Sunday, August 28, 2011

Abondoned, yet Honored

In case you hadn't seen the results, I abandoned after Carhais on the return to Paris, unable to get my feet/shins/ankles to carry me down the roads. More on that another day.

Honored though is how I now feel about the whole Paris Brest Paris experience. It was a true joy to cycle the beautiful country roads that are France. It was a delight to be the recipient of such sweet smiles and serious cheering on by villagers. And it was such fun to connect with cyclists from around the globe.

I am well, touring Paris with my brother, his wife, and Dartre, and I am eager to tell the tales another day soon.

Thanks so much to everyone who cheered us on. Every good wish was meaningful!

The photo is of Dartre and an unknown French finisher who badly wanted Dartre and I to know that he was 74 years old! I'm so glad we went to the finish to welcome folks back. What a kick!

Keep it joyful,


Sunday, August 21, 2011

On to the Grand Adventure!

Hot Diggity Dog Diggity!

Tall Blind Man with a Cane

Nerves are on edge at my hotel. One rider was collecting his thoughts in the dining area, staring out the window. We chatted about the stress, waiting for our 6pm or later departure this evening to begin Paris Brest Paris. He let on that he was seeking to "rewrite history" since he failed to finish last time. He is a gentle soul, and I began to understand that I wasn't the only one with pre-event jitters, or perhaps more honestly for me at least, pre-event fears.

Next, I took a walk into the small, older village that is at the heart of this modern complex. The church, of course, is the center of the center. Nearby at the fruit store, I encountered another rider who openly conveyed his anxieties. He is in the 84 hour start, which is tomorrow. Given he needs only 84 hours, he must be fairly fast. No matter, watching the 90 hour folks getting ready to leave had him second-guessing his start choice. I began to realize that all of us are nervous, regardless of our talents. He was struck, he confided, that after a year since since his first brevet, it was finally here. I did my best to reassure him his start time choice was the right one, but I am permeated by so many similar choice/doubts I don't honestly know whether I was reassuring to him, hollow-sounding, our whether he even heard me through the din of our mutual doubting.

And then at the patissierie, the Tall Blind Man nearly stumbled over the small child's scooter. Recovering, he went for the exit but walked into my chair and me instead. Too startled and handicapped by my poor French I didn't assist him, allowing others.

And that is when it hit me like a ton of bricks just how much anxiety I was carrying. Moved to tears at last, I set up the Tall Blind Man's daily challenges to buy a baguette against my obsessing with whether I should pack this or that item or leave them behind. Will my knees hold up? My ankle? Will I stumble on this or that self-doubt?

Paris Brest Paris is "mythic", as some say, but it is also self-indulgent. It is just riding a bicycle as a self-chosen challenge. It is not the marathon of unchosen obstacles the Tall Blind Man confronts.

Nevertheless, as I said when I first posted over three years ago, I wanted to explore my limits and my beyond-the-limits. I will get that chance starting this evening, and one thing is clear already: it is primarily about the mind and soul. The body will stumble along the best it can.

Note to my mother who may worry reading this: I think what I've expressed here is normal. I started to self-censor, but why? It is obvious that I am not alone in my doubting. Some cope by bantering, a few by continual bicycle marveling, others ride their bikes.

The calling out to departing riders "Bon Courage" I just heard outside my window reminds me of the other reason I sought out this challenge: making connections.

Soon I will be on my bicycle, pedaling away from doubts and toward a healthier self-exploration...with six thousand other riders and several thousand volunteers who are making it all possible.

UPDATE: A few hours later, I am restored and eager. Off to the start line to rally to Brest and return!

For whatever challenges you face, Bon Courage!


Friday, August 19, 2011

After Three PBP'S, for Danes It's the Weather!

At dinner, I accosted a table of Danes, and inquired of their thinking about Paris Brest Paris. Jesper Ahremhont, from Dronninglund (Queen's Wood), Denmark, told me this is his fourth PBP! When I asked about  what was most memorable, he immediately went to the weather. Jesper is second from the left in the photo.

FRENCH FOOD ALERT! While my meal this evening as I compose this is not fabulous by French standards, I just have to proclaim my affinity for cheese boards, or cheese plates. Either prior to, or in lieu of, dessert. What a yummy concept.

Back to randonneuring. Oooph, Bleu Fromage! Tres bonne! OK, really back to randonneuring. The weather for Jesper's first two PBP's was great: sunny. But 2007, rainy the whole time.

He attributes the decline in Danish riders, from 182 in 2007 to 142 this year to the weather in 2007. Also at the table was a rider claiming to be the youngest Dane: on the far right in photo with his father next to him. The younger generation seems to be less engaged in distance riding, they agreed.

