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  • Day29

    A New Bike and a Beaver in Blois

    September 18, 2019 in France ⋅ 🌙 16 °C

    Ever since my unfortunate crash, way back in Sancerre, I had been having trouble mounting the bike. It is not easy to throw your hind leg over the seat when you have limited mobility in your knee. Each time I tried to mount the bike in the conventional way, not only was it ungainly, but I felt like I was in imminent danger of ending on the ground in another ugly tangled pile of bike and person.

    There is a very practical advantage to the low bar "unisex design" that is so popular in Europe. Not only can it be used by people of either sex, but it is much safer for anyone with a flexibility issue. I happen to qualify on both counts.

    Blois happens to be the location of the head office of Loire Valley Travel - the operator who supplied our bikes. They had already arranged for one of their bike mechanics to service all our bikes before we left the hotel. That gave me a thought.

    "Would it be possible to exchange my bike for a low bar bike ?", I asked.
    "My bike has a broken headlight because some idiot fell off it", I added.
    I was very pleased when the reply was in the affirmative.

    About 90 minutes later all the bikes had been checked, adjusted, lubricated and, best of all, I had been supplied with a replacement step through bike. I practised mounting and dismounting. It was sheer bliss. Gael had also swapped her bike for a similar step through and was also rejoicing loudly.

    It was while we were gathered by the Pont Charles de Gaulle (aka Big Bridge), that we made a wonderful observation. Down in the river there was a strange animal swimming and cavorting with the ducks. Was it a rat ? Was it a cat ? No, it was a beaver !!!! The women all squealed with delight. It was like watching Wind in the Willows. It really was a big beaver, and he even swam right over to our bank of the river to show off his swimming skills. It was magical way to start our day's ride.

    Although the weather was cooler than we had been used to, it still showed no sign of rain and the bike mechanic assured us that the freshening breeze was actually a tail wind. What a perfect start to a day's ride.

    I happily jumped on my new bike and off we went. Our destination for the day was Amboise, about 45 km downstream. Although 45 km does not sound like far, I well remembered that the previous times I had ridden this route we had been battered by the twin demons of hills and head winds. Although the hills were still there, it was amazing just how much easier life is when the wind is coming from behind you.

    The second part of the ride is across an elevated and exposed plateau and the tail wind really was a wonderful gift. Although the cycling conditions were amazing, a "domestic disagreement" between Maggie and me threatened to put an untimely end to our 45 year marriage. I guess the stresses of the last four weeks had to find an outlet sooner or later.

    Fortunately the atmosphere cleared later in the day and we were able to join the rest of the team for an absolutely divine dinner at "L'Alliance" restaurant. Everything about that place was incredible. It would have almost been worth the price of the trip, just to experience that food again. Many declared it was the best dinner they had ever had.

    Our home for the next two nights is the "Clos "D'Amboise", a magnificent 17th century mansion that has been converted to a 4 star hotel. It is a wonderful way to experience some of the style that the wealthy of that era enjoyed. I had one of my best night's sleeps since the trip began. Tomorrow is a free day to allow our team to explore this wonderful city where Leonardo da Vinci lived out his final years.
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