I had planned for this to be my post #100. Why? Well, I am not really sure. Some of you out there read this story in ‘real time’ and have suggested that I publish it here. I have been reluctant to do that, however, since after I put this story out there, I do not have much left in reserve. So why now? It has become rather clear that my daily existence provides more than enough fodder to embarrass myself on a fairly regular basis, so no need to hold this back anymore. And what better reason than my 100th post? (Well post #100 actually occurred last night when a bunch of famous horses rolled through my neighborhood.)
For those of you who enjoyed my trip across the US (Travels with Ibo), I have decided to post another trip diary for one of my travels through the Loire Valley from a few years ago when I was a bicycle tour guide. Why just one trip and why the Loire Valley? Why not all of the trips that I did over the course of the six or so summers of leading trips, you ask?
Usually, I was either very busy, having fun, too hung over, or any combination of the three to ever consider writing anything. Also, I rarely had a computer with me, so that made it all that more challenging. This particular trip was different because even before the trip began, I knew that I was going to need to record the events–not so much in an artistic, romantic way, but as a way to keep my sanity. It was also a way that I would be able to have some time to myself as I would sneak off to find an internet café.
To put it rather simply, I was going to need quite a bit of time to myself that week. It was not just because I had only three clients (“guests”) on this trip, for I had had many “small” trips that had either been very time consuming/interesting/fun. To underscore the implication – it is not the size of the group, it is the individual components that matter.
I can hear my mother (and Nico, my boss — scary connection there) saying: “now Jeff, don’t be so hasty to judge, you never know, it might be just a great week.” That is of course, entirely possible. Many smarter/greater people than I have made errors in judgment before: Joan of Arc misjudged the loyalty of Charles VII, Henry Ford had his Edsel, and my little sister thought that WHAM! was an outstanding musical group. But based on the following, I am certain you will concur.
The first, I’ll call Mr. Personality. The name is adopted from another guide’s assessment who was with him in Italy. The guide told me that I would need to bring him the following: “a bike pump, a tool kit, and a personality.” Many of the people who traditionally came on the trips had recently completed graduate school: mostly from either business school (they came early in the summer) or from law school (they would come later in the season after taking the bar). The groups would focus on vastly different aspects of the trip (MBAs wanted to be assured they were not getting ripped off and JDs were looking for someone to blame [i.e., sue] if something was not perfect). Well, Mr. Personality first went to law school, did not like it, so he dropped out and then went to Wharton for his MBA. I call that a double whammy.
Guest #2 – not much personality here either, but I will call him Grumpy. On one of the memos to all of the guides, Nico wrote the following: “[Grumpy] works with a very good friend of mine. She really pushed him to take the trip, but described him as not very outgoing, wrapped up in his work. Please, as a favor to me/her, do your best to show him a good time.” Certainly a loaded comment there, with a lot to potentially unpack, but I was a tour guide, not a psychologist. Grumpy, when asked by Laura (another employee at he company) how he liked Paris, the Grumpster replied: “Dirty, expensive, and boring.” He would have been “Mr. Personality” had the named not already been assigned.
Then there is door number three. Ohmygod. Where to start? Laura described him as Tiny Tim. I think he looks a little more like Marty Feldman. Regardless, the term “freak” comes up often (not at all trying to be mean or cruel here, but if the moniker fits…). Just some bullet points:
- Ohmygod showed up in the office in full biking attire (tights, jersey, shoes). Normally this is not unusual for the beginning of a bike trip. But we were not to begin ANY type of riding for the next THREE days (and he would have no access to a bike until then). Later in the conversation, he hinted that he wore his current ‘outfit’ on the plane.
“You wore that on the plane?” I queried.
“On the plane?” I asked not hiding my incredulity well.
Again he nodded as he was stuffing a peach into his mouth, with somewhat large pieces becoming trapped in his six (?) day growth of facial hair.
He nodded again, while simultaneously slurping up the juice that was trying to escape.
On the plane.
- During the course of our initial conversation, he mentioned his mother at least 6 times. Now I love my mother as much as the next guy, but he is 49 YEARS OLD! And the length of the conversation? 10 minutes. One mention every 1:40, quite the average.
- He left, and then showed up later after changing in the hotel. Still the biking tights, but a different biking shirt (bright orange this time). This get-up he wore over to the Louvre. Yes, that Louvre: Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, the world’s most famous museum.
- Two mornings later (still another full day away from any sort of riding), he showed up in the first bike shirt (from plane fame) and tights (can’t/won’t determine if these are the same ones). This time he added another nice touch — he was wearing his helmet, for god’s sake. Why? I have no idea. He would have worn it out to buy some food as well, but Nico advised he should remove it since people liked to throw eggs at such a spectacle. Not getting the sarcasm, he looked alarmed and quickly, though reluctantly, removed the safety apparatus.
- Oh, and he has terrible breath.
There is the crew for my week in the Loire Valley.
There are several reasons to have a more positive outlook:
- The Loire is a great wine region–the wine is tasty and inexpensive. (I’ll be having a lot.)
- The Tour de France is going on.(Nothing like getting to the room after a ride and watching the end of the stage on French T.V.)
- And I don’t own a gun. (I do not need to explain, I hope)