I have finally found time to scratch out some posts on my great trip. This will be a massive series, I am thinking around 15 or 20 parts.
Since there is no international travel option out of Madison, I chose to make the trip out of O Hare. I took the bus and that part of the trip is always pleasant to me. I have always been a good bus rider for whatever reason.
The check in at O Hare was professional and fast. I gave my bike a blessing as I watched it descend down the conveyor. The passport and security lines went quickly, and the people working those lines were intensely rude to the international travelers. It was ridiculous what the TSA people were saying to folks.
Time to wait for boarding. I decided that a drink was in order, to celebrate not just the fact that I was getting to ride some of the historic Tour de France routes, but to also celebrate the accomplishment of the training I had done in the prior six months. I had worked out hard for five out of every seven days, doing kickboxing, running, biking and strength training and I was ready. I had the feeling that I used to have in college when I knew I was going to ace a test - all the prep work had been done, and all that was left was for me to perform.
So yes, a drink was in order. Here is the bar at O Hare International Terminal Five.
I shit you not. The terminal, once you get past the passport check, is an absolute disgrace. Just a few duty free shops selling booze, smokes and perfume and two of these bar kiosks. That is it.
On the creative side, I did see some young fellas in the bathroom who had purchased sodas from the bar stand and a bottle of booze from the duty free area. They poured out half of the pop and filled the rest of the container with the booze. I mentioned to them that is what I would have done when I was their age. They laughed.
The trip over the pond was long, and relatively uneventful. I always have problems sleeping on planes so I got a lot of reading done. I arrived in Toulouse feeling like crap but new I had to stay up the rest of the day. My suitcase arrived promptly on the conveyor. No bike.
I had a short layover in Heathrow on this Chicago-London-Toulouse flight, and it proved to be too short. It was only one hour, and I had to "OJ Simpson" it through Heathrow Terminal 5 to make the flight. My bike wasn't so lucky. It didn't make my flight and was scheduled on the next one from London to Toulouse - in five hours.
The guys from the trip, after running British Airways through the wringer decided that it was in their best interests to stick around at the airport and wait for my bike while some others transported myself and some others who had arrived to our first stop, a set of ski cabins in Vicdessos.
The ride from Toulouse took about two hours but when I got there this was the view I was greeted with outside of my cabin.
Yep, pretty much wow. The air was sweet. That sounds weird, but it has a nice, fresh scent. Then again I was jet lagged to the nines and I may have been hallucinating.
I was the last to arrive at my cabin, as two others arrived several hours before me and were already riding their bikes. I was jealous, but had time to settle in. A ride, in hindsight, isn't the best thing when you are all jet lagged and tired. Especially on these mountains. Here is my tiny room.
Yes it was small, but it was mine and I liked it. I have always wanted to live "small" and I liked having my own tiny space. I later found out why I had this particular room in the cabin.
I had two roommates and they had chosen other rooms. Mine was next to the bathroom. The walls were thin. I will let you imagine the consequences. Lets just say that I was pretty familiar with the BM sounds of my roommates pretty quickly, and was stirred in the middle of the night repeatedly by their tinkles. Good guys though.
This is the outside of the cabin.
My bike did finally arrive and it was a relief. Much more to come.