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Chasing the Jersey 2003
Here we go again! Another trip to France. If you had told me three years ago we would be taking our third trip to France to watch a bike race, I would have thought you were nuts! It’s just another of the twists in our life as a result of cancer. So let the adventure begin! The following is our journal of the 2003 Tour de France.
Thursday, July 17 - Stage 11 - Narbonne to Toulouse
The trip over was uneventful, except that Jerry got to sit next to Stinky Man from the Paris to Toulouse leg.
Stinky doesn’t adequately describe this guy. I was literally about to gag and throw up from the smell. The plane was full and I had nowhere to move to. I buried my nose against the window and breathed through my mouth for the next hour and a half, until I could get off the plane.
I got our bags, which all made it this year (yeah!), and Jerry went to get the rental car. We then began our journey of wandering around Toulouse, not a small city, looking for the route. I ended up asking a small group of people with a dog. They told us the Tour came right by them, that why they were there. We decided to wait with them. Seeing the riders today was not in our original plan. We flew into Toulouse just a couple of hours before they arrived, so we were pushing it to think we could see them today. While we were unloading our stuff, they came over to us and said they were wrong and the riders would not be passing by here. We all walked over and talked, well they talked French, to a mechanic from the caravan. He was working on a giant Credit Lyonnais lion car that rides in the publicity caravan. He let us look at his route book and figure out where we needed to be. We followed them to the location, not far away, and parked. We could here and see the helicopters coming, which is your clue of how close the riders are. We grabbed our stuff and hurried down the road toward the route. We got there just in time to see the riders heads whiz by over the crowd of people. I was out of breath, hot tired and disappointed! Not a great start for sure. We should have known better than to try and catch them today anyway.
We packed up and headed up the road to our hotel in Gallaic, for tomorrows time trial. After wandering around this town in heavy traffic for about an hour, I asked directions from a guy pumping gas that spoke no English. He did a lot of hand motions with his French, so I got the basic idea. Next year Jerry is going to print some Mapquest search maps for our hotels! We found our hotel and it was great! We were greeted by a Dalmatian when we got out of the car. Things were getting better. The room was fine and even had a toilet and shower (double yeah!). I took a shower and watched the French version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire, complete with identical set and music. Jerry went to go put our tandem bike together that we had brought over this year.
I left to go build the tandem, locking the door behind me. I didn’t realize at the time that it was a double cylinder dead bolt and I had just locked Angie in the room. I wondered later why it was taking her so long to come down. As I was building the tandem, a team car from T-Mobile Telekom rolled up to our hotel. They looked a bit puzzled at our bike, still tucked in its two cases, as I began unpacking. Suddenly I realized I had an audience from Alexandre Vinokourov's team watching me build the bike. The pressure was on not to pick up the wrong part or put the wrong pieces together out of order. They watched me for a while, then strolled off with an “Au revoir” and a wave. I got the bike built, then turned around and took just enough of it apart to fit back in the car. I could leave most of it prebuilt so there was only about a ten-minute buildup for when we rode.
I came back to the room and released Angie from her lockup and we went to dinner at the hotel. Once again our poor efforts at learning French would come back to bite us. The menu was only partially comprehendible to us. The menus are a bit different than in the states, in that you pick an appetizer, a main course and a dessert or cheese selection, each from an option of two or three choices. You end up full, but it takes them a long time to serve you. We were surprised by about half of our choices, but everything was pretty good.
We wanted to go scout the town for tomorrow’s time trial, so I built the tandem and we went out and rode part of the course. Everything was going fine until I missed a turn and was going to turn around. What looked like a gutter was actually a small curb, just big enough to give us a pinch flat. Bummer! Angie was not pleased. Nor was she pleased that I hadn’t stuck an extra tube in my pocket before we left. We had just circled around the town so it was only a couple of blocks walk back to our hotel fortunately.
All the travel has drained us for today, so we’re out till the morning and we’ll see what breakfast brings us to start the day.