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BICYCLE TOURING EXPERIENCES

 

Stories from our Adventures

 

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The Lady & the Canal

Operation Vietnam

Petroglyphs

The Hiram Bingham Train

map storage & retrieval method

power lines down

negoiating the roundabout

 

 

 

 

 

 

 ..there is no city by this name on my map (Tuscany)

 Tour Stories

car free adventure ___________________

 

The “Stories” webpage provides experiences written about from our bicycle adventures.  The majority of these stories are about experiences we have had with the local populations while bicycling all around the globe.  Included are some unique “non-bicycle” related experiences which interested me.  These stories have been written  using a bit of poetic license. 

 

At bicycle speeds the cyclist is exposed to all aspects of the route's surroundings. Touring on a bicycle is a social event.  The experiences along the route are always interesting and always memorable.  The people along the route are curious about what we are attempting to accomplish and interested in hearing about our goals.  They never shy away from being helpful and many go out of their way to provide the help when needed. 

 

One of the most difficult tasks for me is to stay on the route to my destination each day. The routes we select to ride are off the beaten path because that is where we want to ride.  Since it is off the beaten path the signage at the intersections to the roads does not exist.  They need not be marked because the local population has no need for them.  We have learned “by doing” that one always verifies the route before riding miles in the wrong direction. 

 

Verification of the route requires that we enter into a conversation with the local population.  When cycling in a foreign country that conversation can be very interesting because of language.  On several occasions I have been forced to pantomime my request following the three words I know of the local language.  Often the people speak english perfectly no matter how remote the location where I am asking for advice.  I have always received positive, helpful responses. 

 

 

 ...bike friends we met from Holland ...(Ebbs, Austria)

 

 ..sharing the road with the locals (France) ..

 

 ..waiting to enter the tunnel (Vietnam)..

 

 ..pausing for lunch on the road..Tuscany..

 

 



 The Lady and the canal - France 2000

 

     

 ..on the road near Troyes on our way to Paris..

 ..the lady we met in the outskirts of Paris who attempted to tell us how to take the bike path to the Eiffel Tower...she gave up and decided to ride with us instead..

 ..we made it thanks to the coaching from lady we met at the canel...

 

My son and I were bicycling into Paris on one leg of our 2000 tour.  Our support van had dropped us about 60 miles east of Paris outside the town of Troyes where we initiated our ride.  Our goal was the Eiffel Tower where the support crew would meet us.  This was my first bicycle tour but I have learned since that finding one’s way around a large city one is unfamiliar with is difficult especially on a bicycle.  But as often happens on my trips we met a good Samaritan.      

When we reached the outskirts of Paris the road pattern became confusing. We had to avoid the major freeways into Paris which prohibited bike traffic.  We picked our way along trying to avoid getting totally lost.  At one point my son yelled at two bicyclists “Paris” as they rode by.  They gave us the thumbs up and we attempted to follow, but by the time we got on the road behind them they had disappeared.  We wandered toward Paris finally coming to an intersection the roads of which were not on our map.  This was typical of the whole trip.  The maps were not detailed enough for bike navigation. 

 

As we pondered which road to take, a lady rode by on her bike.  Jack again asked “Paris.” The woman stopped and Jack asked, “Do you speak English?”  The woman said, “Oh yes,” in perfect English.  We told her that we wanted to get to the bike path along the Seine so we could get to the Eiffel Tower.  She told us that we could ride on the bike path along the Canal de l’Ourcq most of the way and began to explain how to get to the bike path.  Then she stopped trying to explain how to reach the bike path and said she would show us the way and rode off on her bike.  We followed. 

 

She took us the wrong way on a one way street which with the wave of her hand indicated she did this all the time to shorten the trip.  After maybe a mile we reached the bank of the canal.  We were at street level and the bike path was beneath us.  I took two pictures of the lady with Jack as they studied the map.  Again she decided it better that she ride with us a short distance to show us the way.  She said that when we met she had been going to the Foret Regional de Bondy near by to read, it being such a beautiful spot, but she would change her plans and ride with us along the canal instead. 

