Doing it all the hard way...

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

What I learned in France The wrap up report

Earlier I said all you need are shoes.  In fact, all you really need are some good friends.
I was in France, it was the trip of a lifetime.  I never got my clothing. I didn't get my bike until the fourth day. It was still wonderful.

If I were to believe all of the advertisements, then I couldn't have a good time without piles of the most expensive clothing money can buy. In the photo above I'm wearing Kevin's cap, John's shorts and jersey and Sam's undershirt. I was  just fine. My friends gave me sunscreen, chamois cream, extra socks and everything I needed.

No hair jelly, no Dove soap; I didn't have my preferred sunscreen. My magic drink mix didn't make it. Also lost was my nuun and other secret sauces. There was long list of stuff I thought I couldn't live without, yet I managed to get along even though I never saw it. Yes the weather was perfect, but if it wasn't I would have just borrowed (and bought) more stuff and been just fine.

When KLM lost my luggage it forced a hasty education on lost luggage. Some take aways from that would be:
1) Be prepared for your luggage to be lost (take enough to survive in a carry on)
2) Expensive luggage can be a liability. I am not saying my stuff looked top notch or anything, but in speaking to some knowledgable folks, they said when baggage gets stolen it is usually the nice looking bags.  If you have to check a bag, a beater is better than a showpiece.
3) Once it goes missing, behave as if it will never be seen again. If I had known on day two (when I visited the only serious bike shop of the trip) that I would never see my bag, I would have bought more stuff.
4) Don't trust them to call you.  You have to call them....A LOT...
5) Even though they will end every call with an apology; they really don't give a shit.
The roads in France are unreal.
We asked Horst where we should go on our next trip.  Should we got to Spain, Italy, Germany, Switzerland; what did he think?  He said the Italians don't give cyclists any room and on the roads. He said France is the only country that makes a point of designing their secondary roads so that instead of cars approaching cyclists at fifty mph, the roads in France are twisty so the cars approach cyclists only ten or so mph faster than the bikes. He discussed the scenery and culture and in the end he told us, France is as good as it gets.
I learned that those freakin' Alps are HUGE !!
The reason they measure altitude in meters is because the scale is such that you need to be able to say, "It's only 750m to the Col.  I can do that."  If you had to say, "It's 2,500 feet to the top," you would follow it with, "We are so screwed!"

Based on our experience we all made a pact to only refer to distances in kilometers and elevation in meters henceforth and forever.  We have changed our cycle computers to metric.  In fact, if you ask me how I bought my Airline ticket to France I would say, "Frequent Flyer Kilometers."
We used Cyclemiles as our tour company.  Seven of our group had used them five years ago and stayed in touch and McWoodie spent last fall tossing ideas back and forth with Horst (the man behind Radsportresen and and the conversation went something like this, "If we can sell out a trip (20 riders) can you taylor it to meet our needs?"  Horst is a smart guy and you can guess the answer.

Horst and the husband and wife crew of Stephan and Nicole did an amazing job. They had food where we needed it, were cheerful and fun to be around. The routes and roads Horst selected were amazing. It was like a series of Hank and Dave Einmo Hobbit trails joined together. I can't believe other tours even know about some of the roads we were on.
I fancy myself quite the home mechanic. I am not worthy to wipe the grease off Horst's hex wrenches. Horst is a genius on all aspects of bicycle build, repair and maintenance.

Horst is not a fan of wheel "systems." He is a fan of 32 spoke wheels.

The food in France is everything they say.  This is ironic because when you are riding six hours a day you can eat almost anything and your body will turn it into fuel.  The laws of thermodynamics are in play.
I learned that my training paid off.

Assos bibs are awesome.  Like I said, they have the word "Ass" right in the name (and that is Ass with a capital A).

War is different when it has been fought on your land.  We didn't really understand until 9/11. It wasn't until I was standing in the town square of  Chappelle en Vercors where the invading Germans stood up sixteen men and boys and shot them while the town watched, that I fully appreciated all of the monuments we had seen in every town honoring the fallen.
Maybe the Parisians are rude, but the French people we encountered were friendly and warm.

The setup we had of the Garmin on the handlebars was excellent.  Some tours are operated like regimented group rides; nobody passes the front guy and someone rides sweep, so you are forced to ride at the pace of the slowest rider.  We could stop for a cafe' or blow through to the hotel.  We had one guy who got lost twice.  That was more of a person problem and should not be attributed to his equipment.
Finally, I learned that not only was my Hottie super sweet for letting me train for the trip and not showering my with guilt for going, but when KLM absolutely fucked me, she spent days chasing them until my stuff was found.

No comments: