World War I Memories Everywhere in this Part of France

World War I memorial and cemetery for allied troops in Arras.

World War I memorial and cemetery for allied troops in Arras.

You cannot travel far in this part of France without seeing World War I memorials large and small. The graveyard and memorial in Arras was especially moving. 

IMG_1285I was able to go to the Cathedral in Reims (another Notre Dame) and meditate on Uncle Frank Denham for a few minutes. He is not forgotten. 

The Tour television coverage in France includes many quiet moments with the helicopter camera hovering over World War I memorials. I hope the coverage in the US is doing the same. IMG_1288



Ready to Go!

It is 7:45 a.m. and I am all ready to go. I do not actually need to leave for my last meeting with the tunneling engineers until 8:30 a.m. I leave for the airport at 11:00 a.m.

My bags are packed, I'm ready to go. One month with Rick Steve's luggage. The elephant bag will fold back up and be stowed away once my Trek bike ride is done.

My bags are packed, I’m ready to go. One month with Rick Steve’s luggage. The elephant bag will fold back up and be stowed away once my Trek bike ride is done.

I feel like I did on my first big trip at 16 when I spent the summer with Teen Missions. Excited, a little sick to my stomach, and easily emotional. (Keep all Hallmark ads away from me!)

I spent a lot of time on the phone with Air New Zealand last night trying to address the extra baggage charges, since I am no longer taking my bike I no longer need the extra bag. Fran let down the Air NZ side with very poor service (no call backs as promised, and poor communication skills). They have a nonrefundable policy on the extra bag charge; however, when I called to inquire before booking my ticket I recall the agent telling me that I could always change my mind when I got to the gate. Ultimately the usual excellent service prevailed and I was refunded for the bag one way. Guess that means I can haul home A LOT of souvenirs!

I will mainly be blogging from for the next month. See you over on that blog. Encourage your comments.

Fun and Easy Zone

Mara challenged me to keep my Le Tour Adventure fun and easy. Here is an update.

I took K2’s advice and ordered the Rick Steve’s luggage: both the daypack and the roller/backpack. The size forces you to pack light; however, I will not miss the second pair of jeans when I am carrying it from train station to my hotel and back. Still to do: a practice pack and walk around town this week.

July 1918 World War I; Wikipedia; Google Images

Wikipedia; Google Images

My friend Jim narrowed down where Uncle Frank likely died. I will double check on any available websites I can find. The Germans made a big push into France in Spring of 1918 and the French and American forces pushed back in July 2018. He likely died in Chateau Thierry and the Second Battle of the Marne.  When I am in Reims I will be as close as I will get to the area where he likely fell. If time and bus schedules allow I will go to Chateau Thierry. And if they do not, I will light a candle and remember him at the Cathedral in Reims.

Dust in the Las Vegas area kicked my sinuses up. And this weekend I have had tummy troubles. So I have some training to do on Trixie the road bike to regain some form.

Jens Voigt winning a stage after a breakaway.

Jens Voigt winning a stage after a breakaway.

Ray helped me clarify my stake for the trip: Enjoy a once in a life time adventure and meet amazing people.  Some people I would love to meet: Mark Cavendish, Jens Voigt, Fabian Cancellara, Greg Lemond, and any amazing person Providence puts in my path. Like the Canadians I met in Givors last year who inspired this trip.

I discovered the Imperial War Museum will reopen its galleries with a special exhibit in London July 19. I will make time to visit on my way through London at the end of July. Right after I tour Buckingham Palace‘s state rooms.

I discovered a great author–Australian John Baxter. He is the author of many books on Paris. A exemplar storyteller, his books are a delight to read. What I really love is he encourages you to be a “flaneur” — to walk without necessarily any purpose. So instead of making lots of notes while reading Paris at the End of the World, or The Most Beautiful Walk in the World, I am going to let go of an agenda for my free day in Paris.

Bill Reid shooting photos at Ag Art day.

Bill Reid shooting photos at Ag Art day.

Yesterday my friend Bill Reid gave me a photography tutorial during an Ag & Art at Chowdown Farms in Esparto. His help was greatly appreciated after giving up in frustration with the official “Blue Crane Digital” instructional video. It may have well as been in French.  There are also many excellent videos on YouTube. (Hooray YouTube!)

