Day 18, 22 Sep, Meeting more ‘old’ friends in Paris.

It’s hard to imagine that Paris has a campsite located within minutes of the city; actually, make that 2 — one on the western side and the other on the eastern fringe about 20 minutes from Disneyland Paris. I was at Bois du Bologne, located next to the Bois du Boulogne park, on the edge of the Seine, on the western side. It’s a well-run and very organised campsite and caters primarily to mobile homes. This was also the most expensive of all the campsites I had stayed in.

The reception of Camp Bois de Boulogne

My little cosy corner

Other campers

Most of the campers were young student-looking types but today I would come across a trio of interesting cycle-tourers who hailed from the Ukraine. They weren’t young but their spirits were, and I had nothing but admiration for them.

Every piece of equipment they had in their possession were old, very well-used and had seen better days … probably from the last world war too. Their mess tins were the kidney-shaped type, thoroughly blackened from cooking countless meals.

But what really impressed me was their attitude. Despite their advancing age and their lack of equipment, did they care? Of course not. They never said it but I knew … and it was also a maxim that I subscribe to …

It’s not the about the bike, it’s about the RIDE.

Unfortunately, Alex was the only one who could speak any English at all, and even then we had a hard time trying to understand each other. But it didn’t matter … here we were, 4 kindred spirits living out our own separate dreams. But take a closer look at their faces — these are guys who have truly ‘been there, done that’ … and then some.

I yearned to learn more about them but I had to settle for very sketchy biographies instead. War veterans, all of them … and proud of it. But gone were the glory days, they were just 3 bosom buddies hitting the road to wherever their fancies took them.

The 3 Russian war veterans/cycle-tourers who arrived late in the night. Naturally, I made friends with them the minute I saw them. Here, I'm having a cuppa with them. The picnic table is provided by the camp.

Vasay, 72, and Alex, 71 years of age. Ancient, venerable and dignified.

The oldest boy of the three -- Genady, 74. Take a close look at his bike -- the gearing, the rear rack, the chain, the saddle, the frame -- they were all due for change about 20 years ago.

Old but still going strong ...like their owners.

That the saddle is about to disintegrate to bits doesn't bother Genady, the owner. Check out the other bike's water bottle holder on the seat post.

Alex's rear rack

Alex takes the grand prize for innovation and resourcefulness -- something I believe was borne out of necessity and the lack of roubles. This gem of a rear rack is made out of a discarded seat from the very same type of picnic table we were all sitting on. Go back and take a look again. It was held together by nothing more than cable-ties, pieces of scrap metal, and a lot of faith ... (click to enlarge photo to examine the handiwork)

Alex the proud owner demonstrating how the 'rear rack' unfolds.

Well, what can one say but ...

... sheer genius! Necessity truly is the mother of invention. Lesson to be learned here? Never say 'cannot'. I was so humbled by this experience.

Alex was also quite proud of his home-made metal pannier -- 'It a box for carrying food, and it can also double as a chair' he explained in his halting English.

Admiring a very lucky-to-have-it-all cycle-tourer's bike.

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Today, there is one more very important task I have to complete. It is one of the reasons I came to Paris — to ride the last few kilometres of the Tour de France bike race. Where? Along the Champs Elysee to the Arc de Triomphe and Place de la Concorde — a full loop that would see me riding among Parisian traffic 6 cars deep. Suicidal is one of the words to describe this adventure but as usual, good sense never prevails when this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity is right here and now. So off we go …

On the way to the Arc de Triomphe

Naturally, I had to stop and had a picture of myself taken...again.

Round the Arc de Triomphe and heading towards Place de la Concorde ...

...where the obstrusive Egyptian obelisk stands. In the real Tour de France, the racers would repeat this going-around for quite a few laps before finally peeling off to a riotous finale at the finish line some distance away from here.

At the Arc de Triomphe, I decided to video my own little Tour de France. Camera in one hand, steadying the bike with the other, I had to stay close to the pavement that ringed the monument so as to avoid being a Parisian roadkill, which I was perilously close to being one, thanks to a bus.

 

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