August 25, Observatoire de Sauverny, Geneva, Switzerland

Today was a really tough ride–but quite rewarding in many ways. I set my alarm for 6 AM, so I could get an early start. The first order of business when starting out in the morning is to make sure that the iPhone is fully charged. The office didn’t open until 9, which meant that I would not get on the road until about 10:30. All of these campgrounds suggest that you just charge your phone in the restroom. Well, here is a sign that was in the mens room at last night’s campground:

Don't leave your phone unattended

Don’t leave your phone unattended

This whole charging of the electronics business has been the hardest part of the entire campground experience! I ended up using Google Translate to ask an older couple if I could use their electricity to charge my phone, and they said yes. That saved me about an hour. I got on the road a little after 9:00.

According to the map, I only had 46 km to go to Geneva and then no more than 10 to get to the observatory, where I would be staying the night. But I know better by now, and Geneva would be ** hard**. I had to save a lot of time and energy to get through that part of the ride; hence, the early departure.

Yesterday was awesome! Most of the ride was on paved bike paths, and it was great! Hey–by the way, I used a willow tree at the campground to help dry my clothes:

Camp Acton

Camp Acton

I started out today, on a path that was literally 50 feet from my camp. This eventually dumped me back onto the local highway, but with a dedicated bike lane. I’m not sure if the dashed lines and the painted pictures of bikes was there to keep me in my lane, or to keep the cars away. I suspect that paint on the road does little for actual safety, but it sure makes me feel better.

 

After a couple of miles, I was faces with a dilemma. In order to understand this, you first need to know what I am working with here. I downloaded a GPX file from the internet that shows a bike route from Terifa Spain, to Amsterdam. This is what I am riding on. France has also established certain bike routes, and labeled them as such on the roads with signs. For the most part, the two routes agree.

Well, I came to a place where they did not. Refer to the map below:

A departure from the bike route

A departure from the bike route

The red line shows where the internet GPX file wanted me to ride. But the blue dot shows the route I took, because the French “Velo-Rhone” path signs said to go there. Yesterday was such a good experience on the bike paths, that I decided I would just follow the posted bike routes. In retrospect, look at where the river is. What determines where a river flows? I am sure it has something to do with it being the lowest path through an area. Now, you don’t see this on the map, but there are mountains everywhere. So, think this through (something I did not do): If you are in mountains, and you move away from the lowest spot, what do you think you will encounter? Hills! Gut-wrenching, lung-busting endless hills! I had an opportunity to return to the highway, but hypothesized that, since it eventually moved away from the river, then some of the climbing that I had to do would have been necessary no matter what. So, I decided to stay the course. In the end, it cost me about an hour and a TON of climbing that I would not have had to do otherwise. But the view was wonderful.

Part of today's climb

Part of today’s climb

Now take a look at that church at the top of the hill. I’ve done a few dozen climbs like this in France. You get to the top of a hill, and that is where the church is. In America, we talk about Europe as being “post-religion.” This is really unfortunate. But my theory is that it got that way because people were just sick and tired of having to climb to the top of the blasted hill just to go to church!

On the way down, just before I got back to the highway, I met a couple. I greeted them in French and asked them if I could please speak to them in English. They said, “Yeh–no problem, we’re one of you.” They were from England. I warned them about the upcoming climb and suggested that they just go back to the highway. They decided to continue, but warned **me** about the road coming out of Geneva. They referred to it as a “goat path.” Ugh! After my mistake in taking the detour, I didn’t know if I had a “goat path” in me today. Well, it is what it is.

The cross into Switzerland was uneventful. By this, I mean that there was no event; an event being, for example, a sign saying that I did. I expected some kind of passport control, justification to enter the country. But there wasn’t even a SIGN saying that I did so! I found out when I stopped at a small gas station to buy a bottle of Gatorade. They wanted me to pay them in Francs!

