It was 1979. I had a second period study hall. This study hall proved to be a petri dish for all kinds of ideas, none of which had anything to do with homework. Albeit, I did study. One thing I did study was the bass guitar. In my high school logic, it made perfect sense for me to head down to the band room during study hall and begin the process of teaching myself the bass guitar. Little did I know that 37 years later I would be standing where the infamous guitar lick was penned. That driving line worms its way into your brain. Even now, some of you are trying to hold back from a full scale hum of this tune that formed on a whim. It’s the lick that all beginners play. Anyone who played it was an instant rock musician. I turned up the distortion and cranked the volume. The practice room resonated with Smoke on the Water. And there we were in Montreux, Switzerland. Standing right on the spot where the Casino burned to the ground, because some stupid with a flare gun lit the place up. It was rock history. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ikGyZh0VbPQ
Just down the road from this hotspot was a piece of history that was perched on a rock. It is fascinating to look at buildings that are five times older than the founding of the United States. A part of me wonders, if we are so technologically advanced these days, why can’t we have a toaster last longer than 5 years? Anyway, there before us stood the Castle Chillon. Since at least 1150 AD, this castle has stood sentry on the eastern shores of Lac Leman (or Lake Geneva). Caleb, Becky and I spent a few hours traipsing through this spectacular building. The hidden passage-ways; the creepy dungeon that Lord Byron made famous (and supposedly etched his name on one of the pillars); the eye-popping views from the top of the keep and the gorgeous main hall. This placed oozed history and events. Even common everyday events were recorded with a tongue in cheek humor. Or maybe more a propos: a cheek and squeak type of humor.
Recognizing our need for a bit of lactose, we climbed into the old town of Montreux to have an authentic dish of Raclette. Normally, one would have this dish after shushing down a ski slope or herding alpine cows through the pastureland. Alas, we didn’t have the luxury of waiting for winter to arrive, so in the heat of summer we ordered our Raclette and enjoyed every oozing bite of cheese drenched potatoes, bread and tiny pickles.
The next day was “prep day”. Nerves were high. Fortunately for us, there were inanimate objects called: washing machines and driers to take the brunt of the emerging tension of leaving for the bike ride. Something about a hum of a machine or maybe it’s the universal smell of a laundry mat that dopes one into a dulled automaton that sits and stares at the clothes going around and around and around. Before being totally hypnotized, Caleb and I went to find him a haircut.
A haircut can be a life threatening experience in one’s own country (just ask the customers of Sweeney Todd) add in the mix of a foreign country and one never knows what you’ll come out looking like! You might think, “I wouldn’t be caught dead looking like that!” Fortunately for Caleb, we landed upon one of the most jovial and free-spirited barbers I’ve ever known. Through my broken French and Caleb’s hand gestures, we were having a ball telling stories and cracking jokes. In the midst of it all, Caleb got a haircut that changed his life; not to mention his appearance.
July 23rd refreshing winds of friendship blew through the iron gate of our guesthouse. I was in the midst of a peaceful time of devotions when a familiar voice was heard just outside the garden wall. Randy and Karla had arrived! Becky bounded outside to give Karla a hug. After being with men in close quarters for more than 6 weeks, she was ready for some “girl time”. The way she lapped up the connection, I thought maybe she had just crossed the Sahara desert to find a pool of water. Certainly, friends are an oasis of refreshment. We spent the day tooling around Geneva until it was time to get our “rigs”. At the bike store, we connected with the final partner in the quest to push ourselves to the outer edges of the envelope of our own cycling experience.
As The Box Tops once sang, “My baby wrote me a letter”, we were getting ready to get on our own preferred mode of transportation. We weren’t quite heading home, but we were homing in on a dream, and Funky Claude was our first destination.