Ride to the alps: day 3. ‘Lost in France’ (without Bonnie Tyler)


Not all the paths were bad – sadly the great ones like this didn’t last long

In the morning the French couple in the next room apologised for the noise during the night. I though this might be too much information but they explained that the husband had walked into a wardrobe in the dark. I hadn’t heard a thing.

The usual morning aches disappeared once I got moving and my damp clothes dried on me fairly quickly as I left at about 7.20, breakfastless.

I quickly joined the Canal latéral à la Loire and headed south, still about 80 miles from Macon. I struck off to the east, crossed the Loire at Le Fourneau and resumed the journey south before recrossing the river at Le Perron and rejoining the canal, heading east again.

The turns to the east were a pain as they brought headwinds – not too strong but a pain nevertheless.

I continued with the cycle path problems for much of the day and took to trying to zoom out the Garmin to see if any road I might already be on was a viable alternative to some random path it was trying to direct me to.

I left the canal as it turned north just after Les Eaux Mortes (literally ‘the dead waters’ but more charmingly translated as ‘the backwaters’) but as soon as I got to the road I had (yet) another ‘off course’ warning. I retraced my steps a few times before I realised that the track I was being directed onto (below):

  • was not a track
  • was blocked after a few yards
  • led only to a field.

Another suitable cycle track!

It appeared that the only alternative was the N79 – a major and busy dual carriageway. That was bad enough but there were huge road works going on and one half of the road was shut leaving a contra-flow on the remaining two lanes. I wasn’t sure if I could use that road – but that was academic as there was no way I was going to even try.

I asked a friendly local and was waved vaguely in a direction and told to look for Charolles – which was lucky as it was on the list of nearly 100 places that I would be going through (or near) that I had prepared and had taken with me.

I set off not knowing where I really was or exactly where I was going. Being lost is not great – but I can think of worse places to be lost.

It was proper rural France and, running low on water I stopped at a random property in the middle of nowhere to ask for a refill of a bidon, which was provided by a charming, and very elderly, lady (one of three just sitting in the shade and being very French).

I stumbled on a village called Champlecy that seemed to have just a church and a restaurant and had a lovely meal in the most unpromising circumstances.

Eventually I found Charolles and was back on route, passing through Macon (which had taken a very long time too arrive, with all the detours) and then Bourg-en-Bresse.

I had forgotten to recharge my Garmin over lunch so shortly after Bourg I got the low battery warning. I plugged it into my mobile charger but it then wouldn’t fit in its mount so I put it in the top tube bag in place of my phone. It was not then in direct eye-line and as I slogged along the N1075 out of Bourg towards Pont-d’Ain I eventually noticed that I had the inevitable ‘off course’ warning.

I had no idea how long I’d been off course – and hadn’t seen any likely alternative routes – so I was reluctant to retrace my steps. I found a very friendly French family with a map who confirmed that I was still heading towards Pont-d’Ain. That wasn’t on my list of places en route but fortunately Neuville-sur-Ain was, and it was just 3 miles from Pont-d’Ain.

I must have missed yet another phantom or impassible track somewhere (which would have been a short cut if it existed) but I decided to ignore it and pressed on.

At this point I realised (or, more accurately, finally accepted) that I wasn’t going to do the trip in 3 days. No heroics by trying to ride through the night, I decided to book into a hotel.

I found the only hotel in Pont-d’Ain – it was full. They told me that nearest hotel was (I might have guessed) in Neuville-sur-Ain so I was clearly destined to go there. I headed off fully expecting to be sleeping rough that night – but they had a room and I checked in at about 8.30pm.

It was a real treat, set by a pretty bridge, comfortable and with friendly staff and a garage for the bike. I really needed to soak in a bath but the shower was good and I had a fine meal.

I was on the second floor and was aching so much that I struggled to get up the stairs after supper but slept well after a very hard and wearing 217km (135 miles) with 1370m (4500 feet) of climbing.

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