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04/15 France, Menton to Nice

This day started out overcast. Then, as we had continental breakfast in the dining room of our hotel, it started raining. Then it poured. Then thunder and lightning and heavy, heavy rain.

We were scheduled to pick up a midsize rental car at the Menton Auto Europe office today. (We planned to catch up with the Odyssey group in Nice.) Since this car would be in Larry's name, he and Joan went over, during the heavy rain, to get the car.

Meanwhile, back at the hotel, Lisa and I got packed. The weather cleared and the sun came out. We read for awhile.

At 1:30, we still hadn't heard from Larry or Joan. It was beautiful out. Lisa really wanted to take a walk in the town. We were about to leave a note that we had gone to town and would be back by 3, when Larry and Joan walked in.

They told us their story.

They had all kinds of problems. The agent at the office didn't have records of our reservation nor did he have a car for us.

He wouldn't call Europcar (who we reserved the car with) to check. He wouldn't let Larry use their phone to call Europcar. He wouldn't let Larry talk to his boss. All he would say is, "Is not possible."

Finally Larry went to a pay phone and called Europcar. They agreed that we had a reservation and that they would call the Auto Europe office and clarify the situation. He told Larry that if the Menton Auto Europe office did not have a car for us, they would send one over from the Nice Airport office.

After the local office agent got off the phone, he agreed to let Larry have a mini-size car. Larry and Joan accepted that and headed back to the hotel.

Of course the car wasn't large enough to carry us, our bikes and all of our gear. Fortunately, Dennis and Katy drove up at that time. They stopped to see what happened to the group and to show us the brand new camper-van that they had leased through September.

We told them the situation with the Odyssey. They said they would be driving to Nice from hear. We asked them to help us haul some things since our car was so small. So Dennis, Katy, Lisa and the Dolinsky's monster bag left in their van for Nice.

Larry and Joan and I loaded the rest of our gear and our bicycles in and on the tiny Fiat and headed for Nice.

We found Lisa and the monster bag outside the Hotel Ibis as planned. We stacked things higher and loaded Lisa and the bag into the tiny Fiat for the short ride to our hotel, the Hotel Relais Mercury.

The hotel is a 3-star and quite nice, though the room is very, very small. (But, as Lisa points out, it's bigger than a tent.)

We moved our stuff into the hotel, then Joan and I headed to the Europcar office at the airport to pick up our car. This time we got a Renault Magane Vista. It's a mini-van and should work just fine for our backup vehicle in France.

At dinner tonight (The group at this hotel did not have dinner last night. They were told by Tim that he couldn't get dinner set up so everyone was on their own, and that they'd try to figure out some way to credit everyone for their meal.), we heard that more people had left. Some because they're sick, some because they're fed up. The number of people on the Odyssey must be down to around 200 now.

Did I mention before that Steve and Dan (I think the names are right), a father and son team on the ride, sent their bikes home. They (the bikes) were too much trouble to take along as they toured Europe.

Is this a bike trip around the world? or what??? :-)

Love to all, David and Lisa

Nice, France

This morning there was a 10K and a half-marathon run here. Some of the Odyssey riders participated. The course included a beautiful out and back route along the beach. We sure were envious!

Unfortunately, we were not ready to run. Though I got some good sandals yesterday that I can run in, Lisa couldn't find anything that would work for her. What a bummer!

It was overcast this morning for the run. Then it started sprinkling. That kept on until late afternoon.

We had to go to the other hotel to retrieve our gear that was brought here from the stalled gear-trucks. We rushed over and back so Joan could go to Monaco.

Lisa and I went for a walk through town, then along the beach, for most of the day. We found a pedestrian mall area about a mile away. We poked into a few shops, found a few perfumeries and checked a few restaurants for lunch.

We had lunch in the pedestrian mall area. Neither the restaurant nor the food were very exciting.

We walked back to the hotel with the intention of sitting in the lobby and reading. As soon as we sat down, riders started joining us. We spent the rest of the afternoon talking with different riders.

