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Tour de France

Tour de France 2004

As I watch the 104th Tour de France unfold on television, I’m reminded of my own tour de France actually following the 91st Tour de France in real-life.

My long lost love of biking started long before it was considered cool in America. When I graduated from college in 1986, my parents offered me the choice of a hostel-filled European tour with friends or an Italian Bottechia road bike. I chose the latter. I’d fallen hook, line and sinker for two-wheel transportation while at the University of Denver. My friend and I would ride around Wash Park, doing laps, logging miles, racing each other and having fun.

Ahhh, youth.

After I received my graduation present and moving back to Memphis, I would take daily rides from Germantown to Downtown, rarely seeing another biker. Today, you’ll find many cyclists out and about (assuming they survive the crazy traffic!).

When I turned 40, I decided to give myself the gift of travel.  I was invited to follow the Tour de France with friends, and obviously, I said yes.

Unbeknownst to me, they were seriously planning to follow the Tour de France on their bicycles.  I thought they were joking. When they suggested we bike while there, I was game — subconsciously envisioning myself peddling through the lavender fields of Aix en Provence, ringing my little bicycle bell with a loaf of freshly cooked French bread in my flower-ladened basket.

Imagine my surprise when I arrived at the airport, noticing that my friends actually were checking their road bikes in at the counter. Needless to say, I was delegated to the pace car.

We landed in Toulouse, and in spite of lost luggage, I was jubilant to start the adventure and visit France again.

I was especially excited to test my language skills (comme ci, comme ça), experience the French culture and shop for jewelry, of course.

My Blue Topaz Ring

I bought several baubles, but my favorite by far was this blue topaz / sterling ring which I wore (and still wear) all the time. It fits like a glove … has clean lines and a modern look … feels so substantial when worn … plus, I think it’s pretty.

blue topaz ring from France

Isn’t it amazing how, when you wear a beautiful piece of jewelry purchased on a fabulous trip, it takes you right back there? This ring does it for me, and j’aime ça!

While I shopped, they biked.

If you haven’t had the chance to view the Tour de France live, I strongly suggest you consider it. It is so much more impressive in person, as I imagine most international sporting events to be. I was absolutely shocked at the hordes of people who line up in small town after small town to root for the Peloton as they fly by. It was thrilling to see Lance Armstrong, especially on the days he wore the yellow jersey, and the U.S. Postal Team ride by and shout USA! USA! USA!  Armstrong won his 6th Tour de France that year (long before his scandals emerged).

Anything can happen. It takes so little to change the whole situation.

For me, the highlight of this tour was being one of the 1,000,000 people to witness the Alpe d’Huez time trial (watch the amazing video to see what I saw).

We traveled the 21 hairpin turns on that mountain — via pace car (obviously) — the day before the big time trial. As I recall, it took us several hours to get to the top by car; my friends biked it in an hour and a half. Lance Armstrong only took 37:36 minutes (second fastest / tested positive).  Maybe that should have been a clue of scandals to come.

Later research reveals that he indeed has ‘an over-sized heart which can beat over 200 times a minute, and thus pump an extraordinarily large volume of blood and oxygen to his legs.”

Regardless, it was a breathtaking event to witness.

Instead of following the Tour to Paris for the last 4 (of the 20) stages, we headed south to Aix en Provence and onward to: Èze, Cannes, Monte Carlo and Nice.  It was all you can imagine and more.

I’m starting to think that now is the time to consider attending another international sporting event.  My friend just ran with the bulls, but I’m thinking Wimbledon may be more my speed at this point in my life.

Who knows what the future holds…

Olé?

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