Leaving up to our promise: The endowment Fund

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We said it last year when it was just a thought generated by Jean Daniel and Janine :  There must be a permanent memorial to Michele’s life and her love for the environment.  The idea was quite simple and it immediately caught our imagination and the enthusiams of everybody we spoke to:  “Lets create a permanent endowment at  Frost Valley YMCA camp up in the Catskill mountains she loved”.  When we contacted the administration at the camp we learned such a program could be created if we setup a permanent $50,000 fund.  We have up to 5 years to raise this amount of money.  This will enable  each year in perpetuity,  a child whose life has been touched by cancer, to enjoy going to camp for two weeks for free.  Finally the project has gone from thought to reality and so we are eager to start on our fundraising campaign.  The following link has been set up for making an easy donation online.                  you can click here to donate            

All donations are tax deductible.  Already contributions are coming.  As usual with us, we probably will blitz our many connections and resources.  Those who  know and love us tolerate our relentless dedication to the many causes we support and will surely understand how deeply we feel about this one

 

The big day: Hincapie Gran Fondo on cinco de mayo

Ready or not today is what we came here to do. Updated forecast claim the rain won’t come till later. We are up early and at the start gate ready to ride.

The atmosphere is charged and everybody is rearing to go. So far the weather is holding and we soon rush with the rest of the over 1000 rider. As expected, the pace is fast but Jimmy and I stay near the front. Jeff and Art have opted for the shorter ride.

The big challenge of the day is a several miles climb locally referred as the raccoon mountain. We climbed that one at our pace and managed to keep our position.

At the first rest stop, I decided to settle for doing the 50 miles event even though by legs felt ready to complete the 80 miler.

What finalized such a decision was the prospect to ride back with Jim and the chance meeting of Ricardo Hincapie who was escorting his grand son Enzo back to the finish line

While I never met up with Jim on the return, I loved riding with the Hincapie even as it meant going slower.

Enzo is just 9 and riding well. It was a joy to see him with his grand father. A throwback to the old Kissena Ccling Clif days when we were escorting George and Ritchie in training ride.

We arrived, rested at the finish but proud to have contributed to making the young kid motivated to really apply himself to the ride.

We all came together at the finish, proud of what we had achieved.

Post ride we dipped in the hotel jacuzzi before heading out for a walk to a most charming part of town designated as the arts neighborhood. There we sat in a cafe enjoying the setting, the street and parcs artwork and tasty French pastries with large cappuccino

Later we got a ride to the After Ride diner. on the Team’s Bus with some of the riders and organizers of the event. The after ride event was an opportunity to see some of the VIP and to socialize with family and friend of the Hincapie’s and some of the VIP.

In the evening , we stopped on a Cinco De Mayo street party, where we wandered through the crowd celebrating with food, drinks and street dancing.

The evening was pleasant, the heat of the day tempered by a few rain drops that never lasted or threatened the pleasant atmosphere of the crowds.

In all, the celebration was a fitting Goodby to a town that received us with reputed southern grace.

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The day before the Event

On a gorgeous morning of a day that promises to be hot we had our southern breakfast and walked the sparsely crowded streets of downtown Chattanooga. Nice and welcoming little town, waking up very slowly on the banks of the Tennessee river, surrounded by rolling hills. No doubts, we will have to climb a few of them on our ride tomorrow.

Lazily, we reached the registration area where the “Start-Finish” of the ride will take place. There is some excitement in the air as we get our ride package, but the energy around is more the mellow milling of southern gentleness than the hustle- bustle of a New York even. We don’t mind it at all. It add to the vacation feeling of the day.

On the way back we are treated to a small town USA parade honoring the coast guards. A unique and charming experience. I could write a long chapter on what we observed there

We spend the rest of the day relaxing and touring around. Greeting arriving fellow cyclists, and Enjoying the easy going atmosphere of the town, frequently double checking the weather forecast for tomorrow’s ride, hoping the predicted rain will not reach us while we pedal.

As it stands the event features three different format: Art and Jeff are signed in for the shorter ride. Jim has transferred to the 50 miles one while I remain with the original plan of doing the Gran Fondo. I will be allowed to adjust my ambitions on the road if the weather conditions are inclement or my strength does muster up to the challenge. We shall see, tomorrow

CHATTANOOGA SANS “CHOO CHOO”

We got up early to get on our bikes. Art, Jim and I. Would be riding and Jeff was to follow us with the van. The transcontinental bike road 76 we tried yesterday on a northern loop, awaited nearby to take us south along a valley road that, according to a local cyclist, was “not too hilly” Of course we all know the value of such statement and true to form while the “hilly” was certain, the ” not too” will remain subjective. Was was definite by all accounts was the scenic beauty of the serpentine road that stretched from Troutville to Blacksburg, Virginia

The weather, this early in the morning, was a delightful cool as we pedaled easily through shaded forests and soft rolling dales bordering pastures and farmlands. The traffic was light and except for an occasional group of bird watchers, we did not cross many people till we reached Blacksburg, home of the now infamous Virginia Tech mass shooting. This is where we ate lunch and where I was treated to a local ” sampler” of micro brewery ale

Yes! All seven variety just for me.

We then drove the rest of the way to our final destination: Chattanooga, Tennessee.

