As we enjoyed a much-deserved post-ride lunch with some much-needed dry rose wine, I noticed Stoker was eating with more enthusiasm than usual . She had ordered a croque monsieur that came with fries. Normally I would expect her to eat about half of what was delivered, but as I finished my salade nicoise I noticed her plate was almost empty. I remarked that she must be enjoying her lunch. She kind of chuckled and said ”I guess having a near-death experience is good for the appetite”.
It was also good for her wit. Earlier as we left our hotel to go to lunch, we observed a large demonstration blocking a main street, with protesters chanting and waving large red flags. They appeared headed for the Plais du Justice and since our lunch spot was on a quiet square well away from the action we promptly forgot about it. But as we sipped our rose and contemplated dessert and coffee options, Stoker noticed a couple of red flags propped against a table a few yards away. She observed that no matter how agitated the seekers of social justice are in France, their priorities still include stopping for a two-hour lunch. I laughed out loud at her cleverness.
Oh yes, that near-death experience. Perhaps this is a bit of an over statement, but the outcome could have been much worse. For the first time in our tandem career, we had a crash. Or rather, I crashed, and poor Stoker couldn’t do anything about it.
The cause is a common one: Trying to cross tram tracks. We were riding along trying to get our Modestine out of Montpellier morning traffic and into the countryside. I was following our guide on a street with tram tracks running parallel to our direction of travel. Our guide moved to the left across one set of tracks, intending to make a left turn onto an intersecting street. I tried to follow him.
I know such tracks are dangerous. I know that I need to get my front wheel at least at a 45 degree angle, which was impossible given how much room I had. I had safely made the same move across the tracks the previous afternoon, so I tried it again. But I didn’t anticipate that the overnight rains would have left the metal wet and slick as ice. The morning was sunny and the street was fairly dry, but as soon as we hit the track the wheel slid out and we hit the ground.
My cleats released and I was up and on my feet almost instantly. but poor Stoker had one shoe still clipped in with the bike on top of her. What happened next is a little fuzzy. I know I held the bike off of her and she got unclipped and upright. I know we moved to the sidewalk and out of traffic. I don’t remember this, but Stoker says that a very concerned woman came into the street and took her arm and asked if she was ok, in French I suppose. I picked up a bidon and slammed it against the seat of the bike and then slammed it onto the pavement in frustration. I could not believe I had been so careless and incompetent.
As we calmed down a bit we took stock. I was completely unhurt. Stoker had a tiny scrape on her knee that was oozing a tiny amount of blood. Later we would notice a fairly large bruise near her knee that she claimed didn’t hurt. But we were extremely lucky. Nothing broken, almost nothing bleeding, no road rash, even the bike was undamaged.
Remember a couple of days earlier we got into the habit of going into cathedrals and lighting prayer candles for safe cycling? You can bet that is one habit we continued for the rest of the trip. I’m not saying it was a factor in minimizing the consequences, but I can’t prove it didn’t help keep us safe.
We actually went on to do the day’s ride, although I was extremely nervous and uneasy the entire time. But Stoker seemed to take it pretty much in stride, and it certainly didn’t affect her sense of humor. “Two-hour lunch” indeed!