We found that the Ken, Richard and Shelly group are still discussing what group action they can take to convince Tim K. to make some changes to make the Odyssey more compatible with more of the group's needs.

We found out that Bruce Thomson is leaving the ride. He's going home to try to get healthy. (He's been sick since Greece.) Right now, he doesn't think he'll be coming back.

We talked to a lot of people who visited Monaco. (It's just up the road about 20 Km's, but we chose not to go.) We heard that Monaco is very ritzy, that it has very nice (and expensive) restaurants with exquisite service, that it has very large and expensive yachts in the harbor, and that there are very, very large and expensive homes in the hills. We were told that it is extraordinarily clean, and that the primary business is gambling -- BIG MONEY gambling. (The cheapest roulette tables are $15, 3-bet minimum.) AND, to get into the fancy casinos, you must dress, look and act like you're dripping money. (Did we choose not to go because we're NOT dripping money?)

Talk about people going home sick, we're lucky so far because we've only had minor ills. Many, many of the riders are coming down with an infectious disease that turns into pneumonia. A few have gone home to the states to try to get well.

Why is that happening?

There are several challenges with the trip that must be dealt with to remain healthy. One is that we are simply too close to each other all the time, e.g. always eating together, camping together and riding together when sagging -- usually with other sick people. Like a kindergarten class when a bug hits, it travels through the whole group.

Another is that when we ride in the rain, the camping regimen (always cold and damp) does not allow us to get well.

Another is, the many miles over many consecutive days wears the body out and does not allow time for recovery.

As you know, we have made a few adjustments that mitigate some of those factors.

The primary one is, we have rented a car to supplement our travels. That helps compensate for a couple of the illness-making factors. A big one is, it allows us to ride as many or as few miles and days as we want. Another is, with the car, we never have to ride in the sag van with the "sick and dying." Still another is, it makes it easier for us to find a warm and dry place to stay -- like a hotel room.

The other big adjustment is that we don't camp if we don't want to, like when it rains, is cold, is too late, etc.

So far, our avoidance techniques have worked.


04/17 France, Nice to Port Grimaud

106 Km's today -- pouring rain and cool this morning -- clearing, cold and windy tonight. Again, we chose not to start riding in the rain -- then car and bike rack problems kept us from riding later, so we drove the whole, beautiful route -- all of it along the magnificent French Riviera.

The route started, of course, in Nice where there is a lovely, wide promenade all along the water. We passed through many small, beautiful, inviting towns along the Riviera including Cros-de-Cagnes, Villeneuvre-Loubet, Cannes, St. Rafeal, St. Aygulf and St. Maxime. Unfortunately, it was pouring rain most of the way, so we couldn't really enjoy any of it.

The route today was one of the best we've had for bike riding -- flat, scenic, and not too much traffic. We followed the coast, which was mostly beach, most of the way.

Before we started our drive this morning, David and I each bought a pair of running shoes and shorts. When we first started this trip, we didn't bring running shoes because we thought we'd be doing so much riding, that we'd just want to rest on our days off. But it hasn't quite worked out that way, and sometimes we feel that we're actually getting LESS exercise here!

Somehow, it's OK -- even enjoyable -- to run in the rain, but we really don't like to ride in the rain (and it's not very safe.) Also, on the days we drive when Joan and Larry ride (every third day), it will be nice to be able to take a run instead of a bike ride.

Anyway, after our drive, when we reached the campground, we found it was, unfortunately, a mud bog. Those that could (that included us) rented one of hundreds of small vacation trailers that were parked for just that purpose at the very large campground, Camping les Prairies de la Mer.

The campground restaurant provided an incredible dinner. We served ourselves from a huge frying pan (about 30 inches across) that had a mix of large shrimp, mussels, chicken chunks, sausage slices, calamari rings, peas, and bell pepper slices, all on a bed of rice with red sauce. Lisa really loved it. (I'm not high on mussels, calamari or whole shrimp, so I just enjoyed the incredible visual appeal of the dish.)

