The hotel we were in last night was the Terreau Hotel in old
town Manosque.It was absolutely
charming.It was a little family run
hotel which was right on the main downtown square. The building was at least 250
years old.When you put your hands on
the window sill and looked out on the square there was a sense of history
there. How many different hands have been on that window sill and how many
things have passed through that square?We dined in an outdoor restaurant which was right next door.The meal was arguably the best of the entire
tour and we ate very well and in some very nice places.
Today was the last ride day of the Pathfinders 2019 –
Southern France tour and we all worn our tour jerseys. So after a great
breakfast in the hotel we were on the road.Of course we started the day with a long climb.It was about 8 kms of about 2-3% but by the
time I got to the top sweat was running down my face and I had to stow my
glasses in my bento box.The up and
downs of the course continued for 25 kms when we came to a little village which
had the entire town streets torn up.As
the course continued down the construction we wheeled around the do not enter
sign and continued down the street. Low and behold there was the nicest little
square and a café.What a perfect spot
for a coffee.Bob finally gets a morning
Back on the road the course was a great downhill all the way
to the 44.5 km mark where we crossed the river Durance.Naturally we had to climb out the other side
of the river valley so we were faced with a 7.5 kms climb which topped out at
just under 5%.The course had been on
and off some busier roads but the climb was on a tree lined back road which had
no cars. This was great as it was 11:00 am and the sun was beating down and the
temperature was in the upper 20’s.
The downhill from the summit was through a lot of back roads
and we were looking for lunch but nothing appeared.We finally came to a town which was also
under construction which had a bunch of shops but no sandwiches or lunch type
stuff.Pressing on we finally came to a
super market at the 70 kms mark and got some bad premade sandwiches with
cardboard bread in plastic wrap.Better
than nothing and while there was no cold soda they did have cold orange juice to
wash it down.
It was only 12:15 and we had only 32 kms to go and check in
at the Airbnb was not until 4:00 PM.As
there was nothing to do but push on we started down the road.There was an excellent section of about 8 kms
alongside an irrigation ditch where the road was only 8 feet wide. It was a lot
of fun just gliding along.At this point
we came to the north end of the Etang de Berre which is a large lake which is connected
to Mediterranean. Although we were on a
back road there was a lot of weekend traffic on this narrow road and there were
a lot of steep pitches.Some of the
pitches were over a kilometer long and very steep.
At about 2:00 pm we came out to the D4 which is the only way
down to Martigues.It is a very busy
road and while there was a pretty good shoulder on most of it the traffic
circles were scary with cars whizzing in and out.The last 12 kms down this road went on and
on.However we still had some time to
kill before check in so when we were about a kilometer from the condo I pulled
my phone out and Googled “bars near me”.One popped up a 150 meters away
so we headed right over.The Stella was
As we were finishing our beer Agnes texted me that she had
checked in and when would we be there. I texted back 5 minutes after my luggage
is in the room. As it turned out it took
us about 10 minutes.
The Airbnb we are staying is an absolute gem.It has a great deck which overlooks the Etang
du Berre.The view is absolutely spectacular.Agnes and Judy had stopped and picked up some
groceries for supper so we had an end of tour feast.
What a great last day of riding.Great weather, some fun climbs, some exciting
downhills, some perfect winding country roads and of course great
fellowship.I have really enjoyed my
time on this tour with Agnes, Judy and Ken, and my good friend Bob.I am really looking forward to riding with
PS: stay tuned for the final day before the flight home to
Kelowna and a wrap up story.
Today was an exceptional day.We rolled out of our hotel in Gap and within
a kilometer we were sailing down a beautifully paved road which was at least 15
meters wide with no center line and no vehicles.The sun was out in a total cloudless sky which
was the brightest of blues.The road was
generally downhill for the first 3.5 kms when we came to the first climb of the
day.However as it was only 3.5
kilometers of 3.5% we were over that in no time.A fast
downhill followed with lots of sweeping curves and the odd switchback just to
keep a person on his brakes.
We were headed down the valley and so every one of the
curves presented a magnificent view of the fields and orchards below, capped by
the distant mountains.It was so pretty
that I had to stop numerous times to make sure I captured a good picture.
