As many of you know I spent last week in France riding the country side and watching some of the best stages of the Tour de France. Originally, I intended on doing more blogging, but a few items got in the way of that plan. The best excuse is that I was busy riding my bike a lot and the days were packed full of fun. There was nearly zero time for internet access because we stayed in chateaus rather than major hotels, making internet access less convenient. (Know that Im not complaining about this fact, just to be clear.)
The next few blogs will give you more detail about the rides and the actual trip. In this blog, I want to give you a few tips about foreign or long-distance travel for bicycle tours. I write this blog because I hope I can keep you from some troubles in the future. Lets begin at the beginning of the trip.
I was booked on a United flight to leave Colorado on Saturday afternoon, July 18th. I got to the airport a couple of hours early, checked in and then went to look for some lunch in the airport. Mid-lunch, I received an easy travel update from United, on my phone, that the flight was leaving at XX time.
I listened again and the departure time on this update was 1.5 hours beyond what I expected. I grabbed what remained of my lunch and high-tailed it to customer service. After standing in line for about 15 minutes, the woman at customer service was extremely helpful and booked me on a Star Alliance Lufthansa flight that was direct to Frankfurt, to replace the Denver-Chicago-Frankfurt flight. This was great because I could make my Frankfurt to Lyon, France flight with no changes and less actual time in an airplane.
The customer service woman was able to find my bike in the system and got it changed to the new Lufthansa flight. My one checked bag...was dicey. The system told her it was on hold which meant that it could be on an earlier flight to Chicago or it could be sitting and waiting to be loaded. She said not to worry, that they would be sure they got the bag to me one way or the other.
When I got to Lyon, France, the bike case did arrive but that checked bag did not. Here are a few things that saved the first four days of my trip:
1. I receive automated updates on my flight status on my phone and via e-mail. This update allowed me to get a jump on rescheduling the flight.
2. In my carry-on bag I had my helmet, bike shoes, pedals, shorts and a jersey. I had most of my critical toiletries as well. Very critical, I carried my hotel (chateau) itinerary with me. Because we were changing cities during the bike tour, the airline needed the detailed information to deliver the bag to the right place on the right day.
3. I borrowed arm warmers and a jacket from fellow, generous, cyclists for two of the rides.
4. At the end of each daily ride, I got into the shower wearing my cycling kit. I shampooed the kit first and after taking it off, washed my body.
5. To get the clothes to dry, I first wrung out as much water as possible. Then, I laid the clothes flat onto a bath towel. I rolled up the towel and used my knees (you can use your feet too) to squish the water into the towel. I then hung the kit in the window to catch the breeze.
6. Julie Gildred took me into town shopping to buy a couple of sets of clothes and a few toiletries to get me through until the airlines brought my luggage. She also called the airlines multiple times for me, to track my luggage while I was enjoying my bike rides. Great service from the tour operator.
7. Because I was not a business or first class traveler, nor was I a Lufthansa frequent flyer member, my luggage delivery was delayed by one day. I received the bag at the end of my fourth day in France.
8. In hindsight, Id recommend carrying one extra set of street clothes in your carry-on bag, if possible. Know that Lufthansa allows only one carry-on bag per person, and each airline has its own policy. Check the policy before you go to the airport because you might be planning on taking two carry-on bags when they only allow one. That written, this issue might catch you if you have to change flights and airlines like I did. (United allows two carry-on bags one personal item and one carry-on.)
By packing the essentials to get you through a few days without a checked bag, you can still enjoy your trip.
The next post is about the first day of riding.