Day 2. Tuesday, June 2, 2015 … Soissons … 50 miles/70 total miles … My $140 waterproof panniers aren’t as waterproof as advertised

2 stuff copy

I didn’t.

Fall back asleep, last night. May have dozed off for a few minutes, but mostly tossed and turned. Finally, at 7:57AM, admitted defeat, got up and went to the café next door for coffee and two croissants.

Jet lag sucks. Combine it with a TBI and it super sucks.

But I do love croissants (and pain au chocolates). And, I’m already quite good at pointing and saying “Deux, s’il vous plait.”

BTW: That means “two, please.”

BTWA (the A is for again): When an American holds up two fingers to indicate we want two of something, we use our pointer finger and middle finger. Like the peace sign. Go ahead, try it … I’ll wait.

I’m right, aren’t I?

When a French person does it, they use their thumb and pointer finger. So, when an American uses their pointer and middle finger in France to indicate two, it confuses the hell out of the French. They’re not sure if we mean two or three. Or peace.

BTWAA: One croissant or pain au chocolate is never enough. It must always be two. Sometimes three.


Wait, before I forget all the details, must write about the flight over to Paris and the guys sitting on either side of me. Damn, this would have made a great column for the Examiner. And by great, I mean funny.

Window Seat Guy was a rather large, older man (60?) whose largeness spilled over onto my seat. Let’s just say I wasn’t getting a piece of that armrest. Aisle Seat Guy was about the same age as me. I think. Me? I’m 34. My birthday was a few weeks ago: Two days after I got laid off at the Examiner. Happy birthday Marc! Anyway, Aisle Seat Guy was thin, but a total armrest hog, which meant I wasn’t getting a piece of that armrest either. It was going to be a long, uncomfortable flight. My neck was already starting to hurt. So was my head. This was my first flight since you know what, and I was worried about flying and how it would impact my TBI.


Aisle Seat Guy: “Have you ever read Lonesome Dove?”

Me: “No.”

He showed me the paperback copy of Lonesome Dove he was reading.

Smiled politely at him.

Aisle Seat Guy: “You’ve never read Lonesome Dove? I can’t believe it. It’s the greatest book ever written. It won the Pulitzer Prize, it’s an epic western adventure about …”

Window Seat Guy: “Hold on a second, the greatest book ever written is Guns of Navarone. It’s an incredible World War II story about the…”

Aisle Seat Guy: “Guns of Navarone, are you kidding me? I’ve read it and I’ve seen the movie. It’s OK, but it’s no Lonesome Dove. Larry McMurtry is a genius I tell you, a genius.”

On and on they went, until finally, mercifully, dinner was served and they shut their yaps for a few minutes. Debated whether or not to tell them The Three Musketeers is the greatest book ever written. Decided not to, worried I’d prolong a literary debate I had no interest in being part of.

It seems Aisle Seat Guy travels to Paris once a year for business.

Aisle Seat Guy: “I read a third of Lonesome Dove on the flight over, a third while I’m in Paris and a third on the flight home.”

Me: “That’s cool.”

Thought about telling him maybe it was time he got back to reading the first third of Lonesome Dove, but decided against it. I’m working on being nicer and more patient, and Aisle Seat Guy may have been a test.

A really hard test.

Just before we landed, Aisle Seat Guy offered me his copy of Lonesome Dove.

Me: “I couldn’t take it, you wouldn’t be able to read the rest of it in Paris and on the flight back.”

Aisle Seat Guy: “No problem, I always bring an extra copy with me. Just in case. It’s in my suitcase. I’m on page 157, so I can pick up right where I left off tonight.”

Wow, he brings a spare copy “just in case.” Just in case of what? Is there some sort of sinister gang of book thieves roaming the streets of Paris, preying on Americans reading Lonesome Dove? And do they only steal books written by Larry McMurtry, or do they also swipe books by other popular authors?

