Vosges and Auvergne by Transalp, june 2008.

The 'roads' we took from Thionville

Another great week in France! No tents this year, as I was suffering from pains in the neck. It was decided to sleep in youth hostels or hotels. This meant way less luggage, which was a bonus. I started the trip on thursday afternoon, june 5. Right from the start I choose to ride small roads even though that meant less progress. I ended up at the Valkenswaard Youth hostel where I certainly wasn't alone as a group of 12-year olds was having a schoolcamp there.

The next day I slowly progressed towards Sankt Vith for the next hostel. Already I found myself on small unpaved downhill roads so I was enjoying myself a lot. I arrived at the hostel around 4 pm and had to wait a while before the doors opened. Quite a new and modern place, but not very cosy. I spent the evening at the local pub.

Saturday came, I went for a long walk and waited for Connie and Peter to show up. After they did we walked into town, had something to eat and drink in yesterdays pub and then had some more drinks...

The group finally together in Thionville.

We contacted Symon and arranged to meet up in Trier. He just finished a rideout with some other friends. Just like the days before we rode to Trier in bright sunshine, in fact it was HOT. Quite a surprise as the forecasts for Europe were not good at all. We rode along the Moesel river, stopped in Wiltingen for a beer at the local festival, lost each other when leaving town then met again at Saarburg. In the end we reached Thionville where we were to meet up with Mandy who would drive there by car. Finally together, we enjoyed a beer and a sandwich and generally had good fun.

Enjoying the unpaved roads

On monday we left the hostel at Thionville, the ride had really started now! We did all kinds of riding: touring, offroading and peg scratching; it was truly great. A stop in Baccarat for drinks and window shopping (crystal) and then on to Colmar. The hostel there looked like an appartment building. It had a 'park' (we translated that incorrectly into 'parking') where we ate our cheeses and sausages and drank beer and wine. Mandy and Peter spent quite some time in the TV room where Holland played Italy in the European soccer championship. As Holland was winning, the rest of us joined them later.

Tuesday brought us more good weather and great roads (see pictures below). Even though we rode some 300km, we ended not very far from Colmar. We had learned that the weather in the Auvergne was very bad, and as it was great in the Vosges we decided to stay a while.

Lots of unpaved roads!

Symon and I passed this bit, Peter got stuck.

This mud was very slippery. Symon showed Mandy the crops from close by... Peter hanging on.

Youth hostel at Ventron.

The hostel at Ventron was very nice, we had it all to ourselves when the landlady left us after we had paid (8 euro a night!!). We ate outside and after it started to rain Connie tried to get a fire burning inside. She really loved this place, it was so quiet.

For wednesday the forecasts were bad for the whole of France, so at last we set out to reach the Auvergne. All went smooth (and still in dry weather) until we came to Besancon. It was there that Peter missed a red traffic light and crashed into me. I was pushed against a car which was damaged as well. It took us a while to sort out the paperwork, fortunately we had Mandy whose French is fluent. Almost no personal injuries, just a few bruised ribs in Peters body. There was no structural damage to the bikes so we could carry on. Lunched in Besancon nevertheless. On to Clermont-Ferrand and then the Puy de Dome. We payed 3 euros to ride to the top of this ancient vulcano, walked around it and took some pictures.

Mandy and me on the top of the Puy de Dome

A short time later we rode into Mont-Dore. The youth hostel was some miles outside town so we opted for a hotel in town. The town which had seemed so nice at first sight was populated by elderly people who came there for the spa. This meant the town was dead after 8 pm, we had a hard time finding a nice spot to eat. On top of this it started to rain real bad, so we all hurried back to the hotel.

Last Auvergne tracks

Friday came, time to head north again. Weather: great! We rode a lot of nice little roads and stopped in a very small village, Montgreleix, to have coffee at a local old-fashioned auberge. We plan to spend a night here when we return to the Auvergne sometime in the future. We wanted to have our most southern lunch in Saint Flour. On our way there Symon wanted to compete with a group of German riders, but even though he was quicker in the bends their bikes were too fast on the straights. And Symon didn't want to risk overtaking them in the bends. So we all ended up on the central square for lunch. North to Vichy on high speed sweeping roads. Great riding! We found a hotel in the town centre and had sandwiches in the local football pub. Tonight was the Holland-France match, so being here amidst the French really added to the fun. Mandy had the time of her life, wearing her orange sunglasses and being adored by the french guys.

On saturday a long ride back to Thionville. Of course we had a stop for lunch and drinks, of course the weather was great and of course we enjoyed ourselves. Still, leaving the Auvergne and heading back home didn't appeal to me much. On the A31 I opened up the throttle and according to the gps the Transalp is now officially a ton-up bike! We got ourselves some beds in the hostel, walked into town, ate a kebab dish and had a few beers.

Sunday. I was up early, said goodbye to my friends, skipped breakfast and headed home. A quick ride; it took me 4 hours 50 minutes to get home, including two stops for gas and coffee. Weeks like this: I could live like that forever.