After dinner, Larry and I got on the phone to check out lease prices and availability of cars for the second three months tour of Europe. We want to pick a car up in Paris and drop it in Amsterdam.

We called Renault USA, Volkswagen America, and Europe by Auto. We found out that VW does not have a European lease program. But we got the prices and terms on a Peugeot and on two models of Renault.

Before making a decision, we want to check out the cars on the Internet, and check with Auto Europe, our current provider.

Love to all, David and Lisa

04/18 France, Port Grimaud to Sanary-sur-Mer

Most of last night the wind blew fiercely. This morning, the storm had passed, and the sun was out. Today's ride was 114 km's along the absolutely beautiful Riviera coast of Northern France. Each turn brought another beautiful vista of the Mediterranean Sea.

The day started for me with a very stiff back and the start of a cold. My back was so stiff that I was not able to get out of bed. So I took 800 mg of ibuprofen and went back to sleep.

Lisa went for breakfast, then woke me around 10.

Larry and Joan had left on their bikes around 9:30. Lisa convinced me that a run would help loosen my back. I agreed to try it. So we put on our new running outfits, (Lisa had to help me with my shoes), and we went for a run.

We found out that a place called the "old" Port Grimaud was just a few km's up the beach from the campground, so we jogged there. It was really a neat place! It was a little town bisected by small waterways, with many bridges connecting the parts of the town. (We're told it is much like Venice, only on a smaller scale.) Lisa and I noted this as a place we'd like to come back to when we revisit Europe.

After we jogged there and back, we hopped in the car at noon because we were scheduled to pick up Joan at 1. But, again, the best laid plans etc. It took us 45 minutes to reach St. Tropez (Bridget Bardot's home), about 7 km's away, because traffic was so heavy.

Nevertheless, we found Joan about 1:30. She was very tired but she wanted to get to checkpoint before she quit.

That gave us a chance to catch Karen-Ann and return the whiteboard. Oh yeah, how did WE get the whiteboard?

Well, the whiteboard is out up every night to give information to the riders. Karen-Ann writes notes -- like where and what time is dinner, breakfast, the mechanics, the massages, and any other info that she wants to convey to the riders.

She left it at the camp last night. We saw it when we were leaving, and, since it was so late, we thought it was probably forgotten. We called Karen-Ann to see if she wanted us to bring it along with us -- and she said yes.

After we gave the whiteboard to Karen-Ann, we met Larry and Joan at the checkpoint. Larry wanted to rush off so he could get miles on his record.

(Riders in his local bike club compete for miles every year. He says he never gets in the top group, but he will this year because he plans to ride at least 10,000 miles this year. That will give him significant "bragging rights" when he returns.)

Joan and Lisa and I had lunch at a restaurant at a "port" full of yachts that was just down the road.

After lunch, we drove the rest of the way in and reserved a trailer for the night. (I wonder if we'll remember how to set up the tent?)

We had a wonderful dinner tonight -- finally. It was scheduled for 7 to 9 at a remote restaurant. Busses were hired to transport us to dinner in groups. We were told that dinner was "about 5 km"s up the road. Just go out the campground and turn left.

Larry got in about 7 and had to shower. We were ready to leave about 8:15. There were lots of riders waiting and no bus in sight, so we decided to drive to the restaurant. To make a long story short, we drove about 6 km's, asked several locals, and never found the restaurant -- so we went back and waited for the bus.

After the fine, SERVED dinner, we got back around 10 and hit the sack.

Love to all, David and Lisa

04/19 France, Sanary-sur-Mer to La Couronne (Martiques)

95 km's today, very scenic, very hilly, and VERY WINDY.

Lisa and I started out from camp and immediately hit the hills. It was just hilly to km 21, then it got VERY hilly for 5 km's -- like 18-20 %. Then we had a VERY STEEP downhill. Some of it was posted at 30% -- YES, THIRTY PERCENT. That's brake burning territory. (Thank heaven for the disc brakes.)

The plus part of the hills, though, was the views. When we reached the crest, there was a spectacular view of the Mediterranean. Then, every other curve brought a new, magnificent vista.

