Wednesday, June 8, 2005

Agde, France

Friends: Although Agde is the designated Ville Etape for the departure of stage 14, the peloton will actually commence riding at Le Cap d'Adge, the coastal, resort town five miles away. The peloton will ride at a promenade pace through these two towns for about half an hour before the riders can unleash their legs upon exiting Agde on the road to Vias. Official departure time is 10:51, a fairly early start, as this Saturday stage will be one of the longest, and more dramatic, stages of The Tour as it takes the peloton into the Pyrenees.

This would have been Crissy's favorite stage of this year's Tour, going from the beaches to the mountains, her two favorite places. The literature at the Agde tourist office refers to this stage as the only one to pass through a town right on the Mediterranean.

There were wide sandy beaches for several miles at Le Cap, including several nudist beaches, as the world's largest Naturisme Community is nearby. They have a city of several thousand residents all of their own. It is the largest in the world. They have their own bank and grocery store and services. It is well-secured and one must be a member, or buy a membership card, to gain entry. The rule is that one must be nude and no cameras or video equipment are allowed. The Tour will pass less than a mile from its entrance along Avenue Francois Mitterrand.

There would be an occasional nudist, or at least topless, bather on the beach below the cliff side hut Crissy and I wintered at in Mexico, but they generally quickly covered themselves when they attracted the leering Mexican beach boys who honed in on them like bees to honey, offering to teach them the Spanish words for sand and waves and so on. Crissy wasn't bashful about going topless, though generally only when joined by others. She was always happy to lay on her stomach, so she could let the sun shine on the peyote bird tattoo at the base of her spine, a tattoo she acquired in the '70s, way before it became hip. She asked Tom Robbins to autograph it at a book signing in Chicago--vintage Crissy, enlivening an otherwise dreary and mundane proceeding. The next day Bob Herguth reported in his celebrity column in the "Sun-Times," "Some lass asked Robbins to autograph her tattoo on her backside." Crissy, the free-spirit, once slipped back stage at a Patti Smith concert and was welcomed to her dressing room. She and her boss at the nursing home dropped in on the Bears headquarters near their nursing home and invited Walter Payton to visit.

Crissy has been on my mind more than ever after I supplemented my reading material at Craig and Onni's with a handful of "New Yorkers." Crissy, the artist, was most adept at quick little sketches of everyday objects like shoes, flowers, vases, and bugs such as the "New Yorker" likes to insert in its long columns of copy. Any of them could have been a Crissy creation.

Not only did I leave Craig and Onni's with "New Yorkers," but I was able to replace the three books I've read so far with three more from the local resale shop, and not just drudge. I picked up books by William Burroughs and travel rider Redmond O'Hanlon and also H. G. Wells. Wells was an ardent cyclist and made that monumental pronouncement, "Whenever I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race." It is a quote I have not been able to find the origin of. I thought maybe it came from one of his earliest novels,"Wheels of Chance," about a bicycle tour through England, but not so. I've read quite a few of his books trying to track it down. If I'm lucky, it will be in this book, "Kip." If not, it will still be worthy of my time, as there are sure to be a handful of bicycle references.

After three days of dining on Onni's exceptional organic, vegetarian fare, mostly from the local farmer's market or her garden, I am back to my usual fare--either a can of ravioli or a can of the traditional French cassoulet stew, a mixture of baked beans along with a hunk of goose meat and a knuckle of pork and several hot dogs. Onni concluded each meal in the French manner with a tasty green salad and cheese and several evenings with mulberries on sheep's yogurt. During my time with Craig and Onni,I was given the full French treatment in every respect. We took several outings in their 1988 Citroen, the deux chevaux model that is a French classic It was manufactured from 1949 to 1990 and is a minimalist's delight, such as is Craig. It is rare to see one on the roads, though they have a strong cult following. Craig has to keep a wary eye on the fuel gauge, as it only holds 25 liters.

Later, George

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