To Sarlat - Three Seasons Around France: Autumn - CycleBlaze

October 3, 2022

To Sarlat

It’s right at eleven, checkout time, when we leave our hotel.  We have a gorgeous day for our thirty mile ride to Domme - windless and cloudless, with an expected high near seventy.  We’ve been holding off departure because we can’t check in at our hotel in Domme until three, but it might have been smart to leave earlier in spite of that - it’s a steep climb up from the Dordogne to Domme, as I still remember from our last visit there fourteen years ago.  We might wish it hadn’t heated up so much when we get there, and it’s even possible we’ll be walking part of it.

We’re relieved but not surprised to see that our bikes are still there outside waiting for us, locked to a railing above the river and sheltered from rain and prying eyes by the highway overpass.  We load up, and I start biking up the short gravel slope to the road above when Rachael calls out to stop because she has a problem with her mirror.  I don’t want to stop on the climb for that, so I holler back for her to wait until we reach street level.

She hollers back at me.  Not the mirror, dummy!  Gears!

Oh.  Well, that’s worth waiting for.  They’re fine fortunately - she’s just not in gear, but they’re fine once adjusted.  Stopped now, I walk the rest of the way up to the top and am just about to mount the saddle when the bike suddenly seizes up in a dead stop.

Really, there’s no end to the variety of travails that can occur and disrupt a bike tour.  It’s a wonder we ever actually get anywhere.  We’ve got a long list of breakdown reasons in our wake by now, but here’s a new one to add to the list.  My rack strap somehow came loose and wrapped itself into my rear cluster, and eventually all the slack was taken up in the elastic strap and it stopped the bike.

This isn’t new.  This happened somewhere earlier in the tour - getting off at Chester to transfer to Shrewsbury I think, where we were taking the train so I could get my broken tooth repaired.  We ended up having to cut up that strap before we could remove it, and Rachael’s been using the cargo net to strap her belongings on the back since then.

So that doesn’t make this a first.  What does though is what happens when we extricate my strap, which we succeed in doing when I flip the bike upside down and pull the wheel out of its stays to relieve some tension.  When I pull the hooked end of the strap free from the cog it apparently snags one of the disc brake pads and yanks it out and it flips into the dirt.

Some time is spent and some unprintable oaths are uttered while I try to reinsert the pad before giving up on the project.  We need a bike shop.  I don’t really expect one here, but we’re surprised to see one listed on Google, with the description “Velos a assistance electrique en liber-service”.  Hours aren’t listed so who knows if it’s open Monday, but it’s only a half mile away back in town next to the tourism office so we might as well bike back and check it out on the chance it’s open and someone there has the tools and knowhow to replace a set of brake pads.

We’re puzzled when we bike up to the mapped spot and don’t see a bike shop anywhere.  Then I see that we’re standing right next to a rack of rental bikes, one’s you can check out yourself.  So, note to self and others: “Velos a assistance electrique en liber-service” doesn’t identify a bike shop; it’s an unattended e-bike rental stand.

But at least it’s not raining, and there’s a nice bench here where we can sit down and hunt for a real bike shop.

Time for a new plan!
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In Les Eyzies, with a giant Cro Magnon figure keeping watch over us from the cliffs above. There’s just a touch of Disneyland in this town.
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The nearest bike shop is in Sarlat, only 15 miles away and not terribly off route to Domme.  If we can find a shop open today we can swing by and with luck get the brake repadded and be on our way.  We can’t though - there’s one place open today, but it’s a bike rental store and when I call up I’m told they only have the skills and time to work on their own bikes.  They refer me to the town’s real bike shop, which is closed on Mondays.

So Domme is out.  It’s a steep climb up, a steep drop down, and there’s no bike shop up there in the small bastide village (or even many bikes for that matter, because it’s up at the top of a steep hill).  I can get up there alright today, but I won’t like trying to get back down with one brake and a bike weighed down by the panniers.

