The bike, Decathlon’s cheapest model, is lovely and will serve my needs adequately, but it arrived with the front tire a little underinflated. I thought to bring a small air pump and tool kit with me to France, but they’re in the suitcase that’s still en route. Though I came to Europe with the best frugal intentions (Grandma Midge was in the DAR, for crying out loud) I realized quickly while in Paris, considering the mass of stuff I brought with me, that my best schlepping days are behind me.* I had a scary vision of a train door closing while I was still huffing my bags aboard, so I availed myself of the SNCF’s very convenient door-to-door baggage service. I do not wish to tell you how much this service costs, merely that it is indeed very convenient. My biggest suitcase will arrive in Fitou on Wednesday, and it barely came in under the 30-kg weight limit. (Oh, how one detests being without clean undies. And one’s own dictionary. And Q-tips and bath salts and favorite sauté pan.)**
After some test-bounces, and assessing that there was enough air to support moi for 5 miles or so, I decided to set out on an excursion to Leucate, partly in search of places to get air and do laundry and partly just to begin what I hope will become a routine. Leucate, after all, is where one finds the train station, the closest supermarket, restaurants (in season) and bike shops.
It would be a fair enough assumption that if my village is 5 miles from the Mediterranean, the ride TO the Mediterranean would be mostly downhill. Au contraire. The route must have been laid out by ancient Roman designers of roller coasters, and I’m convinced that the total up-and-downage exceeds the change in elevation of several rides up and down Sears Tower. Still, I only had to get off and walk a few*** times.
I knew going in that I wasn’t in the best shape but many of these hills weren’t especially steep and the situation was a little discouraging. But then I came to realize that it was VERY windy. I mean, if I had hair it would have been a two-cans-of-Final-Net day. THAT windy. Going north, the wind was in my face. Turning east, it was in my face. Ducking behind a row of cypress trees, it was in my face. Crossing over the Autoroute, it was in my face. Stopped next to a stable where a pretty white cheval and I eyed each other suspiciously, it was in my face. I might as well have been aboard a stationary bike in a wind tunnel.
After about three miles I paused on the shoulder of the D6009, where I had a chat with Reality. I could see across the littoral to the enticing azure waves of the Mediterranean but the roar of the wind made it hard to think. In the end Reality won the day and I turned around.
My thighs twitched when I got home and I wobbled a little when I dismounted, but I wanted to find a way to look past my first trek and be confident about future rides. Surely, I thought, it can’t ALWAYS be this windy. I looked at the weather charts. In fact, I learned, the wind varies dramatically from day to day. Tuesday and Wednesday, for instance, it will be in the range of 3-4 km/hr, but on Thursday it kicks up to a lusty 40 km/hr. Saturday: 70 km/hr.
It was at that instant that I realized I was having what we affectionately refer to in my household as a Clay Moment. Here are some sample Clay Moments:
Clay: “I’m going downstairs to get some wine.”
(returns with lemon pie)
Calvin: “Where’s your wine?”
Clay: “My what?”
Clay: “Where are the Double-A batteries?”
Calvin: “In the bottom drawer of the kitchen island.”
Calvin: “The batteries.”
Clay: “Why do you want batteries?”
I whacked myself on my ample forehead as I remembered that the WORLD EFFING WINDSURFING CHAMPIONSHIPS happen here!
While I still believe I’ll emerge from this experience with 30-inch thighs, I understand now that it will take a bit more effort.
There’s a Life Lesson in that last sentence and I’ll be thinking about it when I go to bed in a couple of minutes.
*I actually came to this realization before I even arrived at the LAX Flyaway bus at Los Angeles Union Station last Wednesday morning, but I was trying to be a sport.
**Aside to Calvin: When you come to visit me in March, pack light. You’ll be riding lower on the inbound journey.