Archive for the ‘Switzerland’ Category

nästa station: Real America

January 24, 2013

In the hallowed and surely God-sent words of an email in my inbox:  I ” have been selected for admission to the Physics Ph.D. program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.” Getting my first acceptance so early in the game nearly made me choke a bit in disbelief, and the fact that is from such a good school (especially for Physics) nearly gave me a heart attack. Once the initial shock faded I found myself doing three things at once: Sighing in relief, finding a second wind, and regretting I didn’t try for more difficult schools.

Wisconsin. Sounds lovely, but, sheepishly: I still can’t quite stomach the idea of living in Real America. Real America, to me, is what visits my city every year for a few weeks in the form of the county fair. My conception of Real America is certainly borderline cartoonish and probably even offensive.

Madison, Wisconsin, as I have heard, is Real America Lite for Fake Americans, like myself, the “Berkeley of the Midwest.” Good for me.

“But you are a real American!” the astute observer may protest. Am I? I hardly feel like a Fake American anymore. But then I reconsider, and subsequently refuse to believe there is such a thing as a Real or a Fake America. Or if there is, they are not two separate things but a confluence of a million swirling, indiscernible things. But, I have a blue passport. So I suppose, like so many others, I am.


I promised posts on the final months, or ‘the Dark Ages of the Blog’ in Switzerland, and I will. I managed to squeeze three last adventures:  First, I went to Paris to visit my flatmate from the summer, who turned out to be not only a gracious host but an excellent tour guide. Second, I went to Milan for exactly 16 hours (plus eight hours of transit) to watch an opera in the birthplace of opera with dirt cheap tickets of somewhat miraculous origin. Finally, on my last day in Switzerland, I made a solo trek through the Swiss German snowdrifts to Zürich to see a rather exciting lab in a basement. I’ll write posts between writing job applications, which is, quite grudgingly, my current occupation.


December 16, 2012

How the last months have stormed by in a rage; the rush to the end of beam was exhausting… messy and a mess… nearly sleepless. But there is an experiment on the floor now. Does it work? Well not entirely, but as the long shutdown begins tomorrow, there is time to think about that after Christmas.

today we all sat in the control room and took the last few shots of beam to the tune of Carlsbergs cooled in a box full of snow (read: successful cryogen). And then we turned everything off.

there is a lot, a lot to say about the last few months, but as I’m leaving Switzerland on Wednesday, there is time to think about that in a few days. See you then? In Caaaa li foor or nia.

Oh, will you take me as I am?

Ride Report: Gran Combin

August 26, 2012

Needless to say, I’ve been dragging my feet on writing this report. Le Blog has come otherwise to a standstill and this post blocking the floodgates. So here it comes, an incomplete sketch as it is.

Lessons Learned:

1. Alpine mountain biking demands total corporeal focus: You must simultaneously hold your bursting lungs inside of your chest, stalwart your legs against collapse, and be sure of your step. Your eyes will be bright in the beaming reflection of all that surrounds you, and, you will be carrying your bike.

2. Alpine mountain biking is subject to the whims of that capricious clime: Be prepared for everything. As this, this is the stuff of myth, expect nothing less. You will discover that your pride is nothing compared to the mountain.

3. Alpine mountain biking is not for the faint of legs, arms, mind, or heart.

…………..Day 1……………….

Fionnay, Switzerland.

Around each switchback on the drive into Fionnay, I prayed like mad for sun. Just around this turn, it will be sunny. Just around this turn the rain will stop. It didn’t.  A quarter of an hour later we found ourselves circled round a wooden table in an empty café, a map splayed out before us. Seven clean faces stared back at me over espressos,  excitement painted with the anxiety of venturing into some deep unknown. Rain, rain. A thunderclap, des tonnere et eclair. Allons y!


I watched the back wheel in front of me roll into the puddle, splash, roll out. I followed, but not closely enough. In an instant my own front wheel vanished before me. In concussive hues I saw myself from above, projected in slow motion. I saw it all: the bike flipping, the mud splashing up, my back and the bike on top of me, submerged five centimeters in mud, and then, darkness.

