Thoughts - Heidi Ho - CycleBlaze

July 25, 2012


I have been trying to decide which trip I liked better, this year's trip or last year's trip.

Last year it was exciting just see French road signs. This year that was old hat. But I did experience a lot of things there weren't even on my radar last year. Riding with, Leo and Steph was a highlight, of course. It was not only fun but allowed me to see France from the perspective of an insider.

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The Swiss Alps were even more dramatic than I envisioned. I'm not sure why they seemed more beautiful to me than the mountains here, but they did. It could be the narrower valleys, that create a more dramatic look? Having a town on a cliff that is only accessible by a gondola is definitely unique. But it's also the "culture" of the mountains. The cows and goats, munching on alpine flowers while the sound of their bells drifts over the valley.

It's not that I dislike the mountains here. Maybe it's just that it's different? I do like seeing things that are different.

I loved climbing the Mont Ventoux, and Gotthard pass, and the Puy Mary. Well, maybe not so much at the time, but when I got to the summit, that is.

I was really bummed about breaking my computer, and not being able to write my journal in real time. But I have to admit, I have enjoyed writing entries after the fact, using the notes I made the old fashion way, with a pen and paper, while having a bit more time for doing the little things that make a journal special, like checking my spelling.

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The locals were great. You would think that they would strut around about the fact that 100% of the population can get contraceptives and health care whenever they want, no questions asked? But they didn't do that at all. With few exceptions they were friendly, helpful, and interested in me and my trip. I will always be impressed at the number of people who can speak multiple languages and switch back and forth from one to another without a thought.

I'm impressed at how Europeans (or at least the French and Swiss because that's all I saw) are much more environmentally aware than Americans. They have an elaborate recycling system and it seems part of the culture that everyone participates. Even the campgrounds have huge bins for separating recyclables. It is expected that you don't screw up and put plastic in the trash container.

Cars are smaller. A large percentage (from what I could see) hang their laundry outside to dry, rather than use a clothes dryer; it saves energy. Even Leo and Steph do that, and they could certainly afford a dryer, I'm sure. I've been hanging my laundry outside since I got home. It doesn't take much more effort. In fact, with the 100-plus degree heat we've been having, the laundry has been drying faster on the line than it would in the machine! The simplest form of "solar energy" there is.

It seems to me like just because we can afford something, and have more of it, we shouldn't waste it just because we can.

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Small Swiss farmers are subsidized by the government. The goal is to avoid large corporate farms and keep the Swiss culture alive. It works, and is opposite of the U.S. We subsidize farmers, yes, but we mostly subsidize large, corporate farms to produce things like corn and soy for the junk food industry, and leave small farmers, who produce fruits and vegetables for local markets, to fend for themselves in the "free market."

Food is more natural. From what I learned, Switzerland and France use less pesticides, and antibiotics in animal feed. France does not import American beef because of it.

Switzerland seemed especially efficient in how it used farmland. I was amazed at the number of fruit trees they could squeeze together by careful pruning. The trees were loaded with fruit.

You really can't compare one country to another and say one is good and one is bad. But I think there are things that the United States could learn from how other countries do things.

I guess, in the end, the question is not, "did I like this year's trip better or did I like last year's trip better?" The question is, "where should I go NEXT year?" I really have no idea? But that's part of the fun, just thinking about it. Don't you think?

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