Our road turned to a much busier road which had a shoulder
some of the time.So when we turned back
to our side road I breathed a lot easier.However the pavement on this road suddenly ended and we were faced with
about 450 of unpaved road.We rode about
300 of the 450 and walked about 150 but when we got back to the main road Bob
was not pleased and told me that there was a mutiny brewing in the lower decks.
Bob being from the Australian navy
couches things in navel terms and with an Australian accent the “e” in decks is
pronounced as an “i”. Ken and I had a good laugh.
The road turned back to the no center line road for the next
35 kms and it was just beautiful. There was even a sign say that the road was a
UNESCO World heritage site. I believe it as the views were truly amazing.I would love to ride this road in the fall
when all of the fresh fruit is in season.
This put us down to Sisteron which is the site of a 1200’s
castle.It is situated at an amazing
place. The river cuts through this narrow gorge where the rock has been stood
on edge.The castle has had a long and
amazing history from the 1200’s, to playing an important role in Napoleon’s
march north and even up to ww2 when it became strategically important.Agnes and Judy toured the castle but we
contented ourselves to have lunch in the square below the castle. There was a
farmers market being held there and the place was a beehive of activity.Tables were piled high with produce, fresh
fish, baked goods and homemade sausage.
After lunch we continued on down the valley sometimes on the
busy main road and sometimes on quieter side roads.There
were lots of climbs which were about a kilometer in length but the road was
generally downhill so we made good time.
We stopped at the 73 km mark for some drinks as the sun was
quite intense and the temperature was close to 27 C.After we came out a wind from the south had
come up and presented us with a head wind which meant that we now had to pedal
even on the downhills.
The last 25 kms into Manosque were down a very busy road and
Ken and I were grinding our teeth over all the traffic.However we made it into town.
I had taken us through the very oldest part of town and
through some walking areas which were probably only 8 feet wide. It was a lot
of fun.We emerged from the walking area
to the square where our hotel is and I contacted Agnes.She and Judy were back in the walking area
having ice cream so we turned around and joined them.We sat in a perfect little square and watched
a wedding procession and had a beer.Set
your watch back 200 years and just enjoy the peace and tranquil scene. It was
What a great day.We
covered 108 kms and climbed 975 meters but descended 1200 meters.
Today was shaped up to be another killer day with 123 km and
1936 meters of climb.However Bob got on
line yesterday and found that we could take the train from Grenoble to Lus-la
Croix-Haute which was 73 km down the route we were taking. This cut off all of
the major climbs and left us with only 49.5 kms and 321 meters of climb.However it was in fact a net downhill as we
had a decent of 573 meters.So
yesterday we had hurried down to the station and got our tickets.At 11.50 Euros it was a small price for
cutting off 50 kms of ride and 1600 meters of climb.
The train left Grenoble at 10:10 and we were down to the
station good and early.Ken and I being
new to French trains we were not sure what to expect.So we stood around nervously in the station
for 20 minutes before our train was posted on the arrivals/departures
screen.Finally at 9:40 it was posted and
we hurried over to our platform.We were
glad we did as when the train arrived it was only a single car and with only
two spots for bikes we were a little nervous one of us may have to get
off.Bob and I jumped on and hung our
bikes in the two slots for bikes and tucked Ken’s bike into the luggage
area.We then proceeded to grab premium
seats for the journey.Our fears of
getting thrown off for too many bikes were without basis as one bike after
another arrived and crowded onto the train.Most of the bikes which followed us were self-supporter bikes which were
laden with huge panniers.
The train left the station, there were 4 stations which were
real close together and the train barely got rolling before it was stopped for
the next one. However after that the train had to climb the mountain to get the
next station and you could hear the diesel grinding away. We sat back and
enjoyed the spectacular scenery.The snow-capped
mountains and lush green valleys were spread out beside us.It was a magnificent day and I was feeling
that I should be out riding but on the other hand I was glad not to be climbing
the big hills.I was surprised at the
number of tunnels and huge trestles on the route.Some of the tunnels were quite long and one
in particular was probably several kilometers long.
