We made it in one piece! (Day 618)

Here is what happened:  Several months ago, while I was in South America, my friend Bart sent me an email saying that he and two other friends (Steve & Ida) were going to do a cycle touring trip from Paris to San Sebastian, Spain.  He asked if I wanted to join.  Now, at the time, I was on the wrong side of the Atlantic.  I had never done a cycling trip anything like this.  I didn´t own a bike.  Further, after too many beers and bus trips in the last 20 months of my life, I wasn´t exactly in “cycling shape”.  At the time, the whole thing sounded crazy.  Obviously, signed up.

Actually, as far as I knew, none of us had any experience with this type of trip.  None of us had bikes suitable for this purpose.  The plan was ridiculous.  I loved it.

So, in late May, we all met in Paris.  We were hosted by some awesome people.  I thoroughly enjoyed Paris.  We all bought brand new bikes.  Bart and I bought the cheapest touring bikes we could find.  Actually, we bought all of our cycling gear (bikes, shoes, pedals, bags, etc) in a whirlwind shopping spree, taking about 10 minutes flat.

Then, over the following 11 days or so (at this point in my life, I don´t keep track of dates very well) we cycled 1000km to San Sebastian, like this:

Bam. (map from Bart)

We cycled passed the rolling green countryside, through tiny French villages of stone houses and wood shutters, up the Loire Valley with its fairytale castles.  We stopped along the way to taste wine, drink beer, sample cognac in Cognac, eat oysters, among other goodness.  We got to visit small towns in France that few people get to see.  It was a great adventure.

Rural France is full of rolling green hills

Chambord Castle in the Loire Valley.  It was actually just a hunting lodge for King Francois I.

Cycling through rural France looks like this.  Not a bad life, eh?  Bart and Steve show me the way.

We camped the whole way.  Actually, Bart and I decided to try to save some space and weight by not buying a tent.  Instead, we just bought sleeping bags and bivy sacks and slept under the stars.  This was genius when the weather was sunny, but when it turned bad, things got interesting.  I can´t tell you how many times we were awoken at 4am by rain and we had to run to some kind of shelter.  We slept in some weird places, such as the campground laundry room, bathroom, etc.  When you need shelter, it´s amazing how your perspective of things changes.  For example, you may see things like an old, unused trailer, ping pong table, or playground.  Now, I see a place to sleep :)

Bart (right) and I (left) in bivy sacks in good weather.  I love sleeping under the sky.  (pic from BK)

We topped the trip off with some excellent partying in San Sebastian.  As it turns out, that night, the local soccer team won a very important game.  The streets filled people wearing jerseys and celebrating.  As I always say about travelling:  timing is everything.  It was a great night of tapas and too much alcohol.  Bart and I got lost at the end of the night, and we wandered for a long time trying to find our hostel. The irony of the situation was that, after 11 nights of sleeping on the ground and in bathrooms, I now had a bed to sleep in, with a roof over my head, and I couldn´t find the stupid thing! Damn!  We had given up hope and were prepared to sleep in the park, when Bart somehow found the hostel. Will miracles never cease…

The streets of San Sebasitan after a big soccer game.  Maddess! (pic from BK)

I need to mention the kick-ass group I was a part of.  If there is one thing I am good at in life, it is surrounding myself (by luck or design) with good people for the various adventures I do around the planet.  I have proven this time and time again.  I don´t mean to brag, but I am the best person I know at this.

Bart:  the trip´s chief navigator, route finder, and general mastermind.  If you need to find a way to cycle out of some big city that is full of one-way streets and freeways, he is your man.  Steve:  in charge of team morale (important job) and master chef.  It would blow your mind what this man can do with a backcountry stove.  And Ida, physically and mentally, one of the few (possibly only) women who could join us.  I am not sure what was harder for her, cycling 1000km, or putting up with the baloney from us three guys.

My top-notch team:  Steve (USA), Ida (Sweden), yours truly, and Bart (Canada).  Three of us are wearing spandex, and one is not, so you can tell who the real cyclists are and who was the bum just tagging along :) (pic from BK)

You can check out some more pics of this trip, and the excellent time I had in Paris by clicking here.

On this cycling trip, I learned all kinds of new skills.  For one, because the weather was so variable (it would go from rain to sun in about 30 seconds) I learned how to change my jacket and shirt without getting off my bike.  I found that I hate stopping.  Actually, I love stopping; I hate starting back up again.  With that in mind, here is my latest “How To” video on the unique art of world travel:

(Btw, you may have noticed that this video took two takes; nevermind what happened on the first take)

One other quick comment about coming to Europe:  I recently had my first hot shower in months.  I was tring to remember when, prior to arriving in Europe, was the last time I had one.  I think it was mid-February in Argentina.  (I recall I had an opportunity for one when I when I stayed at house in French Guiana, but it was so hot outside I passed on it.)  I went 3 months without a hot shower.  I had forgotten what it is like. Hot showers are amazing!

This may seem crazy to you, but there are many parts of the world where they are not common.  If you are reading this, you likely can walk into your bathroom, turn a tap, and hot water comes out.  You probably don´t think of it like this, but that is pretty incredible!  Trust me.  I now know about these kinds of things.

Now I am just resting in San Sebastian.  I hope I will soon regain feeling in my ass and legs.  Then what should I do?  Well, I need to get to Barcelona, about 600km from here, because I left some stuff there.  I still have this bike.  And lots of time on my hands.  Hmm… what the hell… talk to you in Barcelona in about a week.


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2 Responses to We made it in one piece! (Day 618)

  1. Lauren says:

    Awesome, Shawn. Happy to hear you\’re still on the road. (The email alerts for your blog updates are MIA again). Am actually planning a v. v. similar France-Spain trip in the fall (sans bicycle, however). Can\’t wait to read more about your on-going adventures…

  2. Pingback: Summary and Best Of: Europe, the Middle East, and Africa | Shawn Was Here

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