An American Rucktard in Paris

I usually confine my write-ups to the event, and the notes of getting there are for me only. The trip to Normandy was fun enough that I felt the need to share.

I flew into Paris, was able to speak just enough French to get directions, and found the rental car place where I was to meet the rest of the team. We learned that foreign car rentals are a point where you really and truly must do your homework, as we hit a snag regarding what documents we had with us, who was covered under the insurance that had been paid for, etc. A few hours later we got that sorted out and headed to the parking garage to find the van.

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It had been listed as 7 passengers, 5 large suitcases. We soon realized that this was a typo. It should have said 7 passengers OR 5 large suitcases, not both.

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One of the team went back in to inquire about adding a second vehicle to take 2 people and create room in the van. She returned shortly and curtly said, “Everybody get your sh*t in the van. 500 euros for a Smartcar.”

We played human tetris and managed to pack everyone in.

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Off through the streets of Paris!

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We stopped as needed to get out and stretch, usually at gas stations. In one section where we couldn’t find a place to stop, we found signs indicating a picnic table and a tree…

And that was about all that was there. But it was a place we could park, and trees provided needed cover and concealment.

As we got loaded up, someone called for a clown car selfie:

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The discomfort was made a little better by the countryside we were driving past, many points of which I want to explore on a future trip.

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When we reached the team house, while we were a little crushed by the lack of wifi, we were overall impressed by the house. The main structure had been standing since sometime in the 1600s and was furnished to give a very rustic but still comfortable feel. It was nice.

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The details of the Challenge and the visit to Omaha Beach will be covered in the next blog post. Skipping ahead to the laundry situation created by a house full of 16 rucktards after a challenge:

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The insane clown car posse that I had ridden out with were happy that I was to leave a day early and create a little more room in the car. I and one of my teammates were able to find a train from the small town we were near to Caen and then on to Paris.

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The original plan had been to walk it to the Eiffel Tower and the Arch of Triumph from the train station. At this point I was tired, feet in terrible shape, and walking like a penguin due to chafing. I threw away the steel plates that I had used for weight for the challenge, and we decided to just say screw it and find the hotel.

We took the trains to the airport and found a cab. Paris cabbies do not deserve the grumpy reputation. Of all the places I have been, I have never had a cabbie offer me donuts before this.

A few hours sleep, catch the hotel shuttle back to the airport, and wish my teammate farewell as we split up to find our flights. First flight was a short hop to Dublin. I love Dublin’s airport. Free unlimited wifi, this place:

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to plug in your electronics and keep you connected with home, and a truly awesome little breakfast place.

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The down side is the redundant security checkpoints, as the EU, the rest of the EU, and the Americans can’t agree on standards. French security, on the plane, off the plane, Irish Security, walk 5 feet, American Security and Customs. A bright spot at Customs. I mentioned that the purpose of the trip had been for a D Day anniversary event. My customs official was former military and understood the significance of it. He looked at my declaration form and said wistfully, “Oh, you picked up some patches…”

I had them strapped to my hip along with my passport, so I got them out to share.

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He smiled and simply said, “Treasure those!”

The long flight back to Chicago. Part of the El train was shut down for repairs, so from the airport I took a train that dropped me at a bus, which took me to another train, which took me to the bus station to get back home.

My apartment only has on-street parking, so I had made arrangements to park my car at my gym while I was out of country. Being dropped off at the Greyhound station at 4 AM, carry 40 pounds of gear the half mile back to my apartment, then a 4 mile penguin shuffle to go get the car. I was actually impressed that I was able to keep steady 16 minute miles in that condition.

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