It’s been a long hot hard ride today.
Baby and I kicked off from our overnight stop in a small village called Montaimont near La Chambre in the high Alps.
After breakfast, our first hurdle was to negotiate the steep, narrow lane from the village back to the D213. With four very tight hairpins and a crumbling road surface I knew it was always going to be tricky, but we only had to resort to walking one bend so it wasn’t too bad. Once on the D213 we sailed through the remaining half-dozen “lacets” as my French friends call them and soon hit the Péage heading for Lyon.
As I was saying my goodbyes to the Alps, until next time, Baby seemed to come into her own. I swear that bike was trying to tell me something; something like, “OK, this is what I do, let’s go!”
So yes, in many ways it’s been an Autoroute cruising day and also one to watch the French geography unfold before us like a documentary film. First there was the Alps, then the young Rhône, the mighty Loire valley and the extinct volcanos of the Puy de Dôme. What better geography lesson could you ask for, how come it was never this good at school?
All the while that big bike of mine just got on with it. Mile after mile was munched up, whilst I enjoyed the comparatively luxurious ride that only a ‘Big-Twin’ Harley can give! Just over two hours after setting out we paused for a spot of lunch not long after Lyon, which was its usual chaotic mess! Grabbing fuel at Thiers, from a place I know just off the Autoroute and then back at it, we cruised into St Amand Montrond at about 15:30.
Time for a cup of coffee and then to head cross-country through the Cher valley to one of my favourite B&B’s near Vierzon.
I always like to spend the last hour of a riding day sort of chilling a bit, taking the back roads and letting the road come to me as we spool down after long fast miles. The scenery around here tends to be quite arable, large fields to barley, wheel or rape seed. The latter does get a bit tedious, it a member of the brassica family and for miles everything smells of cabbage!
I was feeling a bit bad about the River Cher and wanted to get a nice photo to disprove that’s it’s not all weedy and muddy, so we meandered around a bit looking for a suitable spot. Unfortunately everywhere was either weedy or muddy! So no shot I’m afraid!
You’ll just have to be content with this almost timeless picture of the evening train departing St Florent sur Cher. Timeless because there’s no-one there except the staff!
It’s a bit like the poem “Adlestrop” by Edward Thomas, except it’s the French version!
As I type, the crickets are chirping away outside my window and pigeons fly past heading to roost, their wigs clapping a farewell to the warm summer day.
Ce soir nous sommes au cœur de la France ce soir/We are in the heart of France tonight. Baby is safely shut away in the barn, content with 360 effortless miles under her belt. Yes, she’s a heavy old lump in the mountains, but a thoroughbred out on the open highway, which is what she’s really designed for and I can’t really ask more than that!
The sun is casting a red glow across the sky and silhouetting the old trees on the horizon. It’s not the Alps, but it sort of feels like home.
“Yes. I remember Adlestrop—
The name, because one afternoon
Of heat the express-train drew up there
Unwontedly. It was late June.
The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat.
No one left and no one came
On the bare platform. What I saw
Was Adlestrop—only the name
And willows, willow-herb, and grass,
And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry,
No whit less still and lonely fair
Than the high cloudlets in the sky.
And for that minute a blackbird sang
Close by, and round him, mistier,
Farther and farther, all the birds
Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.”
3 March 1878 – 9 April 1917 Killed in Acton Arras
Catch you soon.