Back By Mildly Casual Demand

Final stop in France.Lyon-Saint-Exupéry Airport.

Final stop in France.
Lyon-Saint-Exupéry Airport.

Neglect. Sheer neglect. And maybe a dash of busyness. Okay, maybe more than a dash of busyness. I know, I know … that sounds like a lot of excuses. And you’re right. Side note: Is “busyness” even a word? My research shows mixed results. Anyway, over the past few days I’ve had multiple people comment about the lack of a “final” update from my European tour. Admittedly, my failure to post an update since returning to Canada is entirely unacceptable. I hang my head in shame.

Okay, my head is no longer hanging – no point wallowing in shame. Time to move on with the update. Yes, the VERY LONG overdue update. And be warned, this update has the potential to go a bit long.

At the time of my last update I was still in France. It’s crazy how long ago that seems. The plan at that time was to spend my final day finishing off some freelance work. And that’s what I did. I know, I know. Not exactly riveting material. I did take a brief break to try to source out some groceries which ended up being a very successful endeavour. Not only did I not have to bike as far as I originally anticipated (not that I really would’ve minded a longer ride but rain was threatening and I didn’t want to get caught in it. Spoiler alert: It didn’t rain) but I also was able to get one last baguette before bidding adieu (or perhaps au revoir) to France.

Continental Breakfast, Day One.

Continental Breakfast, Day One.

Oh, and while I’m on the topic of food, the continental breakfasts I had over my final two days were pretty much two polar opposites from Day One to Day Two. Odd, considering I was at the same hotel for both nights.

For whatever reason, the continental breakfast on Day One was served at the neighbouring restaurant and, well … as continental breakfasts go, it was pretty great. Actually, as breakfasts in general go, it was pretty great. Fresh fruit, breads, pastries, cereal. A veritable feast. Day Two’s breakfast was at the hotel. As continental breakfasts go, it was pretty lacking. Actually, as breakfasts in general go, it was pretty lacking. They had a beverage that was essentially orange juice, there was some not so fresh bread, and … well, that’s about it. Oh, and they did have packets of Nutella. And I may have pilfered more than a few of said packets for the flight back to Canada.

Continental "Breakfast", Day Two.

Continental “Breakfast”, Day Two.

As for my flight, it was scheduled to leave Lyon at 13:00 which meant there wasn’t a whole lot of urgency to my morning. Yes, I was biking to the airport but it was a mere 20 minute ride. A LEISURELY 20 minute ride. I’m not going to lie, I much prefer biking FROM an airport rather than TO an airport. That said, and end of trip notwithstanding, there’s something kind of fun about biking to the airport. Plus, it’s the first time I’d ever done so.

Despite the leisureliness of my morning, my return to Canada was not without incident. And, as is often the case with “incidents”, this one was not particularly pleasurable.

Having taken my bike on a plane on multiple occasions, I am not unfamiliar with the usual process. That process consists of finding a local bike shop, requesting an empty bike box they hopefully have lying around, and then dismantling my bike to fit inside said box. Not the most pleasant of tasks but certainly well within the realm of first world problems (if you can even consider it a “problem”). That said, I thought I would try to avoid the process this time around which is what allowed me to even bike to the airport at all.

I had heard reports – including first hand from a fellow cyclist I met at the campground in Oban (oh so many kilometres ago) – that Air Transat doesn’t require the dismantling and boxing up of one’s bike. It also doesn’t charge $150 for said bike (unlike another major airline which I won’t name … but it rhymes with Bair Banada). Yes, Air Transat charges a fee but it was a reasonable 24 euros.

According to Air Transat’s website, they would provide a large plastic bag into which I could roll my bike and they would take care of the rest – actually, I had to remove the pedals and turn the handlebars sideways but that’s pretty effortless. Of course, as I was reading their website I couldn’t help but think, “This sounds too good to be true.” And yet I proceeded.

Not promising. And this was BEFORE I removed the wheels.

Not promising.
And this was BEFORE I removed the wheels.

When I checked in with Air Transat at the airport they did in fact provide a large bag in which I could roll my bike. Oh, they also told me I had to take the air out of my tires. I did. Fortunately, not all of it because moments after getting my bike (with now somewhat flat tires) into the bag, they told me I’d have to take said bike down to the far end of the terminal to the oversize baggage area. Not surprising, but why didn’t they tell me that BEFORE I let the air out and put the bike in the bag. Grrrrr.

Oh, and I already had to go to the far end of the terminal to pay the 24€ fee. So, after two trips across the terminal, and re-bagging my bike, I was ready to hand my bagged up bike to the good people at the oversize baggage area. And I did. Sadly, this is where things took a turn for the worse. I’ll skip some of the details (although, I clearly haven’t thus far) and get to the part where they told me I’d have to remove the wheels from my bike. Sigh/Grrrrrr.

At this point, I knew two things. One, there was no point in trying to argue because, well … I don’t speak French and the only English speaking person available really wanted little to do with the situation. Understandable. Two, for the second time on this trip I was going to be the owner of a damaged bike. The only question was, “How bad would the damage be?”