With just a little over a week before I leave, I am getting very excited. I cannot let my mind wander yet! First there is some more consulting work to do and some more prep.

Countdown to Adventure

With some sleep I was able to recover my enthusiasm for my Le Tour Adventure. I am getting ready to launch.  My stake is to enjoy a once in a lifetime adventue and meet amazing people.Tour de France 2014 route

Several people have asked where I will be going. Below is my itinerary. Please provide suggestions for what I might want to see or do along the way.  I will not be taking my folding bike, so I will be moving by foot, train and cab/bus. I note the kilometers the Tour de France pros will be riding for each stage.

July 1 – Day One – Flying to London on Air New Zealand

July 2 – Day Two – Arriving in London and taking train to Cambridge; staying at Christ College and walking around town.

July 3 – Day Three – Train to Leeds; meeting up with Trek Travel group at Hotel by 3 p.m. (Now on “Trek Time”)

July 4 – Day Four – Riding with Trek Travel; social events

July 5 – Day Five – Riding with Trek; viewing finish of Stage One, 190.5 km, Leeds to Harrogate

July 6 – Day Six – Riding with Trek; viewing race Stage Two, 201 km, York to Sheffield; travel to London

July 7 – Day Seven – Viewing the Stage Three finish in London; 155 km; Last night with Trek Travel

July 8 – Day Eight – Eurostar train to Lille, France for finish of Stage Four; 163.5 km

July 9 – Day Nine – Stage Five; 155.5 km; start in Ypres?? or finish in Arenberg Porte de Haunait??; lodging in Saint-Nicolas

July 10 – Day Ten – Stage Six; Arras to Reims; 194 km; Finish in Reims

July 11 – Day Eleven – Stage Seven; 234.5 km; Finish in Nancy

July 12 – Day Twelve – Stage Eight; 161 km; Start in Tomblaine?? Finish in Gerardmer?? meeting the WatLoves (Harriet Watson, Brian Lovell and girls) in Mulhouse!

July 13 – Day Thirteen – Stage Nine; 170 km; view finish in Mulhouse

July 14 – Day Fourteen – Stage Ten; 161.5 km; view start in Mulhouse; travel to Lyon

July 15 – Day Fifteen – Rest Day for Cyclists and me; meet up with Thomson Tours in Lyon for Alps spectator tour (from here to Paris I’m on “Thomson Time”); travel to Albertville

July 16 – Day Sixteen – Stage Eleven; 187.5 km; View finish in Oyonnax

July 17 – Day Seventeen – Stage Twelve; 185.5 km; Option to visit Chamonix or find Irish pub in Albertville to watch tour on tv and rest

July 18 – Day Eighteen – Stage Thirteen; 197.5 km; Viewing race from the “Col” (on the mountain)

July 19 – Day Nineteen – Stage Fourteen; 177 km; View the finish from the start in Grenoble

July 20 – Day Twenty – Stage Fifteen; 222 km; Travel to Lyon with Thomson Tours and on to St Lary-Soulan (watch on television)

July 21 – Day Twenty-one – Rest Day; Relax and write in St Lary-Soulan and meet Thomson Tours Pyrenees & Paris spectator tour participants

July 22 – Day Twenty-two – Stage Sixteen; 237 km; View finish in Bagneres de Luchon

July 23 – Day Twenty-three – Stage Seventeen; 124.5 km; view from St Lary-Soulan or take cable car to finish

July 24 – Day Twenty-four – Stage Eighteen; 145.5 km; View on mountain at Hautacam

July 25 – Day Twenty-five – Stage Nineteen; 208.5 km; View start in Maubourguet

July 26 – Day Twenty-six – Stage Twenty; 54 km; Watch time trial on television; travel to Paris

July 27 – Day Twenty-seven – Stage Twenty-one; 137.5 km; Watch finish on Champs-Elysees in Paris; dinner cruise on River Seine

July 28 – Day Twenty-eight – Rest day in Paris

July 29 – Day Twenty-nine – Travel to London on Eurostar; stay at Ampersand Hotel

July 30 – Day Thirty – Quick trip to Imperial War Museum to see new WW1 exhibit (if time permits) and then to Heathrow to fly home

I have ordered a new Rick Steve’s roller bag/backpack and I am borrowing Tevis’ backpack. I will try out both while shopping in Davis and decide which one to take. I bought two excellent Michelin maps in Washington DC. I will take up UK Sarah’s offer to go over the logistics with me. (She speaks French!)