Just as were we getting off the train Agnes and Judy pulled
up in the car.So as it was lunch time
we all rolled around the corner to a little café which was just opening. Sitting
and enjoying our lunch on the patio with the mountains as a backdrop was
After lunch Ken, Bob and I rolled down the hill.There was about 18 km of about 3.5% downhill
grade which was just perfect a person could fly along at a good rate without
riding the brakes but without being flying along out of control. The road had a pretty good shoulder and even
thought there was a fair amount of traffic it was great.With 31 kms to go we turned off the main road
and started up the road to Gap.There
was a good grade here of about 3 kilometers of grades up to 5% (as
posted).This took us up to the Col des
Eygaux.A fast downhill followed by
another 15 kms of rolling up and down hills but mostly ups took us to within
about 3 km of Gap.There we were
presented with an amazing view of the city of Gap and the valley.We had to pull in for a photo before making
the last fast downhill into Gap and our hotel.
The weather was absolutely gorgeous making all the views so
beautiful.It was also a really fun
adventure taking the train with our bikes and having a fun downhill ride.Maybe
there is a bike/train tour in my future.
Today was a rest day in Grenoble so we were slow getting
rolling today. The main thing we all wanted to do was to take the gondola to
the bastille at the top of hill on the opposite side of the river.This is the second generation gondola and has
become iconic with Grenoble. It is 635 m long and rises 235 meters.
The gondola originally opened in 1934 and the iconic bubbles
were installed 1976.The bastille at the
top was constructed in 1825 and was one of a series of defense works which were
constructed at that time.Today there
is a museum, café and a gift shop at the top. The gondola runs year round and attracts
600,000 annual visitors.
The Airbnb condo we are staying at is only 2 blocks from the
gondola so it was an easy walk over to the Gondola. We were there at opening
bell at 10:30 am. Each of the bubbles
takes 6 people so we had a car to ourselves.Once the bubbles clear the station they move at 6 meters per second
which is surprisingly fast.
The view from the top is amazing as you are totally surrounded
by the mountains.We were so luck as the
day before it was so windy and cold.Today was warm and sunny.There
was some haze but not very much.
We took the museum tour which told the story of the French
Mountain Grenadier Units. You were given a set of headphones which told the
story of the mountain units through their history from the earliest units which
were formed in the 1890’s through WWI, WW2 and their deployment in special UN
forces.It was very well done.
By now it was lunch time and we headed down to the main town
and found a great local place. The plat de jour was meat balls and chips which
was surprisingly good.
The crew is pretty tired and it was decided that we would
take the train from Grenoble down to Lus-la-Croix-Haute rather than ride our
bikes.This cuts 74kms and 1600 meters
climb off of tomorrows ride. This will leave only 49 kms and 330 meters of
climb for tomorrows ride. So we walked
down to the train station to confirm that we could in fact take the train and
buy our tickets.The tickets turned out
to cost us only 11.50 Euros each.
Grenoble is such a pretty city we really enjoyed our visit
This morning we were up and on the move. Agnes got the car
from the lot a couple of blocks away while the rest of us transported the
luggage down stairs.With the car packed
we headed out.I had hoped to be on the
road by 8:30 Am and we were.
I had spent more time working on this route than any of the
other routes on the tour.The problem
with getting out of Lyon was that there were several places where a person had
to cross railroad tracks. The only place to cross the tracks was these
overpasses which were not very bike friendly.So no matter which route you took you had to go to one of the
overpasses.When we got there in the
morning there was a lot of traffic and so we walked the bikes along this very
narrow walkway with trucks flying past only a few feet away.
