Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Bee-sting pix

Left and bottom: The results of the bee sting ...

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

And ... to top it all off ...

OK, why would this adventure NOT end like this? We arrive in Minneapolis yesterday and, in order to pass through customs, you need to do the pre-requisite passport check, but you also need to collect all your checked luggage and recheck it as it's your first stop in America. We get through passport (they didn't ask me if I had "anything to declare" so I couldn't give them the comment I had rehearsed ... "I declare that I will never drive a motor home in France again." Dang. Anyway, we went to get our luggage and ... none. Not one piece of luggage made it. Dave's bike box and three pieces of checked luggage. Nowhere to be found. Great ...

Couldn't do anything about it there, so we head on to Green Bay where we were exhuberantly greeted by my dad and Aunt Windy. Yes, I kissed the ground, too, glad to be home. But again, no luggage. Yeah, I think the luggage decided to spend another day in Europe!

So, here we sit ... no luggage save for the carryons (thankfully, I kept all the camera, laptop and other electronics with me). We have to leave early today (Tuesday) for Omaha, so they're going to have to fly everything to Omaha. This will be fun. Stay tuned for how quickly it takes to get everything!!

Like I said before, why WOULDN'T it end like this!??
- Julie

Monday, July 27, 2009

Read 'em all

We just posted about 7 stages, so if you've read through the trip to Switzerland, scroll down through the blogs and read backwards to keep our adventure in order!! More when we get another connection! We're in Nice at the airport, ready to fly home and face the credit card company.

- Julie & Dave

Top 10 Mo-Ho Moments

10. Dave and I get into Marseilles a bit late and finally find a pizza/pasta joint that’s still open at 9 p.m. After dinner, we decide to camp overnight in a nearby shopping center parking lot. We place ourselves in the most remote corner, next to a store, but are kept awake part of the night by a bar scene in an area of the shopping mall. We finally fall asleep between 2 and 3 a.m. only to be awakened at 6:30 a.m. by a semi that pulls up right next to us to unload his truck into the store that we’re parked beside. Oh, and the guy was whistling as he took his dolly up and down and up and down the ramp!!

9. Worse, the night we had to drop Freddy off for his bus in Tarbes, we decide to camp out in the bus station parking lot since his bus left at 2:30 a.m. At about midnight, a group of soldiers arrive to also wait for a bus. They were so loud we didn’t really need to worry about falling asleep and not getting Freddy out of the mo-ho in time! Thankfully, they left on the same bus as Fred.

8. Gerry and I rename a town to Rhode-Rage after we try every road to get out of it except the correct one. The GPS saves us when it points us toward this teeny, tiny, out-of-the-way road with a teeny, tiny, out-of-the-way sign pointing us finally in the right direction.

7. In another battle of “where do we go,” Gerry and I take a 20 km error out of our way. Unfortunately, when we each finally got that “I don’t think this is right” feeling, we were on a very narrow one-lane road leading up a mountain with no turnaround in sight. We finally found one and worked our way back to civilization.

6. Gerry and I decide to inadvertently take the "non-scenic" route, which included a very, very long tunnel through the Col du Grand Bernard, which cost us valuable time in meeting Dave at the top (we had to come back the opposite way) and 30 Euros, because they're still paying off the loan on the damn thing!

5. Just in general, we can’t even list – or count – the number of laws that we broke in the mo-ho. In particular, going the wrong way on a one-way street, doing U-turns (the mo-ho turns on a dime!), and pretending that we don’t understand what the road signs say, especially if they indicate that trucks aren’t allowed!

4. Freddy decides to take on a pylon going 80 km/h. Only later did we learn that he left a bit of the mo-ho behind.

3. Dave picks up Gerry in Toulouse, we stop to fill up with gas and a quick lunch and get on our way to Issoudun only to have the mo-ho give us some serious trouble. No acceleration!! We call a contact at the dealership and he says to turn around and get to their post in Toulouse. We discover there that Dave filled the mo-ho with a lunch of gasoline rather than diesel! A second forced rest day ensued. Thankfully they were able to repair quickly and didn’t have to replace the engine! What a way to welcome Gerry.

2. I, in my first and last moments as a Mo-ho driver, take a right when I should have taken a left around a roundabout and winds up with the mo-ho hung up on a curb. Only the help of four French men and the town Gendarmerie could get me out of this snafu. One man graciously takes the wheel, the Gendarmerie directs traffic, which is now at a standstill in this little town, and Dave – thankfully- pulls up on his bike. He takes over the driving on that day. The mo-ho was never the same after that … especially the metal step, which never again went down!