Looking forward to your pointers!



July 14 – Day Fourteen – Stage Ten; 161.5 km; Start in Mulhouse

Laughing is Better than Crying

If a bad dress rehearsal means a good opening night, then maybe this “trial run” for my Tour de France trip is a good omen. This trip is full of mishaps. Some of it unavoidable, like the thunder and lightning showers. Some of the challenges are completely self made, like confusing Greenville, SC for Greenboro, NC. As I write this I have averaged 4-5 hours of sleep a night for 3 nights in a row, so I am highly emotional. I have driven for hours, sometimes in torrential rains made blurrier by tears. Two life line calls to fellow Panthers have saved me and quickly turned tears to laughter. And I have made some big decisions about the logistics of my Tour de France trip.

Can you guess what kind of tree this is? Answer at bottom of post

Can you guess what kind of tree this is? Answer at bottom of post.

Here is a taste. The plan was to catch a 7:00 a.m. flight on Wednesday to North Carolina via Las Vegas. My bad, I stayed up until midnight finishing The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer. I told myself it was because I did not want to tote a heavy paperback around. Really I just had to know what happened in the final chapters. (Recommended by David Sedaris; it is a modern version of Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner.)  I got up at 4:30 to barely make my flight and then bad weather on the East Coast delayed our flight to Raleigh. The US Open golf tournament is happening in Raleigh so a big group of us descended on the Dollar Car Rental counter. They had only two employees and a very antiquated computer system. While I waited in line an hour, I called the hotel to push back my reservation and discovered my first major logistical error: I planned my trip around Greensboro, NC when in fact I needed to be 4 hours south in Greenville, SC. Instead of tasting the culinary delights of the restaurant “17” chef, I would be driving until 1 a.m. to reach my hotel tucked away in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

The next morning my first life-line was Mara. She ignored that my laugh bordered on hysterical and complimented me on my lightness. “You seem to be able to laugh about it.” Yes and I was on the verge of panic. I took my Brompton out to ride in the hills around the hotel earlier that morning and thought I was going to die. I wanted to quit almost immediately. I pushed myself way past what I thought I could do and then pulled over the side of the road “to take pictures.”  I thought about turning around and then remembered my sister-in-law Heidi’s practice. When she rock climbs to the place where she really does not think she can go one inch higher, she takes a rest and then pushes herself a little further before rappelling down. After my rest I pushed myself up one more hill.

Altogether, I was beginning to think my planned Le Tour Adventure was impossible. If I cannot figure it out in a place that speaks English and uses dollars, how will I manage in French and Euros? Mara asked me how I could make the trip “easy and fun”. She was right–I was making it a job.

The most obvious decision: leave my Brompton bike at home. It may fold up very small but it meets resistance on all forms of transportation. Southwest did not want to check it without a box! (first time that has happened). Today Amtrak did not want to let it on (no bike policy). I would have to lug around a heavy lock and heavy bike repair tools, plus keep my helmet for the whole trip.  Whereas if I leave it at home I can ship my bike shoes, helmet, bike gloves, and pedals home from London (Day 5 or 6 of my trip). I decided I am not taking the bike and now I am feeling some grief about making this decision. It is the right decision and I was really attached to the idea of taking it. I brainstormed where I might still miss my bike–Cambridge–and how I could rent a bike in those situations.

I really want to hire a valet to carry my stuff and wash my clothes. Instead, I am going to take one bag (borrowing Tevis’ backpack) and still pack very, very light.

I am going to do a lot of research about train schedules and study maps of France. I will keep my eyes open for other people following the tour (like the Canadians I met last year) so I can team up and maybe one of them will speak English and French.

