The Canal du Centre with wheat field, smoke stack, and power plant cooling tower
at Montceau des Mines where I am staying tonight

This wasn't a great riding day. It started well enough with an excellent breakfast at Hotel Royal in Vichy, but deteriorated when I got lost trying to find the road out of Cusset, a town near Vichy. I did fine getting to Cusset from downtown Vichy, but I messed up badly when I decided to take the truck route around Cusset to get to the road I wanted. Half an hour later, I determined you can't get there that way and rode through Cusset on the clearly signed route. A big part of my problem was the lack of any route numbers on the traffic circles on the truck route. I'd have to try pattern matching the roads with my maps to figure out where I was: e.g lets try to find a round point (traffic circle) on the map with roads heading in the same directions as the round point I'm looking at. Very frustrating!

The signs in town were clearly marked with route numbers

After find D906b, I was faced with the usual 100 m plus climb out of the valley. This one was 150 m initially in 2 km and then more than another 100 meters in the next four km. The view from the high point at 400 m was nice, as was the downhill into and through Bost. Then there were several miles of pretty, and pleasant riding.

Climbing out of Cusset

D906b is very nice riding after the initial hills

D906b joins D907 less than ten miles from Vichy, and the pleasant, peaceful riding was gone. D907 isn't bad, just a little too busy, but when it gets near Lapalisse it joins with N7. There is way too much traffic, mostly big trucks, on N7. There was a traffic jam more than a mile long extending well out both sides of Lapalisse! I haven't seen so many trucks since the border between Hungary and Slovenia where they were backed up for 2 km. I rode/walked my bike through town on the sidewalk. Walking was faster than the trucks were moving. When I got past the worst of the jam, I rode on out of town in bad riding condition: lots of big trucks needing to pass me, a solid mass of big trucks in the jam in the opposite lane, and a relatively narrow lane with a curb. Yuck!

The jam coming back into Lapalisse
I'm riding past the trucks at 5 mph

When I had a chance to pay attention to where I was rather than to survival in the midst of that traffic, I realized I was on N7, not D990 where I was supposed to be. I stopped at the next pullover, had a snack, and then rode back into Lapalisse. By riding on the grass - there was no shoulder - and sometimes walking my bike, I got past that part of the jam and onto the right road. Coming through the first time, all my attention was on the traffic so I didn't see the sign. I'm not sure I could have seen it if I had been looking since the trucks in the opposite lane traffic jam blocked most of my view.

D994 heading through the hills to Le Donjon

The long downhill into Le Donjon
those are cattle in the field

After the usual 200 m climb <grin> out of town, D990 joined D944 which, except for some fast traffic - I think the jam on N7 was diverting some traffic to D944 - was good, but hilly riding. I got to over 500 m on that section, then there was a long downhill into Le Donjon. I stopped for lunch there - French fast food - it only took an hour - thinking that without the traffic jam and getting lost, I would have been stopping in Digoin instead. I had steak and fries with fromage blanc as a second course, and of course, a quarter bottle of wine. This is cattle country and the steaks I've had have been good. I don't usually eat steak, but it is one of the few foods that has the same name in France and in the USA. That makes it easier to know what I'm getting. And the French fries were very good!

Riding from Le Donjon to Digoin was gentler than riding to Le Donjon

It was nice riding to near Digoin, but after D994 became E62, traffic was really heavy. Riding on a road like that - no shoulders, heavy traffic which is mostly big trucks, and often a curb - would be very dangerous in most parts of the US. In France it does not feel dangerous, but still is not fun. I made it around Dijoin - glad I didn't need to go into town to eat - and found myself on E62 which was a brand new expressway constructed much like a US interstate. I had a great shoulder, so it wasn't hard to ride, but, as on an interstate, it was noisy, smelly, and boring riding. It was also fast riding. I go off at the first exit, which was several miles down the road. The major feature of that exit was a McDs, so I had a milkshake (which, being McDs, contains no milk) and figured out what happened and where I was.

Riding on E62

I got back on the expressway and rode to the next exit where, after some head scratching, I figured out how to get down to the river. When I got there, I couldn't find the road I wanted - the story of my day, today - so I took another one. It was nice riding in a beautiful valley, but when I stopped half a dozen miles later, I couldn't figure out where I was on my map! So, a first for me, I flagged down a passing car and he and I, with no common language, and another fellow who came over to join in the discussion, figured out where we were on my map and how I should go to get back on route. I rode to the next (and only on that road) village, took two right turns and, five km later, was back on a different expressway.

The church in the village of Saint Vincent - Bragny

A view from near the village

E602, my second expressway of the day

I rode the expressway until it stopped being an expressway. At that point, it lost its shoulder, became just N70, and, given the heavy truck traffic, was not safe for bicycling. I rode over to Genelard, found the canal and D974 which follows it, and headed on down this new road. It was almost as fast as riding the expressway and a whole lot more peaceful! When, 20 kilometers later, I saw the power plant cooling tower ahead of me, I knew I had found a place with hotels <grin>!

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