De quelle manière la course ne va!?11How did the race go? PS do any of you speak French? Can you check our work on these things?
- You know you’re sleep deprived when you try to enlarge a printed map with your fingers. As though it was a touchscreen and not paper. Especially if you try it several times throughout the day.
- You know you’re sleep deprived when you insert yesterday’s bathroom ticket (in France sometimes you have to pay to use a public restroom, after you put change into a metal box mounted to a turnstile you get a ticket or “voucher” that you present when making a purchase for a refund of your fifty cents) into a Motorway Toll Booth repeatedly, like maybe as many as eight times, even though it looks NOTHING like an actual Motorway Ticket, except for the fact they are both rectangular pieces of paper. Also,
- You know you’re sleep deprived when you walk around with yesterday’s bathroom ticket in your pocket.
When I woke this morning after six uninterrupted hours of sleep I felt invigorated and optimistic. Then I walked through our apartment to the back door and went outside, it was raining and cool, and it was delicious. So delicious I shouted to Keiran, C’est Magnifique! And I dont even say shit like that, for the obvious reasons. Anyway, the freshness of the morning only further buoyed the quality of my mood. I seriously felt so good I considered whistling the zip-a-dee-doo-dah song, with my mouth. Out loud! Then I checked my phone and learned I had already used-up all of the 800 megabytes of data included in my AT&T International Passport Plan. In just four of the twenty-six days I will be traveling in France. At the same time Keiran came in from the front door where our car is parked and told me that we got a parking ticket.
At most races routing yourself to the start of the race using the actual course, basically “working backwards” toward the start, is a good idea. For starters, typically Avant La Course Parking is literally avant la course. Not at the Tour de France. It turns out there is only ONE way (practically speaking, because of traffic and closures and general crowd immensity-based FUBAR) to get at the start of a TDF stage.
After “Look Kids, Big Ben!, Parliament!”-ing it around a roundabout for the sixth time this morning it occurred to me that covering the TDF like this is a lot like driving to a different Super Bowl in a different town every morning for a month. Throw in a foreign language and spotty wireless coverage and you really start to get a sense of it.
We had all the right tools at our disposal, we had everything you need for a successful parking campaign: three copies of the official TDF Race Bible, sticker privilege, credentials, Google Maps, the internet, five years of “on the job” race documenting experience, a modern car, two fully functional adults (both of them marginally well-rested), and 1.5 hours of discretionary time. And we still couldn’t figure it out. We still fucked it up.
Even if you can get to the start forty minutes before the race begins it’s not worth it, especially if you’re leaving ten minutes early to get up the road on the course. So at 10:15 AM we said, “Fuck it.” Even leaving town without regard to direction as long as it’s away from the start area, was difficult. It felt a little bit like we were in a city exodus scene in a Zombie/Alien/Cataclysmic Weather apocalypse movie, only nobody felt the urgent need to leave except us.
There are speed cameras everywhere. At one point I realized that we had turned around, done so many u-turns, double-backed and circled around so many times that we had sped past the same speed camera four times in like twelve minutes. Are speeding tickets like sandwich/coffee punch cards?
Eventually we found or way onto the course avant la course. And we photographed the race in two spots as well as at the finish. I mean, the day didn’t completely suck but all the u-turns, deviations, mapping, closures, arguments with police, being turned around, being forced back, access denied, speeding the whole time, no coffee or food, all that for hours and hours is stressful. Also, it’s a really good way to Tax & Test your relationship. It’s like Naked and Afraid X The Amazing Race X Driving a Taxi.
Emiliano and I always talk about how traveling for Manual for Speed is at first glance one romantic luxury date after another. Beautiful European cities, all expenses paid (kinda), dinner, glacée, sunsets and cathedrals, bridges, or pontes if you will.22At 4:46 AM DWP fell asleep, because he’s not a vampire. Normally we don’t leave a post unfinished, but, well, here we are #becausetdf—KEB
- 11:15 AM: Leave our wonderful apartment, more or less on time.
- 12:30 AM: Get lost for what feels like hours in the town of Arras.
- 1:15 PM: Photograph Monchy-le-Preux.
- 2:45 PM: Photograph Sailly-Saillisel.
- 2:30 PM: Still haven’t eaten food for our bodies.
- 3:30 PM: Blaze through Combles instead of photographing it, because we need gas and we still haven’t eaten.
- 3:45 PM: Nearly run out of gas on the course in Albert. Panic. Get directions from the Police. Drive over several curbs, a median, a roundabout, a lawn and some other shit, find the most difficult gas33Side Note: ‘Gazole’ is the French word for diesel. Super confusing. If confusing is how you describe almost ruining the motor of uninsured 2015 Renault Clio. station in the world to find.
- 4:15 PM: Argue with Police in Daours over whether we have course privileges. He has to call his superior, his superior says très bien. Which is like bud, I’ve been saying it’s all très bien for hours now but whatever.
- 4:30 PM: Still haven’t eaten food for our bodies.
- 5:00 PM: Photograph the finish in Amiens.
- 5:15 PM: Navigate to our hotel in Amiens.
- 5:45 PM: Keiran starts crying.
- 6:15 PM: I punch the ceiling of the rental car repeatedly. Dear Enterprise, if you’re reading this, the dents WERE THERE when I rented it. I just punched “into” the same spots that were made by a previous Tour de France photographer/Enterprise Rental Car customer.
- 6:52 PM: Arrive at our hotel in Amiens.
Eight Fun Facts About Amiens
- The race ended in Amiens.
- Manual for Speed’s Media Crib is ALSO in Amiens.
- Convenient?, you fucking bet it is! But wait, it gets better!
- Our hotel, which is actually an apartment?, that you can rent for the night?, it’s only 1.7 km away from Press Parking. So not only are the two in the same city, but they’re so close!
- Except, race-related road closures and deviations were still in effect even forty minutes after the race.
- So whatever, no big deal, we go with Plan B. Then Plan C. And D, E, F, G, H, I, J, 9, 14, XXV, a.), 1.78.1, 4G, 5G, etc.
- What should have taken us seven minutes took us one hour and thirty seven minutes. In traffic, mapping the whole time, u-turning every 300 yards.
- 1.7 km = 24.8 km @ TDF