Monday, September 20, 2010

22. HOTEL DES BAINS—Motorbike Trips

I took my Mobylette on two long trips. The first was a 3 day vacation that M. Caille gave me. I borrowed a tent and a knapsack from Mario’s brother and rode my bike to Chamonix. This involved a lot of pedaling to get uphill, and the road was not exactly friendly to two-wheelers. I had to share it with large trucks, it was two lanes, and there were plenty of exhaust-saturated tunnels.

I spent the entire three days camping along brooks, eating stuff I bought in the stores in downtown Chamonix. I would purchase bread from the Boulanger, cheese from the Fromager, fruit from the Epicier. It was sheer heaven. In Chamonix, I bought some really festering, smelly cheese wrapped in oak leaves. When I peeled back the leaves, there were a few maggots wiggling around in holes they had made for themselves. I walked back into the business and showed them the varmints. They said, “Tant mieux. C’est meilleur comme ça!” (Much better that way!) I extirpated the maggots and ate the cheese. It was, of course, delicious.

I hiked up into the mountains opposite La Mer de Glace, the largest glacier in Europe. Chamonix lay below me. There was no one. The day following my arrival, I left the path and hiked up a glacier. I just kept going, having no inkling of where I was except that the Mont Blanc was just opposite on the other side of the valley. When I came to the top of the glacier, I found that I had also reached the top of a ski slope complete with ski-lift which I rode back down to the bottom.

Following the path back down from my camping spot, I ran into a river tumbling over the rocks. Above the path, the river was full of garbage that had been tossed down the mountainside from a restaurant that serviced the skiers. I felt a little insecure crossing with a pack containing a tent on my back. So I threw the pack across. But I didn’t throw it hard enough. It landed in the river, smacking into one rock after another. I jumped in and followed it, leaping from boulder to boulder, descending as fast as possible without breaking my neck. I retrieved the pack, and continued my journey back to the motorbike.

The second trip on the motorbike was in winter. After the Aix-les-Bains stint was over, I took a bus with the Astoria laundryman to look for the next job in Megève, which was close to Chamonix. I went to the Chamber of Commerce, found a promising listing, and walked down the road to the Chalet Malakoff , which hired me on the spot. I had a job! So I flew back to the U.S., spent Christmas with my parents, then returned to Aix-les-Bains, where I had stashed my motorbike and belongings.
I shipped my stuff on the train, then rode the motorbike from Aix-les-Bains to Megève. It was December, so the temperatures were a little cool-ish. I lined my parka with newspaper to block the wind, then rode the fifty or so miles, dodging a few giant icicles in the tunnels.

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