 

As we rode along she provided the history of the buildings along the canal and the general history of the area.  She told us what had happened to the area during World War II.  We rode for several miles and after a time she disclosed that she had exceeded her typical bike trek distance along the canal.  She also told us she was 77 years old!     

 

We approached the end of the bike path along the canal.  Our guide tried in vain to explain how to get from the canal to the Seine.  She saw two men setting on a bench preparing to roller blade along the bike path.  She joined them and their conversation, in French, which became very light hearted.  We had ridden about sixty miles and I was tired.  We wanted to get to the Eiffel Tower.  After a bit, the two men got up from the bench and looked at the map Jack held in his hand.  In fairly reasonable English, they told him how to get to the Eiffel Tower. 

 

Before we left, our lady companion asked if I would write to her when I returned to the states.  I said sure and she asked if I had a pencil and paper.   Both were not things that I carried as required equipment in my pack.  Not to worry, she stepped into the street and flagged down a car.  She asked for a pencil and paper but the first car had none.  Without hesitation, she stopped a second car.  The street was narrow and when a car stopped it blocked the street.  The second car produced pencil and paper and while stopped blocked two other cars which had been proceeding along the road.  She wrote down her address, returned the pencil and thanked the occupants of the car.  All the while the two cars being blocked patiently waited, staying off their horns.  I could observe the occupants of the two cars and the occupants both looked as though this happened all the time.  Never in America!

 

I put the slip of paper with the address into my pack.  We said our goodbyes to the Lady of the Canal and headed for the Seine and the Eiffel Tower to meet the support crew.  I corresponded with the lady of the canal upon my return and received a very sympathetic letter immediately after 911 from her. 

 

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 BICYCLING ACROSS VIETNAM 2008 – A Spy Story – No country for old men

 

     

 ..we entered Ha Long Bay around noon...

 ...my company provided IPOD pinged in my ear as we moved into the bay...

 ..we drifted with the tide into the tunnel under in the rocks..

 

…….as I floated to the surface I was frustrated but I had done what I could to prevent a disaster. When I got to the surface I stretched my arms across my upturned kayak and held on.  The woman in the two person kayak that I had forced to the wall of the tunnel put her hand out and yelled for me to grab on which I did.  My arm in her grip we slowly drifted with the tide toward the mouth of the tunnel. 

 

The guide was in a kayak next to us and I thought instead of coming out of the tunnel looking like a pathetic old man being saved by a woman maybe I could drop some of the “old” persona for a few hundred yards and grab onto the back of the guide’s kayak for the remainder of the trip out of the tunnel.  I got his attention and relayed my plans to him and grabbed onto the back of his kayak.

 

As we exited from the tunnel I noticed the deception had worked.  The members of my group drifted in their kayaks close by with that expression on their faces which related the message “that poor old man!”  The guide told me to climb onto the back of his kayak.  I struggled onto the back of his kayak and he paddled me over to my kayak and I clumsily transferred onto my kayak. 

 

Back on my kayak and paddling with the group back toward the boat my mind began to drift back over the last few months of preparation for this trip…….

 

I am a CIA agent.  I work undercover.  My specialty is “old.”  “Old” is a name the company assigned to using age as a cover.  On assignment I act old similar to the blind kid in the wheelchair who transported the guns in “Westside Story.”  I am basically ignored on an assignment which allows me to get into position to gain advantage over my opponent.  Old people are avoided. “Oh my God that old man is walking this way.  Let’s leave!”  It is an excellent cover for a secret mission.   

 

My assignments are relayed to me at a location near my home.  I enter stall three of the men’s room in the lobby of a hotel near my home each week at 2 o’clock.  I wait 5 minutes, flush and leave if no contact is made.  If someone enters stall 4 during my visit I wait for a tap of a foot beneath the wall between the stalls. I respond with a double tap. The information is then passed beneath the partition by a hand holding a memory stick with encrypted information.  I remain seated until the courier has exited. We never meet.   

