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  • Day12

    On Our Bikes at Last

    September 1, 2019 in France ⋅ ☁️ 26 °C

    Although it has been wonderful to spend a restful week recovering from our long flight from Australia, the real reason we cam to France was to cycle, not to rest. For the next 5 weeks that is what we will be doing almost every day. Of course it is neither fun (or very smart) to cycle in extremely hot weather. When I planned this trip I was counting on the fact that the start of September would herald the end of the long hot days of the Provencal summer. It almost worked.

    The local weather experts had been predicting that today would be the final of the almost endless sequence of hot days. From tomorrow onwards they are promising that the temperatures will hover around the mid 20s - absolutely perfect for riding. Unfortunately our first day on the bikes would also be the final day in the mid 30s. It was going to be a challenge, but that is what the life of a cyclist is all about.

    Maggie and I awoke at 6 am to the impatient sound of my phone alarm. Our first night in the confines of our cabin had been a bit of a challenge. It is not easy to sort your gear in a room the size of a small shoebox. It was one of those rooms where you had to go outside into the corridor in order to change your mind, let alone turn around to face the other way.

    The secret of survival is to find a place for everything and then pack away everything you will not be using. It is also a huge test of how well you really get along with your roomate. After all, there is absolutely no place to hide. You even have to take turns in taking a deep breath. Such is life on a river barge.

    After donning our cycling gear and enjoying a lovely breakfast, we each packed our lunch of baguettes, meat and salad. The bikes were unloaded unto the quai, ready for us to get them set up for each rider. Our cycling guy is a retired Dutchman called Arie. He is a 66 year old who has enjoyed a multifaceted career as a lawyer, journalist and diplomat. He now spends 10 weeks a year leading cycling groups in different parts of Europe.

    Arie began with a briefing explaining how the system of pointing the directions at each road junction would work. We then assembled outside for the obligatory group photo. Finally we headed off along the Rhone - our ride had begun.

    The early parts of the ride were along lovely, shaded pathways. The traffic was almost non existent and the temperature was comfortable. It was the perfect way for us to regain our cycling legs. We quickly found that the bikes were ideal for this type of riding. I was intrigued with the infinitely variable gearing. I had never ridden a bike like this before and it was absolutely amazing.

    The first 15 km or so was mostly flat and then we hit the hills. Arie explained that every other cycling group avoided this section, but they had heard that the Ghostriders were no ordinary group and thought that we would enjoy the challenge. They were partly correct. The seven riders on ebikes certainly had fun, myself - not so much.

    As the road headed up to the skies the ebike riders sailed past with huge smiles on their faces. The rest of us suffered in the hot sun. Soon I was off the bike and walking (and so was just about everyone else). In spite of this, we were all having huge fun. This was what we had come so far to do. Life can not get any better than this.

    At Pujaut we stopped to enjoy our baguettes and have a coffee. The afternoon tea stop was at the even more delightful town of Villeneuve les Avignon. This place was the home of the cardinals when the Popes were ruling from Avignon. The narrow streets and stone buildings were breathtakingly beautiful, as were the cakes from the boulangerie. It was a shame that the iced coffee was dreadful, but maybe you can't have everything.

    We completed the day's ride by about 4 pm and discovered that the group of American riders on our sister boat had only ridden about half the distance we had. That was the icing on a most delicious first day. Australians One - Americans - zero.
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