Saturday, August 27, 2011


If you checked the tracking page on the PBP web site, you've already figured out that I abandoned the ride before making my way back to Paris. I developed saddle sores starting around Tinteneac and decide to give it up after I got to Brest. While the last 150 miles or so before Brest were pretty painful, I have to say that overall the ride was nothing less than amazing. I didn't finish PBP, but I was able to ride a bike through nearly 400 miles of the beautiful French countryside and experience much of the indescribable spectacle that is Paris-Brest-Paris.

My backside is now mending as we vacation at a friend's house in Talloires in the French Alps. Talloires is about as close to paradise as one can get on this side of the great divide. We've been having too much fun for me to take the time to sit and write my PBP story. But in a few more days we'll be back home and I'll give a full report. And it will be a challenge. The PBP experience is one of those that can't begin to be captured satisfactorily in words.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Keeping Track

If you're interested in tracking my progress between Paris, Brest and Paris, the official PBP website will tell you when I checked into each control along the way. Go to the tracking page and enter my frame number (#1501).

The plan is to sleep in Brest, then again in Fougeres on the return trip, so don't be surprised if it looks like I'm stuck in either of those places for a long time. Here's a graphical representation of the plan:

Of course plans and Randonneuring go together about as well as Champagne and Cheetos.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Packing for Paris-Brest-Paris

Ok, first off I should point out that if you found this post by googling “packing for paris-brest-paris” and you’re looking for some helpful advice, you may not find it here. I’m sort of stumbling through this. You see, I’ve never taken a bike on a plane before and I’ve never done a randonneuring event outside my home state. I’m used to waiting until the night before the ride to finalize my packing list, when I have a reliable weather forecast in hand. That way I can bring the absolute minimum of clothing necessary to avoid hypothermia. I’m tempted to bring all the bicycling clothes, tools and other gear I own so I can make the final call the night before in France, but if I did that I’d need one of those Victorian steamer trunks to pack into. I’m thinking the airline my charge a bit extra for that.

The bike is already packed up, and it wasn’t too much of an ordeal. I ended up buying myself a fancy bike travel case. It wasn’t cheap, but I’m hoping this won’t be the last time my bike and I travel together by air. And if it turns out I don’t need it again, I can always sell it and get some of my money back. Fitting the bike in the case was a little like trying to put the parts of an Ikea bookcase back in the original box after you’ve assembled it. Eventually it all got in there and I’m able to close the lid and latch it, but it took a few tries. Reassembly in the hotel room in France should be fairly easy as long as I didn’t accidentally leave any parts out and I remember to bring all the right tools along. I’m thinking a bottle of French wine will help the process too.

The weather in France over the past few weeks has been pretty consistent and Seattle-like. So, I’m going to assume that’s what I’ll be riding in and pack my bike clothes accordingly. Basically I’m figuring I need to have just enough clothing with me on the bike to comfortably survive nighttime temperatures down to about 50 Fahrenheit. That doesn’t take a lot, though I have noticed that later in a long ride when I’m really wrung out it’s a little bit harder to keep myself warm. Here’s what I’m planning on wearing/carrying on the bike:
  • Wool shorts/Poly Shorts (depending on weather)
  • Leg warmers
  • Poly base layer
  • Poly Jersey/Wool jersey (depending on weather)
  • Arm warmers
  • Rain jacket
  • Reflective vest
  • Cycling cap
  • Bike gloves
  • Wool gloves
  • Socks
  • Reflective ankle bands
  • Sun glasses
  • Helmet with headlight
  • Bike shoes
For tools and other supplies I tend to bring the same things whether I’m going out for 200k or 1200k, so I didn’t have to put too much thought into this list. This is what I’ll have in my handlebar bag, on my bike or in my pockets:
  • Tool kit (multi-tool, chain tool, tire irons, tire patches, tire boots, fibre spoke, knife)
  • 2 tubes
  • pump
  • 2 water bottles
  • Sunscreen
  • Lip stuff
  • Clear glasses
  • Space blanket
  • Chamois goo
  • Phone
  • Camera
  • Passport
  • Money
  • Cue sheet
  • Spare taillight
  • Spare headlight
  • Nuun tablets
  • Enduralytes
  • Ibuprofen
For food, I'm used to mostly foraging in convenience stores along the route. In France I'm not expecting to find convenience stores or if I do find them, I doubt they'll have the kind of food I'm used to eating, so I'll be carrying more food than usual. Well, not food exactly. Call it fuel. But mostly I'm planning to subsist on whatever they have available at the controls and the occasional sandwich jambon from bars along the route. In my bag I'll start with:
  • 8 Packages of Shot Bloks
  • Enough Sustained Energy for 4 bottles
  • 4 Clif Bars
Sarah will bring a bag to Brest with a change of socks, shorts, jersey, gloves and replacements for the Shot Bloks and Sustained Energy. I'll also put a couple spare tubes, tools and few other odd bike parts in there just in case, but I'm hoping I won't need any of that.