So why does Jesper do PBP? As a goal or motivation for training, he says. He and his companions appeared to be fit and well-trained, but each had a beer, I noted. The table of French randonneurs nearby? Why, wine, of course!

Keep it internationally sunny,


Fender Menders at Cycles Alex Singer

My fender was toast, and based on Dartre's phone conversation in French I thought they'd have a replacement. But no, so instead they  cleverly fastened a reinforcing piece over the area that was broken up around the rear brake bridge.

Voila! Cycles Alex Singer workers had me re-fendered. Their shop is a trip, and the bikes...tres manufique.

I'll post more pics another day, but as I asked for one more quick pic of them together they insisted I hurry as they were closing for lunch. That's civilized!

Keep it mended,


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Wrong St. Quentin!

“By entering this mythical ride, you will test your cycling agility and your human endurance.

You will strive to obtain your Personal Best or you will try simply to rally the arrival...but you will always do your best to live this adventure while supporting each other and building friendships with those who participate in this endurance monument, which is much more than a simple hike. No place of honor, not any podium, only the pleasure of the challenge alone will help you to overcome the suffering...and the magic moment of the arrival will obliterate the doubtful moments on the roads of Brittany or of Normandy.

You will not be alone: you still be in the company of entrants from all over the world. You will appreciate the charms of France and you will be united by the same goal: to rally BREST and return to PARIS.
You will not be alone: many spectators-or rather admirers-will encourage you throughout your journey, indeed will support you in attaining the fixed goal. You will appreciate also hundreds of volunteers who will help throughout the journey."

Yes, I ended up in the wrong city--long story, but delaying me 5.5 hours. Cest la Vie!

But, I am now at the start and already in 10 minutes here meeting old friends (Dan and Terry from the Fleche this year) and new, from Virginia and California.

The quote at the top of this post is from the organizers of Paris Brest Paris 2003.

Late and tired, I cannot convey any better than what they said in 2003 as to why I am here.

If the picture posts sideways, it is poetic justice as I am posting via my phone, and the St. Quetin sign is from my train journey to the wrong city!

Keep it navigating,

Curio Rando

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Track My Paris Brest Paris Progress in Real Time

Sorry not very many pictures, though we have tons of great shots to show another time. Technical difficulties and very limited internet access limit the posts and pics. Much fodder for post-trip posting, so watch out when we return!

But, if you'd like to follow my progress--and other Seattle Randonneurs as well--check out this web site. You can scroll down to find any Seattle club rider. The event begins on Sunday the 21st, though individual riders start in one of many waves so each wave has its own time limits.

France has been nothing short of spectacular so far! All worth it already, and the Paris Brest Paris has not even yet begun! Best to all who are following, and I am so very grateful for all the wishes of support and encouragement. Every one is meaningful.

And to those who'd like to be here with us this year but who were kept back by ailments beyond their control, it is for you I will be riding. I know how much this means to you, and I wouldn't be here without your early encouragement and suggestions. We will miss you!

The photo is of Dartre on the climb to the castle Fenelon from our cyclo-touring through the Dordogne River valley. Essentially, every hilltop has a chateau of some sort, and it was at Fenelon that we met an admirer of Newton (my bicycle) who had volunteered at the 2007 PBP. He had wanted to participate in 2011, but alas, Life got in the way. I have a picture and more about him later. He characterized the Paris Brest Paris event to us in his heavily accented Anglais as "mythic".

Keep it digitally tracked,


Friday, August 12, 2011

In Country for Paris Brest Paris 2011

Too much to, so perhaps this picture will serve as a thousand words for now. More to come. Pardon et merci!
Keep it in that special Provencal light,

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Meet Newton

I've been ruminating over names of late. My own, for instance. We just hired a wonderful new staff member where I work, but he too is a Steve. At 54, I am now back to where I was in first grade: one of three Steves in the room.

This has led me to consider what else I might be called, but boy, is that a minefield. Folks get used to a handle for you, and they are not so inclined to let it go. I can see this will take some more thought. But if you do think about it, the reason we name anything or anyone is to distinguish it or them from all the others, right?

So when several things or persons are all called by the same name, isn't the purpose defeated? I'm beginning to feel like I live in an episode of the Newhart TV show in which one brother introduces himself and his two brothers as: "Hi, I'm Larry; this is my brother Darryl, and this is my other brother Darryl." If you don't remember the show, that line won't be funny, but trust me, back in the day, it was priceless. And since in the labor movement we call one another brother or sister--at least I still do--I now can say "Hi, I'm Steve; this is my brother Steve, and this is my other brother Steve."

