Today, two major road events converged at Martigny (pronounced "martini" with a little action thrown in for a soft g), a Swiss town at the intersection of France, Italy and Switzerland and a gateway to the western entrance to the Alps.
Le Tour de Gorman — that superhuman exposition of human relationship and RV daring-do as the Gormans careen through Europe in a Mobi, accompanied by Daughter and her now-Fiancé — entered Martigny later on Tuesday, as biking enthusiasts were walking back to their cars and streaming out of town.
We were unimpressed. In fact, I have come to detest bicyclists and their fancy Spandex pants and colorful helmets and weird shoes as they share my Alpine roads.
Narrow winding roads were not meant to be shared. Either close off the damned highway, as they do for Lance & Co., or ban bicyclists from the roads. Based on my experience, they cannot be shared.
At best, on a flat, straight portion of the road, you can see them as you approach from behind, time your braking and/or acceleration, and pass them quickly at the first chance. But roads in the Alps are generally not flat and straight.
If the road is curving, you have to constantly wait for an opportunity to pass them. And if your Mobi is as wide as ours, almost filling the pavement from the shoulder line to the center line, to give them even two feet forces you into oncoming traffic. We did this and I drank a lot of Scotch last night to recover.
If you are going uphill when you encounter your bicycling buddies, you normally have to downshift, and even though I’ve been driving the stick-shift Mobi for more than two weeks, there is nothing easy about downshifting and re-engaging your gears when you are driving a 50-ton vehicle uphill. Fifty ton, give or take but I know it’s gotten heavier because Jeanne has been buying a lot of refrigerator magnets.
You might think driving downhill is the better scenario for coming up on bicyclists. But these pedaling pals of mine love going downhill. They live to fly downhill. In fact, when we are going downhill, they pass me and probably curse as they do it.
The worse scenario is to come upon a bunch of Bozo bicyclists on a 170-degree hairpin turn and, at the very moment you encounter them, a propane truck suddenly enters the hairpin from the other direction. Ohmygod, grip the wheel and close your eyes – wait, don’t close your eyes – and scream – wait, don’t scream, you’ll scare your passengers. You downshift, you brake, you measure the space from your front right bumper to the bicyclists, you anticipate your turning radius, and that of the propane truck’s, and you briefly become very spiritual and give serious thought to whether Heaven is in the clouds or just a state of mind and if it is in a cloud whether Peter at the gate is wearing Spandex.