Along the Doubs River (Baum-les-Dames to Besançon)

Short day of riding, under 40km, but a busy day nevertheless.

We left the very nice and quiet camping bungalows outside Baum-les-Dames just before 0930 and headed into the centre of town to join a bilingual guided tour by the head of the local tourism office.

Apparently the Baum in the town name comes from the Celtic word for cave (limestone hill country around here, so lots of caves) and the Dames part from the abbey that dominated the town from it’s founding in the 5th C until it’s dissolution during the French Revolution in the 1790s.

Neat compact old town centre, although much less polished than similar small towns we saw in Austria or Germany – this is a fairly working-class area of France these days.

We left Baum-les-Dames for Besançon around noon, and had a (slightly too long) tour of Besançon’s new art gallery/conservatory in the afternoon.

No riding tomorrow, our first true rest day in just over three weeks of riding. We’re staying at some sort of student hostel in Besançon, only two of us to a room in a quiet part of town, which is nice for our day off.

We’re getting a tour of the town’s famous Citadel tomorrow, which should be cool, as the town still has most of it’s Vauban-designed 17th C fortifications intact.


Along A Canal (Belfort to Baum-les-Dames)

Long 85km day today but much more straightforward than yesterday’s mess.

On the road by 0915, picnic lunch beside a canal lock, little bit of rain to cool us off in the afternoon, and a really nice quiet place to stay, a town-run set of camping cabins just outside Baum-les-Dames.

Nice dinner in the evening arranged by the local tourism folks, good local wine, and the promise of a free guided tour of the town tomorrow morning.

Tomorrow is a very short day, only 36km into Besançon (pronounced something like “boo-ah-zon”) so we’ll make time for the Baum-les-Dames tour then wander toward Besançon.


Things Unphotographed or Unphotographable

A stream of consciousness post of things missed or that a camera simply can’t capture.

The uniform hum of multiple bike tires on pavement when you’re in a fairly tight group at a good speed.

The enterprising farmer who put a Coke vending machine, a small table and and umbrella at one corner of his barn next to the EV6.

Standard Bavarian village skyline: church steeple, construction crane, tree on pole. Repeat every three to six kilometres across most of the Bavarian part of the trip.

Bavarian men of all ages really do wear lederhosen unironically, often as part of their Sunday best, but sometimes just to cut the lawn.


A Long Day in Eastern France (Mulhouse to Belfort)

Now that we’re in France the local authorities and bike groups are starting to pay attention to our ride, organized as it is by a French group, the AF3V.

That resulted in a total of three official receptions for us yesterday, and a certain amount of faffing about that became a bit tiresome.

We only had 60km to go, and first event was fun, a meeting at 1100 about 20km from our start point at an old Alsace farmhouse where the locals served up local wine and some treats, including creme de cassis and white wine apertifs, which are quite a thing at 1100 in the morning…

We were then told the next event was only 20km away and not until 1530… We could have walked that distance in the time available, but chose to do a picnic lunch beside the canal and sleep off the apertifs in the shade for an hour or two.

We usually try to get the cycling part of the day done before the hottest part of the day in mid/late afternoon, and in hindsight we really ought to have blown off the second reception and gone straight to Belfort. It was held in a playground with inadequate amounts of shade, and at the end of it we were told we were all to ride as a group into Belfort, which was still nearly 20km off.

We had been joined by a number of new members in Mulhouse and an large number of local cyclists had joined us for the day to ride with us to Belfort, and 60+ cyclists is far, far too many to keep in one pack.

We had been told to stop at the brand-new, very shiny TGV station enroute to Belfort but when we showed up the station some employee started yelling at us to move our bikes, so most of us kept going into Belfort.

The local organizers insisted on keeping the mob of cyclists together all the way through town, which really wasn’t wise given the size of the group.

This resulted in two accidents, one a collision with a bollard by one of the local cyclists, the other one if our ride members, a lady from Hong Kong, being clipped by a car. No serious injuries, but neither accident would likely have happened if we had been following our usual practice of riding in small groups at our own pace.

The final reception was up at the massive and impressive citadel above Belfort, a fortress started by Vauban in the reign of Louis the Fourteenth and expanded until the beginning of the 20th C.

That was a good dinner and a pretty good end to a very, very long day, but the whole thing was a bit of a gongshow. Thankfully the rest of our ride schedule has no more days as heavily scheduled.

Long ride tomorrow, 85km to Baum-les-Dames.