Bike Touring Journals by Neil Anderson and Sharon Anderson Tailwind High Bicycle touring France
The freeway on the other side of the Saône River whined incessantly like a Boeing 747 winding its engines into a feverish pitch just before take off. But it never took off -- it just droned on and on. I should have put my ear plugs in earlier. It was amazing -- as soon as I shoved the first one in as far as my ear bone the whole world ceased to make a sound. The silence was complete as my stirrup and anvil no longer conducted vibrated air waves. My cilia hairs stopped waving in their gel and my tired overworked semi-unconscious brain stopped processing incoming stimuli. If a car crashed on the freeway and no one heard it, did it make a sound? I needed sleep.
Started the day with French toast. Got to try out that new bottle of cinnamon. Sharon asked, "When you bought it did you know it was cinnamon?" I told her the fist bottle I picked up had sticks of cinnamon. The bottle beside it looked like ground cinnamon. Still, not taking any chances after the prune jam fiasco, I had unscrewed the lid and sniffed the contents.
On the muddy track in front of our tent a 4x4 came groaning along in low gear. Those guys went anywhere. Lots of spiders were in the tent trying to find a dry refuge. I hated it when my two feet got wet; I couldn't imagine what it must be like having eight wet all at the same time.
A few water craft plied the river. Everything from a barge and cabin cruiser to a small row boat with two people fishing. Got out the maps to evaluate our route. We were already off my large-scale Rhone Valley map I had just bought two days prior. With our France and Benelux country maps spread out across the entire tent we barely had enough room for us. We even looked at our bike guide book that I had diligently lugged since Lisbon. I could hardly wait to try out a route. I hoped it would be worth the weight of hauling it up all those mountains. Publishers should take into consideration who was going to be carrying those books. On the cover it read "quality" paperback. Who cared? I wanted onion paper with tiny writing.
We were heading to see the tulips in North Holland. We decided to make an earnest effort to get up earlier in order to have more hours to pedal. It probably would do us good. Maybe we would forget about being homesick. We packed up and were on D933 at 2:00 p.m. towards Villefranche-sur-Saône. So much for our early start.
It was a holiday weekend. Monday, May 1, was Labour Day. May 8 was Liberation Day from World War II. Two long weekends in a row. That accounted for the increase in traffic. I liked it better when there were no holidays.
In Trévoux I bought two new large scale maps for the next two areas to our north. In Thoissey I had to try out some white roads to make my investment seem worthwhile. Even though D933 had quieted down and we had a tailwind I still headed east and then north in my quest for white roads. Sharon said, "You can rationalize anything to justify something. Haven't you ever heard that two wrongs don't make a right?"
"Yes," I answered. "But three do."
We were riding on lumpy pavement rolling over hill and dale rather than the flat smooth blacktop we had left on D933.
"Isn't this better?" I asked Sharon.
Silence was considered a form of acceptance, wasn't it?
Soon we crossed railroad tracks and took a single-lane country road north. It was exciting flying downhill, whizzing around gravel corners without knowing what was coming in the opposite one-lane direction. We needn't have worried -- no one passed us in either direction the whole time. All too soon (for me), we rejoined D933. The wide valley had less industry and population which meant less traffic and congestion. We noticed the large country houses of the "poor" country folk with their immense expanses of yard. Didn't they build anything smaller than mansions in the old days? One residence was through a meadow with large trees framing the view. We even saw one château that offered camping.
Many of the farm fields had been tilled and laid fallow. There were no vineyards in the area. The land didn't have those special rocks. Some canola was higher than we were. The fields of yellow were luminescent in the sunshine. Sharon and I discussed the healthier way of living that folks who lived in the more peaceful surroundings had compared to what we had seen in Lyon. Sharon and I rode down the quiet lane, side by side, without a care in the world while surveying the rural scene.
We stopped in a small town for a loaf of bread called a flute. A moat, and a couple of rivers thrown in for good measure, enclosed the oldest part of town. An elderly monsignor, out walking with his young grandson and granddaughter, spotted us. I said "Bonjour" to the old man and shook his hand. The two year old tyke immediately stuck out his hand and said "Bonjour" back to me. I was always amazed: The children were so small, yet they spoke French so well. The old chap began extolling the very virtues of rural life Sharon and I had just moments before expounded upon ourselves. Apparently the town's folk didn't take their surroundings for granted after all.
From a little stand that sold newspapers my new maps cost $5 each. I had paid $7 at the large Mammouth grocery store. I was surprised to learn that not everything was cheaper at a super store. The people seemed friendlier than the neighbouring area to the south. They waved their arms and shouted words of encouragement as they greeted us. On a rural backroad, the first time it happened, Sharon said, "It must be some transplanted Italians." She didn't think it could be the reserved French carrying on like that. After the third time in a row it happened I said "There sure are a lot of Italians here." Sharon wondered if rural Frenchmen were less inhibited than city folk.
We passed an equestrian centre with riders decked out in the latest fashion accouterments -- complete with aloof expression and make-up applied to perfection.
Two Harleys thundered towards us. The fellow in front rotated his legs in a pedalling motion. Everyone thought they were a comedian.
The sky to the west was ominously dark. It had rained on us so much the past week, I was beginning to feel as though I had embarked without my ark. Just call me Noah. A hairline crack of white ran through two layers of clouds. We began looking for camping as lightning continued to crackle. Turning off D58 we checked out a farmer's field, but the dove came back without an olive branch. Layers of water were lying in the field. It didn't look promising. We couldn't see more trees farther along.
A yard had a roof over the main gate. While the rain drove into us in a wind driven slashing motion, we sheltered under the roof, hoping the rain would pass quickly. After several minutes the wind let up. The sky lightened. I put on my new Gore-Tex raincoat -- its premier christening. We decided to ride in the light drizzle.
In a short distance we saw what looked like an abandoned hut in the forest. It turned out to be a chicken coop. Occupied. As we turned to leave it began to rain harder. A small woods next to the coop whispered promise. The dove was sent forth again. That time it returned with a small twig. A rooster was agitated by our presence and crowed incessantly. I wondered what barbecued coq would be like?
A cuckoo bird in a tree nearby did what it was best known for. Its chime announced an infinite hour. Did I smell fowl cooking?
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