As the sun begins to set on the Weekly Photo Challenge, two hours late and not counting any longer, I offer you my own photo for the week, taken just lasts night as Bill and I took a walk around the lake.  Enjoy the peace and have a wonderful weekend!

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My mom and dad

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At the end of yesterday’s post, your intrepid heroine and hero were taken aback/aghast/stunned that they were going to have to climb about 7 km in rain carrying all their food and gear for the day, up one of the steepest grades of le Tour.  Will they make it?  Read on and find out.

We’d overcome both closed road and navi revolt to find ourselves dropped at the base of the climb to La Plance des Belles Filles.  The only way to go was up, unless we were to abandon the Tour like a rider after a bad crash.  Mentally girding our loins, we strode off, following a crowd of people strung out along the visible part of the climb.  Not only were there fellow walkers, there were bikers; cyclists who wanted to be able to say they’d ridden that part of Stage 10 of the 2014 Tour de France.  They ranged in age from families with children to older men and although they might not all have been moving very quickly, they were moving.  Amazing!

On the way to the top

On the way to the top

Our plan was to be near the finish line, so we continued up and up, past a few people who had already staked their claim on the lower slopes. (Those slopes were filled with cheering spectators during the race.)  We sweat, took off raincoats, unzipped layers, re-did them all when it began to rain again and repeated that sequence for the interminable amount of time it took us to get to the area not far from the finish where the road leveled off for a bit. Here the party feel was on, with souvenir stands, food and drinks for sale, a gigantic TV screen, porta potties and people.  But our destination lay still further on, past the 22% grade that waited to break the riders’ hearts after they would have already ridden almost 161 km, at the finish line. Read the rest of this entry »

I’ve missed all of you, but life’s been very full and busy while I’ve been gone and just keeping up with my blog’s been all I could do.  Before going to France, where we caught a stage of le Tour de France, met fellow Fictioneer Sandra Crook and her husband Neville, and generally had a blast, I was in Kansas City visiting Rochelle and her husband Jan as well as meeting Doug.  Soon we’ll be off to Wyoming (stay tuned to the blog for pictures and updates), so this is just an enjoyable one-off for now.  Hope you’re all having wonderful summers (or winters, if you’re on the opposite side of the world.)

Sensei

After years of wielding the sword of sarcasm so adroitly, she was the acknowledged, lonely master (mistress) of the art. Who would dare get close when the field was littered with bodies of former friends and those attempting friendship? No one now came near, unwilling to engage in a battle sure to be lost.

She was soul-weary, yet loathe to abandon the only game she knew. Restlessly, she broke open her fortune cookie, pulling the paper slip from the shards.

You learn a lot from your mistakes.   You will learn a lot today.

Clenching her lips, she fought back tears.

Ever since my husband came home with a VHS (dating myself here) of the entire Tour de France for that year, announcing that we could all watch it together, I’ve been hooked, although at the time, the girls and I rolled our eyes and thought, “How boring!”  Once I began to learn about the strategies and saw what actually had to be accomplished to win an event that covered three weeks and thousands of kilometers, I loved it, scandal and doping aside. It’s also the only sport where a rider might not win a single stage yet win the entire race and a sport where the winner can’t win without his teammates taking him to the top of the podium.

So, much as I dislike the term “bucket list” (I prefer “Christmas list”, though not to use interchangeably), le Tour pushed its way into the top of that list and this year we had the chance to check the square in front of it.  We had planned a trip to France to visit my s-i-l and b-i-l and once we discovered that one stage would be very near where they lived, we bought our plane tickets accordingly.

We had only the smallest idea what awaited us.  How can you imagine being a part of something that consumes not only an entire country but many countries and millions of people?  True, the World Cup, which we watched as much as possible, does something similar…but only once every four years!  Le Tour has happened every single year since the initial 1903 race, except for the years of World Wars I and II.

With the help of my s-i-l, we did lots of enjoyable pre-race prep.  We drove over the area of the stage twice, part of the time on the actual course.  We saw the decorations and preparations, growing in number from one trip to the next. We marveled that what the riders would have to do to win the stage, or even finish.  But we hadn’t seen anything yet.

How the day appeared as we drove

How the day appeared as we drove

Read the rest of this entry »

Le Tour de France is a one-of-a-kind event.  According to the official site:

“Running from Saturday July 5th to Sunday July 27th 2014, the 101th Tour de France will be made up of 21 stages and will cover a total distance of 3,664 kilometres.”

In all those days, there are 2 rest days.  Two!  Riders are pushed to the limits of their physical and mental endurance and when you begin to understand what has to be done to even finish, let alone claim a stage on the podium, you begin to also understand why cheating has always been a part of the Tour, from taking a bus or train in the early days to doping in more recent years.

But for those not actively riding in the race, this is time to decorate, time to take pride in villages, to root for hometown or country favorites, to have fun and party. Everywhere we went, we saw evidence of the hoopla that is the preparation for race day.  Since one of the riders, Thibaut Pinot, was born in Melisey, the closest village to where we were staying, we had a chance to see this fun up close.  Here’s some of what we saw (but only a tiny portion.)  Every town near the route had bicycles of all shapes, sizes and colors set or hung everywhere.  Each team has colorful jerseys but there are also colored jerseys awarded each day in yellow (leader of the Tour overall), green (leader of sprint points), white with red polka dots (King of the Mountain by total points) and white (best young rider.)  Prizes are awarded not only to the overall winner, although his prize is the highest, but to all jersey winners.  The winner of each stage is also given a prize by the people of the area where the stage is held.   Prizes have varied from diamonds to a prize pig!

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3rd Monday = black and white shots

Black and white shots = atmosphere, texture, shape

Phoneography Challenge = fun and great photography

A visit to  medieval chateau in France gave me the material for this week’s photos.  I like the atmosphere in the first.  Look carefully.  Can you see Dracula or another creature of the night lurking nearby?  In reality, the chateau wasn’t at all spooky in the bright sunshine and with colorful flowers scattered throughout the grounds.  But as Dr. Seuss might have said, “Oh, the things you will see with just a bit of editing!”

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The wheel on the ancient water system looks completely different in black and white.

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Finally, I added a 60′s look to a bit of the ruined wall.  Perhaps, if you’re old enough, you once got a postcard that looked like this.

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