By now, you’ve probably heard about John Kerry’s bike crash near Geneva.
Without getting into politics (All right: I’m with him on most issues!), I just want to wish him a thorough recovery.
I have long known about, in addition to his politics, his love of French culture. However, I didn’t know that he brings his bicycle with him on his many trips as Secretary of State. So now I like him even more.
Although I winced when I heard that he might have broken his leg, I found myself riding, vicariously, on the roads he might have been riding. I was reliving a ride I took in that area.
If you’ve been there (or even if you’ve looked at a good map), you realize that Geneva is about as close as you can get to France without being in it. OK, that might be a slight exaggeration. But only a slight one. It’s the pendant, if you will, in a necklace of towns that rings Lac Leman, the “official” name of what’s more commonly called Lac de Geneve, or Lake Geneva.
The lake washes up on French as well as Swiss shores to its south and west. It’s really an inland freshwater sea: Imagine one of the Great Lakes set in the Alps. I pedaled along a beautiful road within sight of the lake—and, of course, the mountains—from Lausanne to Geneva as part of a ride I took from Paris to Switzerland and back in 1997. It seemed ironic to me that I was rolling along a flatter road in Switzerland than I was a day earlier, when I rode from Besancon into Pontarlier and crossed the border at Yverdon. On the other hand, I didn’t have to pedal very far from the lake to do some pretty serious climbing.
That ride from Besancon (one of my favorite cities in France) to Geneva is one of the most beautiful, and most satisfying, I ever took. It offered just about anything one could want: arduous climbs and thrilling descents, straightaways on which you feel lighter than air even if you’re riding with full panniers and handlebar bag, beautiful natural scenery, picturesque towns, history and culture, friendly and helpful people (They understand cyclists!) and, of course, great food.
One day I will devote a post, maybe more, to that ride. I still have to sort through my pictures and have them scanned. (Remember: We were still using film back then!) I will also need to look at the journal I kept and cull some of the more interesting, or at least relevant, passages. That tour gave me so much material!
In a way, I feel bad for John Kerry that he got hurt in such a place: I wouldn’t want anything to spoil the pleasures of it, even for my worst enemy. On the other hand, I am sure he is being well cared-for and will be back on his bike sooner than he (or anyone) can say allez!