Fri 1 & Sat 2: St Germain de Laval to beyond Aubenas. - Sights Set On Morocco (Under A Hot Sun) - CycleBlaze

August 2, 2014

Fri 1 & Sat 2: St Germain de Laval to beyond Aubenas.

I hear talking first thing this morning. Two old Frenchmen not far off chatting interrupting themselves with regular chuckles. What are they saying. Did one see my tent and tells the other. "Oui, beinsur et la snoring.....". Well I don't know what they are saying and what is so funny, but I'm near sure my tent went undiscovered.

Get on the road shortly before nine and descend through St Germain, then I've to make a decision at a roundabout. Do I take D8 south to St Etienne, or continue on upon the road I'm on now, the D1. Having been this way a few years ago, I know D8 is extremely busy after the next town, Boen, so decide to keep on D1.

At Feurs I cross over the Loire one last time. This is a bigger town than I envisaged. A large commercial area of superstores stretching out either side of the old N82 north-south road between Roanne and St Etienne, now renumbered a quadrupe figure D road and morning rush-hour traffic is slow, backed up bumper-to-bumper. There's no sidewalk and I cannot get through. At one traffic-light, I wait for lights to go green and the car in front only getting into gear and lurch forward a length before the lights change back to red, five times in succession, until eventually, the car in front reaches the head of the queue, my captor and me escaping this time, through the lights on green.

Then beyond the next roundabout, there's a massive Carrefour hypermarket. Quite liturally hyper-massive, as I spend too much time inside walking, deciding what to eat today and then walking again trying to find what I've decided upon. And by the fruit and veg, at the weighting-labelling machine, I'm struggling to find the picture button for the conference pear I've chosen, until a woman comes and kindly helps.

I continue south towards St Etienne, then in a village turn left towards Lyon. The way ahead involves a long climb. Nothing tough, just that it takes what remains of the morning and I don't crest the final sumit until early afternoon. Along the way I pass an enclosed paddock containing a beautiful snow-white goat with a black patch marking upon her left eye extending down her beard. It was her time of day for rest, but she stood up when I stop, wagging her tail as she scrutinises me. Her two donkey companions then wander over. Looking really fond of their goat companion as they stand either side of her protectively.

Retrospectively, I see on a Google map, the Loire canal connects with the river Rhone at Lyon, so its useful to know in future.

On the long long winding descend I lay caution to the wind and hit speeds of over sixty, descending to the busy town of Givors to the south of Lyon, from here the rest of the day would be level; south along the Rhone.

A dozen kilometres along a highway out of Givors, my path crosses over a bridge to the east side of the river into the traffic of Vienne, then follows a raised sidewalk along the busy traffic embankment south out of the city-centre, and just after passing underneath the main motorway, crosses back over the river where it follows a narrow shoulder of the D86 through a succession of busy riverside towns. It is on this section, having pulled in to the side, wondering is their some alternative, that I see through the corner of my eye another touring cyclist behind me. A large well tanned man riding an extremely upright bike. His first words are English, something to the effect that his French is no good and is glad I'm Englishspeaking. We briefly exchange names, he being Bern, and itineraries. Bern started from home in Hamburg and is cycling to Narbonne where he says he'll be staying with friends, relaxing. Bern having a more detailed map, says this is the only road. We ride on separately and we pass and pass again later after the Velo Vert sign appears directing cyclists on a riverbank path; a greenway of compacted gravel and along the top of old flood defence for most of the way, with short level grass either side, partly enclosed by riverside saplings and undergrowth, though with a good view of the river on the left.

I keep on going. There isn't much pressure to stop by the danger of cars and their headlight beams as the evening advances with a bank of black cloud moving in over crimson afterglow mirroring in the river. Until a point where the path turns away from the river with it's abundant camping possibilities, when the remaining clear sky has turned deep blue as the dark curtain closes in.

I put the tent up quickly, take everything inside and start cooking pasta to an evening of lightning, thunder and rain.

Lunch stop.
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I don't have a corkscrew, so push the cork down into the bottle. Then use a carrot to reseal the bottle.
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Concrete motorway bridge over the Rhone south of Vienne. I took this a bit too quickly and it seemed not much good as it is overexposed, but works well in monotone.
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Cycling along the river Rhone into the evening, past a nuclear power plant with two reactors.
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A kilometre or so further: view from a footbridge over a hydroelectric barrage.
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Its getting near dawn. When lights close their tired eyes.
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Another bridge and a huge concrete grain silo.
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Plenty of camping possibilities with an industrial backdrop.
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There's the hum of river barges passing early on and looking out, the huge industrial structures all along the opposite riverbank look stark in the morning light. I continue on Velo Vert to the next town, then over a bridge and six to seven kilometres to a small city, St Rambert. Today the bike's feeling sluggish. There's an infrequent click coming from somewhere to begin with. Its un-mistakenly the ball-bearings in the rear hub. And my fears are confirmed as the clicking becomes more frequent until continuous, sounding like a cement-mixer rotating a load of rocks. The balls scrambling around inside the rear hub.

There has been play, gripping the rim I've been able to rock the wheel from side to side since the evening I arrived off the ferry in the north of France, not long from the start of this trip. Unexpected and a let down by the bike shop at home I thought were trustworthy. A full service for a long tour should've meant new bearing-inners. Instead the bike shop man, it looks like, unscrewed and took apart the hub, cleaned the old bearing-inners, repacked the old bearings with grease and screwed the hub back together again, passing it off as fully serviced and ready for the road.

Another thing he fucked up is the gear cable. The old indexed perfectly smoothly, but rust had gotten in, so it was replaced. No matter how I screwed the adjuster on the derailleur, it would click-click noisily on most shifts onto larger cogs. And was slow going down upon smaller cogs. Eventually I got fed up of this state of affairs. I just unscrewed the fixing bolt on the derailleur and reset the cable, getting the tension right by plucking the cable along the bike's downttube and now it changes silently.

Later in the day my shattered trust in the local bike shop goes from bad to worse when outside an Intermarche, I'm checking the rear wheel. The balls inside seemingly have clogged up as there's almost no play, when I notice a hairline crack running from the spoke eyelet. Sure proof that the spoke has been overtightened in a bouched attempt to true-up the wheel. From then on I ride anxiously waiting for a sudden thud of the spoke pulling.

Having lost the Velo Vert, I'm back riding the shoulder of D86, which is bumper-to-bumper with holiday traffic passing through each town on the way south. I run into Bern standing by the roadside. I found the bike path, he tells me and adds "It goes this way and that and is many kilometres more. This is a good street." "You must be faster than me." "No. I'm smarter" he replies.

I would've remained following the river, but the Intermarche I stop at is by a roundabout and on returning to the road, I take the wrong exit, a wrong turn and before I know it I'm climbing inland away from the river.

Bern posses by the roadside.
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One of the many chains.
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I wanted to kill someone when I spotted this. The bike shop man that serviced the bike being who I have in mind. Instead of slacking some spokes to release tension and balance the wheel before truing the wheel, the picture shows clearly, he just tightened the one spoke up, bringing the wheel instantly into true, but leaving that one spoke seriously over tight; that, after a few thousand kilometres of severe strain, it ends up cracking the rim at the spoke-eyelet.
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Not that I'm a bad climber, I hate mountains. I really do; poor weather; rain and low cloud just add to slow progress.
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Today's ride: 247 km (153 miles)
Total: 2,839 km (1,763 miles)

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