The second problem with getting out of Lyon was that if you
were heading in the south east direction you had to take the D518 which was a 4
lane road which had a bike lane well more of just a shoulder than a real bike
lane until you came to a roundabout and then it was everyman for himself. You
just had to time it so that when a big truck was coming through and blocking
the entrance to your left you had lots of time. The D512 went out to the 25 kms mark of the ride. I didn’t think they were so bad but Bob hated
The next real problem with building the route was that the
roads in this area all run SW to NE and we were headed NW to SE or
perpendicular to the roads.The reason
the roads run this way is that is the way the valleys run.So when you are going perpendicular to the
roads it is down one side of the valley and up the other side. The roads which
do go up the sides of the valley are really steep and winding.In addition the Google street view does not
cover a lot of these roads.So I had to
guess as to their condition.I thought
there was a chance that we may run into some unpaved sections and indeed we did
the first section was about 200 meters and the second one was about 1.3 kms of
which about 300 m was really rough.I
didn’t think it was a bad penalty for saving around 30-40 kms of extra
distance, but Bob was not pleased.
At about the 30 km point in the strap on my new bento box
broke and dumped my camera on the ground.Luckily Bob spotted it.I was not
pleased that my new bento box with less than 1500 km on it had failed.
When we got to the 57 kms mark we were at the summit of the
climb for the day, we were half way into the 114 km ride, it was 12:00 am, and
we were standing in front of a very fancy restaurant (Michelle rated).L’ Auberge D’Eclose was just opening and the
owner stepped out to put out the open sign and he invited us in for lunch.The menu for lunch was ravioli in broth plat,
a steak with rice and vegetables for the main course and an apple tart for desert
all for 18 euros.It was a very fine
meal, and certainly the fanciest lunch of the tour.
When we got out to the restaurant there was a really nasty
cold wind blowing.Bob and I pulled on
our coats but Ken did not have a coat with him.Fortunately the wind was out of the NW so it was a tail wind.However every time the road made a twist the
wind cut into you.This wind was to
plague us all the way into Grenoble.
It was mostly downhill for the second half of the ride but
there were still a few climbs to do and fortunately no more unpaved
sections.We were all feeling more than a little tired
and every hill just seemed to go on.
When we got to the 94 km mark we turned on to a bike path
which followed the river into Grenoble.With 18 km still to go I thought it would fly by but instead an icy rain
started and it was driven into our faces by the wind.
When we finally pulled into the Airbnb we were immediately set
upon by some irate neighbor that we couldn’t put our bikes in the court yard
which has other bikes in it.
Somehow what should have been an easy day turned hard and
everyone is exhausted. It was only 114
kms and 995 m of climb.
This morning we woke up to a great treat, as Bob had gotten
up early and went down stairs to the market and had brought back fresh
Baggett.The smell of fresh bread and
coffee in the morning was absolutely fabulous.
Ken and I had a few bike chores to complete so we headed
down stairs to the garage to work on bikes.I needed to adjust my brakes.It
seems that I have been doing a lot of braking and have worn down the brake pads
quite badly.Having soft brakes is never
a really good thing.So that little task
out of the way I cleaned and oiled the chain.I also had a tube which needed to be patched.Surly takes a 28x554 tubes which is not a
common size so I always patch the tubes as you never know when the next time
you are going to find new tubes.
With chores out of the way Ken, Judy and I headed off to see
the Museum of the Confluence. This is
the big ultra-modern museum here in Lyon.It is right at the confluence of the Rhone and the Saone rivers. This is
a magnificent facility. It is extremely well done with both French and English
descriptions on everything.It has a
huge range of exhibits which explore everything from the origin of the universe
to Japanese religious masks.There is an
excellent natural history section with a huge range of mineral specimens,
fossils and animal mounts. There is a section on the industrial history which
covers everything from early telephones to particle accelerators. Yes they have
an early particle accelerator.
The three of us met for lunch and walked out on the upper
floor balcony to enjoy the view.It was
very pretty. What a perfevt setting for this monument.
On the main floor of the building is a large buffet restaurant.I did not know that it was a Chinese buffet
until we got into the restaurant.It was
absolutely great food.They had a huge
selection of sushi, which was very tasty.There was a good selection of steamed buns and other dim sum items to
choose from.There was a special section
where you could choose your food and then have it cooked by the chefs in the
woks.Then there was all of the stuff I
love, the lemon chicken, sweet and sour pork, beef and onions, chow main
noodles and on and on.It was one of the memorable meals of the
Tomorrow we are back on the road and riding down to
Grenoble.This is the last of the
segments.It is hard to believe that we
have only one week left of this tour.