Without going into more details, the upshot is that we’re going to Sarlat. And we’re not going for just one night.  We decide to cancel our stays in both Domme and Martel and stay for three when we find a studio apartment with kitchenette at a hotel that looks enticing.  Much better to be there more than one night, in case there are issues in getting the brakes back in commission.  We’re out the cost of a couple of nights lodging because it’s too short notice to cancel, but we just chalk it up to the cost of the repair.  Just one of those things.

The good news is it’s barely 15 miles to Sarlat and a reasonably easy ride - three ups and three downs, hopefully none of which will feel too precipitous to make down safely on a single brake.  It’s nearly one when we finally make it out of town.

Four miles into our long ride and we’re famished so we stop in Meyrals to top off the tanks.
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Saint-Eutrope Church, 12th century. I was pleased that one of my attempts to capture the pigeons swirling around the church succeeded before they resettled on its roof.
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Keith AdamsSuch an imposing portal... where's the rest of the building?
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1 month ago
Kathleen ClassenFantastic photo.
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1 month ago
Rachael AndersonTo Keith AdamsHuh - hiding behind the facade. I guess I could have taken a side shot, but I was more interested in the birds.
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1 month ago
Keith AdamsTo Rachael AndersonIt just seems like there should be a wider (and taller) building, given the facade around the door.
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1 month ago
In Meyrals.
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In Meyrals.
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The blacksmith’s trammel, Meyrals.
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Built by the town blacksmith in 1890, this was a structure to immobilize hoofed animals (oxen and horses) while they were being reshod.
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Jen GrumbyReshod?

(I hope they weren't being reshot.)

😉
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyYes, good point. You’d think being shot once would be sufficient.
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1 month ago
Leaving Meyrals, finally. Might as well get on with it.
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At the top of the final, fairly steep descent to Sarlat. With only one brake I’ve been uncertain about this descent, thinking I might be walking the last mile or two to town.
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Sarlat’s down in that farthest trench somewhere.
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We make it to Sarlat around three and check in to our hotel.  We didn’t check with them first to see if they have capacity for bikes, but we can see  from the photos that it’s a large sprawling place so I’m sure they’ll fit in somewhere.  In fact, it’s much better than that.  We’re happy to see a sticker in the entryway window announcing that bikers are welcome, and surprised to be led to a dedicated bike room with racks on the ground and hangers on the wall - we’re the only ones here today but there’s probably capacity for 20 or more bikes in here so I’m sure they must host tour groups.

Rachael naturally immediately heads out the store to get eggs, cereal and the like for our three night stay here.  She says it’s a ten minute walk and she’ll be right back, but I know better.  See you in an hour and a half, I say as she’s leaving - ten minutes walking each way, and an hour at the grocery store.  She insists she’ll speed through and be back soon.

An hour and a half later she returns.  The Lidl she’s gone to has a very confusing layout, but the big story is her shopping cart experience.  Lidl is a one way store - you have to go through the check-out stand to get to the exit.  As soon as Rachael’s entered the store though she realizes the carts are all outside, but she can’t go back.  There’s a lineup at the checkout she doesn’t want to have to wait for so she looks around, sees another exit door and opens it.  Someone shouts to her to stop, but too late - the alarm goes off immediately and she’s created an international incident.

Fortunately they don’t lock her up and let her back in the store once she’s gotten her cart.  So that makes for an embarrassing but funny story, and explains why she’s gone so long.  Or maybe not?  Maybe she just made it up as an explanation for why she ended up spending an hour browsing looking at all the food choices as usual?

In our studio apartment, Hotel Montaigne. A great unit for a three night stay, a great hotel.
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Sarlat is a locally famous tourism destination, with a well preserved medieval core reputed to be one of the best representations of 14th century France still in existence.  Everyone visiting the region that has time to do more than ogle at the castles as they rush through the Dordogne on their blitz tour probably stops here.  So why wasn’t Team Anderson planning on it?

