Day 2 Stage: Colleville-Sur Mer ➡️ Saint-Lô

After the long journey from Cherbourg to Colleville, a mellow ride was in order. I followed what would have been the most logical route of my grandfather's unit.i split up with my father in Formigny after a few days of taking in the emotional rollercoaster that is Normandie.

 A 27 mile ride that sent me through Isigny-sur-mer where Frank was held up fighting for 2 days with the 29th infantry while Trying to find the 101st airborne division.  

American and British flags flying on the bridge in Isigny-sur-mer where my grandfather helped liberate the town on the 8th of June 1944.

American and British flags flying on the bridge in Isigny-sur-mer where my grandfather helped liberate the town on the 8th of June 1944.

For met (not Frank) it was an enjoyable cruise from Isigny to the tiniest of towns, La Luzerne on the outskirts of Saint-Lô. 

Cheesin' in Normandie. No pun intended.  

Cheesin' in Normandie. No pun intended.  

On the eve of D Day, allied forces bombed  the city of Saint-Lô into the ground in order to push German forces out of the city. What resulted from this was a massive shit fight in the month of July that wound up getting Frank nearly killed.

La Luzerne, on the outskirts of the city is where they were fighting through the bocage toward Saint-Lô, and that is where he took a piece of shrapnel to the face while his buddy was killed. You can see how challenging this terrain would be to fight in. It's hilly, full of massive hedge rows and is constantly raining.  

 

Maria Elena in La Luzerne where Frank nearly met his maker. 

Maria Elena in La Luzerne where Frank nearly met his maker. 

The Bocage in La Luzerne is so tall it creates a tunnel around the road. 

The Bocage in La Luzerne is so tall it creates a tunnel around the road. 

From La Luzerne I took a country lane through the bocage that would lead me to the center of Saint-Lô. It just so happens that I did this stretch of the ride as the skies opened into a biblical level storm that nearly washed me away.  

Rain and hail washing up over my handlebars at the Saint-Lô city limits.  

Rain and hail washing up over my handlebars at the Saint-Lô city limits.  

I made it to the the hilltop city of Saint-Lô in one piece. Unfortunately my grandfather couldn't have done the same, but his situation was a bit different one would say. He was such a hard ass that he went back into action not long after anyhow. Stage two in the books  and another piece of history to chew on for some time. 

 

 

Home away from home.

Ireland. It's where it all began they say, well at least for the Harrington clan way back in the mists of time. This is also the beginning of my journey that will see me in the French alps some time in October. 

Over the past few years I have become more  connected with my ancestral home than I ever thought possible, making me feel as welcome here as I have almost anyplace I have been. 

IMG_0246.JPG

My first trip to Ireland was in 2008. It was a solo jaunt through the southwest counties of Cork and Kerry and eventually winding up in Dublin. It was an eye opening trip in the sense that it sent me down a road of familial research and discovery that has subsequently led me to chase my grandfather's history through France. 

IMG_0252.JPG

Fast forward a few years and my sister is living on the "Emerald Isle" and by some stroke of luck I effectively have a home base in Galway, on Ireland's west coast. After years of enduring years of comments from my dad, saying that Ireland would perfect place for her, my sister Kate finally put the theory to the test and visited Ireland the same way I had in 2008. With her however, she was to taken with the charm and the energy of the place that she finagled herself a couple of jobs, a solid group of friends and a place to live on the shores of Galway bay. 

IMG_3080.JPG

After I came up with this hair-brained scheme to bike across France, I knew that having a preparation period in Galway would be an ideal way to kick off my journey. I have been lucky that this was my third trip to Galway in the calendar year and thusly I have fallen in love with it the way my sister has.

After a trans-Atlantic journey that always leaves me weary to the core, the minute that I arrived in the rain-soaked city center, I felt at ease. Being able to feel so comfortable on a country that is not your own is a strange feeling. Conventional wisdom would say that you should feel a bit lost, bewildered and curious. You should be asking "what the fuck goes on around here?" 

IMG_0020.JPG

Once you get past all that on your first visit and you make the conscious effort to come back for at least a second time, people take notice. They know that you care about the place and more importantly that you aren't full of shit (that goes a long way with the Irish). At that point you will be invited into the inner circle.

IMG_0222.JPG

If you treat it like you have come back home, then folks like the ones in Galway don't let that go unnoticed. People start calling out your name as you walk the high street. The bartender asks you "what's the craic?" Instead of eating dinner out, you are invited to people's homes and from time to time an after party will keep you dancing until the morning light.

IMG_0191.JPG

As an American searching for something in a fiercely proud Irish town, it isn't always easy to fall into the fold. But with some persistence, curiosity, honesty and passion, you can chip away at a tough Galwegian exterior and find the warmth of that Galwefian soul. That's what kate did, and luckily it passed onto me as well.

IMG_0094.JPG

Thanks Ireland and thanks a million Galway and thanks one hundred million to you Kate. I will be seeing you and Galway soon. I promise. 

IMG_3197.JPG

Maria Elena, Moi et La France

IMG_3039.JPG

This is my bike and her name is Maria Elena. On Friday we will be flying across the pond for a little family time in Ireland before we embark on our first big bike tour. The plan is to retrace my grandfather's route through France from when he was a captain in Patton's 3rd army in World War Two. We will arrive on the Normandie coast by boat just like grandpa Frank did on D day and I will try my best to feel every bump of the roads that he travelled on. It will be a heavy journey both mentally and physically, but it's something I've wanted to do for many years now. There has been no better time for this trip, as I will turn 30 on the final stage of my ride in my second home of Annecy. I will be posting regularly to my instagram as well as this blog.  Please follow along and if you have any tips, tricks or beta feel free to pass them along! Cheers and see ya along the way! -------------------- 🇫🇷🇫🇷🇫🇷

#biketouring #wearegoingawol #bikepacking #tourdefrance #patchingtontourdefrance #mariaelena