23 June 2010

France is nice

I have arrived in France 
France looks nice from the air and feels nice on the ground. France is simply a nice place to travel and ride a bike. I was greeted today on my ride, by a number of cyclists. Cyclists in France acknowledge one another by nodding and moving their mouths to form a bonjour. Motorists give a wide berth and getting lost on a bike is much less nerve racking than getting lost in a car. All in all a good day. Even the dog at the next farm down didn't run into the lane to chase me down, and the farmer moving his tractor gave me a nice smile as I rode by his barn on my way back to the farm.
This morning, me and my bike were reconstructed in the midst of the beauty of the farm outside of Pau. I awoke to a beautiful clear day in the Pyrenees. I could see the Mountains down the Valley that included the Pic du Midi, the Col du Aubisque, and the Col du Soulor. The mountains were stacked behind one another growing larger and hazier as they receded. Then an hour later the haze lifted and it was a spectacular warm day.
My bike went together smoothly. I am always slightly freaked out about taking my bike out of the bike box and putting the headset and handlebars back together again. Do you remember the video of George Hincapie heading into the ditch, handlebars in hand, no longer attached, at the Paris Roubaix a few years ago? That image sort of affected me. It is important to build and put a bike back together correctly.
I spoke with a number of people today: the man at the Total gas station, the man at the Avis rental car return, the man at the Pau train station information, two friends of the caretaker of the farm who came by to check on their rooster, the women checking out my groceries, and finally I arrived to a full dinner table of cyclists at La Lanterne Rouge cycling lodge in Saint Savin, at the base of the Hautacam, for dinner. (this is the view to the Tourmalet)
It is quite the collection of cyclists here at the lodge. Three men from Denmark, 3 Brits, 3 Irish, 1 Aussie, 1 other American, and me. One of the three guys from Ireland explained that he wasn't that into cycling, "these two guys are". I said "oh my, and you went up the Aubisque today... did it hurt?" - laughter at the dinner table. Then I said, "this is like when your friends decide to go run with the bulls in Pamplona, and you go!" "I think you get to decide where you all go on your next vacation, what are you into, paragliding?" They are having a lot of fun together on their vacation.

Tips from the day: Always having a 1 Euro coin comes in handy for baggage cart at the airport, and to get a cart at the local market. And remembering to bring a grocery bag (bags are not given out at the super markets in France).

News for the day: My brother reported that Lance Armstrong is doing recon in the area, and sure enough the 3 guys from Denmark at the cycling lodge ran into him on the Port de Bales yesterday. Lance did the climb twice, plus two others. The men from Denmark said "we did it once, it twasn't easy, it twas monstrous!" I'll keep an eye out today, our best guess is Armstrong will be checking out the route from Luchon to Pau, and we are right in the middle of the route. Half the cyclists here are going SE toward the Tourmalet, the other half are headed West toward the Soulor & Aubisque. I'll let you know - what fun!