Chapter 24: Ze French Monster

Uncle Jimmy!

Hope all is well in the afterlife.

Question for ya … when you were jet-setting all over the world, did you ever get slowly yet suddenly overwhelmed?

Nikki and I were reminiscing recently about a trip to France back in the day. One where I had apparently reached my limit of Schnitzengruben. And where my best side left the building.

Here’s the scene … we had been living in Europe for a little over six weeks. Had been to several other countries. Had explored Barcelona every single evening since we arrived. Seriously been “on the go”. And one weekend, we decided to fly to Rennes France, rent a car, and drive out to the Loire Valley.

We really had no plans, other than to find castles. I saw something, somewhere for Chateau de Chambord, so we drove our way there and … oh my goodness. That thing is HUGE! I was beyond (insert understatement) excited.

And that’s precisely when I did the absolutely wrong thing.

Somewhere in my mind, I was in obsessive-all-you-can-eat-buffet mode. And here was this grand new trough of goodness to gobble up. We walked in to the first of what seemed to be 40,000 rooms, and Nikki starts reading something attached to a historical item. And I turned into an ogre. Shifting from one foot to the other. Antsy. I wanted to go, go, go! Get to the spires and take pictures. RUN through the building. WHY ISN’T SHE RUNNING? So I brusquely stated that I couldn’t do this slow pace and I’d find her later. And I ran off for those spires.

Well, after I get up there (only had to traverse ten dozen rooms and passageways), I’m taking pictures. Not even framing anything, just snapping away. Almost manic. When it starts to hit me … I was indeed an asshole. There was no reason to act like that. No reason to hyper-tour this place. So the only thing I could think of was to find Nikki and apologize.

Which wasn’t easy in a 40,000 room palace.

Call her, I thought. Nope, my battery died as I tried. That wasn’t an option. Find her, I thought next. And so started my multi-hour, self-flagellation quest. I wasn’t kidding about the number of rooms. This place is the size of a city, all connected by hallways and doors. Five floors, and I went into and out of every room on each one. Decided that I must be somehow chasing her, so I reversed. Then started random patterns. No Nikki. And no way to find her. I didn’t want to go back to the car, because I wouldn’t be able to re-enter if she wasn’t there. So I literally spent hours searching, never once looking at the castle we had come to see.

Eventually, dejected and black-n-blue from kicking myself, I decided that my only recourse was to exit. And there she was, waiting. Seemingly happy, but probably just not sure which Rick was coming out. I didn’t know how to apologize properly. I felt horrible for my actions and attitude. And on the drive away to other things, it did start to dawn on me where I went awry.

I was so enamored with finding new and shiny objects that I simply forgot to enjoy them. It became a “Thirty-Seven Countries In Four Hours” kind of thing. It was all about quantity. And so I missed out on a lot that afternoon. And probably much before that.

Once back home in Barcelona, I did ponder. And realized the error of my ways. I had grown so focused on being a “Traveler”, that I forgot to travel. I got better, had some minor relapses, but generally regained my footing. Ish. And it’s those memories take me to the here and now.

Not that we’re in the final stretch, I can honestly say that I’ve done much better this trip, although I still kick myself for unfortunate slip ups. I have a little too much of you in me, and I’ve seemingly always got an opinion or two to share. Especially when no one asks. And perhaps I have a little less patience than I like to admit. But overall, I’m trying to do better at keeping the monster at bay.

More soon, even though time is ticking away.

Love, Rick

LETTERS TO A DEAD UNCLE

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