We stopped at St. Cy-s-Mer, one of many cute beach towns, sat on a bench facing the Mediterranean, and visited with Adrian and Donna. (They had been off-route visiting Venice for a week. Yes, we were jealous, but that will be a "must see" next time we're in Italy.)

When we hit the big hills, the fierce headwind started. In fact, at the start of the long, steep climb, there was a sign that said "HIGH WINDS DANGEROUS FOR BICYCLES". The winds were so bad at the summit, we fought constantly to keep on the road. In fact, we were blown over once. (Over as in falling on our side.) But we made it up and down without further incident.

We've noticed that French drivers are noticeable more polite and less aggressive than Italian drivers. That's a nice change.

The campground tonight is the La Mas Campground, one of the bigger operations in camping. It is right next to the Mediterranean and it has a restaurant, a bar, a store and a very large -- but unheated -- swimming pool.

We rented a mobile home for the night. It has two bedrooms, a kitchen, a dining room a living room, and a bathroom with a shower with lots of hot water, and heat. "Beats a tent any night" and the bedrooms are, "bigger than a tent" are two of Lisa's favorite sayings.

We celebrated Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Passover with a glass of fine wine with dinner. (Joan and Lisa searched for Manaschevitz, but just not available in this part of France!) The dinner, by the way, was in the restaurant, and was very good. It started with a lettuce, tomato and onion salad. Then we had pasta with red sauce and meat balls, with all the bread (French, of course) we could eat.

The finale was a French pastry with baked apple slices. UMM umm good!

04/20 France, La Couronne to La Grande Motte

Today was 130 Km's, mostly flat. We went through many small towns. In between, we biked along Km's and Km's of wetlands and mud flat.

I (David) had a scratchy throat last night, and woke up with a full blown head cold this morning. I decided to sleep in and let Larry and Joan ride again today. Joan wanted to be picked up at 1 again, so we left shortly after 11.

Again the DRG was confusing through town. We got lost twice trying to follow it. We were still on time to pick up Joan at 1 when we got to a ferry crossing. Though the crossing was very short, the ferry crew was off for lunch. It took us 45 minutes to make the 5 minute crossing.

We caught up with Larry and Joan at 1:30. Larry was fixing a flat on Joan's bike. Joan wanted to "ride to checkpoint" so we agreed to leave the car at checkpoint for her. We would start our ride from there.

We had a great ride. Mostly along wetlands and mud flats. We passed many "club" riders along the road, including two groups of teenagers (one guys, one gals) in supported group rides.

We passed by a COMPLETELY walled city, Aigues Mortes, but didn't have time to go into it. If we get back here though, it would be something to visit.

The city of La Grande Mott, where we're staying, is a very interesting city. It is a fairly new city, established in 1972. It's a summer vacation area. It has a winter population of 6,200 that swells to over 150,000 in the summer. And it's filled with modern architecture -- from the traffic signal poles, to the bridges, to the buildings -- both public and private.

If my achy body and congested head feel any better tomorrow, we'll ride. If not, I'll sleep in and we'll drive.

Carcassonne (and a layover day) tomorrow.

Love to all, David and Lisa

04/21 Good Friday -- France, La Grande Motte to Carcassonne

The route today was 175 km's. A beautiful route through small towns, along beaches, beside wetlands and through rural countryside. We followed some highways and took many, many back roads. Plus, the route was mostly flat and the weather was beautiful.

At one place, we were following a farm road about 8-10 feet wide (yes, it was 2-way) when it abruptly ended. To the left was an old stone bridge (over a canal) that was barely 7 feet wide between the stone walls.

We went through many very small villages with very, very narrow streets between the buildings -- much like we saw in Italy. Of course, the streets led in every direction and no direction all at the same time. It was difficult to wind through them and stay on route.

Unfortunately, WE could not ride today because I came down with a full blown head cold. Eyes watering, nose running and sneezing all night long.

