May 29, 2022

Something'll happen

 Back when I was building decks, we would often come across issues where we had to figure out how to make something work. Though the general construction was basically the same, every design was a little different, and every house presented different challenges. When the solution wasn't immediately obvious, we would let the problem sit in the back of our minds. Sometimes your brain keeps that problem running in the background and a solution will pop up while you are working on something else. Other times you just need to step away to come back with a fresh set of eyes. 

Occasionally a customer would see the problem themselves and would ask us how we were going to solve it. If we didn't yet have the answer, we would say, "Something'll happen". It was shorthand for "We haven't figured it out yet, but are confident that we will. Just give it/us some time."

"Something'll happen" has been the theme of the last few days. 

When I landed in Paris, my bike did not. The cardboard box that held my panniers and other bags showed up, but the bike box was nowhere to be found. I talked to the people in baggage claim and called Iceland Air, but their answer was basically, "Don't call us, we'll call you". Unfortunately, they mistyped my email address, got my home address wrong, and even put down my last name as "Dan" rather than "Day". It took an additional twenty minute call to get that fixed. It didn't inspire confidence. 

Since I had planned to ride my bike everywhere, I had to take an Uber while Rick and Liz rode to hotel from the airport, then another Uber on to the hotel in Paris the following day. Every next move and plan was prefaced by, "Well, if you get your bike..." There was one plan with, and one plan without a bike. We tried to stay positive, stay in the moment, and continued to work the plan as variables kept changing. Something'll happen.

We had planned for one full down day in Paris to let me recover some sleep, finish getting set up, and race by a few touristy spots. When we hadn't heard from the airline at the end of that second day, we spent an additional day looking around to see if I could rent a bike for two weeks. We struck out in Paris. Not only was it a long holiday weekend, but there was also a championship soccer/football final that weekend. The city was more overrun than normal, and everything was more expensive. Our already expensive hotel was due to double in price the second day, but Liz was able to sweet talk them into letting us stay on another day at the original price. 

We looked at taking a train to a smaller town on the route to see if we could pick up a bike there, but still no luck. As each hour and day ticked by, I became less and less confident my bike would ever show up, much less late, or that we would be able to figure out a work around. 

Before arriving, I had worried about throwing a wrench in their trip if my hip made it too difficult to keep up. The last thing I wanted to do was show up and screw up this epic trip they were on. Now I didn't even have a bike to fail on. I told Rick and Liz that I was planning to go home early, to let them continue the trip and ride without me. It broke my heart. They understood how I felt, but we set aside any final decisions until the next day. We went out and had a wonderful dinner, then slept on it. 

I could have shifted gears and made a new vacation plan for myself. After all, I was in Europe for the first time in thirty years. Why not spend some time, see the sights. But that wasn't what this trip was going to be about. It was about riding along rivers and through countrysides. It was about spending time with family I love, and finding small places and moments together that would be missed on a normal journey. I travel by myself all the time, but again this wasn't what this trip was about. I was pretty crushed, but still ready to make the difficult call to go home. 

I woke up at 3:30 and couldn't fall back asleep. I looked at changing my flight ($540 charge), for hotels anywhere between Paris and the airport (nothing under $200), our previously planned route and other things while fighting insomnia. I was finally able to sleep for an hour and then met Rick and Liz for breakfast. My new suggested plan was to take a train to Rouen (which was on our planned route), to spend another day with them before finding my way home. Paris had been a mess, and I just wanted to see a smaller town, and have a day where we didn't have to come up with any contingency plans. We found  an apartment in Rouen where we could stay for two nights. 

I had not heard a peep from the airport or the airline in all this time, even though I had corrected all the information they took down (except my last name was still Dan since that was somehow unchangeable). There was however a website where I could log in to see if they had found my bag. I had checked it every couple of hours over the three days, and checked it again in the middle of the night when I couldn't sleep. Still no sign of my bag.

I checked the website one more time after breakfast. The bike was now at the airport. 

Liz had finalized the reservation in Rouen just minutes before, so the train was still the plan. Scrambling ensued. Rick and I took an Uber to the airport, grabbed the bike, and took a taxi back, taking about three hours in the process. We assembled the bike in the street, loaded up our gear and rode to the train station. Another three hours later, we were in Rouen. The trip was back on. 

I am thankful that Rick and Liz are so flexible in the way they travel, always ready to figure out the next solution to the next problem. Even after I had given up hope, they were ready to roll with what came next. 

 Something'll happen.

Oh how I have missed this stupid box

Ready to ride

But first, a train. 

May 18, 2022

Getting my gear in gear

 The previous times I've done multi-day bike trips were a two week ride from Seattle to San Francisco in 2006, and one a week ride loop from Whitefish Montana to Canada and back to the US through Waterton Lakes and Glacier National Park in 2007. Both were amazing experiences I will never forget. 

