I can’t remember if I dreamed that night or not; I do know the guest house bed was deliciously comfortable with the cool alpine breeze that swept through the window making the down comforter all that more cozy. In contrast, the alarm confirmed how annoying it is. It doesn’t matter how soothing or gentle the iPhone tries to design the alarm; it’s still an alarm. Circadian rhythm be damned… it’s time to get up.
This time, though, it was a good thing. It was a call to action; mount up! We ride at dawn! Prior to the grand departure to scale the spine of the Alps, I needed to return our rental car to the airport. The dear little Panda tried its best and certainly got us to point B. Yet, I was glad to return it to the livery. It was just a pup.
Walking back to our BnB, I turned the corner and noticed a very unfortunate event. A very nice black car had its window smashed out. I thought, “Oh boy. Someone is about to have a very bad day.” Then it occurred to me… that was my buddy’s rental car! Oh man! I ran inside and woke him like a bad alarm. Surely, he was dreaming of hills being alive with the sound of music and not tinkling glass. Our host came by with breakfast and we informed him of the very unfortunate event. He immediately dropped everything (except the delicious fresh squeezed orange juice and croissants), and started to rectify the situation.
In true French fashion (even though we were in Switzerland, it was the French speaking side), when told of the event, the police officer replied, “It’s Sunday. We won’t send an officer. You’ll need to come to the airport and file a report at the airport police station.” Praise God for our host at the BnB! He took my friend and his wife under his wing and swam the tricky rapids of police report filing with them.
We ride at eleven!
We all know the old saying, the best laid plans…. It’s funny how flexibility is absolutely crucial in any trip. We had a 55 mile day before us that included two boarder crossings and unfamiliar territory. I thought, “Let’s leave around 8 and have a nice leisurely ride to Montreux.” It was Caleb’s first stab at long distance riding, and I thought it would be good to keep it easy. Leaving at near eleven changed the plan a bit.
We met our fourth rider in downtown Geneva. All our wives were there and we were sent off with cheers and bon voyage. Fortunately, it was summer and not an iceberg was in sight.
Crossing the Rue de Mont Blanc bridge, we mingled with the tourist along the lake’s edge until we could break free for the bike route that led out of town. Hauling 20-25 pounds of stuff on the back of a bike is something that one must get used to. Stopping distance and turns and curb hopping take on entirely new realities. Half of us knew this. The other half learned quickly.
Once we left Geneva, it wasn’t long until we entered France. Praise God for the EU! We didn’t get our passport stamped; nor were we stopped. The border gate actually looked like it had been neglected since the French revolution. We cycled through singing La Marseillaise. The only blood we had on our hands at that point was a hangnail I chewed off. Once in France, we stopped to have lunch near the birthplace of the freshest water on earth. Evian is beautiful, but Thonon les Bains is the Riviera of the southern shores of Lac Leman. Surrounded by classic sports cars and ancient racers, we enjoyed a delicious lunch along the shores. Among the cars was an old Austin Healy. It only served as a foreshadow of what was to come.
After lunch, I couldn’t believe the energy that popped. We were humming along. Then, it happened. A sidewall blew out. The combination of sun and pressure drove one tire to breath its last. Regrouping after the tire repair invigorated the team. We had our team jerseys on; we clicked as a pace line, and Caleb took the lion’s share of the lead. For the next 12 miles, we busted out the distance in no time. And there was the border again. We stopped to bid adieu to France and check our map.
As I stated earlier, I had plans. God has better plans.
We dropped down into Villeneuve. To enter this town one has the great adventure of going through a maze of bike paths that lead through the swampy land at the juncture of the Rhone River and Lake Geneva. It really is beautiful with a tall canopy of trees and winding trails. Out of nowhere, the Lord sends us a guide. We strike up a conversation. He and his girlfriend lead us through the maze of trails directly to our destination without any delay.
There is something about youth hostels that just resonates with me. There’s a vibe. Not quite sure how to describe it, but I guess the best way to depict it would be: A cool quirky coffee shop with beds. We pulled in around 5:30; crashed on our bunks and decided to walk in to town for dinner.
We found this truly amazing Italian restaurant next to Freddie Mercury’s statue. As much as Freddie sang, “I want to ride my bicycle…”, we were done for the day. Bring on the ice cream! The funny part of the evening happened after dinner. My one buddy got a text from his wife stating how they wished we could be in Montreux. We texted back, “We are in Montreux!” We then proceeded to play a game of cat and mouse with our wives. Eventually, we caught them and shared a good laugh. What a great end to a rough start of the day. We snuggled down in our beds 12 hours after we started, and we set our alarm in anticipation for tomorrow’s ride.