Didn’t want Aisle Seat Guy’s copy of Lonesome Dove, but it seemed vitally important to him that I take the stupid book. So, I did. Forgot to pack a book, so what the hell, now I have something to read. Maybe it will help me fall asleep. Probably not.

Aisle Seat Guy: “I guarantee you’ll love it and will thank me.”

BTW: My brain and my TBI can handle flying. Felt fine. That’s a relief. Had visions of excruciating, pounding headaches as the plane gained altitude, followed by quiet, yet desperate whimpering for seven hours.


OK, back to Day 2 of my bike trip, or Sleepless in France. No wait, Sleepless in Soissons. That sounds better, although it only works today.

I’m in Soissons, which is about a 50-mile ride from Chantilly, and it’s 3:46AM (Wednesday morning) and, surprise, surprise, can’t sleep.

Yet again.

So, I’m writing.


The plan had been to keep going through Soissons – it’s got a giant cathedral and not much else – and then ride another 20 miles to Laon and stay there. It started raining about 25 miles into the ride and was still raining when I got to Soissons. It was cold, wet and I was starting to shivering and shake. Plus, was really tired from the whole jet-lag, lack-of-sleeping thing and from riding the 50 miles.

“The hell with it,” I said when I got to Soissons, and got a room at the Hotel Du Pot D’Etain and immediately discovered my brand-new, $140 waterproof panniers aren’t quite as waterproof as advertised.

All my clothes were at least damp and some were soaking wet (the ones on the bottom). Spread everything out anywhere and everywhere I could find a place to spread them out: the bed post, the hook on the bathroom door, the douche (that’s the French word for shower and yes, immature people – like me – think it’s funny) and on the radiator, which wasn’t on even though it’s pretty darn cold. Stretched two bungee cords from the bed post to the window and hung the rest of my clothes on them. Thank goodness for bungee cords.

If my stuff isn’t dry in the morning, I’ll find a Laundromat and put them in the dryer.

Let’s just say getting around the room was difficult with stuff hanging everywhere. It was like one of those Tom Cruise Mission Impossible movies where there are all these multi-colored laser beams filling a room and guarding some giant diamond or a highly toxic, mutated strain of a virus that will kill millions of people. Tom has to twist and turn and gymnast his way through the laser beams.


I’m no Tom Cruise (that’s a good thing, right?), and almost killed myself going to the bathroom in the dark. Turns out you can clothes line yourself on a clothes line. Guess that’s where the phrase comes from.

Thank goodness my laptop was in a large – and actually waterproof – Ziploc bag, along with Lonesome Dove, which I started reading a few hours ago to try and help me fall asleep. It’s pretty good. Aisle Seat Guy may be on to something.

Still can’t fall asleep, so I might as well write some more.

Tonight’s topic: cycling.

I’m a pretty experienced and strong cyclist. Well, I was a strong cyclist before that bastard almost killed me. Not so much anymore, but I’m determined to get back into biking shape. Uncle Steve took me on my first bike trip the summer before my senior year of high school. To Vermont. Lots of mountains. It was great. Learned how to climb mountains and turn beautiful circles with my pedals. The next year we did upstate New York. Lake George, Lake Placid and lots of other lakes. And more mountains. Still great. Was hooked on the whole cycling and bike-trip thing. We skipped a year and then did the Skyline Drive in Virginia, which is one huge mountain. It was amazing. We skipped another year and did the C&O Canal, finishing up in Washington, D.C., which was where Uncle Steve lived. That was our last bike trip. Uncle Steve was diagnosed with brain cancer about three months after the C&O trip and, well, he didn’t make it.

Really miss Uncle Steve and our bike trips. He would have loved biking over here in France.

OK, on to Chapter 3…Marc sneaks into a church and has a vision

One thought on “Day 2. Tuesday, June 2, 2015 … Soissons … 50 miles/70 total miles … My $140 waterproof panniers aren’t as waterproof as advertised

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