Both were also charity rides for the American Lung Association. The first ride in 2006, I didn't know a soul on the trip when I started, but within a few days it felt like the other riders were already friends. Many of those riders signed up for the Glacier ride the next year, and it was a wonderful reunion ride through a spectacular part of the country.

On both of those trips, we were camping. Each night you set up the tent, rolled out your sleeping bag, and in the morning you did everything in reverse to break camp. But, there was a support truck that followed along, so we didn't have to carry anything beyond what we needed for each day's ride. We would throw our duffel bag in the U-Haul in the morning, and grab the duffel bag out of the pile when we rode into camp each night. Rinse and repeat.

This trip in France we aren't camping, instead staying in hostels or cheap hotels, but there will be no SAG wagon following behind us carrying our stuff like a mechanical Sherpa. Everything from start to finish needs to fit on the bike. 

I originally planned on using the same road bike that I used for the charity rides, just needing to figure out how to retro-fit racks to carry things. However, I found out there were going to be a number of sections where we were riding on dirt and gravel, and my skinny tire road bike wasn't going to work very well. 

A buddy loaned me his mountain/hybrid bike that had wide tires and a rack, but it was too big. I looked for used bikes in every shop and also online, but couldn't find anything that seemed to be a good fit. The more I looked, the more I didn't want to get something that would only sorta work. I didn't want to fly all the way there, for basically a once in a lifetime kind of trip, and be miserable on an ill-fitting bike. 

So I bought another bike. 

The bike is specifically designed for touring. Lots of places to bolt on racks and fenders, wide tires to tackle any terrain, and a steel frame that will probably outlive me. Ever since those charity rides fifteen years ago, I have wanted to do another long distance ride. Take off for a week, camp out and unplug. See the contours of the land at a much slower pace. This trip finally gave me the push to get set up to do just that, so now no excuses.

The bike is basically set up now. I took a few things off my road bike, and bought what I couldn't scrounge. Rick and Liz had some extra panniers (saddle bags) they loaned me, so I that was a big help. 

It seems there are a hundred tiny things I still need to do and get to be ready, but the big pieces are in place.

One of the remaining hurdles is fitting it all in. I chronically overpack, and this is not a trip where that is going to work out. Room is limited, and anything I carry, I have to carry over each hill I ride. I'd like to think I have learned my lesson to pack light, and only the essentials from previous backpacking trips, but I can be a slow learner sometimes. 

May 16, 2022

Two wheeled adventure

I have this weird thing with vacations, and maybe anticipation in general. 

For vacations, it isn't real until I check in at the airport, or drive away with a loaded up car. Something can always go wrong I suppose, so don't spend the energy on anticipation. But once vacation brain is turned on, I am all in. A switch is thrown and living in the moment is where I want to be. 

This trip is a little different, while being more of the same for my pre-vacation brain. 

There is much more planning involved this time around, though to be fair a lot of it is being done by the people I am joining. This time I can't wait until the last minute to run to the store, pack my bag, procrastinate as is my habit. There are just too many boxes to be checked, and small boxes to squeeze into. 

I am going on a two week bicycle trip through France. I leave in about a week. 

My cousins have been planning this trip for quite some time. I can't remember when they first told me about it, but in the first sentence or two they said, "You should join us!"

Yes, yes I should. 

There have been other opportunities to join friends on some cool trips before. I went on a number of them, but I have passed on couple I definitely regret, like the trips to Hawaii and Ireland. There were valid or semi-valid reasons to not go at the time, but I didn't want to let this one slip by and live to regret it. This trip is one I know I will love, but probably wouldn't have planned on my own, and I am so excited to travel with Rick and Liz. 

Their ride started in Portugal and they have been biking for almost a month now. They are currently in France, biking from Bordeaux to Paris, which is where I will join them. After a day in the city, we will ride west to the Normandy area on the coast. We will then head north along the coastline toward Dunkirk. There are general plans, but no set schedule of how far we will ride each day, or where we will stop each night. My sense is that they have been planning a few days out, but remaining flexible to hiccups and joys that make them pause or change their plans. I am not sure of how far I will get in the two weeks I will be with them, but at some point I will have to peel off and hop a train back to Paris to fly home. They will continue on to eventually finish in Amsterdam. 

Even though there has been planning in the background, I didn't tell a lot of people about the trip. Beyond the usual things that can throw a wrench in your plans, Covid has kept its two-plus year hold on things. Add to that my arthritic hip, and I wasn't sure how getting on the bike would feel. The answer is not great so far, but that is a story for another post. 

The hurdles can still trip me up, but the excitement is building. I have been fortunate to travel to some cool places in my life, and have even taken week-long and two-week-long bike trips in the past. However, it has been fifteen years since the last long bike ride, and it will be almost exactly 30 years since I was last in Europe. It feels crazy when I say things like "it has been 30 years since I...", but getting older doesn't mean getting old (just yet). Right? 

For at least a couple of weeks, the Views From Two Wheels blog will be a bit more literal.