Crazy Bike Ride on the Basque Coast

Guethary Plage

Youth Hostel Biarritz

My wife Mercedes and I together with our son Patrick were in between some ministry engagements in Europe when we took a break in the Biarritz area, located along the Basque Coast of France.

We didn’t have much time for this break so one day when I heard that the surf had come up I wanted to get down to it while we had the chance. However, we didn’t have any transportation options since there were no trains or buses going where we wanted to go at that hour.

A French guy we had made friends with at the Youth Hostel where we were staying at in Biarritz said he would loan us his bikes, which sounded like a good idea at the time!

I, however, didn’t realize I was in for the workout of my life, when on these old rusted-out junkers with half-inflated tires, we started encountering the steep hills of the Basque coast. Not only were these rustbuckets resistant to rolling very fast but the hills were grueling and I had a surfboard under one arm and Patrick on my back in a kid-backpack as well.

It didn’t take long until I was completely drenched in sweat as I agonized my way up one hill after

the other after another and another. My legs were burning and I was just panting from this heavy workout that I had gotten us into.

The bike was also slowly deteriorating as I rode with things getting stiffer and harder to work. For more than ten miles it went on; I’ve done 50-mile rides before but this was by far much more grueling.

We finally arrived at Guethary (a French reef break and big wave spot) and I was absolutely soaked with sweat and completely exhausted. The bikes were in worse shape though as they had deteriorated throughout the ride and were now defunct. In fact, Mercedes’ bike almost sent her into the ocean when its breaks failed on the last hill down to the beach.

The surf, much to my shock, was a lot bigger than I had expected. Big waves can be exciting, but not when you feel like you just ran a marathon! As I looked out at the sea I realized my board was definitely too small for the 12 foot-plus waves.

After that investment in getting there I wasn’t about to just give up though. I gathered what was left of my strength and paddled out in the large surf.

In spite of having too small a board I still had some good waves and a fun time, though it was quite the exhausting session in that size surf and especially after the ride there.

The dilemma of how to get back, however, awaited on the shore.

We now had broken bikes, night had set in, and it was dark and freezing and there was a very long hard distance to cover to return. It seemed crazy to try and ride with broken bikes with no breaks, or to walk, which wasn’t really possible either at such a distance and time of night.
We just began to pray as to what to do.

As we prayed we both felt we should try going to a nearby train station. We got there and the station was closed. There was no chance of getting tickets and we actually hadn’t brought our wallet with us so we only had a bit of change, and besides, bikes were not allowed on these particular trains, so it all seemed pointless. But the posted schedule showed that one more train was coming that evening and we felt led to just pray for a miracle and wait and see what would happen.

Having traveled extensively on trains in France before, we knew we needed a major miracle, having been fined just for having a surfboard once on the wrong type of train and another time for having just slightly wrong tickets.

The train finally arrived as we stood shivering in the dark, the conductor opened the door and, in broken French, we tried to explain our dilemma. He looked at us with the two bicycles, a surfboard and a child, with no tickets, and he had an expression on his face like: “You want to bring all that junk on my train and don’t even have tickets, what mental institution have you escaped from?”

We stood there a moment and it was as though he was struck with divine compassion all of sudden and just said in broken English: “OK, get on, but make sure all that junk doesn’t get in anybody’s way.”

We had no doubt it was a major miracle, the bikes weren’t even supposed to be on the train, we didn’t even have tickets and he never asked us for any payment at all. God had moved on his heart to spare us a grueling midnight death trek back to the hostel. After so many run-ins with strict train policies and rules and enforcements in the past, we knew how truly miraculous this was!

Right when we got off, the miracles continued as a friend I’d been surfing with a day before happened to be just driving by right then and picked us up and drove us the rest of the way to the youth hostel. This gave us an opportunity to share with him what just happened and witness to this unbeliever of the goodness of the Lord. A door was now opened through a just-happened miracle that caused him to listen with unusual enthusiasm of the good news of Christ.
The miracle continued when we arrived back at the youth hostel. A nice but pricey dinner was just being served and the hostel administrator, just out of the blue, handed us two free dinner tickets as we came through the door.

It was a miraculous conclusion to an already wild and miraculous day. God’s wonders of grace definitely buoyed our enthusiasm as we spent the next few days witnessing to the administrator and others around the hostel of the greatness and wonders of God.

The Lord rescued us with the miracle of the train conductor letting us on when we were stranded without tickets, money or anything, plus all that stuff that they don’t even let on that type of train in the first place. Then we were picked up with another ride when we got off the train and were able to witness to that other surfer very effectively. Then God supplied a free dinner, which met our dire hunger after all that riding which led to more opportunities to witness around the youth hostel of the goodness of the Lord. Hallelujah