On the road again

It Didn’t take long before I got myself in motion. Only 10 days since we are back home in New York and “voilà” we hit the road again. This time it’s off to Chattanooga, Tennessee for a Gran Fondo bicycle ride. We, stands for Jim, Jeff, Art and I. The old boys travelling gang, united once again for a cycling trip, as we so often have done in the past.

This jaunt is a road trip: 892 miles each way. We rented a van since we carry our bikes. We broke up the way there in order to do some cycling on the way down there. The race is on Saturday so we left today. We planned to drive half the distance, relaying ourselves at the wheels. We left New York early to avoid rush hour traffic and managed to reach Troutville, Virginia early enough to get into a hotel and get ready for a short relaxed ride on the Bleu Ridge section of the famous Transcontinental cycle route 76

After 8 hours of driving, cycling on the winding roads of the Shenandoah valley was a welcome relief even if at time the slopes rose stronger they we would have liked. The efforts were well worth the satisfaction of finally be able to ride in very clement weather.

We finished the day with a satisfying well earned meal.

Tomorrow will see us reach North Carolina.

Au Revoir La Réunion.

It’s true, it’s official. We are heading home. 5 days later and in some ways not soon enough. Last meal together at the beach and the island says her goodbyes in the form of tropical tears : The skies open to a downpour that feels like monsoon 2

But does not stop the beach goers

Later we head out to the airport, our fingers crossed, holding our breath, hoping that our flight takes off in time.

Andre.

REDEMPTION GOES THROUGH “ HELL BOURG”

One by one the families are heading home. During the night those traveling to the Pyrenees left. A trip we probably might still do this summer. Others left as the day went by. Slowly, the house feels emptier even if there remains 11 of us.

To redeem our losses we finally rented a new car and headed to the famous valley of “Hell-Bourg”. Another amazing trip through marvelous landscape.

The road rises along deep gorges covered in lush green flora. The steep slopes lend themselves to dozen of waterfalls that gives a feeling of Jurassic Park. The area was the hiding place of escaped slaves in the early 1800 and to this day remains difficult to reach. I find it hard to describe the savage beauty of the place lost in the mist. Rain showers and fog alternate with the sun piercing through the clouds, revealing the high mountain tops cutting patches of blue sky like giant saw blades

Indeed the trip,forced upon us by the airlines delay, became a redemption in itself.

“ just when I though I was out” —— Oh well stuck in garden of Eden.

Mayhem at the airport, flights after flight are offered in one instance only to be cancelled a few hours later. After the 3 rd cancellation, each times affecting our various connections, the final offer is a trip back Sunday night connecting to our flight to NY. We had to abandon our 4 days trip to the Pyrenees to sister. We are all on edges. So many of us, 12 in total have their plans absolutely wrecked. Yesterday was nuts yet I managed to ride and not surprisingly meet somebody who knew a friend of mine from my childhood we rode together for a bit and that was the highlight of my day.

I swear he looks like Jack the Bike Yogi in USA.

To make best face against misfortune we are trying to rent a car. (Not so easy) and a bike for sure. In the meantime we are staying in a gorgeous villa next to Patrick’s on the shore.

For the final: The mighty Maido

It stands above the coast, often much like Olympus, hidden in the clouds , the mighty Maido is the island most famous point lookout and according to the local cyclists the longest , cruelest climb in the whole world. At 40 km long and rising from the sea to 7480 feet, the ride traverses some amazing terrain. From the sugar cane fields of the lower slopes, the primeval forest with wind bent trees reaching across the sides of the winding road to make a welcome cool tunnel.

At the top we found the crowds admiring the most spectacular view of the shore line on one side and the panoramic view of the grand Cirque de Mafate and the villages lost 3000 feet below

There no pictures to render justice to what the eyes experience as we stand on the rock face edge and look down. The feeling is akin to the Grand Canyon experience minus the sense of length ,of course, yet thrilled by the depth and by the greenery of the terrain. In some way What amazes here is the difference between the millenium slow grinding of the rocks by the water in the Grand Canyon compared to the brutal rock carving resulting from repetitive volcanic eruptions. In the end as often when confronted with earth beauty we stand amazed, bewildered and humbled all at once.

A fitting farewell to an island that has touched our hearts in many ways.

Perhaps in a strange goodbye, the Queen Mary II cut across the the horizon in the Indian Ocean sunset

Sea voyage and Air France’s strike

The news reached our email folder in the middle of the night. Air France had cancelled our flight back to Paris, disrupting our return and forcing major rescheduling of plane connection to Lourdes, last night accommodations, and car rental. All done frantically before dawn in my case and as the day went on for the rest of our group.

To show good face against misfortune and thumb our noses at French Strickers we maintained our plans to enjoy a gifted boat ride in search of Dolphins

The captain was eager to show us the spot were we could admire the dolphins and the giant turtles. The later very hard to photograph. He succeeded in style adding the possibility to jump in the water since according to those in the know, sharks do not bother swimmers in deep water where dolphins attack them mercilessly. We believed him and dove.

One by one. Yours truly being the last to take the plunge.

The dolphins must have laughed. We heard some pretty special noises from them

The sea voyage continued for awhile as we picnicked and drank rum cocktails.