Side note: As you may have gathered, the reason one boxes up a bike is for protection. It keeps everything where it needs to be and does so while providing stability to those more vulnerable areas. When one DOESN’T box up a bike the ONLY protection said bike has comes from its wheels. If only I knew how to say that in French … although, I doubt it would have mattered.

The next 20 minutes were spent removing the wheels from my bike and trying to figure out a way to tape things together in such a way that would give my bike its best chance of survival as it traversed its way through the mysterious back passages of Lyon–Saint-Exupéry Airport to the belly of the plane that was bound for Toronto. And speaking of the plane, if my flight to Toronto was direct I would’ve given my bike a 10% chance of arriving in Canada unscathed. However, given that there was a connecting flight in Montreal, I dropped that estimation to about 0.08%. Maybe I should have been an actuary.

Fast-forward about 12 hours and I was walking off the plane in Toronto. I’m skipping details about the flights because both flights were entirely uneventful – actually, as we were turning onto our final approach, there was one steep and rough turn that I got the feeling wasn’t SUPPOSED to be that steep or rough. I won’t lie, it was kind of fun. Apart from our near crash, the flights were good. Actually, the flight from Montreal was delayed while we waited for a couple of passengers that didn’t show up. Grrrrr. Okay, so the flights weren’t great. But they landed where they were supposed and, quite frankly, to me that’s a good flight.

I had a brief brain cramp as I went through Canadian Customs – although, it didn’t feel “brief” at the time. You’d think the question, “Where are you coming from?” would be an easy answer. I drew a blank. I think my mind was on my bike. It clearly wasn’t on where I had just spent 12 hours flying away from. Fortunately, the little hamster in my brain eventually woke up, started running again, and I was able to utter, “Lyon, France”. Although, I think I said it more as a question than a statement. Fortunately, there were no further trick questions after that.

In keeping with the leisurely pace of the day, it took more than a little while for the baggage to get from the plane to the baggage carousel. And by “a little while” I mean it took longer than the actual flight from Montreal to Toronto. For whatever reason, I really wasn’t upset by any of that. I just waited patiently. After all, every minute that passed was one more minute where I could dream that my bike was still undamaged.

I’m not going to lie, despite the long wait it was a short lived dream.

It could've been worse.

It could’ve been worse.

On the upside, the damage wasn’t as bad as I had feared. Quite frankly, I expected a LOT worse. That said, the parts that were damaged did not come at all as a surprise. With the wheels removed, certain parts (i.e. fenders, front rack, and rear derailleur) were left completely unprotected and as such were beyond repair. I initially thought my brakes/shifters were damaged but upon further review they had just rotated a bit on the handlebars. They clearly were not entirely handled with care.

I’ll fast-forward again. This time to the response from Air Transat. I’m fast-forwarding because it took a couple of weeks to get a response from the Baggage Claims Department. That said, the Air Transat people I spoke with at the Terminal were very friendly and helpful. It turns out, so were the people from the Baggage Claims Department. It turns out they are going to reimburse me for the necessary repairs which amount to about $240. I’m actually still waiting for parts to arrive at my local bike shop but I’m hoping that will happen today – there was a little mix up with the order. Fortunately, I was able to get the derailleur fixed a few weeks ago which made my bike ridable again.

And that pretty much sums up the final days of Mark’s Midlife Crisis 2016.

Generally Random Side note: Terminal 2 at Pearson International Airport is a disaster. Yes, it’s under construction and I’m sure eventually it will be very nice but it’s currently a disaster. Yes, in a “first world” kind of way.

Since returning from Europe I’ve essentially been working. A lot. Which was the reason I opted to cut my European tour shorter than initially planned. In an ideal world I’d be in Southern France or beyond right now but I have to pay for these adventures after all (until someone decides to sponsor my tours!).

From the happy/sad department, my return to Canada brought with it a reunion with my beloved 1977 Nishiki International that I had to ship back from Scotland in July. It still pains me to see it in its damaged state but I’d be lying if I said I couldn’t help but smile when I opened up the box and saw that shiny red frame again.

I’m tempted to add a FAQ section to my blog but at this point it would only contain one question, “Where are you going next?” At the moment, I have no answer. Ideas. Thoughts. But nothing reportable at this point. That response has been met with general disappointment by any that have asked. For what it’s worth, I don’t like it either. But I hope to have a more satisfying response sooner rather than later. On the upside, it looks like I’ll be returning to both Cuba and Africa in the not too distant future.

Thanks to everyone that followed me on my most recent Crisis. And thanks to all who left notes and comments along the way – it’s always nice to read them (well, not the spam messages).

… and now THAT’s a wrap. Until the next adventure. And I’m not going to lie, I’m looking forward to it.

Mark’s Midlife Crisis will return.

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2 Comments to Back By Mildly Casual Demand

  1. Jeffrey says:

    Now I feel better having closure on this adventure! Thank-you!

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