 

The agency has been using this “clever” method of communication effectively for years.  The only blemish occurred during a routine contact in the airport in Minneapolis where an agent became involved in an “incident.” He had tried to extricate himself from the ruckus without blowing it and in so doing had to arrest the person in the adjoining stall. The person turned out to be someone of note and the agency was pissed.  To save face the agent was assigned to locate the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq indefinitely.

 

The information provided by my men’s room taper ordered me to Vietnam. The agency had received information that plans were in progress to use a device in an attack on a US citizen.  The device to be used was called a “Launched Overhand Air-born Forward Ejection Repeater” (LOAFER). The agency had no knowledge about when or where the attack was to occur and had been instructed to investigate.   

 

My assignment was Vietnam.  Web traffic had the device hidden there until it was to be used.  We were advised to use caution.  Vietnam has invested heavily in the subprime real estate market and Wall Street who also has a large investment in congress had passed the word along to government agencies that it would be unfortunate if the US were found to be involved in any “activity” unknown to the Vietnamese government.  I was to act really “old.”

 

To cover my entry I joined a group bicycling across Vietnam which was supported by a tour group; “Active Journey’s.” The bike ride would culminate with a kayaking trip in Ha Long Bay where early reports indicated the device may be hidden.  I am an excellent cyclist but the task required that I act “old.”  I was instructed to ride behind the other cyclist and appear to be struggling to hang on.  I spent hours riding before the trip practicing to look old and pitiful. On previous assignments I had only to act old for a few hours but this would be more than a week of pitiful riding.  I had been trained to periodically pee on myself to simulate loss of bladder control but we would be traveling on a bus and I was afraid the other cyclist would throw me off.  Undercover activities can be carried just so far.    

 

A side trip in Cambodia was undertaken before the Vietnam bike ride began to checkout a rumor that the device could possibly be hidden there.  I found nothing.  We returned to Saigon to begin the bike ride north.  As we rode north I lagged behind the other riders on the road and struggled.  Finally we reached Hanoi and went to Ha Long Bay, boarded a boat and headed into the bay for a couple of days of kayaking.  Each day we boarded a kayak and roamed around the islands at times passing through the tunnels under the rocks.  I pulled a detector behind my kayak that I had planted in a camera which scanned for the LOAFER device.  I got no indications until the morning of the second day. 

 

As we passed through a tunnel into a cove I began to receive signals from the detector. I peered at the jagged rocks in the ceiling of the cave and ran my hand along several surfaces along the walls of the cave receiving several ugly cuts on my hands while looking for the device.  I found nothing.  As I exited the cave the signal stopped.  The device must be in the tunnel.

 

I had to get back into the tunnel but was not sure how to accomplish it without raising suspicion from the group.  Luckily our guide decided that the tide was too high in the tunnel he had planned to exit through and we exited the same way we came in.  I had decided the device must be under the water near the wall of the tunnel but how to get under the water?. 

 

As we entered the tunnel my tracking device began to “ping” and as I tracked it I found myself pushed up against another kayak in the group next to the tunnel wall where I suspected the device to be located.  I needed to get under the water for a look around.  I quickly realized that my position was perfect.  I could use the old man ruse and fake that I had lost my balance and a fall from my kayak into the water next to the tunnel wall. 

 

I deftly rolled my kayak to one side and fell into the water.  I moved along the rocks beneath the kayak with the detection device pinging in my ear trying to locate the device but found none. I had been under the water for some time and decided I had to get back to the surface before others jumped in to save an old man. 

 

………. I awoke out of my thoughts as we approached the boat where I would exit the kayak.  I did a clumsy roll onto the dock from my kayak and went into the boat.  As I passed the others who were standing along the side of the boat no one made eye contact.  The ruse had worked.  I had played “old” very well. In conversations about the incident later everyone assumed that an old man had fallen out of his kayak and luckily had been saved.  I returned to my kayak for the afternoon outing to complete the coverage of the area in search of the device to a chorus of “hang in there big guy.”  I just smiled to myself.  The things we do in the service of our country.                 

