Day 5: The day my patience started to wear a bit thin… (not that my family thinks I have any to start with!)
We rode 28.09 miles @ an average speed of 9.59 mph.
We got up early again because Frederieke had arranged for us to experience crossing the aqueduct on the barge before we started riding.
The Clair de Lune stopped right next to the entrance “gates”. We hopped off and waved goodbye as we walked back to our waiting bikes on the Briare side.
We left town by riding away from the canal into the countryside.
We’d been riding for awhile when I spotted this sign up ahead. By the time I got my camera out, I was almost past it. I was laughing a bit -because when don’t Mike and I end up in a “road closed” situation on our bike trips?
Sure enough – it wasn’t much further before we rode up to a big gate placed across the road. Frederieke said that if we couldn’t get through this roadblock, the detour would add several miles to the day’s route. She wasn’t going to simply accept the roadblock as the final word on the subject (much like my sister Jane on past bike adventures!)
One of the group volunteered to go around the gating to scout out what was going on up ahead.
When he came back, he said he’d spoken to the workers who hadn’t gotten started for the day quite yet. The workers agreed to give us five minutes to sneak through the gate and ride through the work area.
While we were stopped for a quick break, I looked over at the edge of the woods and saw this spider web.
We rode into the little town of Dammarie-en-Puisaye, where, you might have already guessed…nothing was open!
We stopped at a church, which was next to the site of an old castle.
The old castle/chateau dated from the 1200s and was posted as private property. That didn’t seem to stop our fellow bikers from snooping anyway. I was waiting for the owner to come out and yell the French version of “Get off my lawn!!”
The tower (below) is the last remaining one out of the original seven.
Our lunch stop was in a town called Bonney-sur-Loire.
This was the town hall:
The Tourist Office was hosting a small display of bicycle history. Emphasis on “small” -but there were some interesting artifacts on display.
Further down the road, we got to ride over and under a bridge.
Then we got onto an unpaved trail that was a bit annoying to ride on due to the potholes. It was quite hot by then and there was no shade in that area. Are we having fun yet? 🥵
After what seemed like forever, we got back on the paved canal-side trail and soon pulled into a campground where Frederieke was hoping to find restrooms for our break.
It was at this campground that Frederieke suggested that the group head to a town that was a few “extra” miles away where there “might” be something open for a coffee/restroom break. I wasn’t happy about this suggestion – I knew we were pretty much riding in a big aimless circle (as shown on the GPS picture above). It was very hot, we weren’t actually that far from the barge at that spot, and I couldn’t understand the point of dragging the day out any longer than it had already been!
Then I overheard our German friends speaking to Frederieke about splitting off from the group and riding directly to the barge. Bless them! I gave Mike the “I’m D.O.N.E.” look and told Frederieke that we were also going to ride to the barge with our “new best friends”. That got a laugh and a high-five from Karla, one of the Germans.
Actually, it isn’t required that everyone has to stay with the guide on most of these bike & barge trips. We could have chosen to ride on our own at any time. We usually don’t choose that option because we don’t mind riding with the group. In this trip’s case, we’d already seen how the routes were improvised and often changed on the go -so we didn’t think striking out on our own for the whole day was a good idea.
It turns out that at the point we split off from the group, we were only a few miles away from the barge. It was a an easy trip along the canal bike path. I was delighted to be done for the day.
The rest of the group showed up sooner than I expected -but that was because (you’ll be shocked to hear) nothing was open in the town they’d ridden on to. I’m glad we split off on our own.
Later that evening, most of the group decided to play (or watch) a game or two of Boules-Pétanque, which is the French version of bocce ball. I went out planning to watch, but ended up getting recruited for the ladies team. It was fun.
One more day to go!
Last Day: Back To Briare
The black lines on the map are my rendition of the circular route we took riding on the way to Briare.
We rode about 183.5 miles total (not counting the “check out” ride the first day of about eight miles). Montargis to Briare is about 30 miles as the crow flies!
When I saw this GPS summary of the last day’s ride, I was joking to myself that the whole group must have been ready to get it over with -seeing as our average speed was a blistering 9.84 mph… but then I remembered that Mike and I rode separately from the group later in the day and probably got the average speed up a teeny bit while riding the last few miles on our own. (When we ride our own bikes, our average speed is usually between 13-14 mph.)
We were surprised that our start time was going to be 9:00 A.M. for the last day. We’d gotten used to having that extra hour of cooler weather in the morning over the last few days.
At one point, Frederieke led us down this two-track for quite a ways. I think it might have been on private property, crossing a farm -not an actual road.
By the time we were ready for a coffee break, we were back on the canal bike path. We crossed the bridge in the picture and amazingly found a small cafe that was open! A miracle.
While we were at the cafe, Frederieke mentioned that we’d been in this same town earlier in the week, but had stopped up on the hill by the church and hadn’t ridden toward the canal. I found this news annoying.
We left that town and rode further out along the canal. Frederieke wanted us to see some lakes that were created when the canal was built. She said that the lakes help regulate the water levels for the canal.
We got to a place where the bike path briefly turned away from the canal, but Frederieke just continued along the canal -on no path at all- for a couple of miles. We found a place to stop for lunch and happened to run into our German friends, who were just finishing up their lunch. They’d bravely opted to ride on their own for the day, Frederieke had shared the route with them that morning on a mapping app.
At that point Briare was only about five miles away -straight back down the canal path we’d just arrived on. Frederieke told the group that after lunch her plan was to continue on in a direction further away from Briare for several miles before circling back to the barge.
Mike and I needed to be back at the barge early today because we had an errand to run. We made the decision to split from the group after lunch. We joined “our new best friends” -and made a beeline straight back to the barge.
When I was planning our departure from the bike trip Saturday morning, I wasn’t finding any trains leaving Briare for that day (or Sunday). After checking with the booking company – it turns out that there was scheduled track maintenance that weekend in the area and no trains would be running through Briare between Friday night and Monday morning.
I thought…OK, plan B: Rent a car. Uh oh! No car rental agencies in Briare. Some nearby towns had car rental offices -but they were closed on weekends. Other towns had car rental offices, but they would only allow certain cities as the drop off for a one-way rental. I finally figured out that we could rent a car in nearby Gien IF we took a train to go get it on Friday afternoon before the trains stopped running for the weekend.
As soon as we got to the barge we parked our bikes, grabbed showers and did a bit of packing before we needed to start walking to the train station.
On the way to the train station, we hadn’t gotten far before we saw our group riding toward us. They’d made their last stop of the day…and the trip… in downtown Briare before riding that last mile to the Clair de Lune.
Gien was less than 10 minutes away by train. After a short walk to find the car rental agency, it wasn’t long before we were navigating back to Briare with the car.
That night after dinner the crew treated us to a champagne toast to celebrate the end of the trip. It was officially over…Hallelujah!
After dinner, some of the group decided to go out and see if they could find a place showing that night’s Rugby World Cup game. The World Cup is being hosted in various cities in France this month. We tagged along (but not to watch rugby).
This trip was one of many that are operated by a Dutch company called Cycle Tours. I don’t usually talk specifically about the other people on these trips because they aren’t there to be blogged about… but when Karla walked up to me with a twinkle in her eye and said:
“This isn’t Cycle Tours, it is Circle Tours!”
I cracked up and told her I was stealing it -but would give her credit. She just laughed her big happy laugh and said I could.
It is a tradition for me to take a picture on the last day of a bike trip in my “shut up legs” T-shirt, which was a gift from my sister Laura several years ago.
After breakfast on Saturday morning, we said our goodbyes to Frederieke, the crew and our fellow passengers.
Next stop: Lyon.