Because Team Anderson has been here before briefly in 1997, on a day ride from Beynac.   We didn’t enjoy that experience much - the roads to and from Sarlat were too busy and tense, and Sarlat was jammed with tourists when we got there and didn’t make a great impression on us.  We didn’t really have an interest in returning and giving it a second chance.

Now that we’re here though and can take the time to appreciate it - see it without the bikes, wander through its wonderful historic center later in the day when most of the crowds have gone and after dark when its buildings are illuminated with a warm golden glow - it looks like a wonderful place to spend three days.  So that’s the golden lining to the brake incident - it’s forced us into an exceptional experience we would have missed otherwise.  Assuming we can get the brake repaired in the morning (and why shouldn’t we be able to?  Replacing brake pads is a standard service any competent bike mechanic should be able to handle, and I even have a spare set of pads if they’re needed), it’s actually a net plus if you don’t count the cost of the cancelled lodging.

Sarlat after dark.
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Sarlat after dark.
Heart 2 Comment 3
Keith AdamsThat view manages to be slightly spooky and eerie, somehow.
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1 month ago
Rachael AndersonTo Keith AdamsThere’ll be a view of this building in daylight in a coming post.
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1 month ago
Keith AdamsTo Rachael AndersonIt'll be interesting to see what it looks like under the sun. I'll bet the difference in mood will be like day and night. :)
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1 month ago
Sarlat after dark.
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Half-full: the optimist’s moon.
Heart 8 Comment 8
Keith AdamsGreat title! Is it original with you?
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1 month ago
Kathleen JonesHuh. I got the exact same photo! At home. Nice one.
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1 month ago
Jen GrumbyBeautiful!

And 'half-full' captures the spirit of your admirable adaptability.

I'm sure this pivot-on-the-spot to Sarlat will be a great stop on your re-route.
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Kathleen JonesYea, but I got it first! Ha, ha.
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Keith AdamsI was pretty happy with it myself. I’m sure it’s not the first time anyone said this, but it just came to me in a flash when I looked up. I think optimism was on my mind.
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1 month ago
Kathleen JonesTo Scott AndersonOkay points for you. But mine was over Half Moon Bay. 🏆
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Kathleen JonesWe’ll, that’s definitely an honor trump card. You win.

FYI, we’re coming down your way this December, driving from Portland down to Tucson. We might see if anyone’s at home in HMB - I’d love to see it again.
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1 month ago
Kathleen JonesTo Scott AndersonWe’ll be home. I believe you have my email.
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1 month ago
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Ride stats today: 15 miles, 1,500’; for the tour: 532 miles, 35,600’

Today's ride: 15 miles (24 km)
Total: 533 miles (858 km)

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Keith AdamsLemons and lemonade, and all that.
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1 month ago
Kathleen ClassenWe had our first train ride today, and when jumping on the bikes post train mine started making a terrible scraping noise as I pedalled. I was convinced it was the brakes rubbing…clearly something had happened when we hung the bikes from the hooks. Keith sailed on ahead, oblivious. I stopped because the noise was so annoying. Turned out to be the rubber bit on the back of my fender rubbing on the tire. A mechanical I could fix all by myself! Much better luck than yours.
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1 month ago
David MathersBrakes and derailleurs are not your friend. I'm sure you've checked YouTube for disc brake repair videos. Good luck and enjoy Sarlat!
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo David MathersYes, I did. I might have been able to repair it with needle nose pliers, but I wasn’t sure if the clip might have also been damaged. As long as it’s not too inconvenient I always prefer to patronize an LBS in the first place rather than have them correct what I’ve done.
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1 month ago
Bruce LellmanI had a bungee cord get impossibly wrapped in my rear sprocket in Vietnam. I couldn't budge it and didn't know what to do but out of nowhere an old man appeared and yanked the thing out of there like it was nobody's business. Made me look like a real wimp, which, well, maybe I am.
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1 month ago