Saturday was laundry day! Sounds dull, yes indeed, but this is another of those things I enjoy, up there with figuring out the local public transport system. It seems that French (or at least Parisian) laundromats have only one machine that accepts money, and every machine — washers, dryers, and the dispenser of miniature soap boxes — all follow orders from the one cash machine. It took a friendly local to help us out with it. I suspect he just couldn’t stand to watch us fumble around for so long!

Laundry day!

Later was a revisit to le musée des Arts et Métiers, where I learned that the section of the museum with the Leyat propeller car was blocked off for a reconfiguration, and not because I’d gotten there too late earlier in the week. I could see it from the bottom level, teasing me from three platforms up. One more thing to the list of “revisit next time in Paris.” (Note from 2012: I forgot to do this in 2011. Ah well.)

Saturday was also “sell the bike back to the store” day. I’d considered asking them to disassemble and box it so I could take it home, but eventually I decided this would make my travel day more trouble than it was worth. I tried to make up for it, though, by keeping the lock, buying a similar bell as a souvenir, and getting a dynamo and headlight, which I will install on another bike at home someday. Next time out, I’ll be sure to trawl for a bike so interesting I can’t help but take it home with me. (Note from 2012: Instead, I bought a Bike Friday folding bike, so I always have a good bike to ride as soon as I get to the hotel.)


Monday was big, because it meant the used bicycle store was open. I browsed a bit, then decided to check the competition. After much walking, I discovered there was no competition in the used market, and so I went back and bought a Union bicycle for 250€, plus a 52€ chain to keep it from getting stolen. I also had them upgrade the bell, which they did for free. I practiced my French, the store employee practiced his English, and eventually everything was settled. (I did return later to have him adjust the seat height, re-upgrade to bell to one that didn’t jingle with every bump in the pavement, and confirm that the steering was screwed up but not easy to fix.)

Au Réparateur de Bicyclettes

My first destination was the Grand Palais, site of the 1900 Universal Exposition. It’s one of the last such buildings in the world, built to bring thousands of people together, indoors, prior to incandescent lighting (hence the glass roof). The Gaylord Opryland hotel’s gigantic, glass-covered atriums pale in comparison. Built for the arts, its current task was to hold a triennial exhibit of French artists and artists working in France. Being a fan of modern art and especially sculpture and large installations, I couldn’t possibly have been in a better place than the Grand Palais this particular week (the last week of the show). One work included many thousands of photographs, a four-story scaffold tower, an equally tall, rotating stack of large-format photos, and a dozen kitchen knives inviting you to slice off a piece of said photo stack. I hope to experience more of Wang Du’s art in the future. (Photos, ironically, do it no justice.)

Grand Palais interior

Next up was the Champs-Elysées and Plaza d’Étoile. That’s the famous road with all the fancy stores and heavy traffic, followed by the gigantic plaza that circles l’Arc de Triomphe. In theory it’s crazy to ride a lap of that plaza on a bicycle, but really it was the only proper thing to do. (I have since met other cyclists who did the same — something about the plaza calls to us, perhaps.)

French boating seems to involve getting a rather large, old river barge and turning it into what must be 1000 square feet of living space with a low ceiling. We later saw a few of them with cars aboard, so apparently a lot of the docks have hefty ramps to help you load up your cozy river home. One of them took this a step further by sticking an Amphicar on the stern deck. I guess if the river boat sank, they’d have a handy way to power down the river to the nearest ramp and just keep on going.

Amphicar on river barge

Peg arrived today, having spent a week and a half in Prague, just in time for dinner with another old friend. This time the reservation was for 8:00pm — still a bit early, but that was okay because it let us change a two-person reservation into a three-person table with no particular trouble. A night of amazing food and wine commenced.

So I mentioned this on Twitter, but it bears further description.

This morning, a friend and I rode our bicycles to brunch. Even while riding, we continued to learn about one another, strengthening our friendship.

Afterwards, I drove a neighbor to his first experience with the Lock 4 mountain bike trails (my first visit in three years). We learned a thing or two about endurance, fear, and that you shouldn’t pass out in a car full of whipped cream bottles, because the police take issue with that. (No, that wasn’t us.)

Arriving home, I noticed another friend had called. Turns out he was riding about town, so I hopped back on the bike and met him above the river. We visited vacant industrial buildings with “for sale” signs on them, at once lamenting the businesses leaving them behind and sharing our dreams of the possibilities enabled by those same spaces.

Afterwards, I explored some more, and on my way home saw an artistic acquaintance watching a train, his bicycle parked behind him. I joined him for a while, imagining where the train was going and where it had been, trying to see if the bridge flexed beneath its weight, and experiencing the visual illusion of seeing the bridge appear to move sideways even after the train had stopped for a moment.

Finally, just a block from home, a neighbor was riding the other way. We chatted for a bit, enjoyed a beer on his back porch, and discussed motorcycles, golf, and aging. Turns out he’s had an entire career in law enforcement and is now doing something entirely unrelated that he also enjoys.

Bicycles (theirs and mine) made each interaction possible: by enriching the interaction, providing an excuse for a meeting, or simply by putting us in the right place at the right moment.

I believe I will always keep a bicycle at hand.