Last night I got about 4 hours of sleep (read my review of Hotel Domestique on for full story) and I was feeling really emotional at 6 am when I stopped for breakfast-to-go and texted Connie to call me as soon as she was available.

I have some anxiety about traveling alone because of how other people react. Plus I have to pay a premium for single tours. The hardest part is not having someone to help troubleshoot when you get into a tight spot.  Traveling with UK Sarah last week and getting a little lost on the way to Fish Camp was fun. When I talked to my second lifeline Connie, she recounted her own solo European adventure and how people showed up as needed. I have experienced this phenomenon too and Connie’s reminder was helpful. Even on this trip, in Hillsboro, a 70ish man named Pleasure Sawyer saw me reading my map and began to regale me with stories about the area. I might have missed the giant peach water tower in Gaffney had Pleasure not talked my leg off.

I also planned a couple of visits with friends for this trip. Meeting up with Chris Kypriotis and his beautiful family in Asheville was fun and worth the effort. They treated me to Luella’s BBQ and I learned a lot about Asheville. It helped me understand the vast difference between Upstate South Carolina and Greenville and the greater NC Asheville community. I started picking up on it while listening to the car radio (the stations all still have local disc jockeys!). Now I am on my way to see my dear friend Carole in Washington DC. On my Le Tour I will meet up with Harriet, Brian and the girls. And possibly Susie in Paris.

I also ordered a car to pick me up and take me to Dulles on early Sunday morning. When bad logistical choices are all you have then a little bit of comfort is the best tonic.

Answer: Purple leafed European Beech.



Uncle Frank’s Sacrifice

Yesterday I learned quite a bit more about my Uncle Frank. Mom and I drove over to Santa Rosa and met up with her cousin Marilyn and find out more about Frank E. Denham’s history and gathered additional photos.

Frank E Denham circa sometime around 1915.

Frank E Denham circa sometime around 1915.

I am not a genealogy nerd. My aunt Betty does some research about the family and I am always happy to listen. However, I do not derive much of my identify from my ancestors. Nonetheless, I have found my Great Grandpa Albert Denham quite interesting. He came out to California in the late 1800s from the Missouri Territory. Then went back to Oklahoma for the land rush and then returned to the Fulton area near Santa Rosa, California in 1900. Family lore is that he said, “No land is worth shooting a man over.” (Implying this was the only way you could hang on to land in the Rush.) He was very conservative father to his daughters viewing both high school and dances as two great morally corrupting influences.  Come to think of it, his wife Nancy Elizabeth (Lizzie) must have had some gumption too as she traveled with him through these adventures having children along the way. At least there was a railroad by 1869.

Frank was Albert’s only son and looks like him in many ways. He was being groomed for working the family farm alongside his dad. Been reading about Germany’s machinations to distract the US from joining the Allies by ginning up conflicts with Mexico and Japan or both together. Barbara Tuchman’s The Zimmerman Telegram is a non-fiction that reads like a great spy novel. The British come off looking competent, the Wilson administration not so much. This explains why after Uncle Frank was drafted he was first sent to Mexico and then to Britain and ultimately to the front in France.

I learned from staff at the Oddfellows/Santa Rosa Cemetery that Frank was not buried until July 1921, a full three years after his death in France. They surmise that he was buried in a temporary mass grave until they could eventually ship him home. He was the first of the fallen sons of Santa Rosa to be returned. The article in the Press Democrat mentioned city flags would fly at half-mast, businesses would close and full military honors would be presented at his funeral. I hope it brought some comfort to his parents and sisters at the time.

Part of me really wishes he had lived and imagines how our family history might have changed. Then again, knowing my grandparents tumultuous at times relationship, my Mom might not have been born and so on. So best to trust in Providence.

Visiting his grave also gave me more information to aid in identifying where he might have fallen in battle.

Frank's gravestone in Oddfellow's cemetary in Santa Rosa CA

Frank’s gravestone in Oddfellow’s cemetary in Santa Rosa CA

Searching for Uncle Frank

We know what happened to Uncle Frank. He died in battle somewhere in France July 29, 2018.

