Touring France while watching the Tour de France

Jeff Madison rides his bike to work every day.
But for his summer vacation, he rode in an RV, while he watched other people ride their bikes.
But these weren’t your typical bicycle riders. They were the best riders in the world.
Jeff and and his wife, Nancy, along with their son Isaac and his wife, Mercy, traveled to Europe to join the masses of people following the premier cycling event in the world — the Tour de France.
“We’ve always followed the tour (on TV),” Jeff said. “Isaac, my oldest son, is especially interested in bike racing and the tour.”
The Madisons rented an RV and followed parts of the 20 some stages of the tour, which began July 3 and ended July 25.
“On a typical day, the race is anywhere from 90 to 140 miles,” Jeff said. “They move it around France. One year they ride clockwise around the country. The next year, they ride counterclockwise. It’s kind of a Ride the Rockies (the annual bicycle ride through the Rocky Mountains), but Ride the Rockies on steroids.”
Jeff and Nancy hooked up with Isaac and Mercy, who had gone over earlier, in northeast France.
“We flew into Paris and then we took the high-speed train, which was amazing,” said Jeff, who is the natural resources specialist for Rio Blanco County and the director of the county planning department. “It’s a 130 mph train and it’s absolutely silent. There’s no vibration. It’s just like flying across the countryside. It looks like you’re literally flying, but you’re on the ground. France has trains figured out.”
The French do other things well, too, like bake.
“No matter how big the town, they had amazing bakeries in every town,” Jeff said. “Every morning we had fresh pastries.”
As far as the French people’s reputation for being rude, Jeff said that’s not true, at least in the smaller towns.
“In Paris, the people were snooty, just like in any big city,” Jeff said. “But outside the big cities, they were a lot more friendly.”
This was Jeff’s first time to travel to Europe.
“I’ve never been out of the country, but a couple of times to Mexico for spring break and to Canada once or twice,” he said.
Jeff noticed some major differences between France and what he’s used to back in Colorado.
“There’s not a wood frame house (in France). They are all stone or cement. The newer ones are cement. They use very little wood. They don’t have the forests we have,” he said. “And they don’t have subdivisions, either. You either live in town, or you live in the country, and there are castles everywhere. Their newer buildings are older than our old buildings.”
The course for the Tour de France took the Madisons through different parts of the country, from the flat stages of the race to the mountain stages.
“The roads were amazingly narrow,” Jeff said. “We had spots where we had to pull the mirrors in on the RV, because the buildings were so close to the road on either side.”
Alberto Contador of Spain was the winner of this year’s Tour de France, his third tour victory. But for the Madisons, they were cheering for a different rider — Lance Armstrong.
For Armstrong, a seven-time winner of the race, this was his final Tour de France. The 38-year-old cyclist had announced the 2010 race would be his last.
“One day we had a Texas flag with us and my son was waving it. Lance glanced over and gave my son a little nod,” Jeff said of the cyclist, who is from the Lone Star State. “It was our brush with greatness.”
Jeff was also asked by a TV crew about whether he thought Armstrong had made a mistake for coming back for one more Tour de France race.
“The insinuation was he was over the hill,” said Jeff, who was wearing his yellow LIVESTRONG yellow wrist band at the time of the interview. “I said no. I said he’s doing it for the cancer thing now. That’s his primary goal for coming back, and he’s been highly successful with that.”
Armstrong, after successfully battling the disease himself, has used his celebrity to raise money and awareness for fighting cancer.
As an aside during the Tour de France trip, the Madisons visited Normandy, France, site of the D-Day invasion of Europe during World War II.
“That was my favorite part of the trip,” Jeff said. “We went over and spent a day at Normandy. It’s amazing. You try to visualize trying to get across that beach … It’s mind-boggling what those guys went through. It’s just awe-inspiring to see what they did to take that beach that day.”
• • • • • •
The two most-common comments I have heard after last Tuesday’s primary election were: People were surprised by the outcome of the county commissioner race, but not by the close margin. And they were surprised by the not-so-close margin of the coroner race, but not by the outcome.
Shawn Bolton won a close three-way race with Pat Hughes and Wendy Gutierrez for county commissioner, while Dr. Albert Krueger won comfortably over Sherri Halandras and Nancy Richardson for coroner.
In the commissioner race, Bolton received 583 votes, Hughes 571 and Gutierrez 542. In the coroner election, Krueger had 807 votes, Halandras 534 and Richardson 367.
“I was surprised there was that much of a margin,” Halandras said. “I really thought I had a good shot at it. I worked hard. I don’t have any regrets. I want to thank everybody who supported me. I wish Dr. Krueger the best.”
Halandras had received the most votes at the Republican County Assembly in March with 23. Krueger received 15 votes, which was the number required to automatically qualify to have his name put on the ballot. Richardson, who received six votes at the assembly, petitioned to have her name added to the primary ballot.
“I’m disappointed to lose, because I spent so much of my time training for this,” Richardson said. “I think I would have been a good coroner. I called Albert (to offer congratulations) and told him I would help him out in the interim.”
