Thursday, July 10, 2008

Sunday Riders

I first spotted the Sunday riders on my way out of Bruges. They were going the other way on the other side of the canal, about twenty yellow jerseys sailing along the top of some herbiage, pumping legs invisible. Another Sunday, near Orleans, a flock of fifteen yellow and blue jerseys flew low over the wheat a couple of fields away. Perhaps Luna, the whale who got separated from his pod and stayed in Gold River for several years, felt like I did. Hope as I make the sighting: are they my kind? In minutes they're gone. No. It's a cycling club, out for the Sunday ride.

If the Sunday riders are on my road and going my way, they whirr past, leaving me in the wake of their after-shave. But if they come toward me, we all pucker up for "bonjour, bonjour!" as they flash by.

The Sunday I rode into Creil, a commuting suburb town of Paris, I was temporarily adopted by two members of the Creil cycling club. One member had got lost on the ride and phoned for help. The other had gone to find him and was bringing him in, and offered to show me the way as well. We talked about cycle touring, and about Creil, my destination and their home town: an important industrial town because of its location on the Oise River and the railway, but with many factories presently shut down. I was so happy to talk to someone about something in common that I think I chattered, babbled even. It was surprising to find myself chattering, but especially that it was in French. I had no idea I was so fluent (not correct, just fluent). Like Luna, I developed a creative ability to communicate with people who could be my kind.

When we arrived in Creil about an hour later, Daniel wished me "bon courage," and I was podless once again.

I was hungry and found "le chinois", the Chinese restaurant, for the Sunday lunch buffet. The owner didn't seem to speak much French, gesturing in an embarrassed way to show me to my table. The young waiters did the rest of the communicating; the owner sat outside, looking at the ugly commercial street and chain smoking the whole time I ate my prolonged lunch. I wondered what he was thinking.

The next day I did a long day ride which included visiting Chateau Chantilly, and returned to Creil as dark clouds brought rain and an early end to daylight. I came in from a different direction than I had the day before and was desperate for a familiar landmark so that I could find the hostel again--and then I saw him, still sitting there, smoking, watching, thinking, looking sad in the dimming light. My initial relief to have him as my landmark quickly gave way to less selfish thoughts. I am at least only temporarily displaced, and that by choice.

Cluny, 2152 km

No comments: