France, july 28 2000.

When we bought our family van three years ago, I had it modified a bit in order to be able to take the R27 with me on longer trips or in case of trouble. It wasn't until this summer that we decided to take it/her with us to France. We were planning to spend some time in the Ardeche, and I knew the roads and scenery were magnificent over there. It did take some effort to get the bike, the three tents, the canoe etc. in the van but in the end we managed to get on our way.

The first couple of days in France were spent walking, canoeing and doing nothing. After yet another lazy morning on the camping I decided to go for a ride. Fortunately the beemer fired up without hesitation, and off I rode, planning to ride some D-roads in the neighbourhood.

The roads around Aubenas were very busy, but shortly after leaving the city I left the N102 and turned left to Mercuer. The road started to get interesting right away. Nice bends, changing altitudes; exactly what I was after. There was virtually no traffic and the woods at the side of the road were beautiful. The villages I passed were very small as were the roads leading through them. You could hear the nice exhaust note reflecting from the walls of the houses: uphill the little engine had to work it's ass off! Especially here you can appreciate the progress that has been made in motorcycle technology. Back in may, on the VFR, it had been necessary to brake before bends on the uphill roads, now I had to make sure there was some momentum left!

It seemed like I was getting higher and higher into the mountains, after each bend I had to revv it in 2nd all the time to get it back in 3rd gear again. The sun was shining, the views were great, the roads were empty; this part of France looked almost deserted. I stopped to make a picture, you can see the road descending in the upper left part.

View from winding road between Lentilleres and Rocher.

In Rocher I turned right onto the D5. I entered the village of Prunet where a sign pointed me to an ancient church. I had a look inside, and was very pleased with what I saw. Even though I'm not a religious guy the church had some mental influence on me. It was elegantly simple, exactly like churches should be IMHO. It was extremely quiet and very cool inside. The graveyard (I cannot resist having a look at the graves) was a bit of a disappointment; some nice old wornout tombs, but many nasty modern ones as well.

Old church at Prunet.

From Prunet I went on to Jaujac where I left the D5 to get even higher in the mountains, direction La Souche. Splendid views all the way to the D19, what a ride! From there I went south and back east again, in the Corniche du Vivarais CÚvenol. By the side of the road there was an inn in the middle of nowhere, where I had a beer and a plate of crudites. Unbelievable but I was the only guest in the middle of the holiday season...

What more can I tell... I'll tell you the routes I took; if you ever get the opportunity of riding them grab it!

Aubenas - take the N102 nortwest direction Le Puy. After about 3 miles turn left to Mercuer. Some miles after leaving Mercuer turn right to Lentilleres, ride on to Rocher and turn right on the D5 to Prunet. On to Jaujac. Right before the village turn left to La Souche. You're now riding in the Massif du Tanargue. Left to the col du Meyrand and Loubaresse, take the D403 there and enter the area of the Corniche du Vivarais CÚvenol. Conquer the mont Perrier, turn left twice (some miles in between) and you're on the D450 to Ribes. (I won't tell you how much time I spent trying to leave Ribes, I actually managed to get lost in this small village..). Then onward to Joyeuse.

By the time I was there I ran out of time and took the shortest way back to Saint-Didier-sous-Aubenas where we were staying. If there's more time, there are better options..