Archive for August, 2007

As I’d reported in a comment to my previous blog, at 9am there was still no change in the tracking system. At that point I took it as given that James had dropped out of the ride and will be making his way back. He has emergency contact information on him for contacting me so if there had been some serious health issue or an accident I would have heard. That thought is probably what helped me to finally fall asleep at about 4am this morning.

By 10am I was wondering why I hadn’t heard from him so it finally occurred to me to call reception and ask if there were any messages for me. It turns out there were two! I quickly dashed downstairs and discovered a phone message from James and an email from James’ dad Ian. When I asked the receptionist (whom I hadn’t seen before) why they had not contacted my room, they said that the message had come in after 9:30pm so they do not call the rooms that late.

The phone message just said:

“Your husband stopped the ride at the control at Fougeres. He will return to Paris tomorrow. A little bit sick but okay. He’ll try to contact you this evening.”

I’m relieved to have news from him and confirmation of what has happened. I feel for him knowing the long arduous trip he’s undertaking just to return now. Unfortunately there is no sweeper van to assist riders who abandon and need assistance to get back. I saw Jan again from Seattle who had abandoned at Fougeres on the outward leg. I clarified with her what she had to do to get back. It involves getting a train from Vitres, which is 33k from Fougeres. Then he has to switch trains at some other place to head into Paris. From Paris he gets a train to St Quentin and then a taxi back to the hotel. The train from Vitres is a big obstacle as it runs only a few times during the day and he might have had to stay overnight to catch one.

So he’s on his way back. I’ll try to search online for information on trains from Vitres and keep the information coming as I learn more.

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Nous sommes arrivés, We’re exhausted, but we’re here. We had a reasonably smooth trip to Paris. We were well organized this trip, having all of our luggage ready to go by Monday. The greatest challenge was dismantling the bike and packing it in the bike box. James took lots of photos so that he will have a visual aid if he can’t where everything goes when he puts it back together tomorrow.

This bike must fit in this box:

James carefully concentrates on disassembling his beloved bike:

I found myself in the unprecedented position of having some free time before Jennifer arrived to take us to the airport on Tuesday morning. With an hour to spare, the girls and I cleaned the shambles that has been masquerading as our family car! I haven’t cleaned the car in weeks and it had been driving me crazy. I had visions of congealing food, that the children may have dropped, hiding and waiting to transform itself into a biohazard while we are away. I have now eradicated the possibility of any such bio-emergency and left Seattle feeling confident in my capacity as Professional Mother traveling the world with her family and leaving hearth and home in spit-spot condition for our return.

Christian and Jenn dropped us off at departures and we had an unexpected tearful departure from Caitlin who was sad to say goodbye to our friends, Reassured that they would take care of our house and our car and pick us up when we returned, she managed a little smile and issued sweet kisses and sincere hugs before we carried her to the check-in. Following the usual exciting ritual of Ashley and Caitlin’s teddies riding the “boats” through the security check, we picked up our last Starbucks treats (though it’s not as if Starbuck’s has not franchised Paris!) and made our way to the departure gate.

Out came our felt spots (large circles I made a long time ago out of ten different colors of felt) and the girls played various games with them: dancing on lily pads, traveling the trail around the world to Ireland and Paris, eating them an placing them on their heads. Each trip they find some new way to use them. Having the spots on the ground is also a way to attract other little ones for the girls to meet and play with. This time a little Korean girl and two French boys joined us on separate occasions. The little boys. Emile and Marius, turned out to be similar ages to girls and sat with us as we read stories. Then their father Philippe (who is French American) supervised the children playing Emile’s Thomas the tank engine game, while James and I chatted with their mother, Laurence.

It was all very friendly and then suddenly two familiar little girls showed up delighted to see us. They were Fanny and Anise, whom we had met in Golden Garden’s park in Seattle last week. They were just finishing their visit to the West Coast and would soon be returning to their home in Andorra. We had had a lovely little chat and I had been delighted to practice my very rusty French and discover that I could understand the girls and, even better, make myself understood. I’d only had a chance to briefly chat with their parents, Rose and Pierre, before having to chase after Caitlin who went on a mission to find ice-cream. And now here they were at the airport. Their mother, Rose, was almost speechless at this “incroyable” meeting.

With a very social wait for our plane (including chatting with other cyclists and their spouses heading to Paris) we boarded and enjoyed personal TV consoles  with a wide variety o viewing options, friendly in-flight service from Carol, our flight attendant, and child friendly attention, which included the girls receiving little zipped bags of activities to keep them amused during the flight. I had forgotten the reputation of Air France as a very child friendly airline. Although, James and I hardly slept at all, the girls managed a little nap and as we completed our crossing of the Atlantic Ocean Ashley was thrilled to be able to watch the map of the flight path on her TV console. She excitedly followed the planes passage over Ireland, Wales, England and then into France. She completely understands the traveling over other countries and oceans. Caitlin, on the other hand, was trying hard to fathom the whole business but we realized on our coach ride through Paris, en route to the hotel, that it hasn’t quite sunk in. She sleepily shared with James that she was very excited to be “going to France”.

Our biggest concern on the flight was that James’ bike wouldn’t make it. We were aware of the many horror stories of bikes not arriving or turning up damaged in previous PBP years. We had a short stretch of anxiety when it didn’t arrive with the first few loads of bike boxes but it finally came and all was well and we made our way to the coaches waiting to whisk us all off to our hotels dotted around the PBP starting point in Saint-Quentin-en-Yveline.

James delighted at the safe arrival of his bike box in Paris:

Ashley snuggling up in my fleece as she looks out the coach window at Paris:

James and a very tired Caitlin who was confused and excited that she was “going to France”:

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