 

I reported my findings to my contact at the CIA from Hanoi. Basically my report said “the device was not in Vietnam.”  My assignment over, we returned home from Vietnam.  In December while in the midst of a four mile, 15% climb on a training ride I was notified that the attack we feared had occurred.  President Bush had gone to Iraq for a farewell visit and during a news conference with the Iraqi president the attack was launched.  A reporter in the crowd stood up and hurled a Launched Overhand Air-born Forward Ejection Repeater (LOAFER) device at the President.  The attacker was able to get two off in fact and luckily the president was not playing my “old” man ploy and deftly ducked beneath both of them. We had missed it but luckily no one was hurt this time.  No harm no foul!  It is sometimes you win and sometimes you loose in the spy business but it never gets old!

 

 

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 Ride Across Nevada (07) - LOCAL LORE - Petroglyphs

 

 ....petroglyph found in Nevada along highway 50 circa 2006

  Petroglyph – (‘pe-tra-glif) noun French)) - A carving or inscription on a rock.

 

Recently on a bicycle ride across the State of Nevada my wife and I and two other bicyclists were in the parking lot of the hotel in Fallon preparing for the days ride.  As I worked on my bike a fellow walked up beside me.  He spoke up and asked where we were riding to.  I told him we were riding along Highway 50 with the ultimate goal of riding to the Utah border.  We discussed the weather, the terrain and the road conditions we could expect on the days ride.  He turned to walk away and then turned back to me and asked if I had heard about the region’s petroglyphs.

 

My wife who was preparing her bike next to me had listened to the initial conversation and unlike me knew what a petroglyph was.  She joined the conversation and saved me as she often does as he continued telling us about the local pretoglyphs.  He told us there was a site just off highway 50 at a location named “Grimes.” 

 

He continued with a little of the science about  petroglyphs saying it was unclear what message the petroglyphs were meant to convey but speculation was that they were part of a religious ritual.  He went onto say that some petroglyphs at the site were small indentions made in the rocks where it was believed herbs, flowers, and human flesh may have been ground up and used as part of the ceremony. 

 

During the conversation we learned he was a retired engineer from Boeing Seattle and had returned to his family’s farm which was located off highway 50 about 50 miles from Fallon.  He had developed a device which could accurately date the petroglyphs and he now devoted much of his time to supporting the State’s effort  of locating and dating petroglyphs.  Before leaving he said we should stop at “Grimes” which was on our planned route and look at the petroglyphs.  We said we would. 

 

I was the designated support car driver for the day’s ride and while looking for a place to park and wait for the riders found the turnoff to “Grimes.”  I pulled into the access road to wait for the riders. 

 

When they approached they were cranking and into that early morning bicycling invincibility euphoria.  I watched the riders approach and thought to myself no petroglyphs for this group as they sped past.  I rationalized that if an early cave man was chasing game past my front yard he would not terminate his pursuit to stop and look at the stone work around the plants in my front yard!  Even though the stone work and flower arrangement in my front yard is worthy of being classified as a State treasure.  

 

A few more miles down the road from Fallon is a salt flat that extends for miles along both sides of the road.  It produces a huge white background that runs to the horizon.  I parked on the shoulder of the road to wait for the bicyclists.  As I waited I got out and stood by the car.  Looking across the road I noticed that people had taken rocks and created messages in the salt.   I looked behind me and found the same was true on my side of the road.  I saw hundreds of messages that ran in both directions on both sides of the road to the horizon.  

 

I started to walk along the road looking at the art and reading the inscriptions.  The messages left along the side of the road were about love and hate.  No “Hi Mom” art was found.   One group of stones would be an expression of love.  Another would be a circle expressing hate for some person who was often named.  And then it dawned on me.  I could be looking at the modern day petroglyphs!  The speculation about the ancient artists was that they were religious.  But, maybe the scientist’s are wrong.  Maybe the ancient writing and symbols are the same as the rock messages left in the salt today!  The ancient petrogylphs were intended to pass the word “Bill is a complete ass” and the holes drilled into the rock were used by some pissed off individual to grind part of “Bill” into dust!   By the way, I am not making this up.   One of the rock messages in the salt read, “Bill is a complete ass.”  There were many that were more explicit.  I did not have time to leave a message in the salt about the stone work and flowers in my front yard before the bicyclist rolled past and I had to move the car.

