Thursday, March 31, 2011

Local cyclist has left us

Françoise was the only daughter of my neighbors Madeleine and Dédé. Married to a fellow-teacher in Strasbourg, she would often return to her birthplace for summer vacations, which enabled her to get back in daily contact with one of her favorite activities: riding a bicycle up and down the slopes of the Vercors. I would also glimpse her regularly with her dog Vriska on the grassy slopes on the far side of the creek at Gamone. A year and a half ago, when nobody could have imagined such a sad fate for this lovely and intelligent young woman, Françoise suddenly discovered that she was the victim of a terrible disease. Treated by specialists at Grenoble, my dear neighbor finally failed to recover from a bone marrow transplant. This morning, I was awakened by a phone call from Madeleine: "Françoise, c'est fini."

In many of its other aspects, the 30th March 2011 was a beautiful sunny day, particularly for cyclists. Soon after crossing over the River Isère on my way towards St-Marcellin, I drove alongside a gray-haired cyclist of roughly my age. Curiously, he was walking alongside his bicycle. I slowed down as I passed, and tried to figure out why he was walking. His machine didn't look as if it were punctured or broken in any way obvious way. Was it rather the gentleman who had run out of steam? I thought to myself that he had quite a long walk in front of him, to reach St-Marcellin. I halted at the next intersection, turned around and drove back towards the man and his bicycle, to see whether I could assist him. He explained that the cog on his rear wheel was defective. A few minutes later, the disabled bicycle was in the boot of my Citroën, and I was driving the cyclist towards his home town, St-Marcellin. During the trip, the gentleman made a point of telling me that he was quite astounded that a driver would intervene to help a stranded cyclist. I told him that I myself had once been a keen cyclist. Besides, I knew from experience that the road to St-Marcellin is not exactly fun for somebody on foot. In any case, it did not occur to me that I was acting in an exceptional manner by giving him a lift. I told him how I used to ride for hours, on my own, between Paris and Brittany. I explained that, since my arrival at Choranche, the slopes of the Vercors had unfortunately dampened my enthusiasm for cycling.

A few hours later, back at Gamone, when I noticed the headlights of a car down in the driveway of the Repellin house, I sensed that a sad event might have just taken place at the hospital in St-Marcellin. And I found myself thinking, once again, of bicycles and cyclists.

Pour ma voisine Françoise. RIP

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