1. Gerry decides to take us out to dinner in a quaint little village near Bedoin that he knows about from a previous visit. The village, and its roads, is tiny!! We finally get parked and Gerry discovers that, since we have no reservation, they’re full. Little did we know how personally he would take it and he tries to drive right through the outdoor seating and down what we now know is a pedestrian path. Lessons in backing up large vehicles paid off for Gerry that evening, but I decided that I needed a lot of alcohol that evening!!

Home again, home again

Well, we made it. Dave’s performance was nothing less than awesome. My performance as navigator … awe-inspiring (awwww, look at the puppy; awww, look at the sheep and cows; awwww, listen to the cow bells!!!). Dave couldn’t say it any better – we experienced a lot during this trip, learned a lot during this trip, discovered a lot (including small towns that aren’t on any map and small roads that Mo-hos should NOT be on).

We spent our last three days in Bedoin. It’s a quaint little town that was incredibly fun. It was filled to the brim with bikers of all ages, shapes and sizes – all either attempting to climb Mont Ventoux or just seeing if they could pick up chicks in their spandex. We drove Gerry to Nice on Wednesday and, upon getting trapped in traffic by the airport and finding absolutely no place to park the Mo-ho overnight, decided it would be best to say our good-byes to Gerry at a hotel near the airport that had a shuttle for him the next morning and make our way out of the city. Not fully knowing where we were headed (only OUT of the chaos called Nice), we set the wheels to the pavement, started back toward Mont Ventoux and didn’t stop until we reached Bedoin around 9 that night. We actually parked in the same camping ground that we stayed the evening before, which turned out to be extremely convenient (a 5-minute walk to town), quiet and peaceful. We went into town, had dinner and wine and settled in for the evening.

Dave rode around the area, checking things out. He came home feeling great. I did, too. I was able to go into town and shop while he rode. Yee-hah! We decided to rent a bike for me for Friday so I, too, could enjoy the area. He threatened to take me up the mountain. I threatened another panic attack, followed by a heart attack!

Friday dawned HOT. Regardless, we went and got my rented bike – a Giant with a triple chain ring (granny gears!!). Perfect! Off we went. Did I mention how out of shape I am … no? Well, halfway through the ride, I thought I was going to keel over and die!!! Luckily, I have a very patient husband who stopped and poured water over my head. That revived me enough to get back home. Thankfully, it was also downhill to get home!! He, of course, had plenty of energy, so he went out and did a mere 75km around the area. I returned the bike and … went shopping!

Saturday – RACE DAY!! Dave decided he needed to climb Mont Ventoux yet again. Will this ever end?? He got up early and rode up, meeting and riding up with a guy from Denver who kept good pace with Dave. He got down in time to meet me to watch the caravan that precedes the racers. I don’t know how many of you have seen, or even know about the parade of sponsors that come before the racers, but there’s a parade of about an hour of vans, cars, “floats” and motorcycles who throw out everything from caps to keychains, musette bags to t-shirts. FDJ (a team) even threw out a few jerseys. We were lucky enough to score a couple of things, but I had to trample the little kid next to me to get them. The kid was ruthless!!!! Then, along come the racers. A breakaway group of about 9, then the pelaton with Lance, Alberto and Co., followed by the rest of the riders. They were there … then they were gone. In a matter of about 15 minutes, all that we waited for was over. We, along with the rest of the fans, rushed into town to the three or four TVs set up near bars to watch Tony Martin and Juan Manuel Garate duke it out to the top in an exciting finish not to be outdone by the cat-and-mouse game put on by the Schleck brothers, Contador and Lance. Outstanding and so exciting to be there. Race done, we got some food, beer and then I shopped some more … J

Sunday, our final day, Dave decided to … what else? Climb Mont Ventoux again. This time, he found the north route and rode up that way. He arrived back at the Mo-ho with a huge smile on his face. That’s what it’s all about!! He was feeling great, relaxed and full of satisfaction! It took a few days to sink in, but he now was extremely happy with his accomplishment. We packed up and started back to Nice. Which is where we sit … in a rest area about 25 minutes from where we return out Moho-away-from-home tomorrow (Monday). I must admit, I’m excited to be getting back home. We miss our kids, our dogs, our family, the phone calls, our friends. We’ve had such a great time and experienced so much, it’s just not possible to write it all in this blog. We can’t wait to share (bore?) everyone with out pictures, memories, mementoes, etc. We are so thankful for all of your support – especially during the uncertainty that was the first week-and-a-half. We can’t believe how fortunate we are to have friends like Fred and Gerry, who both stepped in to save this venture with little notice. And to our family and friends who never stopped encouraging and supporting, without you, this trip wouldn’t have been possible.

