Skating around Paris

October 24, 2001

Otherwise, Catherine is feeling much better, but stayed home today and we went together to get a new brake for my skates. She decided to try a pair on, and ended up being quite comfortable on them. We therefore rented a pair along with pads, and skated home. It should be noted that this was done under rather difficult conditions, since it was raining. However, Catherine was able to handle almost all the hazards, and only fell 3 times. In particular, she was able to cross all the cobbled areas, something which I had only learned how to do on Sunday. I think she has aa talent for it.

Well, we had some excitement, as we went out for a nocturnal skate and I guess I didn't think too much about the fact that Montparnasse is more elevated, so it ended up with Catherine on a "death ride" descent in which she saw her life flash before her with me trying to catch up and stop her. The first time on Vavin, but she was rather clever in doing a sharp right turn near the Vavin cafe (at the 45 degree intersection near the Lurcenaire). The second one was was the cobblestone street leading to St. Sulpice (rue Ferou where Pour La Science is at). This was interesting, as it is cobblestones and has a 2ft wide sidewalk with poles every 3ft. Anyway, I was on the point of telling her to take the skates off and walk down, when she just started down and was quickly going about 25kph which is about 20kph faster than she was ready to handle. At some point she managed to go from sidewalk to street her idea being that the high rolling resistance of the cobbles would reduce her speed. She managed to do this and I found her at the bottom, since I had to go rather slow since my ability to ride cobbles is pretty limited. Oh, and I forgot, after she realized the error of her ways in descending said street she yelled "je vais mourir" in a way which left no doubt as to her sincerity. Actually, I also left out the fact that she had yet another crash on her now well-worn bum when trying to cross rue Vaugigard. Though she has yet to hit her head, the sinus problems is causing about as much head pain due to the resulting shock waves travelling up to the cranium. The result of this was a long tirade about the uselessness of this sport, somewhat along the same lines as I gave when I was learning, but she has paradoxically organized a "much longer" ride tomorrow, but on supposedly flat bike path on the canal d'Ourcq.

October 25, 2001

So we took the rental skates out to the canal d'Ourcq using the M 5 line out to Pantin. This started as a rather trying exercise due to the large number of cobbles including two 400m long sections (more later). Anyway, I just took my skates off on the first and walked, but Cath managed to cross OK. Then was a downhill section on rough on pavement followed by an off camber level crossing, but Cath managed to turn in time to avoid more disaster. After a couple of bridges forcing us to sidestep down, we finally reached a smooth bikepath which allowed us to glide effortlessly for about 5K. However, we got to the second paved section which consisted of large breadloaf sized bricks. I gave up on the first section partly because I wasn't warmed up, but I thought I would be able to handle these because I learned how to do this pretty well on Sunday. However, the size proved to make them impracticable. In the meantime, Catherine took the wet cobbled section and crashed into deep cobbled mud and cut three of her fingers. Since these were soaked in mud, measures had to be taken and there was a construction site right there, so we went in. The guys were pretty nice and she got her hand hosed down and they even put band-aids on. I think this is pretty typical of the French characteristic of "depanner". Amusingly, we had observed cyclists going on the edge of the path to avoid cobbles, and I was wondering how many of them fell in and the guy told us that they have to fish them out pretty often, though the bike has to stay in the canal.

Amazingly, Catherine was undeterred, and definitely wanted to make it to the forest of Sevran. We dealt with more ups and downs and one more Cath crash, but made it. This was the nice part of the path except for the profusion of dead leaves. We then took the RER which was 200 meters from the path. This means that we can come back to this path directly from the RER B.

So, we went back to the skate shop and Catherine reserved some better skates to rent on Saturday. However, she tried on some new skates to see how they fit. Anyway, they fit so well that she decided to buy them. K2 Velocity Titanium, which is an incredibly good set of skates and 1200FF.

So now we are all set to skate together. I couldn't believe how good she was. I would be going along on the path and all of a sudden realize that I was dropped and had to get some head of steam to catch up. I got a good workout, and I think that Catherine probably will have better technique so will be able to go faster with less effort.

After this ride, I checked out the newsgroup and found a website that entirely devoted to the hazards of the Canal d'Ourcq bike path (click on the "photos" link at the bottom of the page).

December 9, 2001

Here is a short Glossary:

We decided to check out a ride on the banks of the Seine today and took the RER A in the direction of the often mentioned, but never seen, Cergy-Pontoise, but took care to get off before, so that Cergy could maintain its aura of the "forbidden fruit." In fact, we had to get off at Conflans fin de Oise, in order to ride on the Seine. This place is much further than where we went 2 weeks ago and is no longer Paris suburbs, much to Catherine's delight.

Anyway, in order to get going as quickly as possible, Catherine decided to put her skates on in the train, and I followed suit. The fact that this was a double-decker complicated this slightly (the stairs that is), but I solved the problem by walking to the door at the penultimate station while the train was not moving.