Can someone pull my bike off me, please?

I was covered in mud and hence jumped in the next alpine lake we came across. It was, predictably, very cold.

Col de Mille

Soon enough it became too steep to ride; the altitude and the rock strewn, treacherously slippery trail did not make it easier. We walked, we climbed, we forded streams and relayed the heavy bike up the mountain. Everything was wet and everything was happening in slow motion.

At the refuge there is woodstove, a woman, and a girl. In the pasture outside a donkey grazes happily; callous to the chaotic weather. As we remount our bikes to descend down the sodden mountainside, I’m left wondering if they rode the donkey up.

Col du Grand Saint Bernard

It is truly a pity to have gone over the Grand St Bernard pass and not to have seen any of it; Once we were forced to abandon the trail and take the road up the on the Swiss side, the rain came in from everywhere. Visibility was at best a couple of meters, and I didn’t even realize I was at the Col until buildings appeared beside us: Shops, restaurants, and the hospice, the fabled hospice! I can imagine it was all very beautiful, but I cannot say for certain.

Once over the Italian border the road curved gently down the mountainside and the sun shone onto undiscovered country. My brain, in its predictably campy fashion, was busy dancing about the Roman Empire. For a moment I managed to forget that everything, everything, is wet; all that matters is the road, the road, the flowing road! And, where, oh where, are the elephants?


Allora, allora. the waitress said. She pressed her hands together, smiled hugely,and took our orders. I’m outed as a vegetarian, but it hardly matters: there’s food I can eat, here it is dry, and the hotel has enormous wool blankets. Heaven.

……………………..Day 2…………………..

We awoke the next day to find the sun, as promised by the Italian Optimists. Oh the first climb was glorious and long, a nameless browngold road winding 14 kilmeters through Italian suburbs with names I cannot remember before spilling out into the mountains. Even from the first kilometer I wanted to go hard. I was in the climbing place, a place I personally have only recently discovered exists within myself: Yes, I now can say, in complete and utter honestly, that I love to climb. And so I climbed.

It wasn’t long before Stefano caught up with me and asked me what I had eaten for breakfast. Muesli, I said. What I did not say was that, really, my pace (admittedly far from blistering) was not sustained by the solely by the muesli. Instead, I was really propelled by some locomotive of imagination, generated by the scenery, by taking off my helmet, and by secretly pretending for the entire climb that I was one of these guys:

Bartali, Coppi. Coppi, Bartali.

Ride the bike!

Frenêtre du Dunand

A near vertical ascent, a climb, the bike across the back. At the pass (2797m) you could look down on the glacier and hear the ice cracking through the millennia.

Downhill, downhill: Across the Swiss border again and into rocks bigger than my fork can handle, a few sections of flow, and a trail hugging the edge of the glacier. We rolled over the tops of waterfalls and through lantern lit caverns. We ended up at a dam at the edge of a slender turquoise lake. Our descent to from there was warm and brief Fionnay, back to the car, a piece of tart at Relais du Grand Saint Bernard, which I didn’t know I needed until I took the first bite, and a ride back to Geneva.

Vive les alpes!


How lucky am I, to have friends who dream up such insanity?!

andare in bicicletta: a preview of Gran Combin

August 4, 2012

“On a bike your conciousness is small. The harder you work, the smaller it gets. Every thought that arises is imediately and utterly true, every unexpected event is something you’d known all along but had only forgotten for a moment. A pounding riff from a song, a bit of long division that starts over and over, a magnified anger at someone, is enough to fill your thoughts”

…..Tim Krabbé, The Rider

In the Alps the mind of the rider can expand, I find, to fill whole valleys; It leaps out of the body and alights tauntingly on distant peaks, it races devilishly up the pass ahead, it plunges into frigid turquoise ponds and goes crashing, whirling down waterfalls, daring the rider to follow. On the grade, it contracts again and is contained simply by the slow measure of hapless panting, by the sound of the crank turning over, by the number of stones in the road. Looking down, the legs are moving in slow motion, but the lungs and heart are working double time. Everything and nothing matters. Oh, but the world does not exist beyond this moment! A click and a latch, up and out of the saddle, a brief acceleration, a phase lock, a resonance: the sweet spot. Ride the Bike, Ride the Bike, Ride the Bike.


