Day 7. Sunday, June 7, 2015 … Lyons-la-Foret … 70 miles/360 total … A man, a plan, a canal, Panama

7 Day strawberries

Love this town.

Was going to keep riding, on to Rouen, but felt a connection with Lyons- la-Foret as soon as I got here, and decided to stay the night. Plus, was really tired. Think 70 miles is my limit. Maybe 60. And Rouen was another 20, and the thought of riding that far – to a big, loud city – and trying to find a hotel wasn’t appealing.

Plus, fell earlier today. My knee and elbow are scrapped up and throbbing. More on this later.

Lyons-la-Foret is a small village surrounded by forests, which you probably figured out from the name: Foret = forest. In the center square, there’s a huge, covered market with some sort of thatched roof that is higher than the building beneath it is tall. By like double. The town is filled with all these cool, half-timbered buildings. The brochure from the tourist office says Lyons is a Les Plus Beaux Villages de France. This means it’s one of the most beautiful villages in France.

Damn, I sure have good taste in French villages!

According to the Beautiful Villages website, Lyons “stretches out its facades decked with half-timbering, colourful daub and bricks along the River Lieure. Shops busily ply their trade around the 18C covered market where other jewels of local architecture such as the Vieux Logis or former bailiwick that has since become the town hall can also be seen.”


It’s where the bailiff works.


Someone with the legal authority to collect debts. You know: a loan shark.

The English translations of French tourist blurbs on websites and in brochures are hilarious, but probably not by design. Bet the Japanese translations are even funnier, but I can’t read Japanese so I’ll never know for sure. Will ask the next Japanese person I meet who speaks English. Hey, maybe I can get a job roaming the French countryside, by bike, proofreading and copy editing the blurbs on the websites and brochures of all the local tourist boards into proper English. Could team up with a Japanese man or woman, maybe a Tokyo newspaper reporter who was recently laid off. We could start a business.


OK, here’s the scoop on my fall. Was heading out of Beauvais and had to cross some railroad tracks. They went diagonally across the road, wasn’t paying enough attention, my front wheel got caught in the track at a funny angle … and down I went.

Fortunately, had slowed down to go across the tracks and was probably only going 9 or 10 miles an hour. Even more fortunately, went down on my right side, the side that wasn’t so badly injured and broken up in the murderous incident. Even more fortunately, didn’t hit my head. Another concussion could be really bad. Like former-NFL-player bad. I’m not saying this to be funny; I’m serious. Ever since my incident, can’t watch football any more. And I used to love to watch football. Can’t stand to watch the players smash their heads into one another. And can’t watch the Tour de France any more. Too many crashes. No more watching boxing. Or MMA. Actually, never watched boxing or MMA.

The fall today didn’t really hurt that much, or, maybe I’m immune to pain at this point. Sort of lay there for a minute or two, trying to calm down enough to assess the damage and determine if anything was broken or bloody and whether or not my bike trip was over.

Wiggled my right foot and ankle and everything seemed OK. Moved my right knee and hip around and, while my knee hurt a bit and was scratched up some, there didn’t seem to be anything broken. My right elbow was also scraped up, but everything was still working properly and nothing seemed to be broken. Took a few deep, cleansing breaths, stood up, dusted myself off, squirted some water on my scrapes, got back on my bike and started peddling.

Might be sore tomorrow, but think I’m OK.

I hereby solemnly promise to be extra, extra careful going across railroad tracks for the rest of this trip.


Have been avoiding the real world since France. Well, my real world. Have thought about, considered, been tempted to … and have yet to open email. Even though I’ve had Wee-Fee availability almost every night and have been online, looking up stuff about the towns I’m in or headed toward. Wee- Fee is everywhere over here. But what the hell, it’s been a week, and I’m sure there are a few people – you know, like Mom – wondering about me and maybe even a little worried. Like Mom.

Hang on, I’m going to reconnect with the world and open email…

Holy crap, 237 emails.

