’ve been traveling with little rest to Basel, Switzerland and hanging out there. So many things to mention, so little time. And I am again scatter-brained. Some photos:
My handlebar bag is a little broken. First tried to glue it back (fail), then epoxy it back (fail), then bolt it back (Fail)
Bolted it back with a bigger nut and a *washer* and we’re in business.
The border of France and Switzerland is a little uneven, and you keep entering and leaving both countries en route to Basel
Finally got lost in a small Swiss town, perfectly preserved with an art exhibition with an artist with a similar last name to mine:
Didn’t go, though;
Looked for a map in town to figure out how to get to Basel – the road I was on sort of… stopped at the point my Google Map directions said, “Turn right on, UNKNOWN ROAD”, which should have been a clue I’d have trouble.
Long story (and I’ll get to writing that) short, I broke down and ask the tourist office how to find the road I was looking for and she gave me a (friendly but, ) strange look at went, “What? Look, you’re in Switzerland, we have BIKE HIGHWAYS”. Take #7, it starts around the corner, across the ancient ped. bridge. Hazzah!
That’s right. Switzerland has bike highways – just very well marked bike routes that go through the entire country.
It’s not just that, there’s routes for mountain bikes *and* road bikes, as well as hiking routes and,
Inline skating routes. And I’m serious.
(also, canoe switzerland!)
The problem with these paths, is that usually they never give you an easy go to where you want to go, but throw in things like, oh, MOUNTAIN PASSES, which can get annoying if you just want to get to a warm bed.
And, sigh, this one was no exception,
My apologies about that, I was very tired and the last thing I wanted/needed was YET ANOTHER mountain pass. I’m at around 20 for the trip. FEEL MY LEGS!
I ran into 2 of them on this bike highway. The second one also turned into a dirt road for kilometers, which is another thing I wasn’t really thinking I’d like to try fully loaded and exhausted, but you get what you get:
Notice the, “7” sign? I’m not lost at all!
It was raining too, so the dirt was quickly turning to mud. Sigh.
But! Got to Basel a little before 17:30.
Now, the problem was, I made directions from where I thought I was coming from, not this crazy bike highway.
A little looking around and I realized I was in the area I needed. What luck!
Called up Evan and… he was there! So hazzah! I got to hang out with him for a few days.
A HUGE thanks has to befall Evan for giving me the random and much appreciated email to let me know if I’m in the area that I have a warm place to stay. Yeah! Thanks Evan, and I owe you a beer if you’re ever again state-side.
Basel is a terribly bike friendly city, here’s some interesting finds (I’m a dork, yah know)
A free-locked Colnago bicycle
You could probably get away with selling the frame alone for about $1000
Old School Swiss Army bike!
But the saddle works much like a hammock – supposed to be very comfortable.
Basel is also very expensive – behold:
A burrito costs almost 30 swiss francs. The conversion with US dollars is almost 1:1.
I also checked out some Contemporary art spaces and the architecture museum. Some very interesting videos from Mr. Guido van der Werve –
the day I didn’t turn with the world
(On the north pole, turning with the sun)
ll be alright:
(Walking along an ice sheet, while an icebreaker follows)
After hanging out in Basel, I went back into France to go to Colmar, mostly for this:
Bad photo, sorry, but this is the Isenheim Altarpiece, by Matthias Grunwald. It’s quite amazing and worth seeing. There were some amazing woodcuts as well. I’m happy I went to this museum.
After visiting Colmar, I kept trucking this time… West!
I have to get to Paris by the twenty eighth and I’m scared to even look up how far it is. But it’s far. And counting today – right now, I have three days to do it. A good challenge and I won’t even tell you exactly where I am *now* to keep up the,
West of Colmar are more bloody mountains. I could go North and attempt to side-step the mountains. It’s a risk, since it adds a little more mileage, but it may be faster than a mountain pass. Is that what I do?
Well, of course not!
Plowing away I did up yet another 1100 meter mountain pass and a few little ones afterwards at night. Like ya do.