Coming soon: A ride report from Le Tour de Gran Combin, a two-day, two-country mountain bike traversal of the local Alps.

Le tour et la vie Genev/CERNois

July 21, 2012

Short stories, three posts in one, because it has been a while and because, porqoui pas?


Col de la Faucille, down the valley of the Valeserine through limestone tunnels and slender tree forests with curling roots, buttressing a verdant and invisible canyon before dropping at last down into Bellegarde. Bellegarde, industrial blocked Bellegarde, on the other side of the pass, Stage Finish, le arriveé. When I saw the tour in the mountains last year, the whole experience seemed larger than life itself: So much so that it warranted three gushing and fangirlish blog posts on the matter. Before then I had watched the tour on television every summer for almost as long as I could remember, and being there for the first time and in fact, being in the Alps for the first time was nothing short of, well, magic. But this year in Bellegarde, the scene was flooded with fans and everything happens faster that I can really parse. I did manage to cheer for my favorites: Allez pour Voeckler, the Frenchman with the German name, Hopp hopp for Jensie, who came in third, venga venga para Valverde, and Go Go for Cadel Evans, who, for the record, looked absolutely pissed. But the highligt of the day was that I mananged to scream HEEEEJA HEJA at the Sweeeede in the polkdot jersey, which is not something one gets to do often at the tour.

Afterward, I drug myself home through rural France, up and over the pass into Pays de Gex, because as I have learned the hard way a few times: One Does Not Simply Roll Out of Bellegarde. I’m not sure how I got tricked into doing over 100k on my mountain bike on the road, but somehow it happened. It often does.


I’m uncertain as to what kind of parallel universe I am in, now that I am apparently chic enough to stand on street corners in Genève in the company of three Parisians and a horde of friendly Polonaise. But despite all odds, this seems to be my current reality. Nevertheless, I accept it and stand on the corner on this warm but rainy Swiss evening, trying to engross myself in the mental exercise of pretending I can speak French. It’s not easy, because truth be told I don’t speak French and even just the Europe-south-of-Copenhagen mindset is still not something that comes to me completely naturally. One of the smiling Poles is distractedly swirling her glass around this cobbled street in Medieval Geneva, flooded in golden lamplight; it’s the kind of place that apparently bores Parisians and Poles but makes Americans swoon. It is booooring here, she whines. We will go to the party of the summer students, yes? Ve ‘ave a car, so porqoui pas?

Once at CERN, le soireé de summerstudent resurrects vivid memories of the only middle school dance I ever attended before I promptly decided that wasn’t my scene. At the very least, it smells a bit like it: socks and vodka. We appear to be in something like a gym (at least it smells like it) located behind one of the hostel buildings and soon enough, my friend whispers in my ear. She says: See, there are the boys with big hair and bad tshirts who’ve never danced before in their lives. Surely, they are failing about, maybe some of them are or soon will be a bit sick with alcohol. If the party has any redeeming feature, it is that watching budding physicists dance is somewhat amusing. What this scene mostly glaringly lacks in comparison with my horrid middle school memories is the presence of the coiffed Orange County elite; the ones who arrived in limousines while my friends and I arrived (or didn’t arrive at all) by bike, bus, or minivan. But seeing as this is not Orange County and is instead an empty building in a particle physics lab in semirural SwitzaFrance*, it should come as no surprise, and really, I don’t miss them. As the music achieves a level terrible I have never experienced prior, I notice that above the ‘bar’ there is a whiteboard that lists the prices of drinks as ‘uncertain’ and quotes Heisenberg. CERN: It is a special place.

Le Soireé de summerstudent, I don’t think I will be back.


