Part two: Now that's more like it - Heidi Ho - CycleBlaze

July 14, 2012

Part two: Now that's more like it

Part 2: Bastille Day - 1:40pm to Midnight

Let’s see, where was I? Oh yes, the 13:40 train…

After the trauma of the bus ordeal had largely passed, I got some lunch and felt a bit better.

I met the Spaniards on the platform. They spoke little English and I speak little Spanish. But of course, being touring cyclists we shared a bond. We worked together getting our bikes and bags aboard and situated. There was a palpable sigh of relief by us all when we sat down in the coolness of the practically empty train car.

We were all bound for Toulouse, but my instructions were different from theirs, to switch trains in Rimes. Once there, I was to ask that train conductor what to do with my bike, since it was a long distance train with different procedures.

“What is this note on the ticket?” The conductor asked of the handwritten instructions of the Avignon station man.

“Well, in Avignon they put us on a bus, and…”

“Oh, you were on the bus.” she said, and nodded, as if no other explanation was necessary. “Wait here, I will make sure you and your bike get on.” Phew!

Once on the new train I met several interesting people, including a Frenchman who lived in the Congo for 20 years and was on his way back.

“I like it better than France now. It’s my home,” he said.

There was also the French woman who was born in Algeria, but moved with her family to France when she was a girl. She also spent a year in Berkeley, California, not far from where I live.

“I loved Berkeley,” she said, wistfully. “I wish I could go back. I am French, but in France I am also Algerian. Even though I was a small child when I moved here, I am still second class to a lot of people. In America I am French, yes, but I’m also a person. Americans didn’t hold my background against me and treated me like everyone else. Americans are kind in that way. I like their openness.”

I thought about that. I’ve heard about how minorities here are less integrated than in the U.S., and ineligible for certain jobs, causing resentment. America has its problems with minorities, but I have heard, more so in France. Her sentiment was from firsthand experience and heart felt. As an American, I sat a little taller.

We talked a bit longer, about California, and the Bay Area, before her stop.

It was about this time I looked out the window to see people lined up on the streets. I looked closer, only to see that they were waiting for the Tour de France to roll by! Yes, I guess the tour IS nearby, but I wasn’t paying much attention. The tour was to come down the frontage road that paralleled the train tracks. I didn’t see the riders, just the fans and a few team cars.

The Tour de France is on it's way!
Sorry about the fuzziness. But the train was going, you know, really fast!
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In Narbonne I was once again joined buy the Spaniards, who somehow ended up with different connections, but on the same train to Toulouse.

“Buenos Dias!” I said in my finest Spanish, before helping them with their bikes.

We spent the rest of the trip riding in the same compartment, and I was amazed that three people, who share only 20 or so common words, can have fun for a couple of hours on a train. They had some games that we played. We laughed, shared a similar sense of humor, and had a great time.

I guess people are people, no matter where they are from or what their language?

Once in Toulouse they helped me navigate the stairs with my things before getting their connection to Spain. After saying “adios”, I rolled the Trucker out of the station to the Ibis hotel, which Steph recommended because of its proximity to the station, right across the street. I checked in and collapsed on a bed, a real bed, the first since France, when I was still riding with Leo and Steph.

After the giddiness of that moment wore off I went out to find food, which was no problem. There were plenty of cafes, restaurants and bakeries open in that part of the city, even on Bastille Day.

I wish I felt better, and had the energy to go out on the town and celebrate Bastille Day. But after eating, and a shower, I was DONE, and curled up in bed. The fireworks which must have been VERY close to the hotel, based on the LOUDness, just barely woke me. It must have been around midnight, but I didn’t know or care.

I still have a cold, but I also I have my hotel room. For the moment, life is good.

Today's ride: 14 km (9 miles)
Total: 3,131 km (1,944 miles)

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