Four Panniers, Three Bicycles, Two Girls, and A Baby: I Want to Take my Daughters to Bicycle the Canal du Midi

There are only two things I love in this world as much as my family: France and bicycling.

Ever since Hesperus was born eleven years ago with her legs still curled in the fetal position I’ve imagined those legs on a bicycle in the French countryside. We’d flit from town to town stopping at boulangeries for baguettes and at chocolatiers for chocolate, drinking cider, and loading our panniers with miel du Provence.

I’ve been talking to my firstborn about this trip since she was old enough to say “Voilà!”

But the problem with a bicycle jaunt through southern France is multifold: no bicycle lanes, narrow roads, treacherous drivers, and hills that only Lance Armstrong can conquer easily.

Then there are the family constraints: In the years I’ve been mulling over how to afford the trip and where to go, I’ve added three more children to the mix.

The solution is the risk I was talking about in Friday’s post: a 149-mile bicycle trip along the Canal du Midi’s tow path, a perfectly flat lane where sycamores, not Citroëns, are parked alongside the path. The baby will ride with me, we’ll carry our stuff in panniers and a trailer, and we’ll stay in parked mobile homes in campgrounds along the way.

It was too expensive and too hot to go this summer. So I want to make the trip this fall.

Just this morning I found flights, entered in all our information and my credit card number. Then I hit START OVER instead of PURCHASE THIS ITINERARY.

To say I’m nervous about taking my 11-year-old, 9-year-old, and baby daughters on a ten-day bicycle trip on the Canal du Midi, starting in Toulouse and ending at the ocean is an understatement. There are so many reasons NOT to go.

Me: You don’t even know how to patch a tire.

Myself: That’s because you’re bad at all things mechanical.

I: You can learn! Tim at the bike store offers classes…

Me: You’re completely insane, this trip is way outside of anything we can afford right now.

Myself: You just paid off the credit card bill. It’s totally irresponsible to rack up debt.

I: [Gives a quiet sob and says nothing.]

Me: The baby might hate being in a bike trailer and cry the whole time.

Myself: Yeah, self-confidence, take that!

I: You’re a good traveler. She’ll get used to it. She’ll probably love it. We’ll take lots of breaks! You can do this.

Me: You haven’t even found a magazine or newspaper that will pay you to chronicle the trip.

Myself: [Laughs sinisterly.]

I: Two editors have expressed interest. Maybe some place will come through?

Me: Show me the contract!

Myself: Yeah, show me the contract!

I: We can’t wait for someone to say yes. If you don’t buy the tickets today, you need to table this dream. You don’t want to table this dream. Next year the baby will be too old to take and too young to leave. Athena says she’s been looking forward to this trip since she was three years old. You can do this, damned it.

I gotta go. Mr. Visa has some plane tickets to purchase.

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