I’m standing at the computer when hear a loud noise. Never a good situation. My colleague, who is arranging water cooling lines, looks over at me. What was that? I ask, as his eyes inflate to the size of M12 washers. It was a splash. I toss him some paper towels and quickly negotiate my way around the experiment to check on the bakeout controllers. I curse out loud: An entire controller had shorted out. I guess the breaker tripping must have been audible , because the powers that be run down from upstairs and after a few minutes with the multimeter deduce that, while it’s not clear exactly what happened, something shorted to ground. We, the two of us who know exactly what happened, just stand there exchanging nervous glances. I can’t take it. Well, I say, slowly, there was water.


*I am coining this term.

that goddamn particle

July 6, 2012

Whisperings of the announcement floated in my direction two weeks prior.  And I mean literally, it was a whisper in my ear: “We found it.” Now that the world knows that we know, I’m writing just so I can say, and I can hardly believe this…”I was there”


I spent the night before battling poor particle lifetimes on nightshift with Club Italia; At seven we surrendered the beam and wandered down towards the auditorium. The foyer was already crawling with people and even if the queue was orderly (it’s CERN after all) it stretched out the back door of the restaurant. We did what we could. Oh, how we played all the good Italian tricks. First, we tried going in the back door. When we were turned away, we flirted with the security people. When we were turned away again, we looked for friends already in line.  None of this worked, predictably.

“Brrreakfast?” said the Italian on my right, rolling the ‘r’, of course.

“Brrreakfast?” said the Italian on my left.

“Brrrrrrrrreakfast.” I replied, as we all nodded in agreement.

At brrreakfast we learned from other unfortunate souls that even at four AM, there were already over a hundred people sleeping on the floor outside the auditorium. People foresaw that this seminar would be historic and CERN foresaw such overflow. Fortunately projections of the transmission of the seminar would play in several conference rooms and auditoriums around the site.

A nice breakfast, and then an ATLAS conference room it would be. The challenge: stay awake.*


“We conclude,” he begins, the CMS spokesperson (tall, American) with some ceremony. But he’s only reading what is on the slide, and surely, everyone in the room (and all the rooms) has already read what is written. At least I have; I’m fixated at the number at the end of the sentence. It is what we’ve been waiting for: the proof that all of this isn’t just a fluke, the number we all needed to convince ourselves that this is, this is for real. He goes on: “We have discovered a new boson with a mass of 125.3 GeV plus/minus 0.6 GeV at a certainty of 4.9 sigma.” 4.9 sigma. Something like electric shock runs through my body; the room erupts in applause.

ATLAS speaks next. The spokesperson is, of course, the deceptively slight Fabiola, who aside from having a fantastic name and a wonderfully frizzy mane, is somewhat of a force of nature. She speaks for a hour, culminating discreetly with 126.5 GeV, at 5 sigma. 5 sigma! Again, the shock, again, the thunderous applause. Oh, but Fabiola, she is perhaps the purest and most pragmatic among us; so much so that she doesn’t even give a damn that her presentation is in Comic Sans. “Why are you clapping?” she admonishes the crowd and the entire Physics community. “I’m not finished, there is still more to come.”

Oh, so, so much more. A new era of Physics: it begins today.


I’m all abuzz, wishing I knew more about particle physics (I don’t work on LHC), vowing to learn more about particle physics. I keep repeating to myself everything I could parse: H to gamma gamma, excess, four lepton, five sigma…surely the signals each experiment is observing, if  they are the Higgs or not, are coming from the same thing. Or are they? Are the results really compatible? 1 GeV, is, well, quite a lot.

But me, abuzz? Oh, how small I truly am in this worldwide community of hundreds of thousands, who were all (to think!) that morning tuned into the same channel. Many of these people have been working to complete this theory, to detect this boson, to bring the LHC up to the unfathomable energy it can now achieve, since well before I was even alive. Peter Higgs himself didn’t believe it would happen in his lifetime, I heard him say.


My landlady, doing her honest best to comprehend what all the fuss is about, emerges from her room after watching twenty minutes of the German news.

