Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Taking a Chance . . . Tuesday, January 11

Quite recently I developed a paralyzing fear about driving the main highway up to my town. The main highway and the old road split at about at about 1,850 feet elevation and rejoin 1,000 feet higher. The old road does it in two miles, on the south side of the canyon, the new in maybe four or six miles on the north side. I’m not sure, just that it seems interminable. It’s another 1,000-foot rise in elevation. The sweeping irregular curves have always made me carsick, whether I’m driving or not. Once I got familiar with the skinny, straight-up road, I never wanted to go back to the main highway again.

And now, I almost can’t go up the new road after dark, disoriented by the shifting radii of the curves, my brain fooled into thinking that there's a drop off into space immediately on the other side of the white line to the right, so I can’t tell where to pull over to let the cars piling up behind me pass.

Snow, mud or rock slides, ice, all call for closure of the old road, so when weather threatens, I hesitate to go down the hill. And darned if weather doesn’t seem to go bad disproportionately on Tuesdays, French-class night! On the Tuesday between Christmas and New Year I had already missed a Holiday Fondue Savoyarde party which welcomed one of our members back from the Peace Corps. Rain. A bunch. So not only was the old road likely to be closed, but visibility on our mountain roads would be lousy.

Prof Chantal
 Predictions for today were -- can you guess? -- for rain. With subfreezing overnight temperatures the past few days, I was not optimistic about tonight and prepared to phone my regrets to the prof. But I looked at the thermometer mid-morning and today it was 48° when it had been more like 28° and I just really wanted to go. So I took the chance.

Tonight was the first class in the new year and we had two new students. Chantal, the prof, had made a Galette des Rois, a cake served in celebration of La Fête des Rois (Epiphany or Twelfth Night) in some regions of France. Tradition has it that a small child (le petit roi), hiding beneath the table, will distribute pieces of the cake to the guests. Whoever finds la fève -- a charm hidden inside -- is King or Queen and can choose a partner. Lacking a small child, Chantal, the youngest, distributed the yummy cake and declined to duck beneath the tables. One of our new students found la fève. He received la couronne (crown), but we didn't make him choose among the regal women present.

Galette des Rois after the vultures
You don’t need to live in Sonora to take French classes from Chantal. Through the miracle of the Internet, she has students all over the world, face-to-face via Skype. So if you’ve ever wanted personal tutoring in French but are far from a source, look her up:

See you tomorrow.


  1. Were you able to take Old Priest Grade, or did you have to take the scary road? Lainie

  2. Unintentionally created cliff-hanger? I would be sleeping in my car at the bottom of the hill until daylight if it hadn't been open.