Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Camp Mom

 It's hard to compete with the fun Nim had at the Humane Society camp last week when she got do things like this:

and this:

but so far the "week of Camp Mom" hasn't been too bad, with a trip to the California Academy of Science up in SF to see their ostrich chicks and earthquake exhibit on Monday, an afternoon at the movies to see Brave yesterday, and mountain biking at Russian Ridge today.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Bay Area vs Dordogne Bicycling Comparison

While riding this week, I mused on cycling in California vs the Dordogne region in France this morning.  Here are a few thoughts:

Skinny little roads with low traffic can be found in both locations, though you have to look harder in California.  A bit browner in CA in the summer too.

The D46E up to Domme, France                                         Welch Creek Road this morning in CA.                              

Big houses on hilltops in California lack the medieval defensive fortifications seen in France.

          CA                                                                          Chateau de Castelnaud, France

Cows common in both locations, but are bigger in France.  Way bigger.  Trust us on this.

Both locations have interesting things to look at in the middle of grassy fields; those in France are just much older.

Random stone tower in France                                            Random solar panel in CA

Bigger terrain here at home!  Big climbs over the ridge here; gently rolling terrain up and down from the river to the land above along the Dordogne and Vezere Rivers.

Typical 70+ mile ride in Bay Area: >7000 ft climbing

75 mile tandem loop from Les Eyzies, France: < 4000 feet climbing (note that the top marker on the scale here is less than half that of the profile above; these lumps are about as tall as the little second lump above)

Cute little towns in France.  Major metropolitan area here.

View looking down toward the Vezere River in France

 Typical view looking down the hill at the southern edge of the Bay Area

Buildings up in the cliffs.  You just don't see these around here.  Lots of them along the Vezere.

Stone roofs.  Also not seen at home.

Flying buttresses also present only in France.  Nimue thinks the word buttress is funny.

Bike paths are found in both locations.

As are poppies


And minor patch 'o dirt detours.  We can't help ourselves...
France                                                                                              CA

Easier access to picnic supplies in France.  Mmm...sausage, cheese, baguette, and nougat, oh my!  Way better than the smashed peanut butter sandwiches I eat at home.
Sadly, no foie gras in CA any more.  Lots in France.  We rode through a region known for it and ate to our best advantage.  Yum!

Joy!  Present when riding in CA, but also definitely in France.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Perceptions and Prejudices

I witnessed a car accident this morning, while out on my bike.  I was not involved in the crash, but was present at the same intersection so immediately went over to see if everyone was ok, and to call 911.  As I was asking the drivers if they were hurt, another car came upon the scene, and slowed down just long enough for the driver not to query if everyone was ok, but to vent his spleen about how I, as a bicyclist should not be on the road.  Huh?   He sort of deflated and drove off muttering under his breath after I pleasantly said "I'm just calling 911 -- Thank you."  His response left me a little shaky.

What is wrong with people?  No "Is everyone all right?", or "Can I call for help?".  This driver hadn't even seen the accident, and decided to immediately target and blame the bicyclist, without showing any concern for the others on the road who might need help.

Of course, it can go both ways.  As I waited on the side of the road for the cops to show up (it was reasonable to wait, as I witnessed the whole thing and was the one to call it in), two ladies out for their morning walk stopped and started to go into full-blown "Oh, you poor thing, drivers are so inconsiderate to cyclists" mode until I repeatedly pointed out that I was just a witness waiting for the cops to show up. They then proceeded on their stroll, without even stopping to exchange words with the poor drivers who were still standing by their wrecked cars.

Why should the bystander perception and response vary so widely depending on your chosen mode of transport?  It shouldn't, darn it!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Modes of transport

First of many musings on the trip.  More to come as I get to it.

The France vacation was definitely a multi-modal trip in terms of transport.

1.  Airplane.  Annoying, as air travel always is, but uneventful.  The airline charged us extra for Chad's bike on the way over, as expected, but not on the way back, as it still seems that they are still more understanding of travel with bikes in Europe.  (The tandem came apart and packed into two normal suitcases, so was free both ways!)

2. Bus.  There is a highly convenient bus, Les Cars AirFrance line 4, that ran straight from the airport down to the neighborhood where we stayed in Paris, near Gare Montparnasse.

3.  Train.  We took a series of three progressively smaller trains from Paris down to the area we rode in.  First the TGV to Bordeaux,

then a smaller regional train to Perigueux (you can see our luggage -- three big bags with bikes, and three backpacks with all our other stuff),

and then a dinky little local train into Les Eyzies.

There were no problems getting the bikes onto any of the trains, even on the crowded ride on the way back to Paris, since they are counted as luggage by the French railways, and can be squeezed into the luggage area as long as they are packed up in bags.

I did have one minor snafu when I went to print out our pre-purchased tickets at the kiosk in the Montparnasse train station -- the machine must have sensed that it was 5:30 in the morning and decided to give me the blue screen of death.  Argh.

Fortunately the next machine worked, as it was 5:15am and the ticket offices weren't going to open until after our 5:56am train left the station.

4.  Bicycle!  More on this later.  Suffice it to say that it was fabulous :)

5.  Foot.  We spent quite a lot of time on foot when in Paris, and also during the bike trip as we explored old villages, caves, and castles.  (Pictured below are the road (?!) that led up to Chateau de Beynac and the Wednesday market in the medieval center of Sarlat.)

Nary a car needed (though Chad had to stop to admire this kitted-out adventuremobile near where we parked the bikes one morning)

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Every kid needs a beret

Nimue's favorite souvenir from the trip.  Picture taken in the train station in Perigueux while we were waiting for the train to Les Eyzies..

Things that happen when jet-lagged

Coming off the trip to France, we're naturally a bit jet-lagged.  We're all coping differently:  Chad actually sleeps, and Nim wakes up early to read, and then is cheerful for the rest of the day.  In my insomniac world, my body tries to be awake in both time zones.  This leads to general fuzziness when said time zones are nine hours apart.

Some of the high- and low-lights of jet-lag recovery are below.  I'll let you decide which ones are The Good, which ones are The Bad, and which ones are, in Nimue's words "The Ferret" (yes, that only makes sense if you were present for the conversation, and is probably only funny if you are silly-sleepy -- but trust me, you don't want to offend the ferret by implying ugliness):

Being up to watch the Tour live broadcasts for the interesting mountain stages

Leaving the house at 4am to ride up Page Mill to see the sunrise from the ridge.

Having one's spouse (who had appeared to be completely asleep) hand one a headlight when heading out the door at 4am.

Caffeine withdrawal.  All too easy to get re-addicted while traveling.  Cold turkey back to the decaf at home.

Accidentally hitting the library as people were lining their small children up for a kid event.  Just wanted to get out without stepping on any of the toddlers anting about randomly in front of the door. (mostly, but not completely successful)

Remembering that you have to have something in the house to cook if you want to eat.

Feline love.  Feline drool.  Feline yowls.  Felines constantly following peoples around the house.  (cats missed us)

Picking apricots while lacking alertness to properly judge the appropriate quantity.  Drying, blanching and freezing, and pureeing apricots ever since.   Sticky, sticky kitchen.  (Unpacking won't mold if neglected for a couple of days, soft fruit will)

And of course, we still need to unpack the rest of the way and sort through all the photos so that you all might have some chance of hearing about the trip itself.  More on that later, though things will be busy this week with Chad's birthday and my mom visiting...