Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Day 41 Sunday August 2, 1987

I’ve been reading Nancy’s travel journal from 1987. That was the summer we took our epic bicycle journey though England, Wales, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, France, Belgium and the Netherlands. As you can see from the picture of the journal, she wrote in tiny, minuscule handwriting. I had bought the beautiful little handmade book that she used somewhere in Washington State in the winter of 1987. I don’t remember buying it but I know I did. On the inside cover is a handwritten note that says"Handbound by John and Annie Hansen, Indianaola, Wa. 98342 1987". On the next page is a note by Nancy that says "Doug presented me with this journal on ‘Happy Nancy Day’ in an effort to make my final days in Seattle pass more easily".

We both kept journals that summer. Nancy’s effort is by far the more interesting. Mine is mostly filled with complaints about the direction of the wind, the lack of coffee, beer or showers, the rudeness of anyone we encountered and the general crappiness of the weather. I must say in my defense, that when you are traveling by bicycle, that small irritations become very important. Bicycling is an interesting way to travel and if you have never spent 90 consecutive days on the road, on a bicycle, in a foreign country you probably wouldn’t understand why the lack of an open grocery store at noon, or the lack of cold beer in a grocery store at 5:00 in the evening is irritating. It is.....just take my word for it. You can’t carry everything with you, and you can’t just effortlessly drive across town to an open market. You’re on a bicycle, and the markets are closed anyway.

Compared to me, Nancy, however took time to stop and smell the roses. Then she wrote about it. Each evening, or a day or two later, we spent a few moments to enter the important events in our journals. I plan to enter a few of her entries her on North of Andorra. There is no point in trying to be religious about the passages. I’ll do them in no particular order and with little in the way of notation or explanation. So here is the first from our second day in France just south of Cherbourg.

Day 41 Sunday August 2 (entered Monday)

Thus comes the end of our beautiful weather. Rain and lots of wind during the night. Arose later than usual I suppose because we are further south and it doesn’t get lite here. It was misting / on the verge of rain. Broke camp and headed out towards Mont St. Michelle. Stopped for coffee and croissants outside of town, 30 FF. People here are very congenial and smile a lot, as do we, since neither can understand one another. I guess they call what we had a ‘petite journeles’ or some such thing. I think about how much language clarifies and how much is actually essential for communication. This was soon to prove itself as we left Carteret and into Barneville. Saw a little bike shop that was open, so Doug decided to have his bottom bracket problem looked into. The store employee (or owner) spoke only a few words of English to coincide with Doug’s meager French. But somehow the problem was conveyed. However, Sunday was not his mechanic’s day. As we were standing outside the shop trying to decide whether to stick around or chance going on, Doug asked the owner to borrow/buy a crank puller. He offered to let him bring it into the shop. The then proceeded to, in between customers, to disassemble the bottom bracket only to discover that it was ‘kaput". He did not have the replacements but with a grinder and a drill bit wrapped with sand paper, he was more or less able to reconstruct the arrangement. It was not perfect but it might hold out for awhile. At least we would be back on the road. Cost of 190 FF (about $30) Seemed expensive but we were back in action. We had figured out some rudimentary budgeting expenses for our last 6 weeks, and this could unbalance it, but necessarily so. Finally left Barneville at 11:30 and followed the highway. Scenery was not exciting, weather was worse. The combination of wind (headwind) and rain was beginning to grate on our nerves. Decided to stop for a bite of lunch at Creances, but discovered that Sunday is not the day for shopping in France. All was closed except for a fair that was going on in town. Creances is famous (as the roadside signs say) for it’s carrots. The fair had beer and roasted meat, bread and desserts, and pommes frites. Doug got a beer and we got a half loaf of bread for 2FF and 15 FF for pommes frites. We took a couple of chairs down from the grandstand and with the idea in mind to make some sandwiches when a toothless drunk came over trying to inform us of something or other and kept grabbing at everything. Another guy came over and said something about the chairs. I get frustrated at these moment since I cannot comprehend what is going on. So we went on, down the road outside a shopping center and ate lunch. Back on road eventually to just outside Brehal, in town of Briqueville (-sur-Mer). Camped at ‘Camping al a Ferme’ for 24 FF. Doug took a shower, but no hot water for me, so I waited and waited. An hour later still no hot water. Rode into Brehal a few miles away for dinner at the Hotel de la Gare, wonderful. What a pleasant change from Brit menus. Fixed price at 63 FF each and got a bottle of wine. Hard to communicate with waiter, even to ask if wine is sweet or dry. So what we wound up with was sweet, but good. Bean soup, bread, omelettes, roast pork, frommage. Pleasant dreams tonight that’s for sure. I even had hot water when we got back, so showered.

As you can see "stopping to smell the roses" is relative. It’s hard not to complain when you travel by bicycle.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nancy's journal notes very interesting considering they are almost 22 years old. Of course you both were, at the time, far older than most folks setting out to tour a good portion of Europe on a bicycle.

Would've loved to have seen a journal from Doug & Scott Mahoney's European bike trip 16 or 17 years earlier. On second thought...