Just get up and go.

Alone like this for about 50 miles of the 112 I rode today.
Location: Valencia, Spain
Ride Day: 112 Miles, 5,700ft of climbing

I have always found that when I don't know what's coming, I'm much better equipped to wrangle it into submission.

Tell me that you are super, super, super excited about next Saturday night and that everything is going to be awesome and the dinner will be perfect and the DJ will rock-ass, well then I'm likely to think about it from now until Saturday and then, if that Saturday isn't the way it was drafted, eh, I'm likely to be disappointed.

Death Smiles at us all. Smile back.

Nope. Don't know her. Nice though, eh?
Location: Valencia, Spain
Rides: 200K in two days because I could not help myself.

Five days ago went from Perpignan to Girona. Back in Spain, not so bad, in fact really good. Weather makes a difference, big time.

Before I go to the hotel, I go to the finish of the Volta a Catalunya. I scope out the camera locations. As they come over the line, I take my shirt off and hold up my flyers jersey. I get maybe a full minute of TV time. Lesson: don't try so hard.

Hotel way up on the hill, beautiful view. Ask for some ice. A bucket of ice. This is like having only one channel of TV and yet the episode always has a different ending. This time she thought I wanted a "pocket of ice" which, if you say it with a Spanish accent, sounds a lot like what it should be.

Finally got to ride, in the piss and the wind. I'll take it.

Location: Perpignan
Ride day

Well, I finally got to ride after all the issues. I'm in Girona now and just got off the bike after a monumentally beautiful day. That video will come later.

I'm going to pass out now, so all I can muster is to post the video from the rainy ride in Perpignan. I quite like it. And the song I can not get out of my head.

Bubblewrap, tape and a chain. No questions.

Location: Montpellier, France
Ride day: kind-of (see video at bottom)

Currently watching "Tower Heist" that should be in English, but oddly enough, is in German. Even my French concierge doesn't have an answer for that. But all is good because he gave me free access to all the other movies that aren't in English either. As a compromise.

Which is actually OK at the moment, because "Castaway" is on. And that has only a few words including "Wilson", "Ice", and the last twenty minutes that no one cared about anyway.

I must tell you there is a little too much "c'est la vie" going around lately. And I have been having a rough go of it. I want to ride my bike. I want things to be a little easier. Maybe, just maybe, I might be a little cooked.

It's been rainy. I lost a glove. I need bubblewrap and I need electrical tape. No, I didn't kill anyone, but also this is not the time that you want to pushing me either, because you never know.

Cannes it.

Location: Cannes, France
I woke up two days ago feeling like I got dipped in shit. Just down in general. Tired of looking for hotel rooms, tired of trying to decide which would be the best town to go to, worried of passing things by, cognizant that I actually had to be back in Madrid by the 30th and not really knowing how many miles I had gotten away from it, tired of trying to find a ride online that wasn't uploaded by Briar Rabbit.

Yeah, I know, cry me a river, but it's almost a hassle to have too many choices. The last time I rode my bike around Europe there was this guy who just told us to keep him in sight and be back at the hostel by 9AM and ready to ride. We went out drinking every night and we had little to no care for anything.

The internet is as helpful as it is maddening.

And talk about uninspired; I didn't even want to ride my bike. I think the Ventoux ride did it to me. I did not have fun on that ride, honestly. Riding my bike should be, if nothing else, fun.

CDP from the top (in summer).
I guess, perhaps, what I was feeling, was just that "everything will not be fine." And I'm an "everything will be fine" kind of guy.

So when you're in the darkness like that, you start looking for light switches. And I found one way back in my head, in the form of a very vivid memory of a day spent in Chateauneuf-Du-Pape about 9 years ago. I was only in France that time for 7 days or so, but every part of that day I remember.

So I head in that direction. And I'll tell you, once I walked up to the crumbling castle there on the hilltop and had a seat, the world started tilting in my direction again.

There are a handful of places on earth that make me feel 100 percent whole and where my mind stops and my angst plays only the hide part of hide-and-seek. Chateauneuf-du-Pape is one of those places. I don't know why in particular, but it settles me out. It has a conspicuous feel to it, like maybe I spent a long time here in a past life, but then again, I don't (completely) believe in that sort of thing.

It's like the place looks me right in the eye and strokes my hair and says "Hey, it's all going to be ok. You're going to be ok."

The Rhone, the CDP, and Ventoux. 
I was the only one there this time. I sat up there for about two hours, watching the crows play against the wind overhead, and the sun was on me. It is only two walls now, mostly uncared for after 600 years, and there is no one there to tell you what you can do or can't do, and there are shards of broken wine bottles and beer cans blown into the dark corners of it.

Every 30 minutes or so, I'd hear a roar and look up and see a couple jet fighters soar fast and low on their way to the military base. And as my eyes follow them, they rest on Mont Ventoux, very clear on this day, to the west. And through the windows to the east, is the Rhone.

It's just a gorgeous place, to me. Who knows why? I'm tempted to say, ah, fuck it, it has a certain "je ne sais quoi." Minus one for my writing creativity, but that's the best I can put it.

I tear myself away from town after picking up a couple of bottles from an old woman in a dank, dark basement. I have been to this particular dank, dark basement before, on my last trip. But this time, it was just me and her, pouring tastes of 2008, and of 2009, and maybe she had a little taste with me as well.

