Another weekend has come and for once, no rain or snow is expected to fall hard on my ambitions. The sky is forcast to be cloudy, which leaves room for sunshine to make an unexpected appearance every now and then. The temperature is predicted to scratch the ten-degree mark, making for nice riding, although far for perfect, to be honest.
I was still sitting on my kitchen table wasting time long after a breakfast of Gasconian espresso and oven-warm croissants from the bakery next door when the sun shone through the window for the first time. As if this was the final kick that I needed I bundled up, straddled my old Cannondale and rode into the haze. Because hazy it was indeed, with an inversion sitting heavily over the city, reminding me of winter days in Salt Lake when the only clean air could be found up in the ski resorts. How the sun had made it through the milky, translucent waft of pollution remained mysterious. Maybe it was just my mind playing tricks on me, working hard to get me out of my chair, because I never saw the sun again.
Anyway, the ride was uneventful and not very inspiring until I reached the town of Claix, a sleepy suburb south of Grenoble. I passed what looked like a city park when I noticed two big fires blazing in plain view. A large patch of grass was being burned and a big pile of wet leaves, and a busy looking person was tending to it all. Shortly thereafter, I saw more fires in backyards and gardens. It is not the first time that I'm struck by the nefarious habit of freely burning stuff in open fires. But today I was outraged. Is it really necessary to pick one of the worst days in terms of air quality to add to it? The smoke hung low and visible just above the road. It acridly settled on my tongue before, inevitably, filling my lungs. What are the health benefits of inhaling soot and incompletely oxidized organics? Why does this shit need to be trapped near where people live and, as it happens, ride their bikes?
One thing led to another and I was soon contemplating the poor sense of environmental protection that the French seem to have. Recycling is in its infancy and less common than even in Salt Lake. People are infatuated with their cars, and to many it would never occur to use a bike to go places, even in a city as flat as Grenoble or, as I read the other day, notoriously congested Paris.
But maybe it's my calling to educate and explain. Maybe I'm the purveyor of progress. Still on my bike, I was composing a letter to send to the mayor of Claix, bringing him the light of sensible environmental policies. After reading about French politics for nine months now, I was getting really excited about trying my bullshitting skills in French.