Are We Having Fun Yet?

Mimizan, France:   My day started at 1:30am and it deteriorated from there.

I awoke to a thunderous siren.   At first I thought it was an errant alarm clock, but it continued and continued until my slumbering brain processed what was going on:  FIRE ALARM.  I jumped out of bed, grabbed my hotel key and dashed down three flights of stairs barefoot in the compression pants and t-shirt I was sleeping in.  No shoes, no passport, just the room key.   I was surprised the stairwell was quiet, and even more surprised when no one was in the lobby except for the receptionist, who informed it’s a false alarm as the sirens continued.   He said — with an air of experience — the alarm would shut off in a few minutes.   I got the sense this isn’t the first time the fire alarm has gone off in the middle of the night.

The hotel was nearly full last night, yet I seem to be the only one who roused from my room.  Strange.  Call me quirky, but I prefer to not sleep through hotel fires.

A few hours later I received my 6:00am wake-up call and discovered over baguettes and soft-boiled eggs that Mother Nature had fooled the meteorologists.  Il pleut, as the French say.   It was raining…a cold, grey, steady release from the clouds.  I considered waiting out the rain.  I considered taking a rest day in Biarritz, which wouldn’t exactly be hardship.  It was bound to happen sooner or later, so I took the plunge, put all my things in dry bags inside my supposedly waterproof panniers, loaded Bubba Too up, and took off into the rain to join the traffic rushing to work.  How fun.

About three hours later,  as I was soaked to the bone but acclimated to the wetness, I had another Uh Oh moment.  If you’ve been following this blog you probably realize Uh Oh moments are not good moments.   They’re more like Holy Shit moments, pardon my French.    The road I was following led straight to a highway, and in France, like I have discovered elsewhere on this journey, bikes are a no-no on highways.  So with the assistance of a truck-driver I found and took this unmarked, deserted access road that ran parallel to the highway:

I took the road until the road ran out.  I then made my way to a small town.  From the center of town there were roads going in many directions — except the direction I wanted to go.   So I found a dry spot at a cafe, spread open my new Michelin map, and looked at my options.   I could probably figure out a patchwork of zig-zagging to the town of Labouheyer, but looking for more unmarked roads in the cold wetness of this day didn’t seem like too much fun.

So I changed course.   I headed westward toward Leon, near the coast, and then headed north to Mimizan, a small and ordinary tourist town.  I had initially considered this semi-coastal route, but the hotel staff in Biarritz assured me the inland route is superior and there’s pas de probleme for a bicycle.   Sometimes local intelligence, I am finding, isn’t so intelligent.

115-kilometers later and past forest, corn and sunflower fields, I find myself staying in a town I had not planned visiting.   This is the second time on my Euro cycle where I’ve yielded to the direction of the road.

While it may not be my definition of fun, today has certainly been a memorable day.  And as I reminded myself many times today, after the rain comes the sun.   Usually.

Day 18 (Wednesday, June 22):  Biarritz — Mimizan, France

Day 18 distance:  114.63 km

Day 18 ascent: 350 m

Terrain:  flat-ish

Weather:  Wet, cold and grey

Trip summary:

Distance: 1,345.30  km

Climbing: 9,343 meters

Rest days:  4

Police interactions:  1

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About Todd

Around-the-world cycling, one continent at a time
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5 Responses to Are We Having Fun Yet?

  1. Phillip M. White says:

    Good for you, Todd, for going with the flow. A trip like this must test one’s ability to modify plans and adjust accordingly. You’re building character!

  2. Margot Weinstein says:

    What a day! It looks pretty dreary in the photo.
    I am struck at how much your trip is like the one that I had in my mind before signing up for America By Bike–ie. less mileage, better food, variety of cultures, sigthseeing, etc. I gotta say that you are being pretty stoic about the navigation issues. Who would think that with all the maps and GPS this would still be so tricky? It almost reads like there just aren’t secondary roads between some of these places–only highways or cart paths. CRAZY.
    I am also really curious how it feels going it solo. I like my alone time–but get on my own nerves after a while. What’s that part like? What are you thinking about when you aren’t trying to navigate? So far, is the trip what you expected????
    You can’t believe how exotic and adventurous this looks to me…
    xoxo M

    • Todd says:

      Hey Margot….well, this is an adventure. It doesn’t feel very exotic, but it’s real. The navigation has been a big headache but I am much more relaxed about it now. I know that one way or the other I’ll figure out a path.. My new, top-of-the-line Garnin GPS is worthless. I don’t even bother turning it on now. On the solo issue, it hasn’t been a problem, though companionship would definitely enhance this experience. When I am not cycling I am usually busy either sighteseeing, blogging, or doing research. I am also in touch with alot of people like yourself who are following this trip, so I feel very connected. When I am cycling I try to stay very focused on my immediate surroundings and the ride. I try to not let my mind wander too much. When I get really bored I either sing (yesterday it was Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head) or I play games, like cycling at a higher intensity until I reach some object. Surprisingly it all goes by pretty quickly. But I think by July 20/Munich I will be very, very bored with myself. I am glad I am breaking up the ride to Instanbul in two parts.

  3. Lanny Huang says:

    Todd, you really need to rely on ya ” 6th Sense ” when meeting roadblocks. At trips, I realize downs make ya ups getter higher and ” downs ” are really getting u stronger & next time wiser. I plan to see a much ” seasoned ” traveller from you. And remember we do read your blog seriously, since never know when, I may have the similar situations as yours. Keep up strong, we are behind you. Best, Lanny

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