Monday, July 3, 2017

The Whole World in a Paris Laundromat

I returned from the visit to Normandy with one clean pair of shorts and a shirt, bike clothes. Everything else needed to be washed. I found a laundromat near Luxemburg station in a lovely part of Paris. Most of the machines were busy in the small place so several people were standing or sitting and reading or looking at their phones.

One of the guys was tossing bike clothes in the washer. We started talking about the Tour,and following the Tour and riding. Jay is from San Diego which in my mind is only rivaled by San Francisco as the best bike riding places in America. He has lived in San Diego long enough that he said its strange that it rains any time except January and February.  We both talked about our favorite rides up and down Mount Palomar and along the San Diego coast road.

When he found out I live in Lancaster we talked about Floyd Landis and drugs.  A couple from Australia was in the laundromat also and joined in talking about the Tour. They were leaving for home in Adelaide on Wednesday. Jay was starting the second of three weeks in France with his family.

Tim and Andrea from Adelaide knew about the Tour, but they were in France for the 24 Hour Sports Car Race at LeMans. I used to follow International sports car racing in the 80s and 90s, so we talked about the wide variety of engines back then and how drivers crossed over more.

We also talked about traveling in Australia. I had been to Perth on the west coast more than they had. For most Australians, the west is simply not a place they go. Perth and Bunbury are the only cities. They rest of the huge state of Western Australia is the set of the Road Warrior movies.

The four of us had been to or were going to or lived in most of the time zones of the world and met in a Paris laundromat.

Visiting Omaha Beach on the 4th of July Weekend

The view from the long stretch of beach up the hills above Omaha Beach.

The German view down onto the beach where the Americans 
waded to shore and crossed the long stretch of sand under fire.

So peaceful now.

As my trip continued to change and unfold, a conversation with my friend Cliff led me to change the trip again and go to Normandy, France, before I left for Israel. I had not even thought of visiting Normandy when I planned the trip because I would not have arrived in Paris until just before flying to Israel. But now I had an extra day and decided to spend part of the fourth of July weekend in a place where America fought tyranny and prevailed.

Looking down from the German defensive positions and up from the beach, it is amazing any assault troops survived.  One platoon sergeant quoted in the memorial said he had 35 men when they ran from landing craft and only six survived the day.

Budapest to Bratislava Train to Avoid Rain

If wind looked like fog, you would not be able to see the road in this picture. 
High winds every day.

On the train from Budapest, Hungary, to Bratislava, Slovakia, I sat in a 6-seat compartment with two women in their 70s. One was visiting relatives in Hungary. The other was going to all the way to Bratislava. It was her first time in the city, which is just 120 miles from Budapest. Martine said she was going to see a portrait of a family member from five generations ago in a Bratislava museum that a friend had told her about. She said she was going to look for a hotel when she arrived.  I got on and gave her three places within 2km of the train station for under $60. She thought it was funny that you could do so many things with a phone. She just had a flip phone for emergencies and said, "I only use it to talk."

We talked about changing money and border security.  She had seldom been outside Hungary so even this trip to neighboring Slovakia was a big deal for her.  I told her where I had been in the last week. She had been to Yugoslavia when Serbia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Bosnia and Croatia were one, big, unhappy nation and to Serbia after the countries separated.

She had never been to Macedonia or Bulgaria. One of the things I learned in reading about the Soviet Union was how little most people travelled. The same would be true in country under Soviet domination. She was also worried about immigrants and refugees. She told me I should never take my eyes off my luggage. I left the compartment ten minutes before the station to get the bike ready to exit the train. Martine thanked me for the hotel info. She said again she had no idea these phones were so useful.

When I got off the train, I started to ride to Brno in the Czech Republic, 60 miles to the north. It was raining in Budapest when we left, so I took this train to Bratislava to get ahead of the rain. It was clear in in Bratislava, so that part worked perfectly.  I got on the bike and started riding. The rest of my plan then hit a literal 20 mph headwind.  I rode 36 hard, hilly miles in four and a half hours. It would be dark in an hour and a half. My plan to cover 60 miles before dark didn't look so good now. I crossed the Czech border and found a tourist hotel. The phone does so much for me, but it can't make me climb hills faster on a 60-pound bike in a headwind.

Who Fights Our Wars? CSM Donald C. Cubbison, 4th Brigade, 4th Infantry Division

In the fall of 1977, 4th Brigade, 4th Infantry Division got a new Command Sergeant's Major.  Donald C. Cubbison, veteran of the Vietna...