Wed, 11/23/2011 through Thursday, 11/24/2011


Wed, 11/23/2011

My ears are ringing. The rest of the forest is silent. I am camped precisely where I am not supposed to be, in the middle of the Foret Domaniale de la Coubre, which is to the north of Royan. This is a pine forest with lots of dead wood. The soil is worked by pigs hooves and snouts seeking mushrooms.

The information desk clerk looked aghast when I asked if I could camp in the forest. She drew back and said, “Oh, non misseur, that is a national preserve. It is forbidden.”

So I am truly by myself in miles of forest. I am coming around to seeing what a luxury it is. It doesn’t bother me anymore, it’s a precious gift this space and silence.

I amuse myself with bad philosophy:

If your ears ring in the forest, and there is nobody there to hear it, do you still have a Zen koan?

I theorize that humans have an instinctual concern about being isolated. “What if the big bad thing comes? Who will help me fight it off, or think about what to do? Better to live in a large group.”

Another instinct that has outlived it’s usefulness?

So I relax inviting peace to come.

“If you build it water will come.” Actually there is a hugh tidal flow on the coast here. According to a local, at high tide the ocean is against the breakwater on the right. There is a net at the end of the pier that is lowered during high tide to trap tide challenged fish.

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Most of the day was spent riding through drained marshland. The cloud covered sun made everything mud colored. Cows graze contentedly on their slight elevations.

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Thursday, 11/24/2011

I start in the morning riding through this. Lisa and I gaze at all the pleasure craft and wonder where the pleasure seekers are.

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This car is parked perfectly legally. The dotted rectangle is how far the car can extend into the street. The whole block is filled with cars parked like this. I’ll let you make the comment about bicycle lanes, pedestrian rights, etc.

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A French sandy tidal beach.

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A typical French beach house.

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Hey, I saw Karst that looked just like this in Ireland! So I try walking on it and sink in 6 inches. Ok, so I’m a 100 million years early. Don’t rush, I’ll wait.

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Where the heck am I? I am pointed south to Bordeaux, where I have Lydia to host me. As near as I can tell I am around Saint-Bonnet-sur-Gironde. I have been following the compass, taking the smallest roads. The country is now rolling, and vineyards and olives are the predominant crop. I am remote. No bars on my cell phone, and a wifi cafe, are you kidding? I haven’t even seen a gas station all day, and I had to ride 4km out of my way to get to an open grocery store.

I camp in a vineyard. Really not a great spot, but it’s getting late at 3:30, and I am getting anxious.

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So who is this man of mystery and why is his face obscured with a dead grape leaf?

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Friday, 11/25/2011

All night the dew/rain taps on the tent’s fly. I pull back the sleeping bag from my fully dressed and jacketed body checking again for daylight. I detect a slight greying of the sky. I check my watch. 7:30AM. The air smells like old goats milk and cold wood smoke. The fly on the tent is soaked, on the outside from the constant dew, and the inside from my body heat causing condensation. Again I marvel at being dry. I step outside with my flashlight on my head. The fog is so thick I can only see 10 feet in front of me. The individual particles hang suspended, floating like fine white dust. My movement sends them scurrying in circles and swirls. My breath condenses into steam engine puffs. Time to get going!

4 thoughts on “Wed, 11/23/2011 through Thursday, 11/24/2011

  1. The happy warm surprise is to be found indoors. Lydia and family have made me comfy and fed me well. I feel feverish however, think the ride in the cold gave me a slight whack.

  2. Sage, another long distance solo cyclist and I have discussed loneliness. We agree that there are these distinct feelings:

    Loneliness: That is wanting the company of other people but especially someone dear to you.

    Being Alone. That is the feeling that can come even if you are with people, like in a crowd, but can also strike if you face a problem or peril with only yourself to rely on. It often comes as a realization.

    Being With Yourself: That is the content feeling that comes from enjoying your own company in the absence of other people.

    Writing entertains me, helps me think, gives me focus, boosts my ego, helps me feel connected and is a good counterbalance to the physicalness of cycling.

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