DAY 15, JUNE 1
(SAM) I slept well, but Chris said our bunk was shaking in the night. Matt also said he heard a strange noise on the roof. We cleaned up a little and went to the little crypt under the church where the saint was first buried. The singing was very French.
(CHRIS) Sr. B. had invited us four to pray with them during their morning singing and devotions. It was an interesting experience. They all had pretty voices. They are very devout women.
While I mailed out all our silly postcards, the others went to a Canadian priest for confession. It had been ugly, rainy weather the whole time at Ars, and as we left town, the rain came down again. We headed south past Lyon to Grenoble on super highway, making great time. Then it was on to windy (curvy, that is) rural roads as we ascended into the majestic Alps. "Why?" you ask, dear reader! Well, my friend, we were approaching the most rural of the Marian apparition shrines, LaSallette!
We stopped in one of the small towns on the way and bought lunch fixins. As the weather cleared up, we pulled off at a pull over. We ate the customary bread, cheese, and meat (with the famous mustard) as we gazed upon snow-capped peaks and fragile tulips. Finally we reached LaSallette, but the signs directed us to continue for another 5 km. This road led us almost straight up, again curving to meet the mountains natural contours. Soon the town became a little Mr. Roger's mini-town, a mile below.
There was a large basilica and several buildings attached to it. Off to one side was a hill with a cross on it. From there, you could see the town. Matt, Sam, and I climbed up there--a short but tough climb. There we read aloud the story of LaSallette. Two cow herds, aged 14 and 11, saw Our Lady in the 1840's. Her message contained two secrets that we don't know. The rest of her message seemed directed largely at the local people, but could be applied to the world as a whole. Stop cursing and blaspheming. Keep holy the Sunday by not working and going to Mass. Mary told the kids that her Son was very angry and she was holding back his arm from punishing us but that it was growing heavy.
There were statues depicting the exact spots of each part of the apparition. At first, Mary was sitting with her face in her hands. She cried the whole time. (pigeon stain from small Italian town, Orte, where this is being written) There was a spring that came up via a bit of a miracle and we all partook of it. (Later, we filled all our jugs with it.) The scenery was breath-taking. In every direction we looked the grassy slopes reached higher and higher. Some hearty pilgrims had ascended even the steepest of them. There was also a little cemetery here. We stayed an hour or two, mostly in quiet meditation. It was very peaceful and quiet. We only counted about 40 cars.
We headed back down the mountain, taking note of the many "falling rock" signs, About 3/4 of the way back down to the town, traffic stopped completely. We waited a few minutes, but nothing was moving. So I walked ahead around the bend and saw what was causing the problem. There was a rock slide that had blocked off the road. There was a huge plow there, but it was parked. Men on ropes were on the slope above the road, prying out loose rocks. These rocks would come crashing down, making the road more clogged. After about 40 minutes, they plowed the road and we went by.
We continued southeast along the "famous" Route Napoleon. Sometimes the road was swift, but most of the time, we were weaving in and out of valleys and mountains. This part of the Alps is surely not the most spectacular, but it is awesome. About 7 p.m., we stopped to shop. Since I was the only one who stayed outside the SUPERmarche, I alone can be held blameless for the choice of meat--raw country ham. We stopped at a pretty overlook after passing (too quickly, I think) the cute town. There, Jon started a fire with his magic military fire tablets. He heated up a can of corn (not bad) and then used his chemical fire to cook some raw meat. He ate it in the bread; the rest of us only ate a tiny piece. (For the record, we all made fun of Jon, but he insists it tasted good, despite its odd hue, and, as far as we know, he never got sick.) The rest of us feasted on bread, chocolate spread, bananas, cheese, Coke, and cookies.
We saw some nice camp sites, but the majority favored getting to the Riviera. We got to the coast, but never slowed down. On we sped, through Cannnes, Nice, Monaco, and Monte Carlo. These were all sprawling tourist hot spots. All the beaches seemed to be owned by hotels. Jon was driving, but we were not on the highway. We were driving the coast, baby-and it was a twister. Especially entertaining was Monte Carlo. Jon gunned the car through the city as fast as possible, drinking liquid caffeine and cookies at a rate as alarming as his KPH. Up and down and around one hair-pin turn after another, he flew. It seemed very dangerous, but it was a hell of a lot of fun. "Better than a roller coaster and without the safety features," --that's our trip motto.
Anyway, we surprised ourselves by hitting the Italian border about 10 p.m. We bought $300 worth of lira. Also, we finally got stopped at a border, but once he saw just the cover of one U.S. passport, he waved us by. It was getting late and we were grumpy a bit so we pulled into a small farming community before Genoa and put up the tent on a grassy lot. And we slept the sleep of a weary, caffeine-filled traveler...