Friday, July 2, 2010

Day 23: MFDS

We slept in late this morning. Over breakfast, we discussed the day's activities. We decided to split up; the boys go biking and the girls take a hike. My dad and I headed to the closest bike shop, and rented downhill mountain bikes. These bikes have full suspension, disc breaks, and huge front shocks. With the rental came a motorcycle-like helmet, knee pads and elbow pads. Though we laughed at the level of protection at the time, we did not know what was in store.

The ride to the ski lift from the shop was only a few hundred meters long, but it was straight uphill. The huge front suspension and low seat make the bikes ill fit for any uphill, not to mention this huge grade. I made it up the hill in a low gear, my dad got off and walked most of the way. We bought all-day passes for the ski lifts around town, and waited for the next cabin to come. My dad went in first, and I took the next cabin. It was an impossibly hot ride up the mountain; one kilometer of vertical elevation.

We got to the top, got out, and spent some time up there. We had a perfect view of Mont Blanc, and of all the hang gliders soaring through the air. After asking for directions, we suited up, took a photo, and prepared for our descent.

I went first. Our ride was down a very steep, very loosely packed gravel road. Standing on the pedals, with my butt behind the seat, I began slowly to gain confidence, and soon figured out that speed was the key to an easy and fun ride. I eased myself off the breaks, though still too dependent, and rushed down, yelping, for about five minutes. There I stopped to wait for my dad and to get a photo of him coming down the mountain. I waited about seven minutes and began to worry. Just as I was about to speed down the mountain so I could come back up and find him (the hill was way too steep to consider going back up it) he came around the bend at a snail's pace. He had been at the top fussing with the gear, he had walked some, and the rest he had taken very slowly. After coaxing him to speed up, I continued down.

Five switchbacks later I stopped again to wait for him. I waited here for more than ten minutes. He finally came walking down the hill. He had fallen just after we met, and was all shook up. He told me it was too hard, and he was going to walk down, and he'd meet me after my second run. The next section was the steepest and loosest, and I went down the whole way loudly singing MFDS and Don't Stop Me Now. I only had a few awkward encounters with hikers annoyed with my obnoxiousness, I was luckily moving fast enough that I didn't have to interact at all.

After passing a pile of steel beams, the road smoothed out a bit, and I went really fast here, as there was less to fear. The last little bit got steep again, and then I was back at the lift. I took a little break, drank some water, and refilled my bottle, and then got back on the lift. I started back down the mountain, a little more confident, and much quieter. But, when I got back to the bottom, I hadn't passed my dad at all. So I figured he had taken a shortcut, because surely he'd wait at the lift for me if he got down before me. I waited for fifteen minutes, and then tried to call him, but I didn't have my cell with me. I asked around, got a lot of no's, and the phones I was allowed to use couldn't call his American cell phone. I went down the hill to the bike shop, but it was closed, like everything else in France from noon to two. I walked up the hill this time, deciding he was either fine and back at the hotel, or was somewhere on the mountain, and I had time for another run.

This was my fastest run of the day; one kilometer in less than fifteen minutes. I barely stopped, and knew all the routes I wanted to take. It was awesome. I went back to the hotel, grabbed my cell, and called my dad.
He had gotten down before I did, and went to the bike store, and then went to find my mom and sister. When I called, he headed back to the hotel apologetically, and we grabbed some lunch. After lunch, we went to bike shop to ask for a new route. He pointed us to a trail he thought was bikeable up the same lift. We went up, and found the trail. It was singletrack, and had very short runs before switchbacks, read: not suitable for us to bike it. So, we were going to do the same run again. I convinced my dad to try again. He went down the first little part, decided it wasn't for him, and headed back up to take the lift down. I went down, a bit slower this time. A helicopter deafened me, and I looked up to see a huge steel piece dangling from the helicopter right over my head, and I figured out that it was an old lift piece, being moved to the pile I had seen before. I kept biking, and just before I got to the pile, another helicopter came with a dangling piece. I stopped for the show, my back up against the mountain, scared of being taken out by the helicopter blades.

It came down to eye level with me, a guy unhooked the ski part, and the helicopter went back up the hill. After taking some pictures of the action, I got back on the bike and rode the rest of the way down. I gave back the stuff to the shop, and went to the hotel. My sister and I went swimming for a little in the hotel's small pool, and then relaxed in the room til dinner. We walked around town for a long time looking for a place to eat, guided by my mom's guidebook this time. The first place it lead us was too fancy, so we backtracked and ate at a good Italian restaurant, whetting my palate for the Italian experience I'm about to have.

After dinner, we played cards, packed up, and went to bed.

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