Jour Vingt trois: Day of Days! - France on a roll -- depending on charm - CycleBlaze

July 3, 2011

Jour Vingt trois: Day of Days!

Today was the day of days! A definite highlight! It wasn't about the riding; it wasn't about the sights; it was about the French people that I spent the day with!

The day started out normal, except that I got a later start than usual. Normally I get up around 7:30am, and am, more or less, rolling by 9:00, after some kind of breakfast and starbucks instant coffee, in camp. But this morning I slept in, lolly-gagged, posted some long overdue pictures on the journal, and THEN closer to noon than I would have liked, I was off.

I rode across a bridge to the town of Cosne-Cours-sur-Loire. After some pictures I strolled around the market assembling a lunch, as much as you can 'stroll' with a wide, hard to maneuver, loaded down bike in tight quarters with the locals. I had the makings of a delicious lunch with a cooked sausage and roasted potatoes, a fabulous kind of cheese they make here from goats milk that comes in little round disks, and some fresh apricots. All I needed was bread and a nice patch of grass to enjoy it on. That's when I heard a commotion down the street. When I got closer I saw a bunch of G.I.'s in WWII jeeps and other vehicles dressed in WWII uniforms. So I got on the Girl Friday and followed

After they crossed the bridge they picked up speed and I couldn't keep up. One of them, as they drove by, yelled that they were going to St. Secur, about 10 kilometers away. Ten kilometers? That's only 6-miles, so I rode like the wind and tracked them down in a little field near town.

There were at least 100 of them, maybe more, and I asked what it was all about. One of the few who spoke English happened to be the president of the organization so Jacques told me they get together to remember and honor those who fought but to also just be with friends. I think it is kind of like the civil war re-enactors, though they 'don't re-enact.' It is also different because some of them, including Jacques, were around during the war so it is more personal.

After a while I started meeting others. Jacques, who spent some time in the United States visiting and working for International Harvester in Phoenix, mostly acted as interpreter. It wasn't long before I was eating lunch with them (I still have my food from the market) and sampling some of their wine :-). I was the only American there and joked that in order to really be authentic they need at least ONE American. I also reminded them that tomorrow is the 4th of July, and that without the French we might not have gained our independence, which they appreciated greatly!

I handed out a lot of U.S./French flag lapel pins and in return was given a gift of their club insignia pins (kind of like my lapel pins) of the 28th infantry. Then the president and the wife of another group, called the Historic Overlord Group, came over and gave me one of their club hats (like a baseball hat). What great souvenirs!

After lunch and coffee they took me for a ride in a real 1944 Jeep! Then I looked at all the other stuff. It was definitely cool to see all that stuff in person. Apparently there is a lot more of it in Europe because when the American military left after the war they just left all the equipment behind. I know it was all about war and don't see it as an 'amusement' as such, but seeing all of that stuff was pretty cool, if only for the historical perspective of it all.

THEN they were going swimming at a nearby pool and invited me to go along.
The whole day was a blast, though the best part of it all was just getting to know the locals. It was easiest to talk to Jacques, of course, because there was no language barrier, but everyone was so friendly that I almost felt like a celebrity.

Jacques was 11 during the occupation and lived in southern France. He said the occupation was not quite as bad there because he lived on a farm and they could grow food. He said people in larger towns and cities had it much harder. Still, he had several friends and family members who were killed by the Nazis because they fought in the resistance.

He and I talked about all kinds of things relating to politics, 'our' wars, in Iraq and Afghanistan, and to how these things need to be remembered so they don't happen again, though I think it is inevitable that wars will happen again, because people forget.

Finally, it was time for them to pack up and go (they had spent 2 nights there over the weekend) and we said our goodbyes but not before exchanging e-mail and the address to the journal.

THIS is what I like about bike touring. It's too bad more people can't meet like this, average Americans meeting average French people, or German people, or Iraqi people. Maybe we could see how alike we all are that fighting with each other won't solve anything. On the other hand, sometimes we do see things differently, but that doesn't make it bad.

It would be nice if everyone could have the day I had today. I think the world would be a friendlier place

Pictures of the parade of cars driving through town
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Another pic of them driving through town
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Yeah, baby! That's me! Sit'n on a Harley, a HOG, from WWII. I think I look pretty good on that thing! :-) Oh, and that's a real helmet, not a replica. Those things were HEAVY!
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About the Harley...
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That's Jacques with the flag lapel pin on the left side
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At lunch with the gang :-)
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The two presidents (center and right) and Allen who owns a Jeep
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That's me with an M1 Grarand. I'm not into guns as a rule but I have to admit it was cool seeing one of these in person. It was also heavy!
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OK, they really didn't let me drive, but I got to ride in it. Notice my new hat they gave me :-)
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They made me put on the overalls (though I didn't protest! :-) for a picture. Notice the Girl Friday on the left. She looks pretty good with a Harley don't you think?
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Clowning around on the Girl Friday :-)
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Me again, with a machine gun and my new hat with insignia pin
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Of course I had to have a picture with a Screaming Eagle
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WWII radio
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...and other vintage stuff.
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Today's ride: 24 km (15 miles)
Total: 1,197 km (743 miles)

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