Final thoughts and ramblings - France on a roll -- depending on charm - CycleBlaze

July 27, 2011

Final thoughts and ramblings

I've decided that it all comes down to nickels, dimes and hash browns...

What I mean is, I have been thinking about my trip for a week now, and all of the things it meant to me and how to summarize that. Oh, I could go on about things I like about France; the people, the FOOD, the established/dedicated bike routes, the historical sites like Mont St. Michel and castles, the croissants(!)...

And yes, there were things I DIDN'T like; and I don't just mean that the French speak a language I don't understand; I mean the "TP" situation and how they need to invest in toilet seats for ALL of their toilets. Still, they seem to be working on that and you can't expect perfection anyway. Besides, I talked about all of that in previous entries.

What made the biggest impression is that the French do not nickel and dime their country. They pay a lot in taxes I know, but it shows, and it shows in a good way. They clearly have longer school years, a good thing, and luxuries like healthcare; they have a great infrastructure, long yearly vacations and a manicured country.

It makes a difference, a manicured country; it makes you feel good to see well kept parks with flowers, even though you know all of the groundskeepers you see working in those parks (and cemeteries) get paid from taxes.

It makes a difference to have a long enough vacation to relax. It makes a difference to have a comprehensive and efficient train system with real live train personnel who are helpful to befuddled American cyclists.

All those things cost money, I know that. Still, some of the things that cost money, like the manicured bike paths and government subsidized (I have to assume) campgrounds must make a lot of money too, by drawing in befuddled American cyclists who stay at said campgrounds and sprinkle money up and down the country.

After seeing how things work in France, I think I would be willing to give up some of my personal stuff for some of those things, like more flowers and manicured parks that make people feel good, a better infrastructure, luxuries like healthcare for everyone, including the sick, and state parks and other things that help bring in tourists and jobs.

But enough about nickles and dimes, let's talk hash browns...

Last Sunday my Reno, Nevada bound brother dropped me and The Trucker off near Carson Pass in the Sierra Mountains in California, which is on the ACA Western Express route. I had been up there last year and I thought it would be fun to ride a little to the top, camp one night, and then ride home down the mountain the next day.

...and it was fun. I like trees and beautiful vistas. But after touring in another country, in another culture, and meeting people with different perspectives, nice trees and beautiful vistas in America just didn't seem to cut it anymore. To be honest, I was a little bored by it. But I LIKE nice trees and beautiful vistas, so I wasn't sure WHY I was bored by it until I stopped for breakfast the next morning and ordered eggs, toast, coffee and hash browns.

...but the hash browns were exactly like most of the hash browns I got last year in California, and Colorado, and Kentucky, and Virginia. They were stringy, and crisp and brown on top, and white and limp on the bottom; you know the ones I'm talking about.

American buys stuff at Walmat, and Target, and Denny's and Taco Bell; Gatorade and Snickers Bars, and Fritos and Heinz Ketchup... It's all the same, or a lot of it is, whether you are in Oregon or Texas or Maine. But somehow in France, they have managed to support and maintain small independent businesses (restaurants, bakeries, small grocers, town markets...) and regions (Normandy, Loire, Brittany...). It is interesting, all of it, partly because it is different to me because I'm not French, but partly because the French seem to like it that way and support and maintain the small merchant economy that celebrates regional diversity and craftsmanship, even though things cost a little more that way.

There is a lot to like about the United States and I'm sure that France has a lot of problems I didn't see or know about. But I think that, at least for a while, I'm going to be spending a little more time in France, and/or other counties that are different from mine; because I learned this summer that my favorite part of bike touring is experiencing other cultures, and foods, and ideas, and ways of life in general.

Thanks again to everyone who read and supported the journal. I had a blast writing it, AND taking pictures.

I can't WAIT 'till next summer's trip, which is already in the works. It was taking shape in my noodle on the flight home over the Atlantic. AND I have a like minded sidekick lined up who is also tired of American hash browns.

Where is said trip, you might wonder? Well, if I TELL you it will spoil the surprise now, won't it. So, I can't tell you, or even give you a hint. You'll just have to wait to find out.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to complete this journal and start learning Spanish, but not for any particular reason.

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