Jul 07

Biking in France – The overview

by in 2006 Trips, Europe

Click to see image enlargedWe arrived in Geneva the second time on Friday 7th of July. Our bike bags had finally arrived at the airport, so we gathered all our stuff and went back to Ferney. I spent a couple of hours putting the bike together. There were things that didn’t sound right and the one tool we left behind was the special tool needed to check the problem. We decided to call our friends to send it. (Thanks, Jack.) On Saturday we did a 33-mile shakedown ride in the neighborhood, adjusted more things, and we were ready for our trip.

Click to see image enlargedI need to mention that we were on an Erickson Tour. They took care of carting our baggage, planning the routes, booking the hotels and all our meals except lunches. There were 20 people in our group, including 4 tandems. Over the course of the next two weeks we rode 618 miles, climbed 12 mountain passes, descended and climbed through narrow, switch-back laden roads, through spectacular scenery. We took two days as rest days, and boy did we need them. It was hard to resist the peer pressure to head out again, especially since it seemed the “best” views of the trip were all included on the rest days. But our bodies were better for it.

Some general thoughts and observations
Click to see image enlargedFrench drivers are amazingly courteous to cyclists. We didn’t have any difficult experiences. They all gave generous berth as they passed and actually would slow down until it was safe to pass us. The roads were tiny. Some of the roads were so small we could have blocked them completely by turning our bike sideways. There were roads with center stripes which were barely wider than a Suburban. Clearly, the cars are smaller here. Part of that could be the cost of fuel, $2 a liter or almost $8 a gallon!

Click to see image enlargedPlus the roads are very clean. We found practically no glass or debris of any kind on the road. We could get water in any village from the public fountain and use the public WC almost anywhere. (Bring your own paper!) There are large recycling bins scattered along the roadways, perhaps accounting for the clean roads. But there were no trash bins. You were on your own for Click to see image enlargedthat. Now that’s a different mindset. Grocery stores had aisles and aisles of cheeses and dairy products, but virtually no cold drinks. You also had to provide your own bags at every store. Sheila thought these 24/7 automated movie dispensers were quite innovative.

Click to see image enlargedThe people were extraordinarily friendly. We only had a little French. Sheila had studied it in high school 30+ years ago and I’d taken 10 lessons of a Pimsleur Language course prior to the trip. We were able to make ourselves understood most of the time. One French cyclist we met going up a pass actually invited us into his home for a snack and a visit. Great fun!

All in all the biking was incredible, the scenery gorgeous, and the people on our tour were lots of fun. This was a great trip.

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