Edwards Shares Travelouge of Recent Tour de France
By Dr. Chris Edwards // August 12, 2013
enjoying the world famous Tour de France
ABOVE VIDEO: Some of the sights and sounds enjoyed by Dr. Chris Edwards and his daughter, Jill, during the Tour de France.
EDITORS NOTE: Dr. Chris Edwards and his daughter, Jill, recently enjoyed a real European adventure following and enjoying the world famous Tour de France bicycle race. Edwards and his daughter visited the famous Pyrenees Spanish mountain range six years ago and after that trip, Edwards promised his daughter that when she obtained her Masters in Aviation Safety they would visit the Tour de France in the French Alps. Jill obtained her Masters from Embry Riddle in March and so the father and daughter team set off on July 16 on their European adventure. Below are some excerpts from their trip as recorded by Dr.Edwards.
July 17, 2013:
The Tour de France arrives tomorrow and the excitement in this mountain town of Alpe d’Huez is building. My computer power is dead and the inverter in our camper is squawking at the power that this old Apple draws. It was a bit cloudy today and our solar charging is low. We are sitting in an English bar and drinking beer to get some power and free internet, and enjoyed the end of today’s time trial south of here.
There must be well over 1,000 of these camper vans scattered all around town. It truly is a way to be among the locals. Jill and I were listening to the Beatles on the computer fixing a delicious Italian dinner last eve when in the background we heard a German umpah band warming up. We visited their campsite and it was well outfitted.
It turns out there are 12 elderly German men who have been following the tour for 20 years, they were are wearing lederhosen. They leave the women home and bring numerous kegs of beer, bottles of Schnapps and they all play German instruments. They all have their steins and have an official glass washing station. One of the gents gave Jill a flag from the Leopard team. In the street there were numerous bocce games going on and many people have brought their dogs.
Just a short walk from here is the finish of this stage of the race and the locals have been installing the barricades and stands for the dignitaries. There is a podium for the bikers and everyone is getting their picture taken, we are planning to be there ourselves.
We took a bike ride yesterday to the local airport and continued on the road out of town that the tour riders will take tomorrow. It was quite steep and not in the best condition but beautiful views everywhere you looked.
We stopped and enjoyed a nice picnic lunch, we finally bought some nice French mustard to spice up the fromage (cheese).
Today we took the gondola up the mountain two levels. The highest level was closed as Pic Blanc was in the clouds. We took a lovely hike, having to trek through stretches of snow, and eventually enjoyed another French picnic lunch of Vin rouge, baguette, fromage and a bottle of 2010 Cabernet as recommended by Uncle Mike
We had as magic a day at le Tour de France as we had hoped for. The excitement in town was palpable, people were streaming everywhere, many on bikes. After some morning rain we walked downtown and eventually made our way to the Alitport, which we had cased out a few days earlier, as a great vantage point to view the tour as they left town after climbing the Alpe D’Huez for the first time.
We enjoyed a delicious café and pain au chocolate and another take off of a small plane down this incredible downhill runway. We perched on a rock outcropping at the edge of the road with our American flag, jerseys and some Brit comrades.
The tour came by with the American Tejay van Garderen in the lead breakaway. We were able to catch a good video of Chris running after the breakaway group wearing and streaming the American flag. A Frenchman back in Florida advised Jill to yell ‘BOTTLE’ at the riders when they passed.
Scoring a water bottle from a rider is the utmost prized TDF swag, and Jill has been on the hunt for years. Luckily we were perched right by an area in which the riders get feed bags containing food and spare bottles. As one lone rider approached Jill noticed he was sucking his bottle dry and had just replenished. She took her opportunity, yelled, and he obliged, FINALLY! A bottle was procured!
