Day 18: The Finale (Arcachon –> Bordeaux, 72 km)

Kilometers covered: 1054
Départements traveled: 8
Wines sampled: 22
Fromage consumed: 12
Bugs eaten: 7
Falls taken: 2
Major mishaps: 0

Today was the day! The end of the quest. To be honest, I was excited. Excited to be doing something else for a while, excited to finish, excited to simply be able to say that I did it. And to have a good story.

It had been beautiful weather for almost the entire trip, after a rough start in Normandie, but today seemed especially beautiful. The cool air and the sunshine were just perfect. I pedaled lazily past the port, through little neighborhoods, and then onto a country road that would take me to Bordeaux. Just outside the city, as I passed a pink boulangerie, I passed 1000 kilometers– my goal for the trip. I took a picture to celebrate, then indulged in a little “tartlette framboise d’ triomphe.”

I’ve been listening to an audiobook on the history of western civilization, part of the Great Courses series (all supurb). Most of the details I had heard in one form or another before: in 10th grade, in books, in movies. But re-learning it with adult experience, and having worked in political science, gave me a new perspective on some things.

First of all, Western civilization had to go through centuries of innovation, war, and upheaval to come to its idea about the world today. There are still conservative forces trying to hold the line against broadsides that started in the 16th and 17th centuries. The professor talked about how many in Europe actually were excited about World War I because it promised to cleanse society of the confusion, the godlessness, the apparent purposelessness that had been creeping in as a result of science, then secularism, and finally modernism. Of course, the same enthusiasts came back so broken that they propelled the postmodern movement.

A second thought: Realism and realpolitik are created philosophies, not natural law. It is simply not the case that the only way to conduct affairs between peoples is through moral-less pursuit of interests. True, the old kings didn’t always conduct their affairs with the Christian generosity that they claimed to believe in, but there was something that people believed in and that shaped behavior and standards for interaction. I have no problem with realism, except when it tries to hold itself up as something other than a political philosophy created by man and which creates the world in its own image.

Enough with the philosophizing. I celebrated my arrival to Bordeaux with a picture at the river and then a long shower, followed by a walk and a large burger and two beers at a French bistro. (Counter to what you might expect, the French are *really* into burgers– gourmet burgers too, not cheap crappy ones.) For some reason I really craved spice– like peppers– so I doused it with tabasco.

But then something strange happened. By the time I finished I was *really* tired, even though it was only 9pm. I stumbled back to my hotel and… didn’t sleep barely at all! I have no idea why. I *felt* tired, but I just couldn’t sleep. It may have been the especially strong coffee I made the previous morning– or, it may have just been the excitement about getting up the next morning and moving on to another adventure.

If I could end on a slightly philosophical note, there are two things I would leave you with. First, it may be that life is one great adventure, but it doesn’t just unravel that way. You need to seek out destinations, create goals, plan and plot and imagine activities. Life is created, not surfed. Second, people are basically good. Not all of them, not all the time, but when you come down to it there is something brimming up within each of us that wants to be noble, to be compassionate, to be of service. I really believe that, but traveling is what keeps it present for me. Fini.

THE MEAL: A giant (1/2 lb) French burger with lots of tabasco.

THE WINE: Homemade craft beer: a ginger infused and a black IPA.

THE ROOM: My new favorite cheapie in Bordeaux, Hotel California, €56.

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