Army Private Frank E. Denham

Army Private Frank E. Denham

I always knew I had a great Uncle Frank (my grandmother Olson’s brother) who died in World War I. It was a great family tragedy as he was the only boy in the family at time when parent’s hopes and dreams for the future were focused on the son. I never knew my great-grandparents but I was told that they never emotionally recovered from Frank’s death.

Always anti-war, growing up with school friends obsessed with Vietnam POW bracelets and anti-war protests in the news, my pacifism was clinched when my grandmother told me how her beautiful horse was sold to the cavalry during the war. As a horse-crazy youngster, I could not imagine a greater tragedy. She did not speak of her greater loss–her brother who nicknamed her “Jack” because he wanted a brother.

In school and University it seemed that the first World War was always quickly passed over to spend more time on World War II. As I prepared for the Tour de France adventure and looked at the route, I realized we will pass through many of the battle sites from the War to End All Wars.

I also realized that my knowledge of WWI and specifically my Uncle Frank’s part in the conflict was embarrassingly slack . So I have begun a project to rectify this ignorance on my part. First I enlisted the aid of my mother and brother to help find any information we can about Uncle Frank.  I also asked my brother (the history professor) to give me some reading assignments. is very helpful with documents. This is the information I have been able to piece together so far from various sources:

Frank Estel Denham

Born October 6, 1891 in Norman,Oklahoma

to parents Lizzie Denison and Albert Denham (both born in Carroll County, MO)

Sisters Bertha, Ada, Hazel (my Grandmother)

Blue eyes, medium height, slender build (Handsome and popular)

Farmer. Santa Rosa, Sonoma County, CA

Registered in Army October 2, 1917 and assigned to Camp Kearney, CA

Private, U.S. Army (Photo in uniform) Company D 159, Infantry

Killed in action July 29 (circumstances unknown). World War I

Buried in Oddfellows Cemetery, Santa Rosa, CA.

From Press Democrat October 13, 1918: The young man served with Company E on the Mexican border and was sent to Camp Lewis in one of the early draft calls last fall from where he was forwarded to Camp Kearney and assigned to his old regiment, which had then become the 159th U.S. Infantry. He went overseas the last of June, as the family received a brief letter, dated July 12, from England, telling of his arrival safely. Nothing more was heard until the telegram of …The fact that the 159th Regiment did not arrive in England until July 12, and was in action July 29, shows it was brigaded with the British for training and would seem to account for the delay in getting news of the casualty through to the parents as the reports would have to pass through English headquarters, be transmitted to the American headquarters and then forwarded to Washington, all causing delay in face of the heavy demands in clerical help as the result of such heavy fighting on all fronts for weeks past.

My mom, Karen Olson Tognotti, remembers her mother Hazel telling her that she learned about Frank’s death and had to drive the car into Santa Rosa to tell her sister Ada the news. Some men were working on a bridge and she stopped and told them that Frank was killed. They all stopped work and cried.


My goal is to learn where he most likely fell in battle and pay my respects while I am in France. Please share if you have any tips on how to find this information about where Company D, 159th Battalion might have been assigned in the end of July 2018.


Meanwhile I have read All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque. It is incredibly moving. I am not surprised it was never assigned in school since it by “our enemy” a German, and yet that is why it should be required reading. Everyone suffered in the war. Poison gas was used by both sides. It was all so pointless.

Professor Dean Pieper’s suggestions for understanding WWI:

“The BBC has a centenary remembrance on World War I.

There are two novels that would be great Ernest Hemingway’s  A Farewell to Arms and Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quite on the Western Front.

John Keegan’s The First World War and Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August are two non-fiction reads that are worth the time.



What Price Glory 1926

The Lost Patrol 1934

Sergeant York 1941

A Farewell to Arms 1957

Paths to Glory 1957

Gallipoli 1981

The Trench 1999

There are many more films but this gives you a retrospective of some of the better ones.”

Please share if you have any WWI books, films or other resources to help my understanding of this war.







Living a Bigger Life

There is nothing like a coaching conference to kickstart the voices in your head to say: “you are not doing enough” or “you are playing small.” The first day the at the CTI Global Co-Active Summit I found myself feeling defeated. It seemed everyone else had made a better seminar choice and was more plugged into their life purpose. The amount of energy in the room was so supercharged that it made it difficult to find my emotional bearings.

