I’ve been focused elsewhere lately, so I missed the opening shot when the Great Portable Restroom Challenge was issued. It wouldn’t have mattered much though – I don’t recall seeing one here in Sicily, or feeling the need for one since we spend so much time on deserted roads with plenty of stone walls or olive trees to dash behind if you want more privacy than you actually need in the first place.
if you’re curious what we’ve been up to lately, you could do worse than to check out our Good Friday Ride and wish you were riding here with us instead of hunting for outhouses.
Finally catching up though, I see that Greg has been trolling me to relate the Anderson Team’s lifetime best outhouse story. I’d forgotten that we shared this story with him when we visited him on his home turf a few years ago. My apologies that there is no journal and photographs handy to include here. I’ve never published a journal of this tour, and the relevant photos are locked up in storage back home. I do have available a single photo from this 2000 tour from Clermont-Ferrand to San Sebastian, so I’m posting it here as a substitute. It’s a pottok, a type of semi-wild pony that lives in the Basque foothills of the Pyrenees. I think you’ll all agree that he’s much more charming than a photo of an outhouse anyway. This little guy walked up behind us while we were sitting on a hillside enjoying our lunch and the views, when we sensed we had company. He’d walked up behind our backs quietly and was standing placidly about fifteen feet from us.
Back to the outhouse. To make a short story long, it was a warm, sunny Sunday afternoon in September, and we were biking somewhere in Southwest France, with the western Pyrenees just appearing in the distance. It was midday, and we stopped for lunch in some small town I’ve lost the name of now, somewhere north of Orthez. It was in an attractive park with a fine view across the valley – I do remember that much. Others were about in the park, but not in our immediate vicinity.
After finishing our lunch, Rachael walked over to the outhouse, and then called me to come over and stand by the door, since she couldn’t close it. I did so, but then took the obvious next step and tried to close the door myself rather than stand there next to an outhouse in the hot sun. It closed just fine, which was not a good thing.
Minutes later, Rachael called me again with some panic in her voice, requesting to be rescued. The outhouse had a lock, but no doorknob. Not the best situation – I’d locked my wife into a small, unlit, smelly outhouse on a hot, humid Sunday afternoon. No one was anywhere in sight now, and not much happens in small French towns on a Sunday afternoon, so I didn’t really know what to do or where to turn for help. Feeling some panic myself by now, and with Rachael sounding more and more agitated by the minute, it did cross my mind that this might be the end of our partnership and perhaps I should just hop on the bike and start riding.
Fortunately, a better idea sprang to mind. I raced back to the bike and pulled out my handy Swiss Army Knife, returned to the scene of the crime, and started frantically carving into the wooden door. Not knowing what I’d uncover, I was hugely relieved to find that it was wood all the way through, and that I could carve out the embedded lock.
Perhaps five minutes later Rachael was freed, and though still quite upset did not propose divorcing me on the spot. After stopping long enough to take a photo of the vandalized door, we hurriedly packed up, hopped on our bikes, and sped out of town before someone saw what we’d done and called the gendarmes.
So, Greg – was this the story to which you were referring, or did you have some other story and couple in mind?