Sunday, January 31, 2016

Why France For Cycling and Camping

        When we plan a journey...we think bicycles. When we think cycling...we think France. No where else have we experienced such courtesy and love for the self-powered traveler. Another reality that sets France apart from other european countries we've ridden in,  is the road network that spiders throughout the countryside...impeccably maintained  and every one of them leading to magical experiences, stunning views and time zones long forgotten. "Our land is our art," revealed one of our campground/ fruitstand hostesses. The French are proud people...proud of their agriculture, proud of their politics and most proud of their scenery.
        The villages in rural France strive to win awards for best kept streets, parks, visitor information centers and floral displays. When we pick a camping spot each day, during our September/ October visits, the campground hosts are relaxed and relieved to have survived another busy summer season.        
        The hosts are generous beyond belief...often-times bringing us a bottle of local wine and/or part of the local fruit/ vegetable harvest to enjoy at our campsite. They keep at least one shower/ sanitaire open and are quick to tell us about our hiking/ biking and swimming options nearby. Outdoor showers and laundry hanging are always acceptable.
        Once we set up our tent and lock our rental vehicle, we can always be assured that our belongings will be secure and in the same state we left them.  During a two hour ride through the hills of France we often see other cyclists and there is never any doubt that they will acknowledge you and want to converse.
        We are planning a fifth bicycle excursion to France, once again focusing on the South of France. As long as we are capable of climbing the numerous "cols" and "ports" we are excited to do so. As we get on in years we may have to focus on the flatter roads to the North of France. The hospitality and incredible diversity of scenery encountered each and every time we vacation on bicycles in France causes us to happily spend our modest savings mingling with the citizens of this amazing country.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Bodfishttva...Bicycles Are Forever.

        In 1846 Robert Thomson patented the pneumatic tire in France....and this changed everything. Before this time wheels were solid, rough riding and made quite a clatter. Having air in your tyres (as they spelled it back then) was magic. During the second half of the ninetenth century bicycles gained favor with thousands of travelers, in fact, by the 1890's more people were on bicycles than any other form of conveyance in the "civilized" corners of the world, including the horse and buggy. Imagine, you didn't have to feed the bicycle and you could easily lift it over obstacles...and be free of stubborn negotiations.
        Every generation, for hundreds of years will appreciate the bicycle for it's simplicity and utility...the bicycle will live on FOREVER.
        Putting a motor on the bicycle and the subsequent invention of the motorcar, has been a setback for cycling enthusiasts around the world....however, for those of us who can see into the future, we realize that this noisy, smelly, resource-depleting bastardization of the original human-propelled two-wheeler has had it's day and will undoubtedly be relegated to the footnotes of human history.
        There is an undercurrent of love and energy for the bicycle, this most efficient mode of transportation and recreation. We are recreated each time we settle into our favorite saddles above our spinning cranks and blood-filled legs. It is the next best thing to love-making, caressing and cuddling with your favorite fellow human being.
        Yeah, it's that good. This simple fact ensures that bicycles and bicycling will be celebrated forever.  The power of the bicycle is so great that we ride them across entire continents. Some of us seek out the longest and steepest hills instead of rolling through the lowest valleys, (so as to avoid excessive perspiration and toil). Many of us have experienced the meditative value of silent foot-twiddling over natural and even over-civilized landscapes.
        Our senses are sharpened, our awareness of the natural world is heightened...and, unfortunately, our sensitivity to the impacts of our motorized/ speed oriented fellow travelers is also foisted upon us. At some point, possibly before the end of this century, our descendants will once again appreciate the two-wheel self-propelled cycle as the finest and most rewarding form of transport ever developed for land travel. The bicycle will live on FOREVER.