And when I get to Cannes, things improve a bit more. My room overlooks the ocean, and with my balcony door open, I can hear the waves breaking. It is sunny, and it's about 65, and there is a man, in a boat, just fishing on a Tuesday.

And maybe without realizing it, I start putting my bike shit on. Please, please reward me, because I really don't want to be doing this. I'm uninspired, but I trust that my bike and this place will continue to put all my wrongs to right on this day.

I'm not led astray. It's perfect in every way. Maybe the most fun I have had on my bike since that descent of Mount Lemmon in Tucson. Tons of cyclists, jaw-dropping scenery, great weather, no huge mountains to break my back, but challenging nonetheless, and despite feeling like crap and having no food in me, I hammered. I also smiled the whole way I think.

I did have an altercation with a driver, but it's hard to recount because all that happened was that he got way too close, I slammed my fist on his rear window, and then lots of yelling in English and French followed. Then we carried on. Normally, this would ruin my ride, but not on this ride, so that just goes to show you how incredible it really was.

It was the kind of day that you hope for as a cyclist. And I can't help but think that something cosmic is at work on these kinds of days, on those days where mostly I am shaking my head and smiling at the enormity of it all.

I think of how that weight we feel sometimes, somehow or another, can just disappear in an instant. Sometimes with a word, a thought, a song, a touch, or a bike ride. When it's on you, it's impossible to figure out how to rid yourself of it. But then, all of sudden, you're floating a few feet above ground.

Blown all over Provence. But not in the good way.

No, I didn't take this pic. Although
I wish I had. 
Location: Avignon, France
Ride Day: (Yesterday) Mont Ventoux
Pictures: here
Video: here

Sometimes I struggle to choose what to write about and I was just sitting here doing that very thing in my hotel room when the in-hotel phone rings.

"Yes, Mr. Tolsdorf. It is the reception. Congratulations. Congratulations on the videos and the photos and the blog, and Mont Ventoux," and the sincerity in his voice is apparent.
"Ah, thank you, merci," and now I am smiling too, "Thank you for the call."
"Yes, of course. Bon Soiree." And he tails off with a laugh.

I had just gotten back from my dinner and there were four of the staff huddled over the concierge's phone, (it is a sunday night and there is nothing for them to do), and they are looking at something and laughing. I knew as soon as I opened the door, they would all hurry away and act all proper again but I stood there in front of the door and watched as they all laughed.

That IS a baguette in my pants.

Me, a baguette, and the Peloton at the Col De l'Estrade. Sorry
for the quality, it's a screenshot from the GoPro vid. 
Location: Mende, France.
Paris-Nice Stage 5
Video: In Process

So, just a quick update here. I got up early enough to set off towards the Category 1 climb on the Col de L'Estrade and found a place to park. Still was not sure of the plan, but since I was one of three people at that particular spot and it was very steep, I figured I'd hang in there and see what happened.

Usually when I do this, meaning I "wait-and-see", good shit happens. And it was just perfect all the way around. It was maybe only 40 degrees and the wind was howling but in comparison to the suffering the riders were going through, I figured I could manage. So I put on my shorts and tee-shirt and grabbed, eh, what should I grab?

Oh, I have a baguette.

Dancing on the Pedals.

Jens Voigt. Always ok for a picture. Been watching him hammer
for 15 years. This guy is actually older than me by six months.
Now that is an inspiration. He is a favorite, perhaps, of all time. 
Location: Rodez, France

So, it's going to be an amazing day. For a couple of reasons.

One, the sun is shining after-all, and though it's cold and I don't have the right gear for it, I am a man, and I do man things, so I will ride for as long as my fingers and toes can hold out.

Two, Paris-Nice will arrive here in about 5 hours, and I don't mean just Rodez, I mean at the hotel where I am staying. I won't say exactly where that is because I don't want to jeopardize anyones privacy, but it's an interesting little tidbit how this happened.

Give it to Napoleon, he'll eat anything.

Location: Biarritz, France
Ride Day: video here

So, I hot-stepped it out of Spain international-assassin style, all stealth-like and quiet. Mostly because I was tired of Spain and also because it suddenly dawned on me that Paris-Nice was starting tomorrow and I could maybe catch a couple stages if I cared to. And I do.

So after a couple of nights laying low in Bilboa, and a couple of nights at the same restaurant where the waiter told me that I had ordered to much food both times, I fired up the Picasso and set sail for France. For one, I can actually converse in Frech, and for two, ah, I just like the French. They have a curious humor and way of life that fits my constitution.

So I breezed by border control (non-existent) and into Biarritz, which I knew nothing about, except that it was supposed to be 70 degrees on this particular day. It didn't quite get there, but it was adequate and this little town is so beautiful that I took in the beach and a home-made dinner of olives, sausages, cheese, and of course, an entire baguette, and planned my ride.

The French really are always eating baguettes. They really are.

I won't say much more except that I am really much much happier than I was in Spain. If I had the four months I needed to get through every stage of Rosetta Stone (Spanish) I would do it. But I don't. So I will take France, which is as close to home as I will be finding anytime soon, outside of the UK.

The video. I had a lot to say today. I tried to boil it down as much as possible, but there were just parts I could not bear to abandon. Mostly, it's a video I made for my future self.

Look for me on Wednesday and Thursday at Paris-Nice (that's a major bike race for you non-bike fans). Not sure what I am going to do just yet but I'll come up with something inventive. It will be televised on NBC, and maybe I will be too.


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