Most are spam. There’s like 11 emails from Rosetta Stone, and they all say the same thing: This is your absolute, last chance to learn French for only $199. This offer expires tonight. And then they send the same email two days later. This is what I get for going on their website once, more than a year ago, when I was thinking about learning how to speak a little French before our anniversary trip to the Loire.

Crowd Savings also sent a lot of spam. Hey, wait, I wonder what the word for spam is in French. Bet spam is still spam over here, in China and everywhere else in the world. Spam is spam. Could spend $199 to get Rosetta Stone and find out for sure. As for Crowd Savings, the most recent email was for an amazing deal for a 3-pack of Ahh Bras, in black, white and beige, reduced from $59.99 to $16.00. Wow, only $16.00.

Ahh, if only I needed bras. sent info about hotels in Bayeux. How do they know I’m headed for Bayeux Oh wait, went on a few days ago and looked for hotels in Bayeux. Damn, Mom has no idea where I am or where I’m headed, but does.

And maybe the NSA.

Seven new people are following me on Twitter. Haven’t tweeted anything since I left the paper, since there’s nothing in the paper I want to promote any more and that’s the whole point of Twitter (at least for newspaper reporters). Haven’t posted anything on Facebook since I left for France, and don’t think I’ll start tonight. It’s tempting. It’s such an easy way to let everyone know where I am and rub it in that I’m biking in France and they’re not. Isn’t making your friends jealous the whole point of Facebook? But, if I post something, then people will comment and email me and I’ll have to answer them and … it’s just not worth it. Too much work. I like the fact that nobody knows where I am, and that I’m now all alone, with no responsibilities, no people to interview, no court filings to read, no articles to finish on deadline and no editors to make happy.

I’m free.

Only a few people know I’m here in France. And nobody knows I’m in Lyons-la-Foret. Not even Moved out of our condo after the closing sale, holed up in a hotel for two days – and flew off to France. Wonder if anyone’s even noticed I’m gone? Maybe I’m the tree that fell in the Lyons-la-Foret and nobody can hear my desperate screams for help. Or me ordering another vin rouge.


Did get a few actual emails from actual people. Three from Mom, which shows great restraint on her part. Bet Mom wanted to email me twice a day, every day. Mom’s emails, of course, described the weather back home in great detail. It seems they’ve been getting a lot of rain, but the past few days have been dry. Fascinating! She seemed worried about me, but tried not to sound too worried. A son can tell. Mom just wants to know that I’m OK, and having a good time, and wants to know where I am and where I’m headed and what I’ve seen.

So does Dad.

Speaking of Dad, I now understand a few of his age-related issues. He’s 72. For example, he doesn’t like restaurants so much anymore.

“All that noise,” he says. “It comes at me from every direction and I can’t hear what anyone at my table is saying. All I hear is bits and pieces of every conversation in the restaurant. It’s frustrating. Let’s just eat at home. Your mother will make you a nice dinner, a nice piece of fish.”

This is exactly what’s it’s been like for me since the TBI. It’s not as bad as it was at first, but is still pretty darn annoying. Especially the clanking and clanging of dishes and silverware in restaurants. They’re like a series of tiny smacks on the head, like someone flicking me over and over with their finger. If a waiter or busboy ever drops and breaks a dish … wow, that really hurts!

And certain laughs, like a high-pitched cackle or a really loud and abrupt snort or guffaw (I’m not sure what a guffaw is, but like the word) totally hurt my head. The high-pitched cackle seems more prevalent in women, while a lot of men break out in a machine-gun-like, staccato-like laugh that just might be even more painful. People tell me I flinch when someone with a high- pitched or snort-like laughs lets loose within earshot. Hey, now I know what the phrase “earshot” means. At work, someone two cubicles away had a really loud and annoying laugh, and she laughed a lot. Spent half the day flinching. Think this is another reason was relieved when I got laid off. Another few weeks of that laugh and my head might have exploded. And it’s not like you can ask someone to stop laughing. Or change the way they laugh. It’s like asking them to stop breathing.