We consider ourselves lucky so far though, because we've only had minor ills. Many, many of the riders are coming down with an infectious disease that turns into pneumonia. A few have gone home to the states to try to get well.

Why is that happening?

There are several challenges with the trip that must be dealt with to remain healthy. One is that we are simply too close to each other all the time, e.g. always eating together, camping together, and riding together when sagging -- usually with other sick people. Like a kindergarden class when a bug hits, it travels through the whole group.

Another is that when we ride in the rain, the camping regimen (always cold and damp) does not allow us to get well.

Another is, the many miles over many consecutive days wears the body out and does not allow time for recovery.

As you know, we have made a few adjustments that mitigate some of those factors.

The primary one is, we have rented a car to supplement our travels. That helps compensate for a couple of the illness-making factors. A big one is, it allows us to ride as many or as few miles and days as we want. Another is, with it, we never have to ride in the sag van with the "sick and dying." Still another is, it makes it easier for us to find a warm and dry place to stay -- like a hotel room.

The other big adjustment is that we don't camp if we don't want to, like when it rains, is cold, is too late, etc.

So far, our avoidance techniques have worked.

When we pulled into town, we saw a fantastic looking castle and walled city up on a hill. We'll have to investigate that tomorrow.

Also, we got some good news upon arrival. The trucks with the gear lockers are expected back tomorrow night. (I wonder if TK&A will provide replacement locks for the ones they cut off???)

Love to all, David and Lisa

04/22 Carcassonne, France

David is still sick but getting better. We got some decongestant yesterday and it's helping. Lisa is well and anxious to ride.

On this layover day, we had plans to 1- get the mail, including the new Phil Woods front hub and the returned photo discs; 2- get the spare rim out of the TK&A storage van; 3- take the hub, the rim and the existing front wheel to the mechanic to have a new wheel built; 4- send a photo disc package to Doug; and 5- visit the castle.

What we accomplished was to pick up the mail, get Joan and Larry's laundry done, and visit the castle.

The "castle" is actually the original "Cite' de Carcassonne." It has been inhabited since the 6th Century BC. It was once a Roman town, fortified in the 4th century AD, before becoming a mediaeval walled town. In the 13th century, royal power gilded the town with a second line of ramparts, enlarged the chateau and built a city wall around it. The town was restored by Viollet-le-Duc in the 19th century.

The major features in the walled city are the actual castle and a large, intriguing cathedral. The cathedral was built in the 12th - 14th centuries. Most notable are the many, large, intricate, stained glass windows. They are unique in that the windows are made from many, small pieces of stained glass. One particularly beautiful window is a very large rosette-style. It looks like a very large, very intricate kaleidoscope.

Today, the double-walled city is inhabited by many small, touristy shops, restaurants and hotels.

This morning I realized I left my new, lightweight, fleece jacket (with my all-weather hat and my running gloves in the pockets) at our last hotel. We called this morning and tonight to see if they found it and, if so, to have them send it ahead to Gibraltar. No luck so far. Each time we were told to "call back later when xxx or yyy is in." We'll try again tomorrow.

Tonight after dinner there was a TK&A-called meeting -- the first since Panama City that was called for a reason other than air flight information. It started with people airing their gripes, concerns and complaints. Tim listened -- then summarily brushed them off.

Then Tim announced that someone had been asked to leave the trip. We found out later it was Gary Hoffman. (For those who were at the New Year's Eve celebration in Burbank, he was the guy sitting at our table -- the only non-family member.) We're not exactly sure what happened, but he has apparently been a thorn in Tim and Karen-Ann's side since before the trip even began, and they've had many loud arguments. We heard that he had distributed a poem basically trashing TK&A and the ride, but we didn't see it. That alone certainly wouldn't get someone kicked out, so we're really not sure exactly what happened.

Anyway, after the concerns, gripes and complaints were ?handled? a rider spoke up, said she was speaking for the "silent majority," and said a bunch of positive things about the ride, the staff, etc. Some people applauded. Then some others joined in the "love fest" of good words about Tim. (It seemed to us to be a bit overdone.) So what started out as a rather confrontational meeting ended up to be more of a pep rally for Tim.