After the riders passed we sauntered to town with a train of other spectators (as we had approx 1 hr 15 min until the tour once again scaled the mighty Alpe D’Huze for the finish) and luckily wound up on the backside of the TV and media vans. We befriended a few Brits who were in the broadcast van for the American NBC Sports network we follow and watched the end of the race. They gave us a sharpie marker and a tip on how we might score a “graph” of our favorite commentator, Bob Roll, on the Bob’s Bicycle jersey that was given to Jill by a local shop. Jill spotted Christian Vande Velde, one of America’s best cyclists who crashed out earlier in the race and got his “graph” before Bob Roll rolled out of the NBC Sports truck.
One of Brevard’s favorite bike shops, Bob’s Bike Shop in Indian Harbor Beach, gave Jill a special bike jersey to take to the tour for photo opportunities. At one of their stops, the intrepid duo were invited into the NBC TV sports trailer and met former U.S. Tour de France rider Bob Roll, who autographed the jersey. Upon arrival back in Brevard, Jill presented the souvenir jersey and the photo to Bob’s Bike Shop, where it is now proudly displayed for all to see.
Bob Roll loved the pink Bob’s Bicycles jersey and held it up proudly, teasing he was going to keep it. As the riders came in for the finish there was an exciting chase when a Frenchman overtook Tejay in the last 3 km and went on to win the stage for France, their first win of the 100th TDF. The crowd went WILD as they watched it on the big screen at finishing line. What a day!
We returned to our van for once again, our fourth Italian meal in a row in France, go figure. This is what happens when you shop for food in Italy. Jill came to like gnocchi last night, apparently its better in Italy. Both of our dogs are barking and we look forward to riding the gondola up and down the opposing face of the mountain tomorrow morning to the little town of Oz to catch the Tour stream by on the final alpine stage of the tour before they depart for Paris.
RETURNING HOME AND REFLECTIONS ON THE TRIP
We are back after a successful transatlantic flight on TAP Airlines of Portugal continuing our multicultural experience. Some reflections of our European Adventure and some tips for those thinking of going:
• The European people are friendly, even if they don’t speak English – a hello in their language will get a reply and often a smile.
• The Tour de France is an amazing event. There were reportedly up to 2 million people on the last 15 miles of the Alpe D’Huez stage we were part of. This is just the end of one of the 21 stages of the tour, each over 100 miles long, with a cumulative of 2,000 miles ridden and millions and upon millions of fans and viewers.
• The athleticism of the riders is mind blowing, as we struggled up easy mountain roads for less than 5k in length.
• Caravaning in a camper van is fun. Watch your water, electricity and poop usage.
• When you see your breath in your camper van, you know its cold. You can still ski in July on Alpe D’Huez, pack accordingly (which we did not). Sleeping with socks is allowed!
• The Alps are breathtaking mountains, worth visiting.
• Bring plenty of Euros, fuel was about $8 a gallon and American credit cards without a microchip is often useless. A Euro buys about what a dollar does, sometimes less.
• Tolls are pricey, the France/Italy tunnel under the Alps cost us over $70 (54 Euros) for a single passage. But, the back mountain roads and switchbacks take forever.
• There are very few overweight people, yet they enjoy rich foods (non GMO!), very little fast food.
• They love their dogs in France. Dogs and camper vans go together.
• The cheese is to die for and we ate our fair share of it.
• The best deals in Italy and France are the wine and baguettes.
• One U.S. to Europe plug adapter is not enough and this old computer is a total power hog (draining the camper to low battery status at one point).
• Would we do it again? Yes! Next time biking between Chateaus on flatter roads.
We hope you have enjoyed reading these notes as much as we have enjoyed sharing our experiences with you. Au revoir!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Chris Edwards graduated from the United States Merchant Marine Academy and Temple University School of Dentistry. He completed a general practice residency at the Queens Medical Center in Honolulu. To reach Dr. Edwards, you may call 321-751-7775 or visit www.SmileDesignCenter.us
ABOUT JILL EDWARDS
Jill Edwards is an Air Safety Specialist at Embraer Executive Aircraft in Melbourne, Florida. Below is a video, where Jill describes how she became inspired to become a pilot and develop her career in Aviation.