Oh, and sneezing … let’s just say: ouch! You never notice how loud sneezes are until you have a TBI. And, there are as many types of sneezes as there are types of laughs. I’m now an expert in laughs and sneezes.

Anyway, the café here in Lyons-la-Foret is nice and quiet. No sneezing, minimal laughter. I’m sitting outside, and outside is always quieter than inside. The voices don’t bounce around off the walls so much and attack my brain.

Better email Mom and Dad …


Bonjour Mom and Dad:

So far, my epic French bike trip has been great. Did a have a little issue with jet lag the first few nights and some trouble sleeping, but I seem to be back on my normal schedule. Speaking of my normal schedule, I spend most of the day riding. From the aeroport, headed east to Reims, which is in the middle of the champagne region. Made a little side trip to Epernay and visited the Moet & Chandon caves, where they have 90 million bottles aging underground. Well, 89,999,999 after I left!

From Reims, I’ve been heading west, and should be in Normandy and the invasion beaches in a couple of days. Dad, I know you love WW2 history, I’ll email a few photos.

The scenery has been great, although a little hilly at times. And by a little hilly, I mean really hilly. Some would say mountainous, but I’ll stick with hilly. I’m starting to get in pretty good bike shape. Uncle Steve would have loved biking here in France. I sure miss him.

The food has been great, although I mostly snack during the day, lots of fruit and sandwiches, and then go to the grocery store and the local markets to get dinner ingredients: some bread and cheese and tomatoes and fruit, lots of fruit. Strawberries and cherries are in season right now and delicious. And I always get a little pastry. OK, a lot of pastry. Then I find a nice, scenic spot and have a little picnic for dinner most nights. Some wine may also be involved. I do eat dinner in restaurants every once in a while. Had a great pizza with sausage and mushrooms the other night. And some red wine. Love the vin rouge.

I’m feeling pretty good. A few aches and pains here and there from all the riding, but that’s to be expected as I get back into cycling shape. I’ve ridden 355 miles so far, which is pretty good.

My brain?

Don’t worry, it feels pretty good. I think all the fresh air and non- stressful, non-newspaper days of riding through all the great scenery have been good for me, and my brain, and it feels pretty clear most of the time. I think this trip is good for me.

Hope all is well, love you… Marc


BTW: My name is Marc Otto Cram.

Wait … take a second and look closely at my name again: Marc Otto Cram. I’ll wait.


Yep, it’s a palindrome. You know, the same backwards as it is forwards. Like: A man, a plan, a canal, Panama. Or: Mad as Adam.

Or, Mad as Marc. At Dad for giving me a name that’s a palindrome. He thought he was being so darn clever.

BTW: His name is Samuel Cram. His grandfather, Herschel Cramowitz, came over from the old country – Rumania – and the people in charge went and changed his name to Cram when Grandpa came through Ellis Island. Guess it was easier to spell. And yes, I heard “Cram it Cram” on a regular basis growing up. And worse.

Used to hate having a palindrome of a name, but what the hell, it’s kind of interesting and different and don’t mind so much anymore. It’s amazing how many people noticed it from my byline in the Examiner and emailed, asking if I knew my name was a palindrome.

No, you’re the first person to ever point that out to me! Thank you.

Several people included a couple of their favorite palindromes. The Panama plan one seems to be on everyone’s Top 10 list.


Was mostly honest with Mom and Dad in my email. While I don’t exactly feel OK, I don’t feel any worse than I did before I left. And maybe, just maybe, a little bit better in terms of the whole anxiety/stress/depression thing. They don’t need to know that I’m still not sleeping well or that I hit the deck on some railroad tracks the other day, or that my brain still isn’t quite right.

My sister also emailed a few times, wondering pretty much the same things Mom and Dad were wondering (she is their daughter). I’ll do some cutting and pasting and send her what I sent Mom and Dad. Hang on…

OK, all done.