Now don't get me wrong. The name Steve is not so bad in and of itself. The common name Steve originates from the first martyr, a man of conviction who suffered death by stoning for that conviction. Stoning isn't so cool, but that he stood up for his belief isn't a bad thing for which to be named. It's just that among men of a certain age, Steve is a pretty common name. But then perhaps that's just my current midlife crisis kicking in.

But while I wrastle with my own similarity syndrome, I am now prepared to announce another naming: my Pereira bicycle that I will ride from Paris, and hopefully back thereto, is now officially hereby to be known as...Newton. I chose Newton because it is both a family name and an evocative food I lo-ove.

My mother's great grandfather (I think I have this right) and his father before him, were both Isaac Newton McDowell. One of them was a Civil War veteran for the Union Army. I have more details, but not at hand right now. That's pretty cool, and Isaac Newton was obviously a character of considerable achievement and conviction as well. Solid name for a bicycle. Timely for the Civil War Sesquicentennial as well, given my Civil War veteran pedigree.

But when it comes to cookies, I sure do love me Fig Newtons. One time, when my cousin-brother Jeffie (as I then called him) was sleeping over at our house, we had a Fig Newton Eating Contest. Nay, make that a Fig Newton Stuffing Contest because the idea was to see how many Newtons we could stuff into our mouths at one time.

Jeffie today. Bet he'd like a Fig Newton about now.

Jeffie's house and our house were separated only by our grandparents' house, and we had plenty of sleepovers. The night of our Contest, we were left to our own devices. I think my Mum might have been home, but asleep or somehow not present. I just remember that the more we stuffed those Newtons into our mouths while trying to maintain quiet, the funnier it became. I have this vivid mental image of stuffing 10 Newtons into my mouth angling for the "winning" amount, and seeing Jeffie equally stuffed and both of us gagging and spewing Newton crumbs all over the kitchen as we sat on that cool linoleum floor and we laughed and laughed and suppressed laughs and spewed some more and laughed harder still. Maybe the hardest I have laughed in all my life.

For a long while, I don't think I did Newtons at all. I had OD'd. But now, I'm back to loving their sweet fruity smell, their cakey-gritty texture, and their satisfying stomach-filling sensation. I love me Newtons.

So Newton it is.

Oh, and I became Steve because I was (and am still) a boy. I was Steven Robert. But if I had been a girl (there were no ultrasounding prognostications of gender back then), I'd be Roberta Stephanie now. My parents told my older brother and sister they could name me, and my gender would determine which of their name selections would win. One wanted Steve or Stephanie and the other wanted Robert or Roberta. The naming contest "loser" got to choose my middle name. Pretty ingenious, right?

And now, all these Fig Newtons later, I'm thinking about a name change to differentiate myself from my workmates. One possibility that I've come upon is perhaps a throwback to those Newton-stuffing/Newton-spewing times on the kitchen floor, back when Jeffie and Stevie roamed the backyard baseball/football field and the woods out back and the world was reduced to a long, lazy Summer afternoon turning into dusk and blinking lightning bugs and skittering bats.

"Hey Jeffie, waddya wanna do", I'd ask in the middle of a sumptuously boring and sweltering day or an achingly languorous evening. "I dunno, Stevie, waddyou wanna do?", he'd retort. And we'd look at each other and grin (Jeffie shining his big dimples and maybe with a new lost tooth), and off we'd go to this or that mischief place where our parents weren't and we'd get into some paint we weren't supposed to get into or play an old game of Army or make up a new game or hike up into the woods so that we should see what we shall see or....

So, yes, if you're conspiring toward playful mischief and you want me in, you can call me Stevie.

Wow, that's spooky! I just remembered that I had posted a picture of Fig Newtons in my Gilles Berthoud front handlebar bag in a previous post, so I thought I'd re-post it here, above. So guess what? The date of that post was exactly one year ago today: July 14, 2010. It was a post about my first climbing up to Mount Rainier. One year to the day. Gives me chills it's so uncanny!

OK, Newton my trusty steed, now that you've been properly named and introduced you're more than simple transportation; you're my companion with your own personality. Take me to the wilds of France, Newton, so that we shall see what we shall see!

Keep it yummy and mischievous,


Saturday, July 9, 2011

Seriously, What Have The Unions Really Ever Given Us?

Take a three minute tour, but buckle up cause it will tickle your funny bone! (Hint, click on the link or HERE, not on the picture.)

Keep it amusing,