Friends: Over the winter while Craig and Onni were back in Chicago they left their 25-year old Citroen Deux Chevaux with a friend to be repainted. With its shiny new exterior this French classic is now parade worthy. There's always a cadre of them in The Tour de France caravan of sponsors preceding the racers tossing out mini-sausages to the throngs along the road. Craig no longer feels comfortable leaving his prized relic parked in front of his one hundred year old house on the sole narrow road through his small village in the Cevannes mountains.
Since he rarely uses it more often than for his weekly drive into the Saturday market in Le Vigan ten miles away, he began searching for a garage to park it in. The Shaws, friends from England, offered up their garage. He'd just have to clean it and reorganize it. It was a jumble of books and gardening supplies and boxes full of Styrofoam and stacks of cat magazines and much else that had been disposed there including twenty year old jars of honey brought over from England, left over from their bee keeping days before they retired to this small village ten years ago at the age of seventy after careers in law.
The cleaning date was the day after I arrived. It wouldn't be the first garage that Craig and I had cleaned out, though this time we had the help of Onni and the oversight of Jeffrey. He was surprisingly quick to make decisions on what to keep and what to throw out. I was the lucky one who got to accompany him on two trips to the recycling center five miles away in his car to escape the dust exacerbated by cat feces. A stray cat that they allowed refuge in the garage utilized a couple of corners as his kitty litter. That came as a surprise to all of us.
The project took up most of the afternoon. The garage was just barely wide enough for the car to fit through, built for carriage and carts, not automobiles. Still, none of us were certain the car would be able to maneuver into the garage from the narrow road in front of it. If not, at least we had performed a good deed in cleaning the garage.
When the time came to fit the car in, there were three of us trying to guide Craig. Jeffrey suggested he try to enter coming from the upside, even though he would always be approaching it from the opposite direction. Craig made an attempt from the direction the car was pointed, but couldn't manage it, so tried Jeffrey's suggestion. That took several tries, though it showed more promise. He finally succeeded. With his courage up, Craig decided to try to see if it would be any easier to back into the garage. That he pulled off as if he had been doing it all his life and without the need of three pairs of eyes on all sides.
I had expected, and was hoping, the operation to turn into a Jacques Tati movie drawing the attention of everyone in the small village offering their advice. Only one other villager happened along and he just stayed to converse. It was the first Craig and Onni had seen him since they returned to their village less than a month ago for their 15th summer and had plenty of catching up to do. Jeffrey's wife brought out drinks for all to celebrate.
Craig was so pleased with the new paint job on his car, he decided to have his friend repaint his Peugeot PX10, a classic bike from the '70s that Bernard Thevenet twice bicycled to victory in The Tour de France. Craig had brought the bike over from the US a couple of years ago after I acquired it from a friend's garage where it was gathering dust, knowing how much he would appreciate it. It is one of ten bikes in his French stable of bikes, including a Bobet, a Frenchman who won The Tour three times in the '50s. Stripping the Peugeot of all its parts was project number two during my weekend with Craig and Onni. Craig and I are even more experienced at working on bikes together than cleaning garages, having revitalized and sold over fifty abandoned bikes the past few winters in Chicago.
Rather than an outing on the bikes, the three of us took a several hour hike to Dead Man's Pass high above their village. If we had wished we could have hired a donkey from one of their neighbors to carry our gear as did R. L. Stevenson in this very region that resulted in his book "Travels With A Donkey in the Cévannes." Early in the hike we passed a guy picking cherries. He asked Craig if he thought it was all right to be picking cherries from this orchard. Craig said he didn't really know. The guy then admitted that he was the owner of the orchard, so he knew it was okay. He offered us some and then talked Craig's ears off for the next half hour.
A dog had joined us at the very start of our hike, much to Craig's dismay. He said that happens just about every time they go off on a hike. I suggested we all go off in different directions and see who it would follow. Craig was the cursed one. The cherry-picker did not recognize the dog. It had a collar and a phone number on it. Craig convinced the cherry-picker to hold on to the dog until we had safely gotten away.
It was the last we saw of the dog until about six hours later when Craig and I were returning from a ride to the local swimming hole across from the area's recycling center. About a mile from Craig's village we passed an English woman he knew and her daughter accompanied by the dog. They said the cherry-picker had passed it off on them. They were trying to escape him now themselves.
We didn't encounter another soul as we hiked until we stopped for lunch in the shade of a tree. A couple of blond haired women, who looked as if they were Swedish, bustled past us saying nothing more than "Bonjour." Craig surmised they weren't French, as otherwise they would have most certainly greeted us with a "bon appetite." As if to prove his assessment, a little while later, a guy passed by, according us a hearty "bon appetite." If he hadn't been in such a hurry we could have rewarded him with some cherries or celery sticks. He was probably saying to himself that we couldn't have been French, as he didn't notice any wine among our spread of cheeses and bread and hard boiled eggs. Craig and Onni save their wine drinking for dinner.
The swimming hole in the river was crowded with swimmers and sun bathers. Craig said when he stopped by last week, there was no one there and was too cold for him to give it an attempt. One of our fellow swimmers was a Dutch friend of Craig's he hadn't seen yet this year. One can often see a few members of the fairer sex bathing topless Craig said, but not today.