If I’m headed eastward into a rising sun to start the day I’ll opt for a baseball cap rather than helmet taking advantage of the cap’s visor to shield my eyes from the low sun. My helmet has the luxury of resting atop my tent and sleeping bag, with its strap looped through the bungee cords holding down my gear atop the rear panniers, letting it have a view of the scenery behind.
A couple mornings before my arrival in Cannes I somehow managed to forgot my helmet laying in the brush of my campsite in the woods. I didn’t realize my oversight until I stopped to fill my water bottles at a cemetery fifteen miles down the road. The thirty miles to retrieve it was too much, as I had no time to spare to arrive in Cannes in time to meet up with Ralph and the gentleman renting us his apartment.
Rather than berating myself or feeling anger and despair about losing my helmet, the recent gift of a friend, I was confident that whoever it is that ensures the well-being of touring cyclists would look after it until I could return for it in what would be eighteen days. It wasn't a tough task, as I’d left it in an isolated enough area that it wasn’t likely that anyone would stumble upon it.
I didn’t think much about it while I was immersed in cinema, though whenever it crossed my mind, I strongly visualized where I’d left it fully confident that it was still there. After the movies were done and I returned to the bike, I heightened my perception of it as I pedaled along and felt increasingly sure that it awaited me.
I couldn’t directly head to it, as first I had to go to Nice, twenty miles in the opposite direction, for the exhibit on the Yellow Jersey at the National Museum of Sport. From there it was a little over a hundred miles to the helmet. I had hoped to camp once again where I’d left it the next day, but the mistral had kicked up and held me back.
That didn’t concern me in the least. It just meant I could imagine a little longer that moment of pleasure of being reunited with it. I remembered vividly the dirt road I had turned off on into the forest and where I’d gone off into the woods. I leaned my bike against a tree and continued a little deeper to where I’d camped, and there it was, shiny and upright, as happy to see me as I was to see it, resting peaceably beside the tree that had blocked my vision of it when I loaded up my bike. There was no evidence of any forest creatures coming by to give it a curious nudge or lick whatever salt there might be in its padding. It was all ready to return to duty, nestled atop my head, getting a little higher view than me of all the fabulous French scenery.
I hadn’t only missed it as my head covering, but also as a protective receptacle in a corner of my tent for my watch and glasses during my sleeping hours. The tent had seemed empty without it. All was now well in my world.
We weren’t the only ones heading into the Alps. There were brief spurts of convoys of small sports cars on communal drives, not an uncommon site on the scenic roads of France. Groups in vintage cars or Deux Chevaux like to drive en masse. Motorcyclists too, often with German plates. Clusters of cyclists too are drawn to the spectacular riding in the Alps. The French identify themselves with their strong cologne and their array of words of endorsement and encouragement—“Bravo” and “Chapeau” and “Respect” and “Allée” and “Courage” and “Oh la-la.” English may have twice the number of words as French, but it lacks an equivalent to any of these, or at least the spirit. It is in the French nature to respond favorably to someone doing something they like, such as with “Bon appetite” to anyone they see eating.