“So, help me understand,” She says, with a look in her eye betraying that this time, just maybe, she thinks she’s got it.  “You have discovered an X chromosome,” she begins cautiously, “which can help you find the weight of the Universe?”

I smile.



*Full disclosure: I fell asleep breifly during the CMS talk. Nightshift, ja.

I fill the year

June 30, 2012

three past birthdays, in prospective.


Befann mig i Stockholm hos en kompis och hennes familj…vi cyklade till stan och gick på Skansen i hela dagn. En tidresa genom århundraden samt genom barndom, kan man säga. På kvällen, lagade jag mexikansk mat åt familijen. Det blev inte helt rätt, men gott ändå. Svenskarna var förstårligt nyfikna: Vad gör man med pannkakan? frågade pappan medans han tog en tortilla. Det var ingen pannkaka, ju! Och två dagar senare blev det midsommar på härtzö… bärplockning, svampplockning, sjunging matlagning. Solsken, märkligt. Bada, åka kayak, fika, spela kort. Och om igen. Solen gick liksom aldrig ner och jag kunde inte sluta le.


Installing Labview on my boss’s computer. Making a cake and failing. Absorbing the capricious central European summer. Blogging cryptically about it.


As the air thinned around us it seemed all the more that the world would rift open. Surely it did, at some point, or else none of this would be here. We kept going, bikes on our backs, until there was nowhere higher to climb. At the Col I looked back into the valley we crawled first up into and then out of–the waterfall, the place where the pines stopped, all the impossible little blossoms–and for a minute there was no sound. What I’ve been taught for years was suddenly made breathlessly real: these peaks haven’t changed much over some number of minutes beyond the scale of our imaginations. In the face of the Col, the time we keep on our watches, in our calenders, in our bodies, in our buildings and books and birthdays, ceases to be of consequence.

Some amount of seconds later, the wind again was making sound. It was time to descend.

Photo credit, route credit, and insanity credit: S.B.

Switzerland, it’s pretty great.

Correction: Money Manager

May 29, 2012

Fear not, dear reader: I have survived the last 24 hours and I am not chained  in a dungeon somewhere beneath the fortuneteller’s secret castle in Evian, nor am I locked the Geneva Fire Department’s cell in the crypt of Catedral Saint Pierre, a place reserved for people who ne parle pas Français. In reality these places do not exist, I hope. It turns out that my landlady is remarkably understanding regarding la machine lavage, we haven’t heard a peep from the fortuneteller, and the firemen (regrettably?) have not returned.

Everything seems to be under control, though it has been brought to my attention that I have committed yet another unfortunate misunderstanding* involving French. Gerant de Fortunes, does not mean fortuneteller. It means money manager. In hindsight, this makes infinite sense here, in the City of Banks (and Rainbows). Allow me to explain how I arrived at ‘fortuneteller,’ and maybe you’ll forgive me. I saw ‘gerant,’ and thought gerund, as in the term for the verb form, you know, the -ing in English. I believe the term has a root in Latin** which has something to do with undertaking an action. In my mind these things combined to reach the conclusion ‘fortuneteller,’ and it stuck. I passed by his door everyday for two months, absolutely certain that behind that door lived a diviner, when in fact, the man is more interested in dividends. Although, being fair, for a good deal of the world, money and fate are inextricably intertwined–on an emotional level, at any rate.

the daily saga regrets the error.

However, this realization does make it all the more hilarious that the decor in the man’s apartment was so, so fortuneteller-appropriate. Sometimes, Real Life is just too good to be true. Le sigh.


*One must misunderstand in order to understand. Words I live by.

**Full disclosure: I don’t read Latin. I just used to study English. Corwinna, Latinist extraordinaire, are you out there?

Pompier-Feu, Pamplemousse

May 28, 2012

I could write here about Saturday, about the Grand Colombier, about the Most Difficult Ride I’ve Ever Done (based on pure statistics. Emotionally there have been rides far more difficult). And I will. But for now, instead, I will write again about Swiss firemen. More on cycling later.


