There are few moments in life where the time span between the current and younger versions of yourself collide. Étienne Haute-Montange had such a moment three weeks ago and despite his aversion to leaving Provence, the newly retired French cyclist was excited for his next adventure. But, he never thought it would bring him all the way back to Letongaloosa.
In the early 1980’s, Étienne was working on his grandfather’s lilac farm when news came that he had been accepted into a business program in the United States at La Mancha University. He didn’t want to leave. He wanted to stay at home and compete and after only a month in La Mancha, he rushed back to do what he loved—cycling high into the mountains.
Étienne had had a two-decade long career as a competitive cyclist.
Fast forward to just a few weeks ago. After completing his final time trial, Étienne packed up and set out to retrace all of his favorite bike routes, He wanted to think. He needed to figure out where the next stage of his life would lead.
Two days later he rode onto his favorite old roman bridge, Pont Julien. He wanted to take in its height and its spectacular views. As he gazed, his cell phone buzzed. The message was from his bug-loving best friend, Zimmy Tarbox. The call solved Etienne’s “what’s next” problem, and put him on a plane bound for Letongaloosa Community Junior College.
The LCJC was offering a summer cycling course for La Mancha and Letongaloosa residents. The course needed an instructor, and Zimmy knew Étienne would be perfect for the job.
Étienne arrived in the small Midwestern college town and got together with Zimmy. Then he went to meet with the chair of the Department of et. al, et al, Dr. Ima Farseer to get her help with the academic paperwork.
Then he headed over to the entomology department to see Zimmy.
“Be careful. The legs of a Cuban rainbow beetle can be rather delicate, or so I’ve read in a paper a good friend of mine wrote.”
Zimmy looked up from the cage of rainbow beetles and smiled.
“Is that so? Well, you know, the Cuban rainbow beetle is tougher than most people would think. This particular species lives high in the mountains and the best way to see one is to climb high into the mountains. You should know all about climbing.”
Étienne grinned, “Yes, I know a quite a bit.”
Then they headed over to The Enchantment—a bar on the outskirts of town. The kind every college town needs to keep its accreditation. They ordered root beers. Étienne filled Zimmy in on the details of his final professional time trial. Then they talked about life in Provence.
Etienne mentioned how he would miss competing in races like the Tour de Fleur, but he was delighted to come back to Letongaloosa to teach others to climb the mountains as he had done in Provence,
Zimmy laughed,” Slow down, old friend. Most of the residents taking part in the summer cycling program are looking to go bike-packing on the surrounding trails or enjoy a leisurely ride around town.”
Then Zimmy remembered the Fourth of July celebration sponsored by La Mancha U, LCJC and some of the other businesses around La Mancha and Letongaloosa. Of course, there would be fireworks, games, and a big cycling race to be held at the Letongaloosa Lake Loop Trail,
“There’s a cycling race on July 4th if you’re interested. It’s no Tour de Fleur, but it is fun and the climb might even challenge you. Plus, Bastille Day is just around the corner. I think you’ll enjoy the festivities,”
Étienne was delighted. He sipped his root beer and thought about this new stage of his life. Coming back to the small Midwestern town was the right decision. He had good friends. Étienne was able to continue doing what he loved.He was on the right path,
Zimmy and he finished their root beer, paid the bill and headed for the door. It was going to be a great summer. Étienne was ready to climb higher and have the time of his life!
Dr. Larry Day is a retired J-School professor turned humor writer. His book, Day Dreaming: Tales From the Fourth Dementia is available for purchase via his website: http://www.daydreaming.co