Tuesday, July 16, 2013

France: l'arrivee (Part One.... such as it was.)

By the time Cullen came by to pick me up, I was three quarters into a schizoid embolism.
(Quaid... shut down the reactor.)
A muscle somewhere between my nose and left eye would not stop twitching, and I could feel the stress... a palpable pressure in my chest.
I had managed to knock out most of what I needed to do, but knew that there were still a number of flaming, explosive balls in the air.
In the end I had to shrug and say, "f*** it.... I'm going to France."
(I'm happy to say that as far as I know, all balls were either caught by able employees, or the ones that did fall only resulted in minor burns.)
I threw my 1990's CampTrail internal frame pack and Thule bike box into the back of Cullen's mega-truck and we were off.
All the camping gear I own is from the mid-90's and is either purple or teal. 

After a few "oh shit!... oh well" moments of remembering things I'd meant to do before leaving, I felt the stress start to give up, and I went into travel mode A. (Travel mode A is where you let yourself enjoy the process. Not to be confused with Travel Mode B, where you are an endurance machine that simply takes whatever is thrown at you until you reach your destination.)
After an arduous check-in where we nervously bid adieu to our bike boxes, Cullen and I sat down to some enchiladas and $7 beers in the Charlotte airport.

And we were off.
7+ hours later, we arrived in the Charles de Gaulle airport.
"Pssst...Eric.. is that the guitarist from St. Vitus?!" I whispered, eyeballing a guy who was eyeballing me and my NoMeansNo tshirt. I looked everywhere for Wino, but never saw him, so I can neither confirm nor deny whether it was indeed, St. Vitus. (It was...n't.... not... them)
If it wasn't, I bet he knew him.
After finally getting our rental cars situated ("I'm sorry.... our computers are down." and "We don't have the car you reserved, but we do have something completely different.") we were on our way.
Cullen and I had a bit of a hickup at the first toll-station as our jetlagged brains tried to make sense of what we were being asked for. (Ticket? Wait... do we take one or give one? Does that say 20 euros or 2? Which one is the money slot?) 
We finally made it to Poitiers and the worlds smallest parking deck. Driving up the ramp we made a wager of which one of us would be the first to take a little paint off the rental. The surface of the parking deck was clearly laid down to emphasize the squeaking of turning tires and it echoed throughout the tiny deck as I made a 21 point turn to fit the near-American sized hatchback into the spot. I had to crawl out of the passenger side door as mine was blocked by a support beam. 

We checked into our hotel and went out to explore and have a beer.

After hiking up the stairs... realizing I wanted a coat... running back down them and hiking back up.... we found a brasserie... and some beer.

It was Fete de la Musique, a live music festival that encompasses all of France (hence my buddy from St. Vitus) and the main square of Poitiers was being set up for a pretty large scale concert. The sound check consisted of some electronic elements along with some Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds coverage. This was obviously not going to be the shitty cover-band awfulness that we're used to playing in 'Murican city-squares ("Y'all ready to have a good time? Like a Cheesburger in Paradise?")
The musical stylings of the sound-check were unique enough that I got chills fantasizing that maybe... just maybe, my dreams would come true and the band would be the Galloping Coroners (Vagtazo Halottkemek).... Oh come on. You know... the original Shamanic punk band from Hungary? (Oh... you know... you know).

Among the various shows I would kill to see and regret having missed: Galloping Coroners is right up there along with Slim Cessna's Auto Club, The Causey Way (The Causey Way is not a cult), the Minutemen and my new obsession.... Ghost B.C.

Unfortunately, my body was not up to staying to find out, as we were all well on our way to passing out at the dinner table. Cullen might have.


The next morning we woke up (and by we, I mean everyone else. "Y'all are dressed n' everythin?") and headed down to get some breakfast and hit up the market.
We grabbed some great cheese and cured sausages, guessed at what kind of skinned animal this one woman was selling (rabbit, we later decided), grabbed some produce and sat at a cafe, looking at the architecture and watching the people.

With our goods in tow, we headed out of Poitiers.
Driving along the bucolic French countryside, the Pyrenees finally showed their face as we pulled into a rest stop. "Damn. Look at all of that snow," Cullen and I said in unison. Stretching our legs, we checked out the sculpture commemorating the Tour.

And finally... after just a little more driving... we were at our house in the tiny village of Thuy.

As the only person sans partner, I got the little beds. Le sigh.

We hauled our gear in, broke out the sausage, cheese and beer, and Eric, Cullen and I set about building our bikes (and Wizard staffs, as I reminded them that this was Wizard Staffs Across the Universe Day... even in France. 

I'd gone back and forth about which bike to bring for weeks. My Ritte Bosberg?

Or my Raleigh International?

Ultimately, I opted for the International... more for the fact that as a steel frame, I wasn't super concerned with the potential for damage during travel... and for the ease of swapping out the crank for a compact (read: I had all of the necessary parts in stock). Also....the Ritte is equipped with Campy Record, and I just wasn't crazy about throwing a non-Campy compact on. (Whatever, Watts.) Yes... the Raleigh was probably 7-8 pounds heavier than the Bosberg... even with the Rolf Elon wheels.... but I love the way the steel frame rides for long distances and knew that it would be a good choice.
Chris Bland, the owner operator of Allonz-y-Pyrenees and the gite we were renting for the week stopped by to check in on us and have a beer. We picked his brain for route info and got some ideas for where we wanted to ride in the coming week.

As a seasoned bicycle-shop owner (cough cough (with a much less complicated arrangement)) my bike was together before the others, and I began work on our Wizard Staff.

There are, from what I'm told, a number of rules regarding the wizard staff and it's creation. One.
You're not allowed to throw up...( tell that to the Emotron.)

(with a soundtrack by The Causey Way to boot. You're welcome, btw.)

Two: Wizard Staffs cannot be combined.
(I have no idea whether these are actually rules... I just made them up so that I could dispute them and make sure you were all aware of the Emotron.)
See.... we didn't start our wizard staffery until pretty late, and we only had 3 six packs of canned 1664. So we figured instead of petite french six pack staffs, we'd join forces and along with some of the bottles and wine we'd gotten into, create a wizard staff worthy of worthiness.

By rights, we should have been so hungover the next morning that our souls hurt. But they didn't... any more than usual.
Speaking of souls.

Next up... we ride bikes.
In France.
Eat it.

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