"yovo - yovo bon soir ca vas bien - merciiee"

In February 1990, I set out with my bike and tent from Stuttgart, Germany. Loaded down with 80 Kilos of baggage, I rode across off, crossing the Filder, leaving Schwaben behind and heading into the Black Forest. I felt great. Cars slowed down passing me, honked and people waved. I crossed the Schwarzwald (Black Forrest) mountains via Freudenstadt and Kniebis, and arrived in Offenburg just after dark. I stayed at a a friend's place for the night. The next morning I took off following the Rhine river to Weil am Rhein, where Germany, France and Switzerland meet. There I stayed with my grand parents for the night. The next day, after a lengthy good-bye, I crossed into France. I rode along small back country roads past Belfort, into the rolling hills of the northern Jura.

My plan was to follow the Doubs valley to the Saone, which joins the Rhone, right down to the Mediterranean Sea. I set up my first campsite right after Besancon, in a quiet spot on the river. The night was chilly, and the next morning my tent had was covered in a thin sheet of ice. My down sleeping bad kept me cozy and warm, though, and my gasoline cooker worked great. After breakfast, I packed my bike, a time-consuming process that became an intricate ritual over the next months. That day I got caught in increasingly nasty weather riding toward Dole on the RN 83. It started raining and I was working against a cold, wet breeze. Only 4 days into my journey I was headed for one of the worst moments of my trip when I almost got run over by a semi. After struggling for 6 hours against a bone chilling wind with rain and sleet I had only covered roughly 15 KM (9 miles) I was working my way though a small village, when a wind gust blasted me from the side. I lost my balance, swerved out onto the road, right as a semi-truck was passing me. I can still remember feeling the right front tire of the truck striking my bike's rear. I hit the wet asphalt and stayed there for a few seconds.

When I got up, I saw the truck stopped about 100 meters down the road, and the driver running towards me. I got up; I was fine. The rear of the bike was a bit bent and the tire was not turning. I dragged the bike off the road. The truck driver wanted to know if I was OK. I was not injured, but I was definitely close to giving up. He offered me a ride to the youth hostel in Dole. I declined. I did not want company. After several assurances that I was going to be fine, he returned to his truck and pulled away.

I started asking around for a spot to pitch my tent. Eventually someone showed me a pretty sheltered spot on the edge of town. I pitched my tent, made some soup, and spent the rest of the evening fixing the bike and debating with myself whether this accident was just an early low point, a bad omen or whether this trip was just a dumb idea.