Catherine needed to go to the bathroom bad, so hadn't put on her wristguard, which would interfere with outdoor relief. However, I felt that, like an airplane flight, the first 3 minutes of a roller ride are the most dangerous and managed to convince her to put them on. After taking the elevator and walking up some stairs, we ended up outside with no idea where to head. As I was trying to get my bearings, I noted Catherine coasting at a high rate of speed down the hill, unable to stop, in order to avoid disaster, she tried to turn up hill, and encountered an island (this was at the bus stop serving the train station), managed to jump on, but lost her balance and fell for the first time in a month.

Next, we figured out how to get to the river, which, of course, was downhill. The next words I heard were "Ilan!" as Catherine flew by applying her brake to the ground with zero effect. I chased her down, grabbed her jersey from behind and managed to stop her before she reached the rather busy highway below.

Anyway, we finally got onto the river path. However, no longer having to think about where to go brought to the fore the natural concerns, and relief became the #1 priority. We went on the lookout for suitable spots. On previous rides, relief had been obtained in the woods, but this setting was bereft of such amenities. Catherine decided to use her favorite method of youth, hiding between two cars. So, she found a suitable vehicle, pulled down the tights and crouched, expecting nature to take its course. However, it turned out that this was the first time she had attempted this manoeuvre on skates + concrete. As you know, this combination is designed to slide, which it did faultlessly. Result: Catherine did what must be a first for humanity, she actually crashed skating on her naked butt! After much hilarity/embarrassment, she got up and pulled tights.

The problem was finally solved when we found a relatively discrete staircase leading away from the river bank. Catherine did her business with only a handful of cars getting an eyefull.

The rest of the ride was extremely nice. Except for some small cobblestone sections, the road was smooth and virtually deserted. Amazingly, this place is far removed from Paris in the sense that cars would continually yield to us, and not even one person honked his horn in miles of skating on the street. Similary, the decor reminded us of Auxerre, the Seine was calm and we could see churches, etc. in the distance.

On the way back, Catherine recognised a couple we had seen on a TV talk show about couples in love. This couple consisted of a former French bodybuilding champion who had become a male dancer (i.e., Chippendales), and had expressed difficulty finding his soulmate. Anyway, he was on the show with his girlfriend of 6 months, who wasn't too athletic, and there were some revealing scenes in which he warned her not to eat a couple of grams of fat with the manipulative: "don't come crying to me later when you've gained weight." We didn't bring this up, but only mentioned that we recognized them, and basically, that we wanted to know where the bike path led to.

We got back to the station after 2 hours, and were psyched to get back home to watch the Lara Fabian documentary on TV, which promised to reveal even more about this dreadful person than we already knew. However, the trains were all delayed, and we waited without any sign that one was ever going to come. Also, the sun had set and it was getting cold, about zero C, which is not too good after you've been working out for hours. Anyway, Catherine figured out that there was a 2nd station not too far away serving another train line, so we walked over there. Eventually, everyone did the same, but after 45 minutes, no train had come. In fact, people at the station had alread been waiting almost 2 hours.

At about this point, Catherine lost it and told me that she wanted to go to town and have a coffee and warm up, and come back in a couple of hours by which time the train traffic would have resumed. Being somewhat familiar with these types of provincial towns, I didn't think there would be much of a chance of finding a cafe open at 5:30 pm on Sunday. However, Catherine was adamant and started saying fairly audibly that she was cold and hungry and had to go pee, and that she had enough. There were about 50 people waiting who all seemed fairly calm. I tried to remind her that this hardship was nothing compared with the trials of WWII, etc., but that didn't seem to change her mind. Instead, she said that she would go and find the Cafe herself and would meet me back at the house in Paris. I definitely thought that the consistent plan of waiting for the train was a better idea than a wild goose chase in a deserted town, moreover, the shelter we were in was significantly warmer than the temperature outside.

Anyway, I used the old soap-opera solution (when two ex's get back together because they are stuck on some mountain and one of them has hypothermia, so they take their clothes off, which is how hypothermia is cured, as everyone knows, and they end up shagging) to use my body heat to warm her up. This worked, even thoug we remained clothed, and amazingly, the train arrived 10 minutes later. Total waiting time: 1 hour.

Anyway, after all this excitement, we decided to get some chow at the Hippopotamus at Montparnasse. I guess I didn't mention it, but the last 2 times we went to the Hippo were disastrous (Montparnasse and Vavin) and time lived up to the others. The service wasn't horrible, but since the prices aren't that good, you expect your hors d'oeuvres in less than 1/2 hour, and when you ask for ice for you Coke, maybe you could get it after the 2nd try. Also, if they are out of baked potatoes, they should substitute fries without asking you whether you might want another subtitution. Not too bad, but I guess I used up all my patience at the train station...

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