 

For further research on the petroglyphs at “Grimes” go to the  website http://americantrails.org/nationalrecreationtrails/blm/grimespoint-nv.html.”  

 

I have not found a website yet for the messages in the salt.  To see them it will require a trip along the “loneliest highway in America,” Highway 50 in Nevada.  The loneliest highway in America can be found on the web by Goggling “Highway 50 Nevada” or something similar.

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THE HIRAM BINGHAM TRAIN - Hiking the Inca Trail - Machu Picchu 2005

 
   
 

 ....our coca tea cups.......

 ... dining in luxury .....

 .... the meal ..........

The unexpected adds spice to an adventure.  We visited the ruins at Machu Picchu in Peru in 2005.  We stayed at the Sanctuary Lodge located at the top of the mountain at Machu Picchu after hiking into the site on the Inca Trail.  Our three days at Machu Picchu had come to an end and it was time to return to Cusco. 

 

The return trip to Cusco would be by train.  The train station was located at the bottom of the mountain in the town of Aguas Calientes.  Aguas Calientes is where most of the tourists stay when visiting Machu Picchu taking the bus up to the Sanctuary each day.  I had a colleague from Cusco who was able to secure two nights for us at the lodge at top of the mountain. 

 

To get to Aguas Calientes it was necessary to take a bus from the lodge and traverse down the mountain to the town below.  The only way to describe the bus ride down the mountain is wild.  The road is not the best and looks directly over the edge of a cliff the bottom of which cannot be seen because it drops off so dramatically.  The driver is on a schedule or coca tea and appears to be attempting to better his best time to the bottom of the mountain.  Since he is driving the bus it must be assumed to be a good driver or he would have died flying off the mountain by now, or this is his first day on the job and he is developing his skill on this run.  Mr. Toad’s wild ride ended successfully for us and we safely entered Aguas Calientes at the bottom of the mountain. 

 

Our first task after exiting the bus was to locate the train station.  We located the station, checked our luggage and verified our time of departure. The departure time provided us with time to visit the bustling flea market which covered an area of several square blocks in the town.  We went shopping.  We walked through the market but my wife could not find the bargain she wanted. 

 

We returned to the train station a few minutes before departure and our train was waiting.  We were unaware that our tour service in Cusco had scheduled the “Hiram Bingham Train” for our return to Cusco.  The train is operated by the Oriental Express folks from Europe.  I had no clue what riding on the Hiram Bingham train was about.  In fact at the time I had no idea who Hiram Bingham was which would not come as a surprise to my community of friends.

 

We were met as we entered the train by a doorman who guided us to our seats or I should say table.  We entered a private booth with a table covered by a very elegant table cloth.  The remainder of our car was laid out in the décor of an expensive restaurant.  A short time after we sat down our waiter appeared and gave us a quick verbal tour of the train.  He explained that there was an entertainment car two cars forward.  The entertainment car had a live band and dance floor.  There was a bar where one could order their favorite beverage. 

 

We would be served a multi course meal.  Tonight’s selections were shown on a menu he provided.  He asked if we wanted to start with a cup of “coca tea” our Peruvian stable.  We of course said yes.  The coca tea was served in special Indian pottery mugs which we brought home with us to commemorate the event. It was our wedding anniversary which made the entire event even more special. 

 

After we finished our coca tea we went to explore the dance car.  The band was lively and the layout was quite pleasant.  We only stayed briefly and returned to our table and told the waiter we were ready for dinner.  I am unsure of the time required to return to Cusco from Aguas Calientes by train but it went unnoticed.  We spent the time enjoying the delicious meal and reminiscing about our Inca Trail adventure, the ruins and views of Machu Picchu. 

 

Our adventure did not end immediately when we exited the train.  To exit Cusco a train must transverse back and forth up three inclines until it reaches the height of the valley floor before it begins its journey.  The Hiram Bingham train did not attempt this maneuver to enter Cusco and instead stopped at a station North of Cusco.  