A blurry figure appears in the peephole of my front door. I’m in the flat alone, this being Pentecost weekend my landlady and flatmate are away. I’m a little startled to hear the doorbell ring. Nonetheless, I answer the door to find a thin, elderly man in a pistachio-green bathrobe. His eyes are a clouded blue, either from age or from having having just awoken; His white is hair tousled, probably for similar reasons. He looks disconcerted.

Bonjour, he begins speaking to me in French. Of course, I can’t really understand, but I know what he’s talking about.* He is saying that he’s the downstairs neighbor, and there’s water leaking through his ceiling. My stomach drops four stories and hits the ground.

Puis-je regarde…ton salle de bain? He asks. Can I have a look in your bathroom?

Oui, entreé. Yes, come in.

He follows me to the bathroom. I open the door and am greeted by a pool of ankle-deep water. How did I not hear the leak? I touch the water and a mild shock runs up my arm; For some reason, the pool is carrying a charge. He sees me draw my hand away. Est-il chaud? he asks. Is it hot?

Non non non…erm…electrique? I reply. Ne touchez pas…

His worry seems to increase and in a whirl of French which I cannot parse but can somehow miraculously understand, he bids me to come see the mess in his apartment. As follow him down to the third floor, it dawns one me that he is the resident of the apartment bearing the Gerant de Fortunes, Expert (Expert Fortuneteller) plaque that I have passed by in wonder every day for nearly two months. I am about to enter the fortunteller’s apartment, at last.

Once inside, I’m struck by the fact that every horizontal surface is covered by an oriental tapestry and every vertical surface is covered in indigo hued wallpaper; the place is absolutely saturated in detail. I haven’t the energy to take it all in, though I wish I did. And yes, there is water dripping from his ceiling, though it is not as bad as I feared. His wife, with a face kind like a turtle’s, seems less like a fortuneteller’s wife than I would have imagined. She is standing staring up at the drops, hands on her hips. She smiles at me and seems to be a good sport about the whole ordeal whilst I apologize profusely. Il pleut, I say, in a somewhat vain attempt at levity. She smiles encore.

Mr. Fortuneteller, however is only slightly amused and is trying to tell me that he wants to call someone. Given that I’m at the point in my French book where one learns things like the names of fruits and vegetables, all I hear is: Je vais appeller le pamplemousse. Meaning, “I am going to call the grapefruit.” My neighbor, the fortuneteller, wants to call the grapefuit. I am fully aware that this is not possibly correct, and whatever he’s saying doesn’t sound exactly like pamplemousse anyway. I am at a loss for ideas.

Oui? I answer, half-heartedly. Pas compri… I utter, but it’s too late.

I return to my apartment, don rubber gloves and rubber soled shoes, begin to bail the water into my bathtub with a pot, and manage to stop up the leaky joint in the floor that is causing the fortuneteller so much grief.

A scare ten minutes later, there are three rather massive humans standing at my open door. I stop bailing water, rush to the entry and on the shirts of these humans I read the words: Pompier-Feu. Upon seeing it written I understand immediately. Pompier-Feu, pamplemousse. Ah, oui, there was my grapefruit. Except he isn’t a grapefruit, he’s a Fire fighter. Pompier-Feu. Bonjour, says the grapefruit. Bon. Jour. My neighbor called the fire department on my washing machine.

In what could be a textbook example of Massive Overkill, my bathroom is soon flooded not only with water, but with three Geneva City firemen. Apparently, they have nothing better to do than to go around answering calls about washing machines from Fortunetellers and hapless anglophones. All of them are at least twice my size and are wearing monstrous rubber boots. At once I am painfully aware of the fact that I am still in my pajamas, a which involve a (very comfortable but embarrasing) pair of purple leggings.*

