Velo on the Loire

Biking is an amazing way to travel this part of the country and probably lots of other places as well. From Austerlitz station in Paris, we took the train to Tours arriving in late afternoon. With our bicycle map, purchased in Paris we were able to find our way to the edge of Tours and at last set free – the Loire River winding with us through a valley of gold and green.  A kind of biking heaven. We travelled some 25 km in just a few hours and found a hotel in a tiny place called Villandry. I have to say the French have the biking situation well in hand (most of the time.) Entrance onto the train was simple on our way out, not quite so simple on our way back. All of the bike paths use a green colour indicator with a raised bicycle icon glued onto the surface of the asphalted path. If the path veered onto regular car roads, the road is then separated with places to the side for bikers. Both cars and bicycles seem to co-habit the roads respectfully and with courtesy, very unlike Montreal where the struggle continues and cyclists and drivers treat each other like some kind of invading virus.

We are so happy to be cycling; it is warm, sunny and the air is filled with freshness and mysterious fragrances. I realize it is the wild carrot peeking out from the edges of sunflower fields and the fields of purple alphalfa flower that smell so wonderful. With my legs and body engaged, my mind is free to wander and of course, I think of things I want to write about. I try to find ways to remember so I can write it down when we stop for the night, but there I was later, scratching my head and nothing would come. I got up to brush my teeth and ready myself for bed; the clock chimed ten pm., there is still a glow of sunset in the sky and a dog barked. And then I remembered: As we bike, I sense myself wanting to swim in every bit of bright river water and sink my feet in the muddy banks. I think; I  am like a dog in a full-body roll over dirt and grass. I want to rub off the city and push my skin deep into the smell of earth and water.

The days become successively hotter and we are able to bike longer. We head south towards our destination of Mirebeau and leave the flat river valley with its comfortable leafy bike paths and begin winding roads up and down into villages and fields. Cycling up hills on a hot and windy day at noon, I think; one quickly learns two things. First: don’t look too far ahead and second: keep you mouth shut.  The mind is powerful.  Biking up hills goes much better when I keep my eyes blinkered to a few feet ahead. If I catch sight of yet another bend in the road hiding possibly yet another slope ahead, my energy falters and the momentum is broken.  Just keep pedalling, slowly but surely, up I go, my mind tethered to my stroke. Breath of course must come in through the nose. A hot wind is relentless. Out of open mouths it will wick away all moisture and keep me busier feeding it more with licking lips.