Besançon, France - August 9, 2010
I'm now in Besançon, France, or rather just north of it. Came through looking for a hotel after having spent the last five nights camping, but I didn't realize that it was such a beautiful and lively city, and hotels were out of sight. So I came north and eventually found a place. Good internet and so I can get caught up. I'd wander back and spend the evening looking around, but am rather beat with a nasty headache and a cold... so think I will just turn in early.
But have had a few really nice days lately riding through the Alps. Got off to a slow start, however. I think I last wrote just after arriving at St. Moritz in the eastern Alps. I remember saying something about the fact that I hoped it didn't rain. Well, it started that night and the next day it rained 20 hours out of 24... and then continued on and off all of the next. I counted up and think I wound up spending 60 hours in the tent. Luckily I had my iPod and my audio-book on survival stories. I listened to it for the third time. Great book actually. After hearing some of those stories where people had been marooned for years on small islands with absolutely nothing, or where survivors bobbed around in a longboat for weeks... 60 hours in a tent didn't seem so bad. Sure made me glad to get back on the bike though. The problem had been that I couldn't get out of St. Moritz without crossing passes and with the storm, the snow level was below the passes. No thanks.
Axel and His Ural
Headed out the third day under rapidly clearing skies and had one of the best days yet for spectacular riding and spectacular scenery The new snow, still left at higher elevations, just made the mountains that much more brilliant and that much better. So I told myself that waiting had its rewards. Tons of people on the roads, however, as it is now holiday month in Europe... and probably just as many bikes as cars on the mountain roads. Everybody seemed pretty well behaved... I guess if you're not into slow driving and views, you'd take the autobahn. While climbing some switchbacks, I pulled off for some pictures and just then some guy riding a Ural... sort of a Russian BMW, with a sidecar passed me. Ooo... had to see that. So I caught up to him at the pass and we talked for probably an hour. Bikes, trips, where in the world you find the worst drivers, etc. He was just out for a day ride as he was from Germany, but he and his wife had a summer home in the area. Nice route he had planned. Would have loved to do it, but I would have pretty much wound up where I had started and so continued on.
Brothers of the Road
Great Place to Ride
Camp Below Furka Pass
More passes and nice camp under clear skies. Woke up to a totally soaked tent again, however because of the very heavy dew. I think I got more wet from that than from the rain. Anyway, continued on to Chamonix... a slightly less spectacular day than the previous one due to the fewer passes, but still quite neat. Cloudy peaks as the day never did totally clear from the morning cloud that was usually around. I took a chance, however, and bought a ticket for the telepherique that goes from the town up to the Aiguille du Midi, a point of rock on the ridge to the south where you can get up close to Mount Blanc. It was clear in town, but not so much on the ridge. I waited for about two hours and only got a few minutes total of good views, and only in the direction of the mountain as it worked out. My mom and I had been there now nearly 40 years ago... and I still remember how stunning that was, as it was totally clear on that day. Oh well, maybe next time.
Near Chamonix, France
From the Aiguille du Midi
So rode out of the mountains today. Didn't really have a map of France and didn't see until too late that the GPS was taking me through downtown Geneva. Didn't mind as I had never been there before I don't think, but it took abut 90 minutes to get across town as a result of really dumb traffic light timing. You could see several lights ahead and one would swear they were designed so as to bring on gridlock. Well it did. Traffic light timing is a science that has not yet reached Switzerland I guess. It was one of those “Why would they do that?” kind of moments. Actually, speaking of “Why would they do that?”...(WWTDT) this hotel has one of them. I've seen it before on this trip. The towel rack, with folded dry towels is IN the shower. So unless you pull them ALL out beforehand, you take your shower, then pull down a fully soaked towel. WWTDT??? I've also been in many hotels where the shower IS the bathroom. No curtain, just a drain in the floor. And so everything gets wet, toilet seat, toilet paper, everything. WWTDT??? Anyway, I digress...
Plan is to head off to see Niels in Germany this weekend (if I don't get full-blown sick), then off to England. Trip is almost over. Been trying not to think about that too much. There are a lot of hassles that drag me down and are a pain for sure. The simple process of packing up every morning and finding a place to stay every night (now for four months today) starts to gnaw at one. But the idea of not being able to ride every day, see all these neat places, and instead deal with Transport Canada on a daily basis in one form or another... well... don't want to think about that. So I won't. Still have 21 days before I'm back in Kamloops and will have a great family vacation for a good part of that, so it is still jam-packed. Maybe after another year or two of Russian... well maybe the all-Russian route (with Mongolia of course)... well that's stating to have some attraction actually.
But one trip at a time.
Anyway, still looking for my French countryside tree under which to have my bread, cheese and a little wine. I'll know it when I see it.
I thought of another thing that revolutionized the industry. I was watching the European Track and Field Championships. The Foosbury (sp?) Flop in high-jumping. One guy did it like back in the '68 Olympics (?), and now no one does it the old way of throwing your leg over the bar. Totally revolutionized the sport. And I remember they made fun of him of course.