Attention: Regular readers of this blog, you are about to be exposed to parts of my life that do not have cycling in them. They are fewer and fewer, though, so you might as well read on.
Writing these wrap-ups is fun, but looking back on past ones is instructive on how life can twist and turn (or not, as the case may be) over time. Take my first wrap-up written in France as an example. It was 2008 and Shoko and I had just moved here from Singapore. Just a quick scroll through the post and I can see how drastically at least part of my life has changed. There’s only one bike in there! As you’ll see if you read on past this paragraph, it’s not quite like that now.
44|5: so much more than an obscure number
This year sees Cycling Languedoc, my original little bike tour company, morph into 44|5 Cycling Tours. Along with the re-branding comes a new website and some tours. John and I have had over 50 tours of varying lengths and sizes in the south of France this year and have ridden, between the two of us, 115 days ‘on tour’ with our clients. It’s been a good year and, if the stock markets don’t crash and bubbles resist bursting, we are looking forward to an even better 2015. If you know someone who likes to ride, send them our way…please!
Here are few shots of us – and our clients – in action.
It doesn’t feel like I’ve traveled much this year, but, as usual, as I look back I am proved otherwise. I started my year in the shadow of Mt. Fuji, for example.
Shortly after she came back south we drove down to Barcelona for a couple of nights; not to get caught up in a riot, but that’s the way it goes sometimes.
In March we took our annual pilgrimage to see the last stage of the Paris-Nice cycling race.
Oh, we did catch the race, too. I have lots of photos of actual riders, but this is the one that makes the cut – me and Mr. Kelly.
Not too many weeks after this little trip we drove up to the Netherlands for a race of my own; the amateur version of The Amstel Gold Race. The registration area looked hopeful…
…but much to my disappointed the organizers were only handing out alcohol-free beer, a product I’ll never understand. Incidentally, if anyone tells you Holland is flat, I have a cycling route for them to try.
The day after my event, Shoko and I watched the pro race, centimeters from the beer tent, coincidentally.
Outside the time I spent suffering, Shoko and I stayed in Maastricht, a perfectly organized little city.
And bike friendly, too, of course.
We usually have some family make their way over here each year, but in 2014 I made my way back to the homeland to catch up. Everyone, except my brother Greg, was in my hometown of Gaspé, Canada in August, so, I packed up my bike and cycled there – from Montreal anyway. 1000 km in 5 days, thank you very much.
This protrusion out the ass end of my bike holds all my stuff.
On my first day on the road out of Montreal, Pierre and Ginette (camera-woman and vehicle support!) joined the fun. It was great to have someone to talk to
The Gaspé peninsula, otherwise known as ‘The Center of the Universe’.
It’s weird what becomes ‘exotic’ after living away for 20 years.
I burned these calories off, barely.
The whole family, sans brother Greg. We saved a space between Fred and Sue, but nobody has gotten around to PhotoShopping him in yet.
Blueberries. Free and copious in August if Scotty’s ATV is running.
More family, back at Uncle Joe’s house.
The fall was quiet, but we ended up the year on the move again. Last week we hopped on the TGV for Paris, where we are lucky enough to have friends with cats who need feeding from time to time. We spent a week in Karsten and Sarah’s seriously well-situated apartment (Seine, stone’s throw; metro, ditto; Vélib station, on the corner!) catering to Squeak and Henry’s every whim, with a bit of tourism and art thrown in between.
2014 was ‘visitor lite’, but we did have a few. My oldest friend from Japan, Daisuke, and his family, came over for a whirlwind trip of France and we were lucky enough to be able to see them for dinner in Avignon.
Another old friend from Japan, who is actually from England, showed up in September for a climb of Ventoux. I met Andy in 1997 in Tokyo, at the same language school that I taught Daisuke at, so it was a bit of a Berlitz reunion this year, I just realized. Here he is, 2nd from left.
And following on from the Japan theme, Kyoko, a long-time colleague (and former boss) of mine from Tokyo, was in Paris the same time as us. I think 2005 was the last time we saw each other face to face, so it was good to finally have a conversation that didn’t involve Skype.
The Hurt Face
I took part in a few cycling events this year, as is my custom these days. I declared 2014 to be a ‘recovery year’, though, so I took it easier than I had in the past, in terms of training. It showed in my results, as well as the amount of pain I went through in these things. See for yourself.
2015 will be a bit different and I’ve decided to rev up the training again. My main objective is the oldest cyclosportive in France, and still one of the toughest – La Marmotte. Nearly 180 km long, with over 5000 meters of climbing, if that means anything to you. I also have unreasonable hopes of qualifying for the Masters World Championships (UWCT), but this dream will remain ‘pipe’ till I see how much weight I’ve gained over the holidays.
Shoko is in her 5th and final year at the Ecole des Beaux Arts and she has just completed a 100-page thesis in French that has produced a few grey hairs on a couple of heads in the area, but mostly hers (plucked as quickly as they arrive, though…).
She is focusing more on video these past two years and has had at least one shown in a couple of different public places and even a film festival. Really, though, it’s been a year of theory for her so far. She’ll be done her diplôme national supérieur d’arts plastiques in a few short months. This, added to her bachelors degree from Japan, will make her officially the most educated starving artist I personally know.
Below is a capture from her ‘post-apocalyptic’ film, Laudomia, which was her big project last year.
I sometimes muse, as I’m sure we all do, about what ‘brought’ me to where I am in my life. The answer I usually end up with is ‘lots of things’, but there is one move that definitely started the ball rolling, at least in a physical sense, and that happened 20 years ago almost to the day.
From 1992 to the end of 1994 I was living a life of poverty (not the first time, nor the last, but the only one I chose), trying to save enough money on the meager wages I made at Lambert’s Marine Services to buy a one-way ticket to Asia and see what would happen.
I had grand dreams of staying away for maybe a couple of years or so, and coming back a completely changed and enlightened person. Instead, I am still abroad 20 years later and, if you ask my wife or anyone who knows me, still far from enlightened. Here’s a breakdown of the last two decades:
- SE Asia and the Indian Subcontinent, wandering about: 2 years
- Australia: 1 year
- Japan: 9 years
- Singapore: 2 years
- France: 6 years
I know that I would be a drastically different person if I had stayed in Canada, but I also know that I’d be pretty much the same, too. My hardwiring was down there, and no matter how I might try (I never really did much), I’ll always be a small-town Canuck. But layered up on that Canadian core are experiences that have made me see the world, and possibly myself, in a very different light than the way I might have if I had stayed put way back when.
Most of all, however, it’s been so damn interesting and fun living and traveling abroad all this time. Here are a few photos from the first two formative years on the road, traveling and working in Asia and Australia.
Well that was fun. Thanks for joining me on that scroll down memory lane. Kind of makes me curious (and frightened as hell) at what the next 20 years will be like.
But one at a time. Shoko and I are driving to Barcelona in a couple of days to see in the New Year with some tapas and cava, before coming back to get down to business. 2015 will be an interesting one because Shoko will graduate and my career will continue to ‘evolve’ in unexpected directions, I am sure.
Here’s hoping your 2015 is filled with happiness and contentment. If it isn’t, here’s a helpful tip from Samuel Langhorne Clemens that’ll make it better, if you follow his advice.
Get a bicycle. You will not regret it if you live. ~Mark Twain