Bike Touring Journals by Neil Anderson and Sharon Anderson Lead Goat Bicycle touring France
Whether we rise to the challenge of adversity or are devastated by it is largely a matter of choice. Ultimately, we are responsible for that choice.
~ Carl Heibert, Gift of Wings
Our quayside slumber turned out to be less than restful. We awoke several times during the night with near cardiac arrests -- motorists turning around, motorcyclists roaring past, partiers cruising the docks, fishermen walking to the pier to try their luck, and a woman running by, high heels clicking on the concrete (at least I assumed it was female). My favourite was a fit-to-be-tied German Shepherd that charged over and barked hysterically at our tent. Sharon was not a happy camper.
We rose early. So early, in fact, it was still dark. And cold! By the time we packed our tent away, our fingers were numb. Using our tiny Whisperlite camp stove, Sharon boiled a pot of water for hot chocolates while we waited for the ferry office to reopen. (I had been so flustered the night before I had forgotten to buy tickets.)
Slightly before 8 am, an unshaven, balding male employee with (judging from his wardrobe selection) colour-blindness, arrived. His first order of business was not to open the doors to the paying public, but rather to kiss two female employees good morning. Interesting way to start work, I thought. "I wonder if job satisfaction is higher in France?" I said to Sharon. "Of course, kissing one's female employees isn't proof there's more to life than work, but it certainly proves there's ways to add life to work."
I strolled into the ticket office with a sly grin on my face and purchased two tickets for passage to Corsica.
That accomplished, the question then arose: What were we going to do for the next three days? (The flip-side of having no cast-in-stone schedules.)
Sharon decided that since we were in Nice with time to spare, we might as well have a look around. So, from the port we pedalled up a steep hill into Chateau Park and discovered the origin of the floodlit waterfall. The tranquil setting looked like a great spot for camping.
The park overlooked Nice. Streets in the old quarter radiated outwards, spoke-like, from a central church. An open air market near the large church was in full-swing. In one view I could see seven churches, the boardwalk, beach, Mediterranean, sailboats, and, unbelievably, swimmers! They must have thicker blood than me. I was still trying to rally my core body temperature.
Perhaps if I do some work on my bike I will thaw, I thought. Egad. My brain must really be chilled to think that. I laughed and mentioned my errant thought to Sharon.
"Well," she reasoned, "your rear brakes are so worn that you've given up using them."
It was true. The metal holder that once held brake pads had been maliciously scraping my rear rim since somewhere before Seville. It didn't seem to be fixing itself. And there didn't appear to be an end to downhills any time soon. Rumours were Corsica was mountainous -- wasn't it just part of the Alps mountain chain poking out of the water?
"How about cycling in Holland?" I queried.
Sharon shook her head, and I reluctantly resigned myself to the chore. A park bench in the sun provided the perfect location. I leaned my trusty steed against it, and took out the necessary tools. Muttering to myself, I focused on the task at hand.
Sharon soon tired of watching my mechanical ineptitude. She heard a marching band strike up a lively tune somewhere below, and slipped away to enjoy it from a better vantage.
She returned shortly with a queer expression on her dimpled cheeks. "When I stood on the rock wall to get a better view," she blurted, "I saw a guy with his pants down around his knees jerking off!"
"Thanks for sharing," I said, continuing to concentrate on those tiny brake pads. Toe-in alignment was not turning out to be one of my stronger points. Using my professional school teacher voice, I instructed her, "The best thing to do is ignore him." I imagined he had already slithered off anyway. I sniggered softly, doubting the masturbator was what Sharon had in mind when she had enthusiastically spoken of meeting new people in foreign lands. That was, I thought she had said "new," and not "nude."
I leaned over my bike, swatted a bee out of the way, and continued working on my brakes. Then, out of the corner of one eye, I spied the pervert. He had reappeared on the walkway above us -- pecker proudly in hand. How come there are no female flashers? I wondered. Tersely, I instructed Sharon to ignore him, and explained that trying to startle people was his way of getting his jollies. I bent over my bike, and worked diligently. Never had brakes been more scrutinized.
In the midst of tightening my brake cable, Sharon gasped. Alarmed, I nearly snapped off a bolt -- I thought a bee must have stung her. Or, if one hadn't, surely she had just swallowed one.
"What's the matter!" I implored. "What happened?"
"That guy is standing right behind you!" she croaked almost inaudibly.
I turned around to face a large black man, one foot away, grasping an equally long, dripping wand. To be my fairy godmother, all he needed was a pink tutu. We had been so intent on ignoring him we had given him a chance to sneak up behind us. And he had taken it.
"Get out of here!" I yelled brusquely into his face.
Startled, he shuffled back a couple of steps, his pants down around his ankles. The way he was waving his rod around it appeared he was going to grant me a wish.
"Get out of here!" I bellowed again.
He looked down. There, next to the manicured hedge, lay a fist-sized stone. He stooped and, with his free hand, picked it up. How convenient I thought and glanced around for my rock. But there were none. I'll bet there wasn't another in the whole park.
The scene before me was rather amusing, and I would have laughed if I hadn't been so mad. A rock, grasped menacingly above his head, ready to bean me, and in the other his shlong, ready to squirt me.
"Get lost!" I shouted at the top of my lungs.
He put a finger to his lips -- the one with the rock -- and whispered "Shhh," like I was the one causing a disturbance by making too much noise.
My command of the French language suddenly jumped into my frontal lobe. "Allez!" I screamed. Then, since we were so close to the Italian border, I guess, I threw in some Italiano for good measure. "Polizia!" I cried.
He shushed me again, but began backing away. That was the last we saw of him and his appendage. We decided he was a real ding-dong.
I gathered our tools, and we hastily headed for an exit. Leaving the park we bumped into two reporters wearing police uniforms. (Have you ever noticed cops are never around when a crime is being committed? They just write it down later as someone recounts the offense.)
"Yes, officers, I'd like to report (see?) a pervert sighting of the penile variety."
"Can you describe him, sir?"
"Well, he has sticky hands."
"The book is funny, and sometimes touching [...] There's also more than one disturbing incident in the book [...] These incidents, however, are softened by Anderson's laid back tone and self-deprecating humour. The Lead Goat Veered Off is a fine piece of adventure travel writing, and recommended to anyone who has ever wanted to get away from it all without leaving their living room."
Dave Hazzan, book review in The Similkameen Spotlight
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