So, wish me luck getting to Paris on time and I don’t know how much posting I’ll do until then. But the wishing part, please take advantage on doing that 🙂
Last night, I savauged it in the absolute middle of the town of Bois d’Amont (I think) next to a bunch of camping cars that were obviously parked there. I see this a lot, where camping cars are just suspiciously parked in the center of the ville with windows covered in reflector stuff and it’s *so* obvious what’s they’re doing.
I rolled into town around 20:30, so I went to the local bar and had a half pint, and then a demi bottle of cidre (well, I mean, hey!) and something unbelievably good, made with onions and bacon and creme sauce – all slathered on what was sort of like a beef-brother flavored crepe. I have no idea what I ordered. That happens a lot. A perk of traveling.
By the time I was drunk – I mean, done, it was dark, so I just pitched and went to sleep, woke up early (COLD! It’s COLD!) and rolled into… Switzerland!
Which is fun. And funny. Did you know that they don’t use the Euro primarily? *I* didn’t, and it took a few minutes at the bakery to figure out, first – why everything seemed *so* expensive and why the baker didn’t know what the heck I was giving him. I thought he was just sort of dim – like a savant baker, but couldn’t add 2 and 2. Nope. Just me.
I catch myself saying silly, obvious things while around here. The other day, I was in a Supermarche, getting fixin’s for a sandwhich and I honestly said this to myself,
“Gosh! There seems to be Swiss Cheese everywhere all of a sudden – I wonder why?”
So provincial. I’m sorry.
I put in my right contact this morning and it hurt like hell – usually this is because something else went into my eye, along with the contact. Easy – just flush out the eye and the contact.
But, this continued to irritate me. I stopped for some food at another Supermarche this morning and they just so happened to an optician, so in my broken French and rugged (good) looks, I apologized about barging in, but there’s something in my eye – could you check?
And she did – so thoughtfully and helpful. Nothing there, though. Wanted to make sure I didn’t have an infection. Those things can… well, blind you.
But what’s funny, is that I can see about twice as well now with whatever is wrong with my eye, than usual. I can’t explain – and I couldn’t even come close to explaining to the optician. I can’t go *without* a contact, but, I can tell you how many doors are on the cars that pass by the street nearby. Sounds horrid still, but my vision usually maxes out around where my nose ends. It’s a big old long nose and it’s been that way since I was in third grade, where my nose was much more button-like, but that’s pretty sweet to now be able to at least see details of a fast moving vehicle. To me, it’s almost religious. Dunno. Just, strange.
It’ll go away, I’m sure, but it’s a mystery to me why this is all happening. I think what happened is the Aloe (pronounced Ah-Lo-Eh in French, if you ever ask for it) that was in my bag exploded and got on everything and I got it in my eye and whatever keeps the Aloe in the bottle being cool until you use it isn’t good to get in your eye. Most things that come from plants aren’t. Think maple syrup. Yeah.
So, Basel is 150 something km away. Probably too far for today, but tomorrow, I’ll crash in Basel and say hello to my contact there and explore the town in absolute perdu-ness as they (meaning, I) say. I don’t know German, so it should be fun. Hopefully, they’ll be some must see things to… see.
After that, Colmar I’m thinking to see Grünewald’s alterpiece and the museum about the sculptor of the Statue of Liberty. And then, it’s a complete and utter challenge to get to Paris to make my hotel (using that word very loosely) reservation. If I get there *too* early (bwhahahaaha!) I’m sleeping in the sewers with the Turks (with all due respect to the noble Turks)
The beard is getting a little too savauge, I ‘m thinking. I may have to trim it soon – it’s either that, or keep it, and when I get home, go through an, “Old Man” phase, where I wear tattered clothes from the thrift store and walk with a cane everywhere, attempting to focus on things with coke bottle glasses. Being in the best shape of my life at the moment, that may just be the funniest thing I can possibly think of doing at the moment.
Oh, there it is.
Yesterday was a wash. I went about 60km absolutely dead.
The day before though, I did the Marmotte ride.
La Marmotte is one of the toughest one-day cycling events in the world.