 

It was late and the location was remote.  At first we stood with a crowd of people who had exited the train as well.  As these folks were picked up by cars from Cusco the crowd thinned out rather quickly.  A car from our tour agency did not show.  Finally as the last car came to pick up a passenger the guy said we should come with him.  He said I am sure there is room so we joined him in the car for the ride into Cusco. 

 

I have always been fortunate when stranded and have been extended a helping hand in many difficult situations while traveling.  This has happened so often on my various adventures that I have decided it is not luck.  People are good.  They will come to your aid and in many cases without you even soliciting their help.  The driver dropped us off at our hotel ending a perfect day.  Of course we had a cup of coco tea in the lounge of the hotel before turning in. 

 

The next day our guide was very upset because we had not been picked up at the train station and apologized over and over.   The folks who supported our trip to Peru provided us with a very memorable adventure.  My wife says it was her "best."  The great thing about our itinerary was that we were by ourselves with our guide and driver which allowed us to adlib on the trip.  When we saw something we wanted to get into as we toured or if we asked to visit or participate in something that we had heard or read about that was not on the agenda it was arranged.  Often arrangements had to be made on the fly.   The tour group made our trip to Peru especially wonderful.           

 

Google> Hiram Bingham Train  > click on Hiram Bingham in the search list for  details about the train

 

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TOURING  STORY - Lost in Costa del Sol

"map storage and retrieval method"

car free adventure ___________________________________________________________________________

 

In the beginning when I began to tour on my bicycle I was unfamiliar with cue-sheets and GPS devices were yet to become the craze.  I navigated by carrying a map of the country to guide me to my destination city and Google Maps to guide me to the hotel where I would spend the night once inside the city.   

I learned quickly that retrieving a map from ones’ bike shirt pocket with a CamelBak on ones back was difficult.  Typically I would be forced to get off my bike, prop it up, remove my backpack, get the map, read it and then backtrack through the process before getting back on my bike.

 

And, as often happened, once back on the bike a discussion followed about “did the map say we were to turn on Smith Road or Smyth Road?” Paranoia prevents one from saying ‘Smith” so I would have to do the map retrieval process all over again.

 

During training rides with my son Jack I noticed he carried his map in the leg of his riding shorts.  When he had to verify our path it was a simple process of pulling the map from the pant leg, verification of our route followed by a simple return to the pant leg.  I adopted “the pant leg map storage and retrieval system.”  

 

I used the pant leg map storage idea for the first bicycle adventure that I planned in Spain.  I had been lost often finding my way around Spain in a rental car before the cycling began.  I have a history of straying from the bicycle route and now I was to start a three day bicycle adventure to Malaga on the Mediterranean Coast.

 

The first day I was to bicycle from Seville to Jerez de la Frontera.  The route to Jerez de la Frontera was a straight shot from Seville which prevented me from getting lost.  When I reached the outskirts of Jerez de la Frontera I entered the world of the lost, which had been my experience in the car throughout the trip.  I had to locate my hotel.  I had my Google Map but confronting a three dimensional version of the city as I bicycled along its streets was immediately confusing.

 

I decided to adopt a strategy of asking for conformation from the local population that I was in fact headed toward my goal as I rode into the city.  About a mile into the city, using a wheelchair ramp I rode onto the sidewalk to consult my map.  A woman was walking by on the sidewalk and I attracted her attention by saying “pordon.”  She stopped and I continued with “mi espanol es muy malo.” 

 

As she stood near me I reached down and pulled the map from the leg of my bike shorts.  Later I thought although she did not appear to be surprised the map retrieval process could have freaked her out.  “My God he is going to flash me!”  I was also troubled that on future inquires people smiled after the “mi espanol es muy malo” phrase and I was not confident that I had not said, “hi, I am not Spanish and I have very bad breath” (or worse).

 

One lady after looking at the map as I pointed to my goal proceeded with a long explanation in Spanish.  After she finished I gave her my best puzzled look.  She then with a sweep of her arm said “far” in English.  I nodded my head that I understood, she sighed with relief, and I said “gracias.”  I reentered the street and rode on. 

