Leaving Besancon we had to navigate around the city centre nightmare and head up the hills as we progress towards Les Alps. The sun has given us a good baking on a few occasions already this trip to the point in which we appreciated overcast conditions, the forcast storm was not forthcoming and we endured the highest temps of the trip. Reapplying suncream every hour it dripped from our skin almost immediately. I took the precaution to wear my Nike long sleeve underneath the jersey.
At a lunch stop by a supermarche chain called ‘Casino’ a local came over who spoke pretty good english and warned of the impending storm, the sky was clear blue but he told us it would hit in a few hours so we should hurry to Champagnole. Sure enough within 15 minutes of chowing down a baguette and chocolate bars the clouds rolled in and they were navy blue. We rode as hard as we have all trip for the last 25 miles and managed to arrive at the campsite as thunder began to rumble, set the tents up and jump inside seconds before the rain lashed down.
Riding a bike especially in new places is like people watching but with a revolving landscape. You spend most of your day watching the clouds. The weather can dicate the entire day from what clothes your going to wear, what route your going to take, where your going to eat and where your going to sleep. I’ve became pretty good at anticipating things like rain in the distance however there is always that moment when trying to decifer if thats a patch of blue sky or just a greyish blue cloud sat amongst white, in mid-France its normally the latter.
Waking to rain can complicate leaving, you pack everything whilst still cramped in the tent then chuck it on the bike, thankfully after sleeping another hour it stopped for a while. From Champagnole we were to hit Geneva making a brief crossing into Switzerland. Climbing all day was made easier by quiet roads and spectacular scenery, when its wet I get lazy with pictures though because I don’t like to get the camera out. Physically almost spent after multiple switchback climbs I thought we had one last mountain pass to tackle looking at the winding roads on the maps. Needless to say we were both elated to get round the first bend to so the most fabulous downhill road all the way to lake Geneva, work done now time to enjoy.
I would put the downhill up there as my second best ever behind the 20 mile Mackenzie pass downhill in Oregon. One thing I had forgotten is that Switzerland didn’t adopt the euro, its still swiss francs. Having picked out a municipal campground as we have most the way we arrived to find a very basic patch of grass with no electricity or showers, poor. The guy running the place came over to explain the rates. I was waiting for the punchline when he requested 40 euros each of us, it didn’t come, thats about £34 each to pitch our tents on a small patch of grass. Fuming we rolled back into a near town to grab some wifi. Surely a bad hotel would at least give us a shower for that much. Turns out we didn’t do our homework and our ignorance would cost us. Whilst looking for hotels around Geneva I saw one place advertise rates “from 600 euro a night” thats about £500 for 3*, wow. It was getting late, we hadn’t eaten so we went looking for food. Suddenly the busy commuter town from an hour ago was all shutdown. I felt the biggest clunk after hopping off a curb to see my front tyre had gone flat. I told Eal to roll back to the campsite an negotiate a better price for us both sleeping in one tent whilst I fixed the flat, annoying but only a 15 minute job.
When I got back the campsite was quiet, we double checked the office hours on the small cabin at the front. The guy was home for the night and wouldn’t be back until 8am the next day. I won’t go into full detail but lets just say we left very early the next morning. Its a rough night sleeping without a shower after riding bikes all day smelling worse than ever with hands caked in black oil. A fancy restaurant ajoined the site and campers were supposed to use the toilet block which their customers were strolling into. Stood brushing my teeth and washing my face in the sink whilst people came in and out. They must have either looked down on me or felt pity, I looked homeless. If I could have told them in French I had chosen to be like this for now and I was really fine I would have.
After the 6am start 😉 and breakfast in Geneva I had to hit a bike shop, whatever punctured my tube must have been sharp because it has slashed a good half inch across my tyre. Im rolling on Schwalbe Marathon’s because they came with the bike but I have had them before and they only lasted me from Missouri to Montana in 2010. The Schwalbe Marathon Plus is made from a much tougher rubber compound with a stronger kevlar, luckily the shop had them so I replaced one of my tyres for now. The young lad at the great shop (Bike Passion, Geneva) offered to fit it but I declined. I asked him for route advice for the day which he was also useful with. I had issues sorting my brakes after replacing the new tyre I couldn’t get them as tight as I wanted without rubbing. Swallowed my pride and went back in the shop to ask wor lad to sort it out, took him 30 seconds and I learnt somthing new about brake mechanics! Eal summed Geneva up in 3 words “Sound but pricey”.
Trucking on into another sunny afternoon we passed through the valley that connects a number of larges cities across a metropolitan area down to Grenoble, Aix les baines was the destination and the first real tourist camping experience we had. Great campsite which even had the Germany – Portugal match showing in the bar enjoyed over a half pint of Leffe. We are aching all over, still no proper rest day after 2 weeks riding. but its a fine evening and we have one more ride to Grenoble where we have a 2 night hotel stay and finally a real day off.