For us, it was good to hear some positive comments for a change (because the complainers are quite loud), however the gripes, concerns and complaints that were expressed are real and should be addressed, not simply brushed off.

At any rate, the reality for us is somewhere in the middle. We'll wait and see what happens next.

Love to all, David and Lisa

04/23 Easter Sunday -- France, Carcassonne to Ax les Thermes

What a beautiful route in TERRIBLE weather!

The route today is 103 km's. It started out with windy (curvy) back roads through small towns and back country in cold, wet rain. It was VERY scenic.

At about 40 km's the road started climbing. At 60 km's we were at 3000 feet. From 78 to 82 km's, we climbed to 4000 feet. At about 80 km's it started snowing. (Looks bad for bikes.)

At 92 km's we hit the summit at 4579 feet. It was snowing hard. There was snow on the ground and slush on the road. The temperature was 1 degree C (about 34 degrees F) and it was windy. (Looks TERRIBLE for bikes. )

At Ax les Thermes, elevation about 3000 ft, it had warmed up to 4 degrees.

(Note that because of my head cold and sore throat, I SAG'd in the back seat of the photographer's van. The above entries are from my perspective. Lisa borrowed a bike and rode part of the route. Following is her experience.)

LISA: I borrowed a bike from Marika, who was trying to get a ride with some people in a car. They had room for her but not for her bike, so I actually was doing her a favor by taking it.

Unfortunately, this was not the most well-thought-out idea I've ever had. She is considerably shorter than I am, and it turned out her bike was much too small for me. I kind of realized that at first, but I thought it would work out anyway. Unfortunately, about 20 kilometers into the ride, my knees and back started bothering me. I haven't had any trouble with my knees, and I decided it was stupid to take the risk. So I rode to about 39 kilometers, where there was a warm, dry place to wait for the SAG.

I was really sorry to have to stop riding, because as David said, the route was really beautiful and tranquil (despite the weather).

And I should say that despite all the griping about TK&A's lack of support, they were really great today. The first van that came by was full, but they promised they'd radio another. Sure enough, another van arrived in just a few minutes. Lots of people started wanting rides because the weather turned really cold and snowy. They drove everyone to a restaurant (with a fireplace!) at the top of the climb, then drove back for other riders. When they had everyone safely ensconced in the restaurant, they started driving people down to camp. This might sound like a long process, but actually it was quite an efficient way to be sure everyone was take care of.

In case you're wondering why we sag'd today instead of using our car -- we're without a car for about a week due to "technical difficulties" (big drop-off fees to cross the border into Spain, nowhere convenient to drop in France after Carcasonne)

Ax les Thermes is a charming mountain village with the ambiance of a ski-town in the Sierras. And for good reason -- it's a ski town in the Pyrennees. The uniqueness of the town, aside from it's mountain location, is the small swimming pool in the center of town -- it's fed by thermal springs and today, it's steaming. When I saw it this morning, there were people sitting on the edge with their feet in the pool in the cold rain.

The word is, tomorrow the route climbs to over 7500 feet on the way through Andorra.

Love to all, David and Lisa

PS Thanks to all of our friends and relatives, and specifically to journal readers (and Santana Tandem riders) Cheryl Young and Paul Liu from Boston, for your compliments and words of encouragement. We appreciate hearing from everyone.

04/24 Ax les Thermes, France

Point of interest -- the Tour de France followed some of yesterday's and today's routes in 1998.

Today the route goes over a 7,702 ft pass in the Pyrenees Mountains, through Andorra, and into Spain.

Today for us was a rest and recovery day. We had a very good breakfast in the town casino. (In France, a Casino is either a house of gambling or a grocery store.) Then we went to camp to put our gear in the gear lockers (yes - the gear locker trucks are back - Tim got insurance) and to get our bike and wheel parts.

