I feel that I've experienced some pretty cool things in my 40 years on this planet thus far. I try to put myself out there - in situations that are fulfilling and satisfying so that I don't have the "what if's" and "coulda shoulda's". Lisa realizes this and gave me such an unbelievable gift in this Tour trip. The fact that she enjoyed it as much as I did made it even that much better. I knew she would enjoy France and that her main concern was that I was happy with the trip. I'm not really into guided tour-type trips and this was a concern of hers. I think the perma-grin on my face out there was enough to give her confidence that I was more than pleased with the trip. Lisa loved France - the countryside, the villages, the shopping, the food and wine! But she also really got into the race! As Scooter put it, Lisa is definitely up for wife of the year.
France was really interesting. I always loved the little bike race there, and was fond of the food and wine myself, but was never really fond of France as a country before visiting. I was on a different page with them politically, and had heard that the French were snobby and rude. However Lisa and I found just the opposite with the people. The French in the south of France and Bordeaux could not have been more friendly. Not just the ones receiving gratuity but every French person we encountered seemed up, positive, and friendly. One of many occasions I remember quite well was the day I did the three big climbs solo. The staff had me nervous that I may get lost. I could understand knowing a lot of peoples sense of direction including some on my camp staff!!! Yet the route was very easy. In any case, I was rolling through some small village and there was a runner on the road. Nervous that I may be off route, I slowed up and began the conversation with what I always began my French conversations with; "Bonjour, Parlee vous English?" The man replied "non", so I just shouted "Col D'Aspin?" and pointed straight ahead to which he emphatically responded "OUI, OUI, OUI!!!" as he jabbed both hands forward pointing the way. He then yelled back "Tourmalet?", and I said "Oui!" which made him more genuinely excited and he shouted out a lot of French after this which seemed nice and encouraging. He could have also called me a dumb ass, but it sounded cool.
My parents came by our house the week after we returned to see pictures and hear some stories. They are interested in planning a trip to Italy and maybe France. My mother was asking Lisa how I did with the tour aspect of it (not The Tour De France, but the tour group). My father said that like me, he's not a big fan of guided tours and would plan his own itinerary. However, I have to say that if you find the right tour, this is the way to go. The places we stayed were incredible and had we tried to do this ourselves, we would have stayed probably in places that the Tour directly passes through. Nothing wrong with this but they weren't nearly as great as the places we visited and stayed at. If experts know the cool places to go, and provide you a bit of freedom to explore on your own, than you'll see and learn much more about the visiting area.
I will definitely do this trip again someday. I promised Ryan that when he turns 13, I'll take him on it and we can ride together. He holds me to this promise every day.