Covid Travel restrictions or how we rediscovered France

A travel range of a Solitude Seeker and her husband.

September, 21st

by Valérie (@valsfactory)

We are travelers. We are wanderers.
As long as we have been together, we never went on holiday in our beautiful France.
Prices too high? Too many tourists? Depending on the season, bad weather? Maybe all of that.

This year, as for many of us, travelling, going on holiday has been more complicated than ever. Covid-19 has made it difficult to plan anything.

After a lot of consideration, the decision has been made. Why not put our bikes in the car, and start exploring France

Suitcases were packed, car was ready. Now what? Where do we start?

First stop: Auvergne
The hotel was booked while we were on the road. Let’s go for 2 nights in Clermont Ferrand.
To be honest the city has nothing special. Everything is built in those dark volcano stones, so it can easily be oppressive. But it has its charm.

The real interest in the area is the Volcanos National Park with the Puy-de-Dôme. That’s where our first ride took us.

Where next?
As we did not find anywhere to sleep in the next national park, we went straight south in the Pyrenees.
But not before making a small detour to see the famous Viaduc de Millau.

Next Stop: Lourdes
Pilgrimage city in the heart of the Pyrenees. Definitely a touristic city. Perfectly situated for our next rides.

Col du Tourmalet

Col du Soulor and col d’Aubisque

And Hautacam to finish here.

Spanish Basque country was now awaiting us. Unfortunately the weather did not play along so, change of plan.

Back to France, where a long day in the car led us to the Provence in Avignon.

Of course we had a specific ride in mind…

The Mont Ventoux…
This was the one that scared me most. But even the Mistral was blowing, it was one of the most beautiful climbs we did.

More than a week had passed, but we wanted ( more I ) to do one last stop before heading home.
Some personal challenges were waiting for me in a region where I spent most of my childhood. I wanted to climb the mountains I hiked as child, teenager and young adult.

Last stop: Hautes Alpes, Briancon

First climb right after our arrival: col du Granon
Just so our legs would know what they would be up to the next days…

Plan of the day:
Col du Lautaret – Col du Galibier – Valloire – and back.

Side number 1

And side number 2 (Yes, I am proud)

And of course we couldn’t leave the area without climbing the col d’Izoard

That climb ended our road trip.

When I look back at those 12 days, I can’t help already planning the next one.
We still have so many more regions and beautiful places to discover in France.
As the virus doesn’t seem to stop, we might have many more adventures like these in the coming months / years.

So, for once, thank you Covid for pushing us to do this road trip.

I hope I could make you travel a bit with this article. Thank you all for reading.



100 Miles

Master Your Ego Or The Road Will Humble You

July, 24th

by Kaldwell Grant ( ___fearlessleader___ )

I worship at the altar of pain. For me, the transition from something being fun to that same thing being the source of my distress is part of the allure of cycling. It’s why I prefer to ride long distances instead of short, punchy sprints. Out with only sparse traffic and my own inner monologue on these seldom traveled roads is as close to a religious experience as I’ve ever come. The ability to suffer well is what has set me apart. Today I am not suffering well. Maybe this is why sitting on a bench in front of a fueling station, 83 miles from home, sweating and trying desperately to catch my breath, I felt so utterly alone.

Growing up a black kid who was into anime and rock music, I was used to being the outsider. Becoming comfortable with that early in life prepared me for the sidelong glances that standing in queue to pay for groceries covered in head-to-toe lycra invariably bring. While my contemporaries were getting into sports or cars, I was digging through the back-issue bins at my local comics shop. All three of my brothers played football in school, I was on the Academic Bowl team. During school I carried one (of several) folders that I kept to write whatever happened to come to mind. Having my thoughts ordered has always been a strength. It has allowed me clarity of mind when others around me started to loosen the grasp on their calm.

Sitting on that bench, underneath shade that offered little relief, I got angry. Really angry. I hadn’t done enough to prepare. Maybe my fitness wasn’t at the level it needed to be for so large an undertaking. I was weak, beaten. There was no way that this could have turned out any other way. My thoughts grew dark, like so many of us do, I began to put the onus on myself. Thinking to myself “If I had prepared more thoroughly things would have gone differently”. I immediately went back to square one; mentally re-tooling my workouts, planning a new diet and meal prep schedule, even brainstorming how to drop weight to improve my power transfer.

In the summer of 2012, I bought my first road bike, a fire engine red 2012 Specialized Roubaix. I loved that bike, and the way it allowed me to experience my surroundings in a way that I’d never known. My city was familiar to me, and I had ridden bikes before, however at this speed, and at this height. This was like I was a tourist in my home town. it was possible for me to really take my time, and be deliberate in the way I absorbed my environs. I loved these roads. A little over a year later I would be lying on those very roads, less than a mile from my home, the victim of a hit-and-run on my nightly commute from work. My bike was a complete wreck, and body wasn’t in much better shape. I would spend the next 8 weeks in a neck brace. That down time allowed me a rare opportunity to reflect. In those moments, with my body only slightly less wrecked than my bike, I took from that a valuable lesson; the road will humble us all. The first thing I did when I was granted a medical release to resume strenuous physical activity was head to my local bike shop to and get back on two wheels.

Resting in the passenger seat of my support vehicle, cooler heads (both literal and metaphorical) were able to prevail. The stillness and inner calm that I’d cultivated in my youth as an outsider, that was refined while I convalesced, returned to me in that moment. I remembered that all important lesson, that the road will humble you. The realization came to me then, I had fallen victim to my own vanity. Ego had been my undoing. General Colin Powell said “Avoid having your ego so close to your position that when your position falls, your ego goes with it.” I had done exactly what he had advised against, placing an unrealistic amount of pressure on myself in the process. It wasn’t a lack of fitness, or a problem with my diet or weight. Those were the excuses I was making to myself. The problem was believing so much in my own hype that I thought I could take on 100+ miles in 107-degree summer heat and come away victorious. In my life every endeavor that was ego driven has ended in disappointment. This endeavor was no different. I was humbled yet again, my hubris brought to heel by these roads that have given me so many other lessons.

Now that it’s been a week, I’ve rested both my body and mind. I decided not to rework my entire workout regimen or diet. I haven’t focused on my weight at all. What I HAVE done is to focus on making my rides fun, getting the same enjoyment that I had early on. Going forward, I’ll still be tackling those big miles, but I won’t be putting as much pressure on myself. Maybe you’ll see me on the road one day. If you do, give a wave and remember to keep pedaling.