I’m helpless as Les Pompiers Feu swarm the washing machine. One of them pulls out and hands me a busted rubber washer, the kind I’ve repaired numerous times on kitchen sinks, bathtubs, and pressurized 500 liter dewars of liquid Helium. About this point I realize I probably know more about how to fix this washing machine than these firemen do, seeing as appliance repair is not typically in their job description and, let’s be honest, experimental physics involves a good deal of glorified plumbing. Despite the Physics@Berk t-shirt I’m wearing, this fact is not entirely obvious to the firemen. I attempt to explain what happened and what I think went wrong. Le eau est sorti le port, peu-être la port n’est pas fermeé! When he begins correcting the gender of the nouns I’m attempting to use,** it becomes clear that this language barrier is insurmountable and he phones a supposedly English speaking colleague. We have a brief chat on the phone which is not very helpful to me, but the grapefruit seems satisfied when I hand him back his phone. He hangs up and says something presumably funny.

Rigole!” he says smiling. Now, this word I understand: Laugh! “It iz a jjoke!”

“Ha ha ha,” I reply, with only thinly veiled irony. My tone is translingual, and for once during this bizarre interaction all four of us reach a point of perfect understanding. A Joke, indeed. Now, the real laughter. He recommends I contact a technician and warns, finger waving included, Ne touchez pas la machine! Don’t touch ze Machine! D’accord. I promise them I won’t. We all wish one another Bon week-end and part ways. I sop up the rest of the water, change out of my purple leggings and bike to CERN, where the tale of my morning brings at least some mirth to our grim progress on far more complicated feats of plumbing

As soon as I get home the first thing I do, obviously, is touch the machine. I see that they’ve turned off the water and the power, and after a brief inspection I  ascertain that nothing is actually wrong and something must have been caught in the door during the wash, causing it to leak. I flip on the power, open the water valve and run a test cycle. Mercifully, the washing machine works properly. As of yet, there is no water on the floor and the fortuneteller has yet to return with further greivances.

However, seeing as I have no idea how much the Geneva fire department charges for house calls involving washing machines, nor how much damage fortuntellers claim for dripping ceilings…when my landlady gets home, I may be as good as dead. Pray for me, dear reader.


*Don’t judge.

**Dear Francophones: it is not our fault your language is so complex and aphonetic. Cut us some slack.

Ride Report: Genevarundan, Doing it Better

May 24, 2012

Swapping stories about about climbing Old La Honda road in Palo Alto, CA in good ol’ American English with someone you just met while riding your boss’s road bike* through Switzerland is not something one usually deems highly probable.

Swapping stories about Vätternrundan in good ol’ Scanian Swedish with someone you just met while riding your boss’s road bike through rural Switzerland is likewise not something that seems highly probable.

Accomplishing both on the same ride, as I managed to do last Sunday while riding the 190 km around Lake Geneva (a ride I did alone last summer) with CERN Velo Club, surely is a sign that some constellation, somewhere is aligning in my favor.

Genevarundan, as I call it on this blog and in my head, was this time around, infinitely easier. Possibly due to a) Well, I’ve actually been waking up early and riding intervals lately and b) Generally company makes such ventures better if not for the conversation, then for the draft. I felt strong, even if the pace was admittedly low and the road admittedly flat. All was well until the Fillet du Pêrche et pommes frites, a semi-forced lunch at restaurant outside of Montreaux, sank down like a greasy weight at the bottom of my stomach. But the cramps stopped after Evian and slowly but surely Geneva, the Saleve, the Jura, all the things familiar curled up around us. When it was over, we all ate ice cream in front of Jet D’Eau and later I successfully sneaked my professor’s carbon road bike past my landlady and into my room.

What’s more: Women cyclists, against all of my previous notions, do exist here! We were three girls in the pack on Sunday, and I’m happy to say we were easily the three strongest riders (Physicists don’t get to train much, I guess). In fact, a girls trip up Colombière, that road that is the stuff of legend, is in the works. We’ll see what the whirlwind brings.**


*And this time, I had the guts to ask him myself if I could ride it. He agreed, less grudgingly than before, but on the condition that I replace the rear derailleur cable. Done and done.

**On the CERN front: Many hours on vacuum systems, control systems, rewelded joints, etc. Apologies for only writing about fun. More on less important things later.