In evolving what goes for a “plan” with this cycling tour, the biggest consideration was that my wife could join me in France for around ten days. The first of those ten days is about two hours away as I write, and I made it to our meeting spot, Nevers, with about five hours to spare.
I wouldn’t call it a mad dash, more like a hugely enjoyable northeastern ramble from Hendaye at the Spanish border, through ocean side towns and villages, then curving away from the Atlantic into the Dordogne and into the heart of the country.
Ten days of riding, with just the one rest day, but the quality of the experience is such you/I/just about anybody would be up for another five or six days straight. And that is exactly what is planned in this next “stage of the tour (not Le Tour).”
My wife and I will be riding along and near the Loire for the next week, before taking the train to Strasbourg. At least, that is the always ready to be changed “plan.”
There was the tough 100 km day in the heat and hills from Leiria to Coimbra. There was that first day of the tour climbing and walking up hills from Sintra to Peniche. But today’s 125 km or so from Limoges to the hilly, what I’ll call “West Virginia,” part of France might have been the toughest day of this tour.
In planning this northeastern trajectory I knew some days would be tougher than others. This one ended up being a bit more than I bargained for, both in terms of length and hills. Fortunately, however, the high was 60 degrees, making roughly 7,000 ft. of elevation change only climatologically uncomfortable when my feet got chilly on the many, many downhills.
And there were many downhills, and seemingly even more uphills. I spent the whole day going 5 mph, 30, 5, 30, 5, 30, 5, 30, 5, 30…
And at the end of this “rainbow” was a somewhat rundown farm (“Rabbits and chickens living together! Oh, the humanity!”) that smelled in a way one would expect of a working rabbit and chicken farm. My bike was stored in…well, you’ll see (kinda) where it was stored. Moreover, this place was in the true center of the middle of the ground zero of nowhere. I’m guessing I was at least 15 km from any grocery, and being as it was Sunday, they were all closed anyway.
What saved the place was that it was bad enough to make me get up at 6:00 and get out of there by 7:00. No petit-déjeuner, free or not free, for me.
If you ever want to ride a hilly part of France nobody knows about, here’s your man.
But it’s not all bad.
Roundabout architecture is its own artistic genre.
And lots of these, signs and cows, arranged all along the hillsides.
It wasn’t that bad, really, especially if you’re a bunny or chicken.
And the bike had covered storage. I’ve stored bikes many worse places.
And as it happens, one day’s ride and lodging is truly inverted by the next. Escaping the Creuse steep West Virginian-esque hills to the more palatable rolling hills toward Culan, I also discovered from the very nice tourist’s office in little ‘ol Culan (it has a castle from the 11th or 12 th Century, as do all self-respecting villages in France) that a road would take me from there right to my next night’s lodging in Meaulne.
The whole day went better.
Cool, but sunny skies. A comfortable route length of around 50 miles. A FANTASTIC guest house in Meaulne, run by such a nice couple. How nice were they? Well, the husband drove me to the grocery 10 km away when we discovered the “mini” wasn’t open in Meaulne. He also drove me back through an amazing forest, part of the forest I would be riding in the next day.
I forgot all about the rabbit and chicken farm. Nice people, comfortable conditions and beautiful countryside to ride through will do that.
Having skipped the petit déjeuner, I needed coffee and it arrived here in Boussac about 25 km away. One thing both Portugal and France teach you is that coffee isn’t about volume, it’s about dosage. This tiny cup packs a mighty caffeine wallop of love.
Yes, to get out of Creuse, I would even run to (Mayor) Berry and Cher.
Seriously, another day, another river or two. I think this one is the Amazon or the Nile. Honestly, I can’t remember. Still, nameless or not, I very much LOVE every river. Very much. Enought that I still love them although they almost always come with the cycling price of a very probable uphill immediately after. That’s a price I’ll pay every time.
But who says flat (even a bit downhill) and straight is boring?
Water tower of sorts outside Culan
The Riv Cher means a move into what proved to be a lovely department.
It’s a store-bought dinner, but it means more when a guy drove you 20 km to get it. Besides, check out the view! The backyard of my lodging in Meaulne.
The guest house came with two great dogs. This one is Belle, who was very skittish until I learned her name. Then she followed me around like an old pal.
Meaunle really was about the prettiest village I’ve yet seen in France. Too bad about it mini-grocery not being open much. It’s a problem throughout the rural part of the country (world?).
Made it! Something like 475 miles after getting off that bus in Irun, Spain on the 24th of June. And a very enjoyable way to end this particular ramble.
The forêt de Tronçais (Troncais Forest) was very pleasurable on what turned out to be a warm day. I was in shade for miles. Very light traffic and forest are always a good combination. A stiff hill here or there to keep me honest, but those gave way at the edge of the forest, and things really flattened out as I cycled along the Riv Allier.
So I was here in Nevers by 2:00, ready to meet the wife (even with time to take a shower!) and start the next part of the tour, a week-long leisurely exploration of the Loire River, dipping in and out of Eurovelo Route 6 in the region over to Chalon-sur-Saône.
At Troncais, in the middle of the forest, there’s this lake.
Cemetery along the way. I had to take this shot over the wall, so this is my first time of seeing what the heck it looked like.