monday memories / RTW trip: the end of the end

sadly there are no more photos from our RTW trip, even though we visited three more countries (there were supposed to be five). here's the story of the early end of our trip:

after the last post about israel ... 

we headed north to greece where we had both previously travelled. i had spent my sophomore college year in greece. curt had travelled with a friend to visit someone in my group. amazingly we had both been at the same new year’s eve party in athens 12 years prior but had not met! 

this time, we wanted to stay at the same hotel for old time's sake ... but there was no room. was this a sign of things to come? 

so we island hopped to skyros to stay with the cutest aussie couple we had met just for an evening in egypt ... that’s travellers for you. so open! stayed with them for a week of eating (olives, feta, dolmades, calamari), gabbing and laughing (into the wee hours), motorbike touring (including a flat tire, which we fixed with more ouzo) and beach time. heaven. 

pulled ourselves away from this little piece of paradise and headed to italy to send most of our stuff home, buy bicycles and panniers and start our cycling portion – the last portion – of our trip: cycling and camping from italy to portugal. 

i had been lobbying curt for a bike trip through europe since the beginning of our RTW trip. thinking europe is so expensive compared to southeast asia, let's just ride bikes and camp, keeping our costs down. it'll be fun! we'll wine taste in france. you'll see!

turned out this was the HOTTEST summer on record in southern europe. we started in june in italy. we hadn't yet headed southward (HOTward) to spain or portugal in even HOTTER july. to beat the heat, we rose each day before dawn to eat a hearty breakfast and break camp. had some dazzlingly stunningly beautiful dawn rides down country lanes in italy. but as the mornings progressed into noontime (HOTtime), we melted each and every day. we pedaled between 54 and 108 kilometers daily, then would roll into a campsite and soak in the swimming pool all afternoon. ate pasta every night for dinner and crashed to sleep, waking again pre-dawn for another day of the same. it was europe, it was beautiful, but it was just too darn HOT. 

crossing into france was exciting, except that we somehow lost each other in the hilliest place of all: monaco. we each ended up riding up and down that huge hill in monaco a few times until we found each other, relieved to find each other and furious that we'd become separated and had to ride up and down that @#!&* hill so many times. our bikes were pretty heavy, and even heavier with full panniers.

in nice, we wanted to go to the matisse museum. having left our rear panniers in the tent in the campground, we locked our bikes in front of the museum. i left the handlebar bag on my bike. curt thought i should carry it into the museum, but i didn't want to lug it. no one will steal anything, i argued to curt. (i can be pretty darn persuasive. it'll be fine, you'll see!) both of us forgetting he had put his travellers checks in the my bike bag that morning, which also contained all my exposed film from italy, greece and israel. THIS WAS ABOUT THE DUMBEST MOVE I MADE ON THE ENTIRE TRIP! 

went to the window just 15 meters from our bikes to buy our museum entrance tickets. when we turned around to look at the bikes before entering the museum, my bike bag had already been stolen. 

after a few low days sorting out travellers checks, we steered our bikes into the countryside of france, pointed toward portugal. looking forward to shifting gears back into happiness, we wanted to make our french cycling dreams come true, lavender and sunflowers and wine tasting, all that! still, it was HOT. 

another dawn start and we were in a wine region early in the morning. the first winery sign we saw, curt wanted to stop for a taste. the sign pointed toward a little dirt lane with a bend so we couldn't see how far it was to the winery. the lane was a downhill (which means i have to ride back uphill with heavy bike and panniers). it was 9am. we started down the lane and then i said STOP! 

i wasn't about to go knocking on a winery door at 9am. and it might not have even been a proper tasting room, could have been just some winemaker's home. no way. and especially since i didn't know how far off the main road it was. downhill. i wasn't having any of it! 

infuriated, curt rode back uphill toward the main road. when i got to the main road, he was nowhere in sight. i waited. we had ONE RULE for cycling together: wait at all intersections for the other. i waited and waited. finally i started riding in the direction of our destination. didn't see curt for an hour. stopped at the first sign of civilization, a cafe along the road. excusez-moi, have you seen a cyclist? they had not seen him. i was very worried. where was curt? had he fallen into a ditch? someone offered to drive me back to the country lane with the winery sign. he wasn't there. i looked in the ditches and bushes along the way. back at the cafe, i waited some more. they suggested we call the gendarmes (police). so the gendarmes arrived, i told them my story, and we went out looking for curt. 

we found him riding further along on the main road. loaded him and his bike in the cop car and brought him back to the cafe. i was crying. he was seething. while the gendarmes read curt the riot act in french. 

this bike trip was not turning out to be the fairy tale cycling escapade i had imagined. 

we were arguing. a lot. it was HOT. maybe riding all the way to portugal was not the best idea under the circumstances. we made it all the way to aix en provence. still HOT. still bickering. we looked at one another and agreed. it was time. time to go home. as soon as we even mentioned the idea out loud, a wave of relief came over both of us.

10 months. 13 countries. a lifetime of memories. 

~~~~~

lessons learned: travel. go! go NOW! you never know when or if you will have the opportunity again. oh, and never ever EVER leave important things in a bike bag. 

+++++

before the trip, i had recently graduated grad school in journalism and was freelancing as a photojournalist at the oregonian. curt and i had seen "jean de florette," a movie about a parisian couple who moved to a village to live a simpler life. we thought it would be fun to rent a house in the french countryside for awhile. then we thought, why not travel? which mushroomed into why not travel around the world? i was 30 years old. i would have a full-time job someday and wouldn't be able to just up and leave for 10 months. curt had just been accepted to art school after working at the same job for many years, and was ready for a change. so we travelled!

a month after our return to portland, i was offered my first full-time job as a photojournalist at the long beach press-telegram. and moved to socal. curt and i went our separate ways. 

we are still very close and he has helped me remember our travels, so i could share them here. and i'm going to portland for christmas to see curt and other friends from college. this is the last installment of monday memories until the new year, when i will continue to remember and share. 

2011 monday memories will include stories of athletics, school, family, friends, spirituality, and of course, lots more travel! 

thank you for coming along on these journeys, which i hope inspire you to remember your lives, your special moments, and your lessons learned while living.

peace.

xh