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Bicycle Shop

by Tara

I enter the bicycle shop alone; Tyler is propping our bikes up outside, wishing we had kick stands. As I close the door, still wearing my helmet, two days without a shower, unknown days since our last laundry and covered with sweat and road grime, every man inside immediately stops swapping extreme cycling stories to probe me with questions flirtatiously.

Feeling a little like a shabby princess, I begin to explain in French that my husband needs a new skewer for his rear wheel. One man smiles, interrupting me to say "Well, we can't help you now! If it was for you we'd do anything in a heartbeat, but not for him!". I laugh and begin again, saying, "Okay, fine, I have a problem with my skewer. Can you help me?" Just as I finish my sentence Tyler walks in and the men quickly begin talking amongst themselves. Before either of us can say another word they all file out, one by one!

We now have the store to ourselves, save the clerk who has thankfully gone to fetch a skewer. We walk around drooling like kids in a candy shop, marveling at the concept of easy access to all kinds of useful biking supplies. The clerk arrives a few moments later with a quick-release skewer. We decline to purchase it, informing him that we want our wheels to require tools for removal (hopefully deterring theft). They don't have any 'traditional' skewers but we find plenty of other goodies. Tyler picks out a spare multi-tool (just in case we lose or break the one we have) and I am thrilled to find a pair of cycling shorts I like. My capris are great but the intense summer sun is too hot for them. Finally, a much-needed jar of chamois cream is added to the pile (for me) and we are ready to check out.

After the clerk gives us a long lecture about which roads to take, we leave and I quickly duck behind a bush to change into my new riding shorts. I love them! We hit the road again, ignoring his advice. We are already prepared for the traffic-y path ahead of us. We're on our way to visit my friends in Chalon sur Saone—eager to reach our last French milestone. Scenery and country roads have taken a back seat to speed and highways for now.

The day passes quickly, soon we have covered 80 some kilometers and are both ready to call it a night. When I ask at a gas station if there are any campsites nearby, the lady looks doubtful, but gets out a map and calls her friend over for advice. Both friend and map confirm her hunch: no campsites. Thankfully, we stopped for water not too long ago. Lack of water is generally our biggest deterrent for free-camping with the desire for a shower holding up a close second. All 8 of our bottles are full thanks to a very nice old lady named Dani. She even gave us ice cubes and grapefruit juice!

Tyler begins the hunt for a free-camp. He is very good at this and enjoys it a lot, so I let him do the work and wait by the bikes several times while he hops off to explore off-the-road paths. He finds a suitable location in short order. Up a rocky dirt path, on the edge a field of some crop we're not sure of, through brambles and nettles, our free-camp is sheltered by trees on once side, and open to the field on the other.

Free Camp Field Free Camp Field

We have a wonderful view. There's a strong wind and some ridiculously thorny vines that make setting up a little difficult, but we manage. Now settled in, I'm not hungry, but Tyler cooks potatoes for both of us anyway. We relax and unwind in the long, quiet evening.

Free Camp Cooking