On Friday, May 30, 1997, I took my bike on the train and went to the Alpes. To take the bike in the train car with you rather than checking it as baggage or sending it on a different train, you must remove both wheels from the bike, then put everything in a special bag, which is called une housse à vélo and costs 500 to 600ff at bicycle or sport shops. With both wheels removed, there is no protection for bike's gears and derailleurs. The packed bag is large and awkward and is good for neither human nor bicycle. It has no wheels and only two small handles, which you must put over your shoulder so the bag does not drag on the ground on the way to and from the train. It is heavy and it barely fits in the train's luggage rack. I had a duffel bag and a day pack in addition to the bike bag. Since this was my first time traveling with the bike in the bag on the train, it was an experiment. I will take fewer bags next time, somehow.
It was wonderful to get away from polluted Paris and flat Isle de France. The Alpes are magnificent, with snow on the upper peaks.
On Saturday, May 31, I did a 110 km ride organized by a club in Grenoble. The ride was called the Randonée de Gresivaudan. Gresivaudan is the name of the valley where Grenoble is located. The ride went up one side of the valley, crossed to the other side, climbed, climbed some more over a pass (le Col du Barioz, 1038m), descended, and returned to Grenoble. It was challenging without being too difficult. The scenery was fantastic and the weather was perfect, even to the tailwind the last 20 km returning to Grenoble. The organizing club did a great job: two food stops and a buffet at the end to accompany the awards (trophy cups that clubs in France give away at all such rides).
It seems that the organizers were proud that an American was doing their ride, and they were very helpful. They found a group of people for me to ride with so I wouldn't get lost leaving Grenoble at the beginning of the ride. The people in this group and at the food stops asked how I was and whether the ride was too difficult. The people working at the second food stop asked me if I were the American. They said the club's president had told them that an American was doing the ride. At the awards ceremony, they gave me a large cup for being the person who came from the farthest away. I told them I didn't really deserve it since I live in Paris, but that didn't matter to them. A journalist from the local paper photographed all the cup recipients. Pierangelo Bincoletto, an Italian pro rider known for success in six-day events, was there. His wife is Grenobloise and he lives in Grenoble. A lot of people talked with me, and everyone was very nice.
The following day I got to sleep in. When I got up, it was raining. Most of the times I've visited my cousins in the Alpes, the weather has been clear. From the upstairs window the view across the narrow valley is spectacular: fields, trees, cows below, and snow-covered peaks above. The only sounds are the creek and cow bells. This day, the clouds were wisping across the valley obscuring the peaks, and it was quieter than usual. It was not cold, but I was glad the ride had been the previous day. After a leisurely breakfast and a large lunch, which followed almost immediately, we went to Grenoble and I took the train back to Paris.
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