Here is the first bike path I experienced in Switzerland:

The Swiss take cycling seriously

The Swiss take cycling seriously

Unfortunately, I had taken a wrong turn drawn on by the awesome path. Here is what MY path looked like:

The "Goat Path"

The “Goat Path”

At one point, I had to cross a bridge and, on the other end of the bridge….. stairs! Stairs? On a bike path? Is this Switzerland’s way of thumbing their nose at the EU? I had to take some of the bags off of my bike and push it up the stairs, using the slot. The slot actually bothered me, because it said, “Yeh, you can do this” instead of just accepting that this was ludicrous.

Bicycle stairs

Bicycle stairs

 

I need to point out that I am only showing you about 2/3 of the stairs. So, “Thanks for the hernia!”

Eventually, the goat path returned to normal and I found myself within about 10 km of where I would need to deviate from the established cycle route and head to the observatory. So, I fired up google maps with the address…. and nothing.

This was the first time I had tried using data after crossing into Switzerland and it DID NOT WORK.

I need you to understand the significance of the above statement. Without my cell phone, I cannot navigate, find a place to sleep, contact anyone on Email. I was basically screwed.

This was towards the end of an exhausting day. I did not know what I would do, and I was starting to get really worried.

I had an old text message from back when I was in Gibraltar; sort of a “call this number if you have any more T-Mobil questions.” Well, I dialed that number (the phone still worked). After working my way through a voice message tree, I found myself talking to a delightful young lady whose name escapes me. I explained my situation to her, told her that I was on a bike and would be absolutely lost if the data could not be restored.

From the minute I starting talking to her, I felt reassurance. All of my near panic went away, and I knew that I was in good hands. This was going to work out ok. She suggested that I should turn off the automatic carrier selection and instead choose one of a couple that she knew worked well in Switzerland. To do this, however, I would need to hang up. But–don’t worry, she would call me back in 20 minutes to make sure everything was OK.

 

I did what she suggested and—it worked! I just needed to switch carriers. My little girl, Stacy (Yes–I know she’s not really little, but she will always be to me) used to work in a call center. As such, I know how difficult this job can be. And, when I was in a foreign country, and the end of my physical endurance and mental control, I reached out to customer support at T-Mobil and found an angel; a person who could not only give me emotional support, but also fix my problem. In retrospect, I wish I had told this young woman how important she was to me in the moment, and how she really got me out of a bad situation…..

OK–I’m joking. Of course I told her! I went on, and on, about how she had literally saved my skin, and how much I appreciated what she does, and how hard I know her job is, and on and on and on. She eventually had to cut ME off so she could get on with her job. She said I had made her day. She saved mine.

Having restored my navigation, I moved through Geneva through a literal maze of paths and cycle ways. Yes, I cycled through downtown Geneva near rush hour!

Downtown Geneva

Downtown Geneva

Eventually, I actually got to see lake Geneva:

Lake Geneva

Lake Geneva

Now I am at the observatory and have received all manner of hospitality. My talk is at 11 tomorrow. Until then,

 

Scott

 

 

Scott

5 Responses to “August 25, Observatoire de Sauverny, Geneva, Switzerland

  • Bonnie
    1 year ago

    Love your bog and check it daily. Thank you for taking us along with you with your writing!

  • Bonnie
    1 year ago

    Blog , not bog! I sure hope you don’t end up in any bogs!

  • What’s wrong with steps on a bike path?

    I’m wondering what I would do!

  • Rich, getting up that by myself was hard. But with a team? Piece of cake, you included!

  • Hi, I just found your trip blog over one year after you finished. A much too late tip: I rode some of the Pacific Coast Highway a few years ago and used a small solar panel to keep my phone charged. Mine was a car battery charging panel that I rewired, using a USB car charger plugged into it to keep my phone charged. It worked quite well. You can buy various panels made for this for under $50 https://www.anker.com/products/variant/PowerPort-Solar-Lite-2-Ports/A2422011 Also, I carry a USB battery pack that will fully charge my phone three or four times.

    I was on JWST (Electrical Engineer) for seven years at Goddard Space Flight Center, BTW. I moved onto another project earlier this year. As I’m sure you know, JWST has left Goddard and is now in Houston operating in the HUGE cryo-vac chamber in the Houston flooding.

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