Poppies along a vineyard walk in Napa.

Poppies along a vineyard walk in Napa.

The second day I chose a different seminar–one that serves my personal growth, not my business. I went to Rick Tamlyn’s workshop “Play Your Bigger Game”. We made a giant game board on the floor and we looked at the squares, such as “comfort zones” or “assess” or “gulp” with “bold action” in the middle. It served as a metaphor for life. Rick’s objective was to teach us all how to keep moving around the board and take more bold actions. It is a great seminar and I could share a lot more about his really great insights. My main insight: I am already playing a big game.

Huh. (some of you may be saying Duh!)

So, besides telling my voices to be quiet, I also need to ignore the teachers and writers who are pulling me towards doing. Tevis tells me I have reached the “Elder” stage. He is right. I want to a being who does some stuff.  Through conversations with tribemates Connie and Christie and reflection, I realized that I am right where I need to be with work, and my kids. One gift I want to be more intentional about is “agent”.  I get excited when I can connect people and resources to help someone’s dream come alive.

One of the keynote speakers Dave Logan, co-author of Tribal Leadership, talked about the strength and value of triads in relationship, and he showed us how to listen carefully to what someone says and map the good/bad words to determine their values. Then we can connect with them and connect them to others through their values. I am going to play with these ideas in my role as an agent.

I had a chance to practice it right in the moment as Tevis introduced me to Mai Vang. He thought we had a lot in common and that I could encourage Mai as she develops her leadership skills. We met for coffee and I felt supercharged. More about his later.

I recommend watching Dave Logan’s Ted Talk on tribal leadership, AND what I really want to leave you with is a hugely inspirational video by Rick Tamlyn.




Recharged at Co-Active Summit

CTI‘s co-active leadership program can take credit for inspiring and empowering my redesign.  It all started with my CTI trained coach Marj Plumb who coached me while I was Executive Director of Housing California. When I was hungry for more she suggested I take the coach training courses with CTI.  I took the Fundamentals course and committed to taking all of the courses and thought about becoming a certified coach. Then one of the instructors encouraged me to do the leadership program. I checked it out and decided it was the better fit for me.  In 2009 I was immersed in the Co-Active Leadership program and became part of the Panther Tribe.

The Panther Tribe and the learning we did together transformed my life. My co-workers saw it; my kids saw it. Whereas other leadership programs work on the outside–public speaking skills,, organization skills, etc. Co-active leadership gave me the skills to manage myself, to change the internal dialogue and gave me a hunger for living the bigger story.

#Epic; my team/prickle for debrief and treasure hunt

#Epic; my team/prickle for debrief and treasure hunt

At Level 1 the Summit was a stage for CTI to role out new concepts and products, and to showcase their faculty. They did this artfully from the 360 degree stage echoing their 360 evaluation product. They did it playfully by creating a fable with Mewe the Hedgehog and friends. We were randomly assigned to a “prickle” and given a treasure hunt challenge as a common purpose for practicing our leadership and bonding as a team. My prickle #Epic are a delightful group of people from around the globe.

At Level 2 the Summit offered amazing learning. All of the presenters came with their A game and it resulted in some very profound learning, including the new CTI Dimensional Leadership Model. Nothing at CTI is like typical classroom learning–there is always a physical activity and an element of fun. (More on this in future post.)

At Level 3 the Summit provided the backdrop for connecting with Panthers and others and to be part of the larger CTI community. Instead of banning the smartphone they embraced it. We used it to tweet, snap photos, in the treasure hunt and so on. It means we are more likely to stay connected with the people we met and in our prickle through email and facebook. And because the people in the CTI community are all so fantastic, I had some amazing conversations with people and it locked in my learning.

At Level 4 the Summit called forth this global community and enrolled them in bringing co-activity to the world. We all believe at some level that these tools are important if we are going to survive as a species. Seeing people from all over the world who have embraced this leadership ethos and hearing the amazing keynotes reminding us what is at stake, and reconnected us all to our commitment to be leaders in the world.

I will write more about this conference. Need a little more time to let it sink into my bones.