My sister has a way of lucking into cool things when she travels. She calls herself the Accidental Tourist, and if you travel with her you get to be one, too.
We were on vacation together in France last week, rambling around the countryside visiting Roman ruins and vineyards when we got wind of the fact that the Tour de France was about to blow through town.
Now, I’m not a cycling buff by any stretch of the imagination, but this sounded exciting! Maybe even worth skipping a few wineries–especially since this year is the 100th Tour de France. It’s a grueling, 21-day race that winds its way through mountains and valleys and ends on the Champs-Elysees in Paris, right in front of the Arc de Triomphe. Some people believe it is the toughest athletic challenge in the world, and we were eager to catch a glimpse.
So we jumped onto the Internet to research the race route to figure out when and where to intercept it. Armed with our trusty GPS, the next day we meandered around country roads, parked in a farmer’s field, and joined hundreds of others lining the route for a chance to see the peloton, or group of cyclists.
We had a leisurely wait in the sun, munching our baguette picnic and anticipating the big show. We debate places to stand and camera angles. Anticipation built as the Tour entourage began to whisk past.
First, came the media cars.
Then the police escorts, the medics, the support vehicles topped with spare bikes. Car after car roared by and the crowd inched closer to the two-lane street, hoping to get a glimpse of the lead cyclist zipping around the bend. More police motorcycles… More support vehicles… People with cell phones began chattering excitedly, so even clueless Americans could tell Something Big was about to happen.
They came around the bend as a giant wall. They spanned the entire highway–every inch, including the shoulder.
Where we happened to be standing with our cameras.
Our kids were like deer in the headlights. They were frozen, unable to grasp the idea that, no, these world-class competitors racing toward them were not going to go around.
The dust settled. We glanced around at the empty water bottles strewn about the roadside and gaped at each other with surprise. That was it? Did we even get a picture?
It all happened in the blink of an eye, but that was part of the impact. The moment was unforgettable, and I even got to enjoy it for a nanosecond after I pulled my kids out of the way.
Have you ever lucked into some unexpected event while on vacation? Leave a comment for a chance to win EXPOSED. And I’m thrilled to tell you that I came home from vacation to hear that the book just made the USA Today Bestseller List. Thank you, readers!
* The prize winner from June 28 is Rachel (commenter # 9). Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with a mailing address so I can send your prize.