We’ll have more to post when we get back to the States, so watch for pictures and the “aftermath.”


Mission Accomplished!! Mont Ventoux

Stage 20 Recap: Mont Ventoux

I may have mentioned that when Greg Lemond won the Tour in 1989 by just 8 seconds in a come-from-behind victory on the final day of the race over his rival, Frenchman Laurent Fignon, I became captivated by this event. I have spent countless hours every July since tuned in to whatever TV or Internet coverage was available to track the progress of the race and the eventual winners. Lemond, three times a winner in ‘86, ‘89 and ‘90, and Lance Armstrong the seven-times champion from 1999-2005, have put the race a bit into the mainstream of American consciousness. Of course, for the Europeans, bike racing, and this race in particular, are the basis of legends, holidays and national pride. People of all ages, shapes and sizes come out of their homes, fields and businesses to catch just a glimpse of the tour riders as they make their way around France. The Grand Boucle (Big Circle) follows a different course each year but always finds a way to captivate the interest of cyclists from around the globe. We all probably have fantasized about being someone or something we are not. Surprise, surprise, I have imagined that being a professional bike racer in the Tour de France peloton would be the pinnacle of the sport. Funny thing happened on the way to turning 50 this year - I couldn’t shake the fantasy so I finally decided that the next best thing was to just go ride the crazy thing from start to finish in 21 days and just pretend for a month that I could handle whatever this experience could dish out. This was not about racing; I did not obsess over my time or my speed; the goal was to simply cover the distance in the same amount of days as the pros would follow just 4 days ahead of the actual race. It meant getting up everyday, rain or shine, and starting what I set out to finish. I’ll be the first to admit that I was at least as skeptical as anyone aware of the trip. Julie and I, and our support crew of Fred and Gerry, have had quite the experience. It has not been easy. It has not necessarily been fun in the way most people would define the term. It has been an experience that has tested our limits. We have certainly discovered that most limits are self imposed and we have stretched them hard, but we did not break. So here we are in Bedoin, at the base of Mont Ventoux. The stage is over, the climb has been completed and we are all left to ponder what all of this has meant. When I got to the top, I was not sure what my own emotions would be: euphoria, happiness, melancholy?? I found myself sitting at the edge of the climb looking out at the mountain ranges surrounding Mont Ventoux and I just felt numb. I think the combination of physical and mental fatigue just got in the way of emotions. I felt fulfilled but also empty. It reminded me again of Dr. Sheehan’s comment to me that “there is no finish line.” I hope you have enjoyed the journey with us and can recognize that I’ve shared a bit of my soul along with the experiences of the day. I’ve been fortunate to have experienced a number of “life-changing events” during my first 50 years and this will certainly make Dave Rogers’ Top Ten List! I hope the next 50 will be just as enriching!



Closing in on the end

Stage 19 Recap:

My mind has begun to process that this ride is soon to be coming to an end and today’s stage (from Bourgoin-Jallieu to Aubenas) was relatively easy by comparison to what has come before and what will finish tomorrow. The Cat 3 and 4 climbs are now starting to feel “easy” and don’t get my attention the way they did earlier in the trip. It’s kind of like when you take your first trip to Yellowstone and you get all excited when you start to see antelope or buffalo roaming the hillsides and you point and stop to take pictures, but after your 400th sighting you stop noticing quite so much. Today’s ride was hot (90s), 110 miles long and relatively uneventful except for the usual assortment of wrong turns and confusing little towns that somehow continue to leave one with no sense of direction coming in or going out. The roads remind us of spaghetti. If there is any form of grid system to their road planning it completely escapes us but we manage to find our way. Sometimes the Moho is more lost than me but we manage to end up at the same place each night. Tonight that location is Montelimar where I will begin my final stage in the morning to the famous climb up Mont Ventoux. It is historic in the annals of the tour with many grand battles taking place on its slopes that rise up from the small village of Bedoin for 20 kilometers at relentless grades of 9-14%. A famous rider died on the climb (Tom Simpson) and a memorial in his honor is just 2 kilometers from the summit where he collapsed. The mountain is often referred to as the “Giant of Provence” or “Mount Baldy”. It is eerily barren and lunar like over the top ¼ of the climb where the mountain was deforested for lumber that was used for ship building. The rock is almost white in color and a communication tower and weather station sit at the top. I have seen it many times watching the tour on TV, but tomorrow I will get my chance in person. It will be exciting to tackle the climb many tour champions consider to be the most difficult of all. Good stuff to sleep on!