Emily and I wrapped up our joint portion of approximately 250 km of cycling in lovely Chalon-sur-Saone, after 40 km of clean-as-a-whistle Voie Verte rail-to-trail up from Malay. The easy riding made it something of a Tour Le France final day in Paris ride, only missing the traditional drinking from flutes of champagne.
It’s been a memorable ride, exalting in every way possible.
Now along the way there were a few minutes here and there that didn’t seem exalting at the time.
For instance, there was getting lost and ending up in little Ciry le Noble desperately trying to find any open establishment and standing as close as possible to the, of course, closed library vainly trying to get some sort of wi-fi signal.
Immediately after was the “Plan B” route, one featuring that frequent second-guessing aspect of Plan B routes: “Is this the right way or even close to it?”
It was, and the day ended up being perhaps our favorite, despite the struggles and uncertainty. The Buddhists tell us to accept that all life is suffering, and that suffering only ends when all desires end. Self-supported bicycle touring provides a bit of a helpful koan in this regard, revealing the short-lived end of suffering that comes with relinquishing “desires” such as “knowing where one is” and “knowing how one might get where they wish to go.”
At least that’s one way of looking at it. Regardless of one’s religious, philosophical or psychological predilections, just about everybody comes out of “bad” bike touring days with the feeling that, somehow, this “worst” day was really the best. And then, touring being touring, one gets to ponder this for hours on end as they spin and spin, hour after subsequent hour.
I didn’t mention rain above, but we had some of that, too. Leaving the undeniably beautiful, but somewhat sad and wistful, mill house turned guest house, we thought (there we go thinking again) we missed the rain, only to slam into it and some nasty lightning as we were going up (naturally) a rather steep hill with zero escape options in sight.
A bit of trying to make ourselves invisible to lightning later, we found a dirt/mud road/driveway and hid under the trees. Yeah, I know about lightning and trees, but…
Then the rain cleared and we ventured on to one of the few open businesses on a Sunday morning, a grocery store, followed by making our way deep in the countryside to a horse farm outside Palinges.
Just us and about 20 our of closest new friends having dinner at Wistful House in La Boulaye. Guests from Belgium, Italy and, of course, France sat around the table this night.
The rain cleared and the riding was quite rural on the way to Palinges.
We ran across a small museum in Palinges, strangely open on a late Sunday afternoon in a country where 99% of all businesses are closed. It featured scenes of daily life in the villages of the area, including this collection of couture.
The plagues began with heavy rain just as we were getting lost outside Palinges. No, really they began with knowledge that the boulangerie in Palinges was NOT open on Monday morning. Or the grocery store. A sullen trip to a tabac that had older baguettes followed, followed further by waiting under big trees for the heavy rain to stop.
Then we got lost, as the directional ability of my Lezyne bike computer/GPS left something to be desired in terms of navigation. It was the first day I’d used this method, having always just written, by hand, turn-by-turn “cue sheets.” The antiquated method had gotten me all the way from Lisbon to central France. The modern method got me about six km before we foundered.
After the rain let up we tried to get back on course, then decided to head to the nearest village for modern conveniences like wi-fi. As noted above, however, the village we scurried to, Ciry le Noble, had nothing open. We circled the center of town a few times, huddled before the flickering wi-fi fire at the closed library, then, funnily enough, discovered that a grocery was most likely open a few hundred meters in the opposite direction. We were too pissed to turn around, so we just sallied forth.
That’s the thing here in France. We complain in the States about the small businesses affected by Walmart and home shopping, but the impact here from “hypermarches” on boulangeries, auberges and such is often total. It’s both sad and changes the life of the bike tourer here quite a bit.
Nevertheless, we developed the aforementioned “Plan B” and, despite our second-guessing, this route got us back on GPS track. Notably, that route featured small country “roads” better equipped to handle only bicycles, roads we would have never found or chosen on our own.
This wasn’t completely surprising, as the day previous we had left ourselves to the routing magic of Google Maps and the route had us take a grass/mud covered two-track better suited to tractors. Sure enough, after a few worrisome hidden turns next to pasture gates, this muddy track proved to be the “right” route.
I still prefer my antiquated hand-written directions, to be honest.
Example of the local architecture
Example of road that really looks more like a terrific bicycle path
Example of dirt road we’d never have considered on our own. Yet, it was the “right” road again.
Lodging for the night was bona fide chateau. Here’s the house for our bicycles.
And here’s where we stayed. It wasn’t as expensive at it looks, only costing about as much as the Super 8 I stayed at in Osage, Iowa two years ago on a tour. No offense to Osage, or Super 8, but…
Raising imaginary champagne in flutes we rode the “Cadillac” greenway that runs all the way from Macon to Chalon. Having seen no cycling tourers for days, I lost count this fine, sunny morning.
The game was quickly trying to figure out how to say hello to the passing tourers. Were they German, calling for a “Guten Tag” or just “Tag”? Or “Bonjour”? Or “Good Morning”?
It was fun seeing fellow travelers, but my wife, having now ridden about 250 km in six days reflected that simply riding flat cycle paths might not be as fun/interesting, over time, as is riding hills and country roads.
I think we might have hooked another one, bike touring folks. She’s catching our “disease.”
Going off the greenway posed a tiny challenge at Chalon, but we were in downtown at our hotel in short order. Emily’s “banana” (the yellow bike you’ve seen in photos) was locked up for pick-up by the rental folks, and we enjoyed having the amenities of a city after almost a week spent deep within the countryside.
There’s about 80 km of exactly what you see here on this rail-to-trail, with some more open vista, as you’ll see below.
Our intrepid nascent bike tourer finishes 250 km of France in the outskirts of Chalon-sur-Soane.
And poses with “the banana” outside our hotel for a triumphant evening. Mission accomplished!