Some days I feel like we're "sloppy" touring cyclists. An hour after we arrive at camp we've unloaded half of our panniers, making ourselves at home in what must look like disarray but is actually a finely tuned system of organization. In the morning, other touring cyclists regularly leave well before us, all of their things stowed neatly away in their pristine panniers while we sleep. I suppose this is probably a reflection of the differences between a short term cycle tour and a very, very long one. In any case, today was one of those days.
Since we are no longer in the blistering heat of the south, and flat roads are on the docket for the next few days, we took the luxurious opportunity this morning to sleep in. Feeling well-rested but a little slovenly, we gathered our many belongings (noticing that the place had completely cleared out while we were snoring away) and rolled out of camp at 12:30. It was to be another day of flat, fast cycling—a 75 kilometer ride to the town of Tournus. I think riding 50-80km a day is finally starting to seem routine, something that was wholly unimaginable just a few months ago.
As we rode today things finally started to look familiar. I found myself frequently shouting "Hey, I came to see a play here with my theater class!" or "Hey, I've been here!". While biking hard to keep up with Tyler's pace, I spent hours reminiscing about my time with the l'Hostis family.
After high school I was a foreign-exchange student, sponsored by the local Rotary club. For a year, I lived in Burgundy, attended a french High School, and lived with three different host families. I never lived with the l'Hostis' officially, but the dad Philippe, was responsible for me and my well-being.
Every Friday afternoon of most weekends and many holidays during the year, he came to pick me up and bring me to his house. The further we drove away from my school and my official host-families, the more relaxed I became, happy to be among real friends and a family I felt a part of.
Together with Philippe, his wife Pascale, and their kids, Francois and Claire, I spent long, lazy days swimming in the pool, eating cherries off the tree in their back yard, and playing cards late into the evening over many glasses of wine. I baked cakes with the then eleven-year-old Claire, and attended long, festive dinners with the whole neighborhood's group of friends.
Philippe and I watched episode after episode of "Friends," as I tried to satiate his curiosity as to the origin of every bizarre English expression. Pascale and I walked around town together, having heart-to-heart conversations over grocery shopping. There were New Years parties, quiet days of reading, and many long, drawn-out meals. The memories of feeling totally at home with the l'Hostis' are endless.
To arrange the final details of our visit, I called the L'Hostis' last night and we chatted as easily as if I'd never left. They will be gone this weekend to look for an apartment for Claire, but we are welcome to stay and feed the dog, Luping, while they are away. I can't wait! We'll be in a real house, complete with washer, refrigerator, bathroom, kitchen, and all the other "normal" amenities that come with first world living. They return on Sunday and we'll spend a few days catching up with them before continuing on to Switzerland.
After a pleasantly uneventful day of reminiscing while cycling under looming clouds, we are now just a day's ride from my friends. We managed to arrive in Tournus before the menacing clouds passed over, and set up camp at yet another comfortable, shady municipal campsite, this time with free wifi! Hopefully tomorrow will race by just as quickly so we can settle in at "home" for a few days once again.
Here is a photo of a little grasshopper(?) who was resting on my shoe this morning: