Sunday, July 6, 2014

Back in the Alps

I'm taking my second cycling tour of the Alps. I did a similar thing two years ago as part of a family vacation, but this time I'm here alone so cycling has taken center stage.

The giant Airbus 380 flying from SFO to CDG
On the previous trip I started in Grenoble, and took a clockwise tour over the Col du Galibier. This time I started in Lyon, because it has an airport, and I'll be taking a counter-clockwise trip over much of the same terrain before extending the tour up to Annecy.

With a more demanding work schedule I wasn't really able to train properly for this trip. Two years ago I was routinely taking long rides to Santa Cruz, but this time most of my training was in the form of my commute. That's not too bad; it's 27 miles, and included either Mt. Eden and Pierce, or more recently Redwood Gulch, all with a loaded bag weighing me down. So that's something.

Waiting in CDG for the flight to LYS
I realized early on that I wasn't going to be able to put in the miles, so I decided I would need to lose weight. Last time, despite putting in lots of miles, I never lost meaningful weight. This time I actually focused on that, and was able to drop enough weight so that my body plus my fully-loaded bag actually weighs less than just my body did two years ago. I hope it helps.

The packing list from the previous trip is only slightly updated for this one. I'm using literally the same Topeak bag, the one I used two years ago and on my everyday commute. I don't think they sell it anymore, which is a shame -- it's very flexible. I'm typing this on the same notebook computer I brought two years ago, which has seen little use since then. A Chromebook might have been a good alternative, but I want to run a little software I've written, so a Linux machine is a must.

Two years ago I packed one pair of pants and one polo-style shirt for dinner. I found that constraining, so this time I packed one long pair of pants, a pair of shorts, and a button-down shirt. I bought all these special for the trip, looking for clothes that were physically light and resistant to wrinkles. It turns out the secret word is: Golf pants. Looks arguably acceptable, completely unnatural fibers, perfect for my purpose.

My view from the hotel restaurant's patio.
The main difference in my packing is something I left out: my bike. My wife managed to track down a place from which to rent a road bike, in July in the Alps. Amazing. And while I was a little worried about it, it has turned out to be amazingly convenient (I'm writing this on day two of the trip). In fact, the bike was waiting for me at the hotel when I checked in. That saved me from having to lug a bike around the airport (and in fact saved me from having any checked bags at all), and a two-week rental cost less than the airline's bike fee.

The start of the trip has been nearly perfect. The flights, while long, were on time. As it turns out the Lyon airport isn't all that close to Lyon, as my taxi bill attests. It's only slightly farther to Grenoble, so I could have started and finished there. But no complaints so far.

The first dinner was Guinea Fowl on a bed of mashed potatoes, eaten outside overlooking the Saone.

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