 

I rode what I thought to be “far” and came to a dead end.  The map had predicted a dead end so I turned left and continued as the map indicated.  I used the “muy malo” strategy three times making my way to the hotel.  Each time I pointed to the street on my “Google Map” and looked puzzled (or pathetic) and the residents came to my aid.

 

I must say the Spanish give great directions.  It appeared to me that everyone knew every street, hotel, etc.  If you can catch a few words during their explanation they will put you where you need to be.  And, it helps if one is able to pronounce the name of the street or hotel.

 

One other “muy malo” story occurred during the initiation of my "map retrieval adventure" method the following afternoon.  I planned to stay in Gibraltar.  I rode into town and spotted a man standing on the steps of a hotel.  It was not the name of my hotel but I thought I would ask if he knew the location of mine. 

 

I approached him with my “Pordon, mi espanol es muy malo.” introduction.  He allowed me to finish and then said, "You know mate my Spanish is a bit poor as well." in a very deep British Accent.  Either his Spanish was as poor as mine or I had become fluent.  I decided to go with the latter. 

 

volver 

  



TOURING  STORY - Ride across California

Caution: Power Lines Down

car free adventure ________________________________________________________________________

 

We set a goal of riding across the US from Pacific to Atlantic one State at a time.  California was our first state ride.  We began in Reno, Nevada with our goal being San Francisco.  We were on the last day of the ride from Fairfield to San Francisco.

 

We had started our day from our hotel in Fairfield.  Our route took us along the Sacramento River until it connected to the San Francisco bay.  Then we rode southwest along the Bay to Lake Herman Road which would take us northwest to the outskirts of Vallejo where we would catch the ferry to San Francisco.  

 

After we turned onto Lake Herman Road there was no traffic.  The bay was a few miles west of were we rode. There were no houses to be seen.  We were riding beside low hills covered with grass that had turned to its summer brown due to lack of moisture.  The landscape was without trees.  We were very much alone. 

 

We come over a small roller and I could see a police car blocking the road ahead.  I saw no one around as I approached the car until I got very near to the car and could see a patrolman setting inside.  He appeared not to see me approach and when I was along side I stopped and asked through the open window “What's the problem?”  He informs me that there are power lines down in the road ahead. 

 

He asked where we were riding to and I told him that we had started days ago in Carson City to ride to the Bay and we were attempting to get to the Bay and take the ferry to San Francisco to complete our journey.  He did not appear to be very sympathetic to our goal as I talked with him.  He actually seemed bored with the story.

 

I asked if I could take a look at the problem and he nonchalantly said “sure, go ahead but do not go near the power lines.”  I rode the short distance with my wife who had joined me beside the police car to the turn in the road.  When we reached the turn we could see the problem. 

 

One of the power poles was lying on the shoulder of the road.  The power lines that had been attached to the pole were now draped between two poles that were still standing but the power lines ran along the road between the poles. 

 

A car lay on its side in a field adjacent to the road which must have been the cause of the problem.  The road made an “S” turn from where the police car was setting and it appeared the car failed to make the second turn leaving the road and knocking out the power pole. 

 

The power lines that were draped across the road ahead of me were separated by about a yard.  There was no alternate way to get to the ferry dock from where we stood.  We would have to ride some distance back looking for a way around the power lines and I was not sure an alternative could be found.  It had been a good ride but I was tired and wanted to finish.   

 

We rode the short distance back to the police car.  When I got there I asked if it would be ok if we carried our bikes over the power lines and continued our trip to the ferry.  Again he gave me an uninterested response of "ok."  There were no warning or admonishments of what could happen or cautions about how we should proceed.  Just ok!  He could not see us from around the corner so I guess if we electrocuted ourselves we would be found and hauled away in the bed of the wrecker that came to get the car.

 

We rode back to the lines.  I went first.  I picked up my bike and gingerly stepped over the first power line.  Then I gingerly stepped over the second.  Placed my bike down, moved away from the power lines and waited for my wife to follow.  Once on the other side we were off to the bay.  

 

After riding a short distance along the road we heard the sirens of emergency vehicles approaching.  I had seen no activity around the overturned car and had assumed that although we heard nothing or seen no activity at the site that the person in the car must have been ok.  As we rode an ambulance passed and some time later power company trucks passed.  I had worked as an assistant on an ambulance during my college days and I avoided accidents unless no one else could assist.  This did not look good from my experience.   