The new Phil Woods front hub that I ordered from the Bicycle Outfitter in Los Altos had arrived. I took that, the previously purchased a replacement Mavic rim and the existing front wheel from the tandem and given them to the mechanic so he could build a new wheel. He told me last night he couldn't get to it and probably wouldn't be able to for quite a while. I decided to take it all to a bike shop in Barcelona to have the new wheel built.

When we returned, I went back to bed and Lisa went for a walk around town. I slept until 2:30. When I woke up, Lisa was there. We each had a pear, then went back to bed.

We got up at 6 and went for a walk around town. We decided to have a last meal in France at the best restaurant in town, so we got recommendations from several locals. The consensus was the L'Auzeraie. We made reservations for 7:30, then walked over to the town square and had a cup of coffee.

Larry and Joan joined us for the start of dinner. They each had a bowl of Pottage des Legumes (vegetable soup.) Then they went down the street for a pizza while we finished our four course dinner. UMM UMM GOOD!

We decided to catch the train for Barcelona in the morning. We'll meet the riders there on Wednesday.

Love to all, David and Lisa

04/25 Ax les Thermes, France to Barcelona, Spain

Today is a travel day for us. This morning we had a ham and egg quiche for breakfast. Then we packed our stuff and headed for the train station. We took the 9:39 train from Ax les Thermes to Barcelona. (It left at 9:56. Much better than Italy!)

We were told by the French train attendants that bicycles were okay on French trains, but that they had to be boxed, bagged, wrapped, or otherwise covered in order to get on a Spanish train. We were also told by Anita that some American bicyclist told her that bicycles on the Spanish train would be no problem.

With that mixed information, Larry and Joan decided to buy garbage bags in case they had to "bag" their bikes. We decided to take our bike cover just in case.

As expected, we had no problem getting our bikes on the French train.

We traveled up a mountain pass, through a tunnel at the top, then down the other side through what was, of course, very picturesque and scenic countryside.

We arrived at the border town station of Latour de Carol Enveits (where we had to change trains) at 10:49. The Spanish train was scheduled to leave at 10:40, but luckily, it was waiting for us. We raced to get our luggage and bikes transferred. We left at 10:56.

Again we had no trouble putting our bikes on the train. There was even an area on the train marked for bikes.

The train traveled through the mountains for a while, then through some foothills, then through a short, rough section of mountain cuts and tunnels. Finally we came out on plains.

We passed through several picturesque, small towns along the way. Each town was capped with either the newer, red tile roofs, or the older reddish-brown tiled roofs.

It is interesting to note that, all through Europe so far, there are no single story buildings. Two stories is the minimum. Those are most often single-family residences. Three or four stories is more common -- even in the small villages.

The first big city on the plains that we stopped at was Granollers. Then we passed through several more, then went into a subway as we entered Barcelona at about 1:30.

The trains in both France and Spain were electric powered from overhead lines, (just like those in South Africa.) Both were quiet, clean and comfortable. The French train was a little smoother riding, however.

We arrived in Barcelona about 1:30 in an underground station so we didn't have a clue what the weather was like outside. To our pleasure, when we emerged we were greeted with bright, warm sunshine.

While Joan and Lisa watched the bikes and baggage, Larry and I went to find the information center and book a hotel. We were hoping for something in the range of 6000-8000 pesetas ($35-$45 -- we were told everything was cheaper in Spain) but the person at the information booth almost laughed. She said nothing was available at that low of cost. We ended up with VERY nice rooms in a nice, quiet neighborhood Northwest of the center of town.

Then came our next problem -- getting there. The obvious answer is the taxi -- but taxis would not take bikes. The next obvious answer is to ride the bikes -- but the bikes wouldn't carry the luggage.

Our solution?

One person take a taxi with all the luggage, the other three ride the bikes. Since I can ride the tandem solo, I was one of them. Larry rode his bike and Lisa rode Joan's because Joan was not comfortable riding in her street shoes. So Joan took the cab. The cost was about a 1000 pesetas. Joan was a little confused with the new money -- so she just gave the cabbie a 5000 pesetas bill. Of course, we kidded her to the extreme.

Love to all, David and Lisa

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