Richardson, the only one of the three candidates with the certification from the state association, has served as a deputy coroner under Ran Cochran, filling in as coroner when he was unavailable.
Asked if she would continue in that role, Richardson said, “That will be at the discretion of Dr. Krueger. As soon as Ran’s resignation takes effect (after the primary election), then basically the current deputies are no longer deputies. Even if we were continuing, we’d have to be sworn in by the new coroner.”
Sgt. Roy Kinney, investigator for the Rio Blanco County Sheriff’s Office, had served as a deputy coroner on the west end of the county. But since being named investigator, he spends the majority of his time in Meeker at the county courthouse. He recently submitted his resignation as deputy coroner.
“Typically, the coroner has one or two deputy coroners,” Krueger said. “It’s a pretty unique situation that here at the conclusion of the primary, the current coroner is going to leave the office. It is my understanding that the successful candidate for the primary will be asked to serve out the term of the current coroner (through the end of the year). That puts me in a position of choosing at least one or two deputies for the interim, or longer.”
But first, Krueger will travel out of the country for a two-week trip to Africa.
“I’m going to do a consulting trip for an oil company to do a medical audit,” said Krueger, who will be traveling to Equatorial Guinea on behalf of Hess Energy.
Meanwhile, he’ll savor last Tuesday’s victory as well as the experience of running for political office for the first time.
“It was a good race,” Krueger said. “I’m thankful to the other coroner candidates. I’m very grateful to the voters in Meeker and Rangely and feel very privileged to be part of the election process.”
• • • • • •
The order of finish in the commissioner race was flip-flopped from the Republican Assembly, where Bolton had finished third out of the three candidates, behind Gutierrez and Hughes. Both Bolton and Hughes had to petition to get on the primary election ballot.
“It’s very humbling, what the people are saying … the calls and e-mails. It’s very overwhelming the support im getting,” Bolton said. “I’ve had people I don’t even know leave messages saying if there’s anything you need, we’ll will be there to support you.”
Bolton was an outspoken critic of a business-as-usual attitude in politics during the campaign.
“It’s going to be a battle for me (once he takes office). The government didn’t want to see someone like me in there. When it comes down to it, for me, it’s just business. The rest of us have to watch things, and they should do the same. It’s my tax dollars right along with yours.”
Bolton will be sworn in in January, replacing Joe Collins, who is retiring after 16 years as a commissioner.
“Then it all gets fun, but it’ll be good,” Bolton said. “I think you’ll see more of this all around the nation (where political newcomers are elected). They’re tired of career politicians. They’re just tired of politicians, in general.
“If the majority of the public says no and they cram it down their throats anyway, then you’re not doing what the people want,” Bolton said, citing federal health-care reform as an example. “If they had put that to a public vote of the people, it would’ve failed.”
• • • • • •
Before leaving on his trip to Africa, newly elected county coroner Krueger was appointed interim coroner by the county commissioners, replacing Ran Cochran, who resigned in July as coroner and moved to Alaska earlier this month.
“Last Thursday evening we had a special meeting and appointed him (Krueger) as the interim coroner,” said Ken Parsons, chairman of the Board of County Commissioners. “Since he was leaving (on his trip), he then appointed Nancy Richardson as his deputy, so we had coverage while he was gone.”
Asked about the campaign for commissioner, Parsons said, “I think all three candidates really ran a pretty good campaign. At the last meeting (of the commissioners), I thanked Pat and Wendy for their willingness to do public service. They had been attending a lot of the meetings (during the campaign). I haven’t had a chance to talk to Shawn and offer him congratulations. Now the works begins. We plan on integrating Shawn into this budget we’re building. He can be as involved as he wants to be.”
• • • • • •
So far this year, Rio Blanco County has had 22 foreclosures, with 16 being active, or still going through the process. Of those 16 active cases, 12 are in Meeker and four in Rangely.
“We have 22 so far this year, with 16 active … and that includes some left over from last year,” said Karen Arnold, Rio Blanco County treasurer.
“That’s down a little bit from last year at this time,” Arnold said. “I talked to someone with a foreclosing firm in Denver and she said lots of counties are seeing a slight drop (in foreclosures) and then they expect another wave this fall. Then it will back off again during the holidays.”
• • • • • •
My two youngest daughters — ages 17 and 15 — spent a few days with me last week. It was their second time to visit Meeker.
One afternoon we played golf at the Meeker Golf Course. Or, I should say, they watched me try to play golf, and they got to drive the cart.
“That wasn’t your best shot, dad,” one of my daughters said after one of my tee shots.
“I don’t think that’s the way you want to go,” was another comment one of the girls made after a particularly errant shot.
“Good effort, dad,” one of them said, trying to be encouraging.
When I told the girls I try to avoid hitting the ball when someone is watching, for fear of being seen hitting a bad shot, my 17-year-old said, “I don’t blame you.”

Jeff Burkhead is editor of the Herald Times. You may e-mail him at