 

We continued on to the bay and caught the ferry to San Francisco.  We treated ourselves to mussels at a restaurant on Fisherman’s Warf to celebrate our successful trip across California.  We then took the ferry to Larkspur to stay the night with our son before heading home in a rental car. 

 

Our ride across California had concluded and I did not read anything in the paper about the incident we encountered on the road.  Since I live in a "candy World" I am going to believe that the most stressful activity at the location of the power lines was me having to lift my bike over the down lines.    

 

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TOURING  STORY - Roundabout 101

Educational Experience - Negotiating the Roundabout

car free adventure ___________________________________________________________

 

My son Jack and I toured France on bicycles in 2000. The ride in France was my bicycle touring inaugural and I had only been training on a bicycle for a few months.  My bike was new and we had not bonded.  As we bicycled through France my knowledge of gearing vs the grade of the hill improved.

 

The Tour de France was in progress and my son bought two ‘king of the mountain” jerseys which are awarded to the best climber in the Tour to wear on selected days throughout our ride.

 

During the tour I was introduced to the “roundabout.” I discovered that a “roundabout” was a circle of road into which four roads terminate, and typically, exit 180 degrees from the entry point.

 

The day's route would take us from Charlesville France toward Stavelot in Belgium. At one point the road emptied into a “roundabout.  I rode into the circle assuming that the difficulty of the road would continue at the level we entered, flat.  At the 180 degree exit, however, Jack continued to ride around the circle exiting at the 270 degree point.  I reached the exit and found myself at the foot of a hill that went straight up!  My bike and I were unprepared! 

 

I got off my bike and walked to the top of the hill.  I was wearing the polka dot bike shirt. The traffic on the hill was heavy.  Jack waited for me at the top and when I arrived told me he was surprised that a French driver had not stopped and taken my shirt away for walking up the hill.    

 

My roundabout training continued as our cycling mileage piled up.  Traffic always moves in a counter clockwise direction in the “round about” and when entering the roundabout traffic to the left is “always” given the right-away. 

 

I began to engage in what I called “the challenge of the roundabout.”  When I found myself in the lead entering a roundabout, unless there was traffic “immediately to my left,” I entered.  Since a car could overtake me in the circle it meant that exiting could become interesting since the roads in France did not waste material or acreage producing shoulders for their roads. 

 

Once in the roundabout signs are posted at the intersection of each road indicating the number of the road that is exiting the circle and the number of the road you will find at the next exit point.  I was still in training on this aspect of roundabout expertise.

 

I entered a roundabout on the way to Paris assuming that my exit would be found 180 degrees from my entry point.  My reptile brain was generating signals to my legs to maintain a brisk speed through the “round about” at the direction of the right hemisphere that wanted to traverse the circle smartly (show off a little!). 

 

As I approached the first exit the sign indicted that my exit was at 90 degrees to my entry point.  I hesitated to read the sign a second time and in doing so began to move into the exit path while not really committing to the turn. 

 

During all of this cognitive processing delay a motorcycle had entered the roundabout behind me with the intent to exit on my route as well. We were quickly in formation with the motorcycle within inches of my bicycle.  My reptile brain interrupted with the message “You have killed us all! We are going to be run over!" 

 

I immediately made a hard right turn which meant I entered about two thirds of the way through the right hand lane of the exit road.  The motorcyclist would have to make the choice of hitting me or taking on the traffic parked at the intersection waiting to enter the round about from the opposite lane.  Without hesitation, the motorcyclist broke left and disappeared around the roundabout!  

 

My son and I closed up after my awkward entrance and were now heading down the exit road.  I could hear the motorcycle coming around the roundabout and enter the road behind us.  I braced for the “you idiot” in French with the popular gesture of the day as the guy blew by within inches of my bike!  To my surprise the guy rode safely by us, without saying or doing anything!  No harm no foul!  I forgot, I’m not in LA!        

 

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"car free adventure"