In Compiegne I stayed with Jean Claude, the luckiest man in France. He’s retired, but his younger wife works. He spends six months a year or more bicycle touring, everywhere. He’s into jazz and photography. He appears to be 50 or 55; he’s 68. He speaks more English than I speak French, and we had no trouble. A warm fire, jazz, good beer–a fine evening.
I set out in the morning for Varies sur Marne, where a Warm Showers host was expecting me. Perhaps I should mention again that Warm Showers is a group of touring cyclists. Members offer a place to sleep, a warm shower, and often more, to other members. All have experienced two wheel travel, our common bond. They know what you need and the adventure stories are endless. My membership page includes photos of my family on our 1999 tour to Alaska aboard our “quad” (four-seater), which makes me somewhat of a celebrity in some homes. I e-mail a few days ahead and make arrangements. There are members in every city, hundreds sometimes; they are a bit thinner in the countryside. Their member page descriptions, sometimes short and sometimes in another language, are all I know about them before I arrive at their address and knock on the door. The e-mails and arrangements take time every day, but then so does camping (with no warm shower). When I slack off on that chore, I pay for it, either by camping or at a cheap hotel.
Tonight, Lionel and Sophie and their three kids, near a train station 40 kilometers from Paris; they have cycled in the Orient, Eastern Europe, and Turkey. Thirty more kilometers in this cold wind and I’ll find out more.