The route is 174 km long, but features more than 5180 metres of climbing. The event goes over the Col du Glandon, Col du Telegraphe, Col du Galibier and finishes at the top of one the most famous Tour de France climbs; Alpe d’Huez.
Here’s the altitude stuff I stole:
Quite the itinerary. The mountains here are nothing like the Rocky Mountains. These things are heroic in of themselves.
Started the ride at 8:30 am. My guidebook says it takes around 7-8 hours. OK – I left early to make sure I have some fudge time. The route is a big loop, so I was able to keep most of my stuff at the campsite, which was nice – this was a ride for the joy of riding.
The first pass Col de la Croix Fer, was difficult – very very steep – but made it – cafe on the top – so, had coffee.
The second major pass, Col Du Telegraphe, I went very very very much too fast and for some reason, decided to go *down* the pass without my windbreaker on.
It had started raining and combined with the altitude, I became so cold, so quick, I almost put myself into shock (I’m not kidding) and had to take 5, before going for the big one, Col du Galibier.
Galibier kicked my ass. It is gigantic and after the major amount of km’s before it was a tough one. What I was thinking before this ride was, “You know, I could be a long-distance athlete – in time”. What I was thinking during this ride was, “People *race* this?!”
Going *down* the pass was akin to playing, “Survive This*. Narrow Roads. Nothing between you and the side of the mountain and steep – around 10% grade. Couple that with Camping cars going the opposite direction – needing more room than the entire road really allots and it’s so very insane in such a good way.
By this time, I was very much tired and getting to Alp d’Huez wasn’t hard per-say, since Galibier’s pass on the other side is about 20km – almost all the way to the start of the mountain.
There was a clock at the turnoff to Huez – it says it was 19:30 – 13 hours since I started.
7-8 hours my foot.
I had about an hour and a half of daylight. Do I do Huez and finish off the ride?
Of course I do.
It was Sunday, so I didn’t know where I was going to get food afterwards, but I persevered going as fast as possible up the 21 hairpin turns. Which, was very very slow, as I was very very tired.
By this point I was beyond empty with energy and my body did not like me that much. It allowed me, just because I wanted to so much. I finished the Tour de France route with my head on the handlebars, blindly going up the grade until I hit the finishing line.
Snapped a few pics
(yes, I look a little miserable – I was!)
and then –
well, then it was dark. And cold. So, I put everything I had on and went *down* the hill in pitch black. It was cold. So, very cold. Teeth chattering… It’s August? I guess I got my wish of cooler temps than what was in Arles…
Went to the Kebab (It was open! YEAH!) place and bought two (last customer – the owner is a very hard working man with a wonderful voice) and went to the campsite, zipped up, ate Kebabs and anything else in my way and passed out.
Probably the hardest one-day ride I have ever done. I can’t even describe it in this post (I have a bit of a cold, so I’m not the best at writing at the moment)
The next day, I took it pretty slow, slept in, made a picnic lunch, had that, got some coffee, planned the route out of the mountain range, etc. Did that 60km on absolute empty and it seems every bag and pack on my bike broke. I’m trying to fix it, but you know the tour is getting long in the tooth when everything is being held together with a bungee chord.
Again, I’ll have to write the above over again when I’m not so numb and not still in the moment, but I’m not joking at saying that was an extreme effort to finish. Props to those who race it. I also have a boat load of pictures to add, but they’re on the other camera, etc. I may have to do a internet dump session while in Basel, as lame as that sounds. Sigh.
Anyways, on to Basel! I’m skirting the Swiss border which is so very awesome. There’s a gigantic lake to my left, Geneva is kilometers away and North of me, the direction I’m going looks desolate of towns. I have a small cold and am plugged up, my gear is failing – Hell Yeah! For adventure.
Missing my friends and working on art though. Paris in a week or so sounds appealing, the tourists don’t. The day or two of flights I may just drug myself through.
Love you all, thanks for reading (esp. Nikki, well of course)
Sorry, no time for a *real* post, since I can’t find an outlet in this place, but I’m in Aix Les-Bains, en route to Basel, Switzerland.