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It's Only a Bike Race -

How Hard Can It Be?

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Winner of New Book Awards Prize!

 


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The Awards Judge Organization proudly announces the

Winners of the First Annual 2015-16

NEW BOOK AWARDS

Los Angeles, CA—The Awards Judge Organization has announced the Winners of the First Annual NEW BOOK AWARDS.   The New Book Awards were created to boost recognition for outstanding literary achievement filtered out of a wide spectrum of America’s diverse literary community.  One purpose of the awards is to bring attention to independent and self-published works that might otherwise go unnoticed.  The New Book Award winners range from well-known and established writers to aspiring authors and first works. There are no quotas for diversity; the winners list simply reflects the quality chosen through a natural selection process.

The Awards Judge Organization (AJO) is a national independent product review & ratings commission.

The full text of the press release announcing the list of award winners including "It's Only A Bike Race" can be found at www.newbookawards.com

Le Tour de France - A Vacation On Wheels?

Riding a bicycle around France during July sounds like an idyllic way to spend a few weeks during the summer. Visiting different regions of the country while on a leisurely ride through vineyards and sunflower fields seems like a fun pastime in which all French gentlemen should aspire to partake at least once during their lifetime. Just to add a little adventure and interest to the two-wheeled vacation, there would be a small prize for the first man to return to Paris. …. This was the ill-informed overall impression of the Tour de France that the author had gained during five years of studying French at high school on the other side of the world.

Some twenty years later when he was able to make his long-awaited first trip to France, he began to discover that his pre-conceived notions of the event were removed from reality by a large distance - over 3,000 kilometers to be exact. Having realized the extent of his original misperceptions about the Tour de France, the author was eager to discover whether it was still possible to enjoy the Tour de France in the way he had visualized it as a youngster. Substituting a campervan for a bicycle, he decided to follow the Tour de France for three weeks with the aim of enjoying the race while simultaneously taking in the sights, sounds and tastes of France. This book tells the story of his quest.

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Beware the Panama Hat

July 22, 2014

Today’s Stage 14 required us to travel back down the mountain with my wife keeping her eyes firmly focused on the road as we negotiated each turn, and allowing herself only minimal enjoyment of the spectacular Alpine views that I was trying to point out to her. The stage began in Grenoble which was the site of the 1968 Winter Olympics, and our campground was at least a couple of thousand feet above that city. The organizers in their wisdom arranged that today’s stage would move directly away from us, so we had to find a viewing point that was not too far past the start. After passing by the local McDonald's we chose the town of Vizille, not knowing anything about it and found it to be the most charming little town.

We found a parking lot along the route close to the edge of downtown and settled in with our coffee and breakfast while waiting for the Publicity Caravan to arrive. While we noted that there were some decorations in the streets, there were generally fewer than we had seen in the locations we had visited earlier in our tour of Le Tour. Although the number of decorations seemed to have diminished, the high levels of enthusiasm among the spectators along the routes have not shown any signs of subsiding.

At the appointed and well-publicized time the vehicles in the Publicity Caravan arrived, albeit slowly, proceeding carefully downhill into the town due to the right turn they had to negotiate soon afterwards. We have observed throughout the past weeks that some children seemed to love the whole event from start to finish, while others were frightened by certain characters. Some of the youngsters who come to watch the action are quite small, so one can just imagine for example a bored and tired little girl who has fallen asleep while waiting and then wakes up to find the first thing she sees is a giant yellow cyclist looming above her. And there are also other imaginative floats that probably look great on paper but are less practical when it comes to driving them for 120 miles each day over roads wide and narrow. For example I am always captivated by the sheer quaintness of the little mobile huts sponsored by Courte Paille restaurants. I’m sure they must have been designed by someone who either failed high school physics or at least fell asleep during the part about at the concepts of balance and center of gravity. Nevertheless it is always intriguing to watch these extraordinary objects scuttle and scootle around the roads each day while I wait with camera poised to watch one of the little beetles overturn and go rolling down the nearest hill.