BTW: She’s lucky and has a non-palindrome name: Jill Lynn Cram. Heard from my friend Jeff, one of the few people I told that I was headed to France to bike. He’s a cycling fanatic, and I knew he’d be totally jealous. Jeff emailed to say he’s thinking about coming over and meeting me for a week of riding. “Are you going to Provence?” he wrote. “I really want to cycle Provence. It’s supposed to be amazing and I really, really want to take a crack at Mt Ventoux. Were you planning on Provence and the Ventoux?”

Wasn’t planning on going all the way south to Provence. My mission is to do the Champagne region (done), Normandy (almost there), some Brittany and then spend a lot of time in the Loire. Then ride back to Paris and head home. Then again, it’s not like I have to be back on any set date, or have a job or a home to get back to. What the heck, maybe I’ll meet Jeff in Provence and take a crack at the Ventoux. Why not?

“What dates are you thinking of coming over here?” I emailed Jeff. “Think I can get down there by maybe July 10 to 15. Or a little later if that works for you. Sooner would be hard. If you’re coming, pick a date in that timeframe and a city to meet and let me know.”


Mt. Ventoux?

It’s this legendary mountain in Provence that’s part of the Tour de France every few years. The riders all say it’s the hardest climb ever, harder than any of the other mountains in the Alps or Pyrenees. They should know since they climb mountains on bikes for a living. I’m certainly not ready for something like Mt. Ventoux yet, but it’s a good goal to shoot for.

Got an email from Pervaiz, from work, who said he misses me, and that the rumor is more layoffs are coming by the end of the year. That sucks. Dolando from work emailed and said he’s leaving the paper soon to go back to school and get a teaching certificate. Probably a wise move. Just noticed that I wrote “Pervaiz from work” and “Dolando from work.” It’s not my work anymore, which is still pretty hard to believe. Am no longer a newspaper reporter. Wow. It’s all I’ve ever been and now I’m not even that any more.

What am I?

Who am I?

Our friend Michelle wrote that Penny is doing really well. Penny is our cat. Felt bad about abandoning Penny and leaving her with Michelle. Penny’s a really social cat, so I’m sure she’s having a blast with Michelle – and her four cats.

I just noticed I wrote “our friend Michelle.” The “our” is Maddie and me.

Maddie’s mom emailed, and asked a lot of the same questions as mom. So, I’ll email her what I sent my parents. Think Maddie’s mom blames me a little bit for Maddie’s murder. Maybe a lot. And I think she feels bad about blaming me, since she knows it wasn’t actually my fault. She tries to compensate by being extra nice to me, which only makes things between us a little more awkward. I understand, sort of. Maddie is gone and it’s devastating for all of us. Hell, I blame me for Maddie’s murder.

OK Marc, calm down. It wasn’t your fault. It was the drunken, cowardly murdering bastard’s fault. There was nothing you could do. Just thinking about it gets me all anxious and stressed.

All my email correspondence is done, time to head back to the hotel, the Hotel Du Grand Cerf. According to the hotel’s brochure I picked up at the front desk, it is located in “a healthy and restful climate ideal for wanderers.”

Guess that makes me a wanderer.



Heard back from Jeff already. And he’s in.

“Yo hammerhead, meet me in Bedoin on Saturday July 11 – that’s the only time I can get off this summer. It’s the base city of the Ventoux. Google it. I’ll figure out a hotel and get us reservations and make airline reservations and rent a car and a bike and meet you there. Don’t be late or I’ll kick your ass. Stay in touch and don’t get hit by any French cars before I get there. I’ll send more details.”

Yeah, Jeff thinks he’s funny.

“OK, it’s a date … love you too,” I emailed back.

In Chapter 8 Marc has some bike issues … and encounters an alien (OK, only one of these things happens)

One thought on “Day 7. Sunday, June 7, 2015 … Lyons-la-Foret … 70 miles/360 total … A man, a plan, a canal, Panama

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