Only one week left before we leave for Raleigh. We will be leaving behind all but two of our accumulated bikes. The rest are going into storage to be resurrected when we get back. Maybe we will realize that we can get by with only two or three bikes each and some of them will be sold when we get back. We are taking Rebecca's 'fast bike' (an old Schwinn road frame with 14 speeds) and my road bike. My road bike will continue the journey on to France while her 'fast bike' will stay in Raleigh.
Since I don't have a job in France, and have promised not to get one in a translated and notarized letter, I will be spending most of my time riding my bicycle through the rolling hills of the French countryside. I've been trying to make the bike that I will bring as versatile and durable as possible. After thinking for a while I decided to take my road bike, after some modifications.
I decided to put S&S couplers on to make train and air travel with the bike much easier; powdercoating to prevent rust and scratches during packing/travel; full fenders with a mudflap to ride in the wet; cloth handlebar tape that won't get ripped when the bike is packed up; a handlebar bag for food and maps; wheels I built myself that are easily repairable; downtube friction shifters that will never break.
Jefe's Bridgestone RB-1 with S&S couplers
Once we get there, I'd like to find some old cruiser/city bikes for grocery shopping. Probably something where the parts are no longer available; something that rattles incessantly over the endless cobblestones; something strong enough I might actually want to bring it back with me. Then I have to remind myself that I'm trying to get rid of bikes.
Jefe and Rebecca's refurbished English 3-speeds
For right now, I would like to thank all the people that donated little bits of knowledge that helped me create the bike I am taking to France. Strange how such minor changes to a apparently simple machine can shift its functionality a large amount in one direction or another. Hopefully, I have created the perfect bike to take, but I doubt it. There will always be someone, somewhere that has a suggestion to make a bike a little better for one purpose or another.
Yesterday we went to the french consulate in Chicago in order to get our long-stay visas. It took about a week of both of us working day and night to get all of the forms filled out and letters written (not to mention photocopied, notarized, and translated into French).
We took the tandem bike from the place we stayed on Thursday night and biked to the consulate, which is downtown. We arrived no later than 15 seconds after our appointments were scheduled to begin, and only slightly sweaty. The office was stark and dismal, and the two women processing the visa applications were separated from the waiting area by thick, bulletproof glass. The signs posted directed us to wait until our names were called. We watched as four other people in the waiting area became impatient with waiting and finally got up and approached the women behind the glass, who yielded immediately and processed their applications. We finally decided to do the same.
The lady we approached was wooden. She took our applications, passports, and two self-addressed express mail envelopes and explained that as soon as her office receives a labor agreement from l'ANAEM (the department that approves foreigners to work in France), both of our applications will be approved.
This is both good news and bad news. It is unfortunate that the my labor agreement has not yet been sent despite quite a lot of effort on my part. But it's out of my hands, so we'll just have to be patient. The good news is that the lady we spoke with gave us the impression that Jefe's visa will not be a problem (i.e. that it is merely conditional on my visa).
We celebrated by going to see Tell No One (french title: Ne le dis a personne), which was spooky and terrific.
We are currently in negotiations to sublet (for the month of September, and perhaps to lease afterward) the apartment of the maitre de langue whose post I will be assuming in Poitiers. Here are pictures of her lovely apartment.
You'll have to imagine it stripped of furniture and other habiliments.
Okay, now picture it covered with bike parts and post-it notes.