After maneuvering up and down the five (or six depending) flights of winding stairs, I left Paris on Global Women’s Cycling day, a rather rainy day. I was finally packed and underway by early afternoon. Still undecided about whether I would cycle to Fontainebleau about 40 miles south of Paris or take a train, I arrived at the train station about 2:30 p.m. and my GPS would not load the route to Fontainebleau, and I had no detailed map of how to get out of the city. Thus, the decision was made. Train it would be. Just finding my way around the station and onto the right train was a process. I never did find the supposedly dedicated “bicycle car”, so I just piled Steel and me on whereever I could. I ended up meeting Thomas, a French firefighter fellow who had grown up some in the US and some in France, and had recently moved to Fontainebleau for the National Forest in particular for the world-class boldering (rock climbing with no ropes). However most interestingly, he had done his share of crazy bicycle adventures. He shared really wonderful human-kindness stories about his travels through Asia – people helping him out and offering places to stay and refusing any compensation.
Once off the train, Thomas helped get me going in the direction I needed to go (he offered me a place to stay, but he had a roommate and had to work early the next am, so it just sounded a bit too confusing…but it was very nice of him to offer), and so I cycled through the lovely old little town of Samoreau with stone walls lining the narrow road to the municipal campsite, a big open grassy area with a few trees located next to the Seine River. The bonus feature was a outdoor bar/cafe located right next to the campground on the river…which unbelievably served Illy coffee, the Italian brand that my friend Arleen turned me on to. I never really dug coffee until living with Arleen and being exposed to Illy. A McDonalds was located only a short bike ride away. In my mind, McDonalds now equals free wifi and plugs to charge up my technology. In this case, it also provided a warm refuge from the rain (although my campsite had included electricity and showers for 7 EU (about $10 us)).
Unfortunately I woke up my first day in the campground to rain and feeling less than 100%. My “off” feeling continued for the next few days as did the rain, but both factors attributed to a good working environment to make substantial progress on my dissertation. The end is in sight!! My 43rd birthday arrived and I spent it touring the Fontainebleau Castle with a cool 72 year old Austrialian bicyclist fellow, Don, who was camped next-door to me, and just beginning his three month cycle adventure in France. The beautifully preserved castle was home to every French King dating back to the 12th Century up to Napoleon III. The castle (or chateau as the French say) and gardens were beautiful and impressive. Clearly no expense was spared in those times.
Later I enjoyed some birthday celebrating with other campers back “at the ranch” and zonked out early. I felt somewhat better the next day and finally did a little exploring of the National Forest.
Don and I ended up cycling together to the town of Sully, located about 60 miles South with the goal of trying to find La Loire a Velo, one section of some major bicycling route that goes all over Europe supposedly. I rather love finding out about such things on the fly. This bicycle route east to west across France is supposed to carry on into Germany, Austria and beyond. We shall see! Riding with Don marked my first time on this adventure riding with another bicyclist. I made the error of trying to do make a “minor adjustment” to my bicycle before we left. Of course, that turned into an 1 1/2 hour delay, but Don was patient and helpful (more than I would have been) and we got Steel back in good order. We had perfect weather for riding. Sunny and cool, we cycled very gently rolling hills through forest areas, across farms lands, and through quaint old country towns. I was surprised at the vast open farmlands, the look of which was reminiscent of Ohio. We rolled into Sully about 7:30 p.m. I quite enjoyed having a cycling mate for the day. We were both pleased that my GPS proved to be a good thing for our ride – that is, it choose a nice route off the main routes and indeed got us where we wanted to go. It might be earning its keep. Ha!