That's it. I'm sure I'm forgetting something important, but no doubt it will come to me about 50 miles outside of St. Quentin.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Dreams of Paris-Brest-Paris

The other night I had a doozy of an anxiety dream that just might have had something to do with my upcoming Paris-Brest-Paris experience. It reminded me of dreams I had around finals time in college, you know the ones in which you realize you have a final exam in 15 minutes for a class that you never actually attended. And then as you’re running across campus to the exam you suddenly realize you’re naked…

So in this dream I’m riding on a bus—like a big tour bus—packed full of men in their 40s, 50s and 60s, most sporting gray beards and all wearing full-on randonneuring gear. And it’s not summertime gear they’re wearing; it’s long-sleeve wool jerseys, Showers Pass rain jackets, wool tights or rain pants and neoprene shoe covers as far as the eye can see. Everyone has big warm gloves. They all have helmets on too, with rear-view mirrors clipped on the side and tail lights blinking from the back. Some of them blind me with their helmet headlights when they look my way. I notice that everyone is dripping wet and the air in the bus is thick with the smell of wet wool, sweat and Gatorade. The windows of the bus are completely steamed up.

The bus stops and everyone stands up in the aisle waiting to get off. I’m one of the last in line to get off the bus. When I get off, I see that the bus is parked in a gravel parking lot in front of a very small and plain-looking convenience store. There’s no 7-Eleven or Circle K signage on the front, it’s just a white box looking more like a 1960s Russian grocery store than a modern U.S. convenience store. Inside the store, Randonneurs from the bus are milling around, looking for something to buy and some are already beginning to form a long line at the cash register. I walk up and down the two narrow aisles of the tiny store looking for something to buy, though I’m not hungry at all. There’s almost nothing at all on the dirty metal shelves. I finally grab one of two remaining Reese’s peanut butter cups and get in line. Once in line I notice that everyone around me is speaking a language that I don’t recognize at all and they are all handling some sort of money that I’ve never seen before. I have some of the money too. It has no numbers on it.

Next thing I know I’m outside sitting on the ground near the bus with a large three-ring binder in my lap. The binder is filled with forms that need to be filled out and it’s divided into numerous sections, presumably with one section for each control. The forms are long and tedious and require that I look up information on other forms in the back of the binder, and sometimes I have to find stickers on other pages in the binder and affix them to the correct places on the forms like the Publisher’s Clearinghouse sweepstakes entry forms that Ed McMahon and Dick Clark used to send to my house when I was a kid. Then I realize that some of the forms need to be signed by the clerk in the convenience store. I can’t bear the thought of going back in the store and revealing the fact that I’m the only person on the bus who doesn’t speak whatever language it is that the convenience store clerk and everyone else speak.

Now, I’m back on the bus and the bus is bouncing along down the road and it’s dark out. I’m still filling out the forms from the last control when the bus driver announces that we’ve arrived at the next control. Everyone is up again standing in the aisle waiting to head into the next convenience store. It’s then that I remember that my bike is still back at the last control and that I won’t get credit if my bike isn’t on the bus when I cross the finish line…