around the lake

Endlessly turning
Wheels and pedals, pass the road
On to lake and sky.

So today I am making a concerted effort not to move, as much as that's possible. Victor and I went on a pretty fracking intensive bike ride yesterday: Map My Ride

For those of you playing along at home, that's 166km that I made it. He gave up, actually, sometime around 130km and called his girlfriend to come pick him up (from Genève! She was pissed.), which was great for me because he gave me a call when I was just getting most hopeless and tired and cold and wet in the dark, French countryside. So neither of us made it the full 180km that we had been hoping for, but I'm damn proud of myself for making it 166 with so little training.

So the day started out with some clouds and coolness from my apartment in Genève. As we got down to the lake and started riding along past Versoix, the clouds broke and we were treated to a day sunny and warm enough that I stripped down to the swimsuit top I was wearing under my jacket and shirt. As we stopped to change and apply sunscreen, the only comment we got was from an ancient woman who yelled out her window, "Ay, ay, ay!"

We passed wineries and heaven-sent water fountains. Switzerland's amazing like that: practically the entire country is known for sparkling, clean water, and there are loads of random outdoor fountains that spout it. That was basically the reasoning behind each of our stops (we elected to do 5-10 min each hour, plus an hour for lunch (agh, slow service)): we were thirsty and saw refreshment staring at us from beside the road.

As the day continued to be clear, we were treated to fabulous views of the mountains across the lake, wreathed in clouds. In Lausanne we passed the International Olympic Headquarters, which was a surprise to both of us. I had no idea it was there. It gave us some sort of value as athletes, though, I guess. ;)

Some of the bike paths in the stretch between Versoix and just past Lausanne were insidious. The highway always had a dedicated bike lane on it, but signs pointed to the "bike path." Trustingly, we decided to follow these signs, but one led us on a (fairly short, but still irksome) loop which just tied back to the main road with the additional need to climb a steep hill to join back up, and one led us far up a slope through winefields. I spent my fair share of time cursing on that one.

For lunch we stopped at a cute pizza place by the shore that had pizzas named after famous people/things/groups. I had a George Clooney, but also offered were Barack Obama, Silvio Berlusconi, Lady Gaga, Manchester United, the Lausanne Marathon... Dark clouds moved in as we stuffed ourselves with calories.

After lunch, the weather sort of went downhill. It dropped a good 5 degrees (C, so 10F or so) while we were inside, and it started drizzling. That didn't keep us from enjoying the views in Montreux (called the Swiss Riviera by some: it has one of the few casinos in Switzerland, and a gorgeous riverwalk lined by... palm trees?), but it did certainly make Victor toy with the idea of giving up then. There aren't trains on the south side of the lake: once you get into France, one place is just not nearly as well connected to the next. He stuck with it, though.

Maybe my favourite part of the bike trails that we took was right after leaving Montreux. The bike sign (the very sort that had led us astray previously!) pointed down a wooded, muddy trail, at the head of which we basically had to get up to speed, pull our feet on top of the bike as much as possible, and pray we made it to the other side of a fairly deep (10cm or so) and rather long (at least 10m) mud puddle draped all across the road. I announced with anger and frustration that it was the worst bike path ever, but was soon showed to be wrong when the sun started breaking through the clouds again and we passed through fields and fields of gorgeous, bending grasses swaying in the wind off the lake. We met people walking dogs, riding horses... and then we found a llama farm! It was awesome. :D

Shortly thereafter, we passed into France. France is not nearly so friendly to cyclists as Switzerland is, as evinced by their decided lack of watering stations and their total ignorance of bike lanes on roads (Victor and I had several near-death experiences along the way!).

The day wore on, and Victor was wearing out. At Evian (yes, the bottled water Mecca!), he decided to throw in the towel and handed me the backpack o' stuff. He called his girlfriend and waited for her to show up.

It was disheartening to lose my cycling partner, but I kept on going for around 30 km more. There's not much to say about this stretch: it was turning to dusk and, soon, night, and the shortest way around that part of the lake was to not follow the lake at all. Losing sight of that landmark that had been with me all day was another blow to my drive.

Eventually, as true night fell and the rain picked up and the temperature dropped, I was getting more and more desperate to see anything. Long stretches of the French highways lacked streetlights and towns, and after lots of lonely stretches like this, I made it across the border back into Switzerland. Geneva was only another 12km or so away, but I simply couldn't do it. Victor rang me (fortunate, since I had used up the last of my phone's credit a couple hours previously to get a pep talk from Evan) and offered me a ride back to the city with him and his girlfriend, who had finally made it to where he had stopped.

I guess the main lessons of this ride are that proper gear is essential: Victor came in just a t-shirt and was miserable as the drizzle began coating anything exposed. He stopped to buy a jacket in the first border town. Also, he was riding a foldable commuter bike which had a few problems. The seat was not designed for long rides and the pedal diameter was quite small, this in conjunction with the fact that it had only 6 gears meant that I spent a lot of time waiting for him at the tops of long climbs and at the bottoms of steep hills. My bike was better, but the brakes were rubbing and the chain was not quite correctly adjusted. It also sports hybrid tyres instead of road tyres, and this made a pretty sizeable difference. More contact with the road means more work on every pedalstroke.

We had the curious problem that neither of us was thirsty on the trip. Victor took this to mean that it was cool enough that his body didn't need to sweat so much, but I took it to mean that my body was confused, and I wound up drinking about three times as much water as I usually do. We could've brought better snacks, as well: our snacks for the whole day consisted of one chocolate bar each, two apples each, half a baguette each and half a block of gruyère each, and a bit of salty licorice. We also had pizzas at lunch, which actually neither of us managed to finish despite the fact that we'd spent the whole morning burning calories like nobody's business.

I think that this trip will be in reach once I get a better bike. As a scenic tour, it was fantastic, at least until we entered France (which is significantly more run down than Switzerland due to the distribution of wealth there). If I were to do it again, I think I would go the other way around the lake in order to have trains available as an out in the case that I find myself too tired to continue.

Still, I'm damn proud. :)

And then we went to a dinner party at a coworker's house. I have to guess that we were the worst party guests ever, based on the fact that we were about 1.8 seconds from collapsing at any time. A couple cappuccinos and a delicious dinner later, though, I was feeling more up to myself. I did wake up at a puzzling 9am today (even more puzzling since DST just went into effect in Europe last night, so that 9am was like a normal 8am), but I assure you that I've no plans of stirring from my house today. Hell, I almost decided it wasn't worth it to move to my kitchen to get food. My legs and lungs are sore for obvious reasons, but my arms are also sore from all the times that I stopped to push my bike up a hill that was too steep. That thing is heavy!


0 talk-backs:

Post a Comment