Speaking of bugs, the French version of the mass-produced small car is epitomized by the fleet (or swarm, perhaps) of vehicles employed by the sponsor and dry sausage manufacturer Cochanou. Their distinctive gingham fashion style is reflected in the hats they distribute exclusively only to the most fashion forward fans in the crowd.

During the interim period while waiting for the riders to arrive after the Caravan had passed by we walked into town in search of a restaurant for lunch. Part way along our walk I realized that I had left my wife’s Mac computer on the table in the van, clearly visible through the window. I was worried about possible theft and so I was anxious to get back to Giselle despite the tempting array of open air bistros where we could have lingered over lunch. As it turned out we found a little pastry shop that was displaying in its window an offer for a takeaway lunch menu with sandwich, drink and pastry. The server was a charming young lady of about 16 dressed in traditional costume and she was determined to practice her English in response to me practicing my French. Her mother the pastry chef could be seen in the back room working on the next round of the production cycle and upon hearing the conversation she offered to help her daughter. The daughter turned to her mother and asserted her independence in a very sweet way (I make this point only because during my life I have witnessed many teenagers, including myself, asserting their independence in a much less polite fashion), when she said “Maman! Non! Sssh!” then turned back to us. It was a lovely moment of a teenager asserting her independence but not in a disrespectful way. She completed the transaction with us and we took our lunch back to the van where we found that my feared invasion by mysterious thieves had not occurred. We had both chosen the dry sausage sandwich (perhaps made by Cochonou) on a delicious and crunchy baguette. For her dessert my wife had chosen a very tasty lemon tart while I had a blackberry tart with whipped cream. It was a wonderful meal and we enjoyed every mouthful.

But let’s not forget there is still a race going on and while the yellow jersey is held by the Italian rider Vincenzo Nibali, he has so far disappointed me by refusing to wear the full yellow suit that scares the kids. Even though he looks like being the winner of this year’s Tour, he still looks like another member of the Astana team in their pale blue colors when I really want him to look like Tweety Bird.

As the riders got closer and anticipation grew within the crowd, my wife noticed two little girls on the other side of the road who seemed to be holding an Australian flag. Naturally I was intrigued by the sight so I crossed over and spoke to them in Australian English - but there was no response. After a few moments I figured that they didn’t speak English and so I looked into the crowd to see who their parents might be. Once again there was no response from anyone. Anyone that is except for a stern-looking French lady in the crowd who glared back at me. I figured that these two little sweethearts must have been holding the flag for someone else, and decided it was best to go back to the other side of the road while I tried to turn invisible before the stern French lady called the Gendarmes about this older man who was approaching little girls at random. Not long after this there were a few signs held up in the crowd behind the girls such as “G’day”, “Tassie” and “Tumut”. I clung to the idea that there must be some Aussies on that side of the street but was not brave enough to go back for the fear of being arrested as a child molester. (However I must also admit that I was wearing a panama hat, which in itself has often been seen as an indicator of guilt in any given situation - for example, Sidney Greenstreet in several Humphrey Bogart films). In the heat of the moment I decided that if I were to be accused of something strange, then I would also accuse the driver of this German-registered camper van. If those different-sized bikes don’t practically scream guilty then I don’t know what does!

After the riders had passed by we crossed the street and were happy to see the two little girls together with four adults. As we walked towards them the same French lady from earlier was crossing the street in our direction and she gave me another disapproving look just for good measure. After finally making it to the other side unencumbered we had the pleasure of finally meeting the parents of the children, who turned out to be a lady from the Albury-Wodonga area in Australia and her French husband who happened to be wearing a cap with a New Zealand flag. We were interested to hear that they live in the area near today’s Stage, and that the other two adults in the party were the Aussie lady’s parents who were visiting from Australia for about 6 weeks. Of course we congratulated the Aussie lady (whose name we forgot to ask) on her foresight in arranging for Le Tour de France to pass near her home to coincide with the visit of her parents. It was so nice to talk with them all and we wished we might have had more time to chat.

But as far as I know no-one has turned me in to the Gendarmes. As for the French lady, I don’t know. If you don’t hear from me for a few days you’ll know why. In the meantime my Panama hat is safely hidden away.

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