Will someone switch the sun back on, already?
It is midday. We are somewhere between the exquisite medieval French champagne communes of Provins and Xertigney. The temperature is around 15 degrees, perhaps? Whatever. It is spring in France. And it is cold. And wet. The rain has been pelting down for four days now and I am on lunch truck duty. One by one, the bedraggled riders roll into the half way mark for the day.
â€œAnybody got any marijuana?â€
â€œIsnâ€™t it GREAT to see some rain again?â€
â€œAre we having fun, yet?â€
â€œI didnâ€™t sign up for this rain.â€
â€œWhy is there no more peanut butter?â€
As Chef Jon remarked, â€œLunch brings out the best and worst in everyone.â€
Reactions to the first week on the road in France range from gung-ho hard core â€œIâ€™ve- been -round- the- world- on- a- bikeâ€ to â€œWhere- is- the- hair dryer?â€
But, give them their due, when it comes to priorities, this bunch of (predominantly) baby boomers knows exactly what to do when it comes to keeping their bruschetta, camembert and rocket sandwiches from getting soggy!
Having travelled just over 500 kms from Paris, through some of Franceâ€™s most fabulous towns and villages on highways, byways and cycling paths, we are in the commune of Munster tonight.
At this point, I take everything back that I said about the stereotypical Frenchie! On lunch today, just outside the stunning town of La Bresse, we parked the lunch truck at the bottom of a 15 km, 1139m climb up to Clos de la Schlucht. As we put up the gazebo, a woman from a beautiful guest house across the road came over to find out what was going on. Her name was Anka Krizmanic and she alerted the media, fortified us with fantastic stories, coffee and chocolate, great French music, a vase of exquisite lupins on our step ladder and the gift of â€˜ubuntuâ€™ as we call it in Africa. Anka, it was great to meet you! Thank you for the gifts and blessings. And if anyone is ever thinking of staying in La Bresse, be sure to contact her on firstname.lastname@example.org.
While the daily distances have ranged between 90 and 130 kms and the mist and the rain has been unrelenting, none of it has managed to drown the spirits of the 2008 OE expedition riders. Yet…! We have it on good authority from Janice of Australia that the best we can expect for the next while is â€œPas beaucoup du soleilâ€ which translates into â€œNot a lot of sunâ€.
I asked a couple of the riders what some of their highlights have been so far. For Big Don from America, drinking coke out of a real glass bottle and not a can did it for him. Garris from New Zealand raved about the undulations from Chaumont to Xertigney. Manon, Graham and Nicole from Australia belted down a hill and through a sleepy village reaching a top speed of 60 kms. Some of Duncanâ€™s fondest memories include â€œPeas, grapes, orchids, poppies. The Julien Canal cycle path. Meandering through lush country fields and villages. Favourable winds. Superb meals. Light traffic. Champagne tasting. The rest of the day was history!â€
For all of us, itâ€™s the joy of experiencing first hand a soupcon of the 36 000 villages or â€˜communesâ€™ that exist in France. Itâ€™s stopping in at a 200 year old brasserie or pattiserie and savouring what the French do so well â€“ food and beverage. But with only a day left in the land of cheese, bread and wine, I hope that someone listens to Kurtâ€™s suggestion and switches the sun back on. Soon.