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Catching you up…

13 June 2010

If you had told me eight months ago if I would be in France for at least two months this year, I would have told you you were crazy. If you had told me I would be excited about it, I would have tried to have you institutionalized. I have a little catchup to do before I get to that though.

Last time I wrote, I was working my way into Springdale, Utah, the gateway to Zion National Park. It’s amazing, after not guiding there last year, how much I felt immediately at home. We were able to grab a hotel in the middle of town, across the street from my favorite bike shop, Zion Cycles. Everywhere I walked in, it was like seeing old friends –and in a few cases it actually was seeing old friends. By the end of the week I was getting the local discount just about everywhere I went. I love it. We had a fairly relaxed prep for the trip, and I got some mountain biking in and finally hiked up to Angel’s Landing, a hike I’ve been wanting to do for years. The trip itself was awesome. It was the first time the 4 day weekend version of our Zion trip has run, and it was an AWESOME trip. It features some really great riding, with opportunities for some great hiking and some time to relax as well. That trip has launched itself to near the top of my “favorite Trek Travel offerings” list. The only downside of my time in Utah was a little incident with a mountain bike, a rocky descent, and a little over the bars action, resulting in a fractured elbow. It was hardly the end of the world though, it was ten days in a soft cast/splint. The timing for having the splint removed couldn’t have been better, as it was the day before our Tour of California trip started.

I had an awesome time working the Tour of California. I got to work with some people I haven’t had the opportunity to work much with in the past, and had a great time with them, and got to work again with some people I haven’t worked with in a long time, and that was great as well. It was quite a show out there with 100 Trek dealers cut loose on Southern California, but excitement was high for everyone with the launch of the Speed Concept. Most of the group took on “The Climb” to our VIP viewing spot just meters past the finish line at Big Bear. The next day we transferred down to Los Angeles, where Trek pulled out all the stops for the Walt Disney Concert Hall presentation of the new Speed Concept, and we had a prime spot on the time trial course following the presentation. We rounded out the weekend with a great viewing spot on the climb of the last stage – cyclists took over famous motorcycle hangout The Rock Store and all day the only thing I could think of was the scene in Super Troopers – “Oh THAT kind of biker.” And of course, any time a ghost story becomes a defining moment in a trip, life is good.

After a month consumed by travel, a Zion Weekend trip, a fractured elbow, and the Tour of California, I could have used a little more time to rest. I basically got home, did some laundry, hit the reset button on a couple things, and got back on a plane. I would have been very happy to have a couple more hours to sleep, and there are people I didn’t see that I would have liked to, and people I saw but wish I could have spent more time with before hitting the road again.

Unfortunately that extra time wasn’t in the cards for my last trip home, and I flipped around and got on a flight to France. I knew there was potential for my travel day into France to be a bit of an adventure, as I connected through Iceland, and you never know when that little volcano might act up again. Not only that, but this is the first time I’ve flown into France without someone who speaks a little French along with me to make sure things go smoothly. Amsterdam solo? No problem, because I can count on a little more English floating around. Paris is a little different, though. Everything went super smoothly, though, flights went without delay, my luggage showed up, I made my train, all was good. Though when I sat down on the train, the thought went through my head, “Well, I’m on A train, I guess we’ll see in a few hours if it’s the RIGHT train.”

Since arriving in France, I’ve bounced around a bunch. I started with a day at the guidehouse in Provence, then it was off to the Pyrenees to start writing routes for our trips in July. The first couple nights I was in Oloron Ste Marie, aka, the town that smells like chocolate. There is a Lindt factory in town, and when the wind was coming from the right direction, all you could smell was chocolate. It was a nice change compared to some of the smells that wafted in if the wind was blowing from the right direction where I grew up. The best thing about that town, however, was not the chocolate. The best pizza I have ever had in France, hands down, was in Oloron Ste Marie, at a place called Pizza Nostra. AMAZING pizza. I would go out on a limb and say it’s the best pizza place in all of France.

After Oloron we moved up to Bordeaux for a couple more days of writing routes. Long days were spent in the van, and it rained intermittently for most of the time I was there, but we got out to the ocean for a minute, where the surf was rocking and surfers were definitely making the best of it. After a few days of cruising the wine region of Bordeaux, it was time to say “a bientot” to Bordeaux and move on to another wine region… Burgundy.

After what felt like a super long drive across France, we arrived in Beaune just in time to get out for a quick ride before it got dark. Rain threatened as we pumped up our tires, but we were optimistic that it would hold off. That optimism soon got rained on. Despite the rain, we went out for 50km that turned into probably the best ride I’ve done all year. It had the perfect mix of a couple climbs and a bunch of small towns for city limit sprints, and the scenery was incredible. This is one of the most beautiful wine regions I’ve been in with some of the best riding. Despite getting rained on, and despite breaking a spoke with 10km to go, that ride was one of my top two rides of the year so far.

Today meant more route writing, but we were able to wrap up in time for another quick ride before dark. We got back just in time to watch the second half of the USA v England game and order some Indian food. That Indian food really hit the spot; we rode past the place on our way into town tonight, and I was pretty pumped when it was still open for dinner by the time we got back there.

Tomorrow we have one more route to write in Burgundy before rolling down to the Alps. I always love getting back to the mountains, so I’m excited to get there!

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