Day 21: Chambery to Gex, France

Looking back the way we've come along Lake Bourget

I am still in France, although I'm north of Geneva Switzerland and 35 miles ago I was within a mile of Switzerland. I guess I just hate to leave France! Switzerland has a toe shaped part that sticks into France, and I've been riding just above that toe. Tomorrow, I'll ride into Switzerland when I'm forced to. The Jura, a mountainous region on the border of Switzerland and France, becomes the border half a dozen miles north of here, and I either climb out of the Rhone valley - big climb, that - or go into Switzerland and get down to Lake Geneva for a relatively flat ride.

The south end of the Jura

The Rhone gorge next to those mountains

I rode 80 miles today and climbed about 4000 feet. That is the same distance to climbing ratio as the Blue Ridge Parkway, but most of the riding today was flat. The climbing came in short, relatively steep, sections between the flat parts. Since some of those flat parts were along a pretty lake and most of that part also had bikelanes, I saw a lot of bicyclists today, literally hundreds of them. The fact that it was sunny Sunday in June also might be a factor. They had nice bikes and nice outfits, and most of them only rode on the flat bits < grin >.

When I stopped along the lake to snack, I watched dozen of folks ride by. There was something strange; the folks riding one way seemed to be struggling a lot. Then I realised that I had stopped on a hill. I really hadn't noticed it because my standards for hills are rather high now. I hadn't had to shift into my granny, so the slope wasn't more that 2 or 3 % and I had automatically shifted down without thinking "hill." Most of these Sunday riders seemed to think "big hill." Compared to the real hills in this part of France, this hill was a bump in the road!

Riding through Chambery

On the bikeroute

On a two lane road where one lane is a bike lane!

And riding along the lake on N 201

I had planned to ride D 991 out of Chambery, but, because the French are, by American standards, odd in the ways they mark roads, I couldn't find it. I asked a man who was crossing a street near the center of town and he said, in French, go down that street. I did and, a few miles later, realizing that I wasn't going to find N 991, I found a marked bike route to Aix-Les-Bains instead. Since D 991 goes through Aix, I followed the bike route, figuring correctly that I could get on D 991 north of Aix. The bike route, like the one I followed yesterday, was delightful. It took me on small roads - one so small that it had a single car land and a single bike lane - and through pretty villages. Eventually it brought me to N 201, a nice road that runs right along Lake Bourge to Aix.

VIew of lake from near top of 991 climb

There is a tunnel

The lake, the road with bike lane, and the train track

Leaving Aix, which is a major resort town with a huge marina and lots of stuff for tourists, D 991 climbs away from the lake for a mile or so, then comes down to the lake and runs right alongside it for at least ten miles. This is area where there were so many bicyclists. There were also lots of scuba divers and a few fishermen. And, of course, great views.

When D 991 leaves the north end of the lake, it climbs a bit, so 90% of the bicycle riders are gone. Then, at Seyssel, the few that are left cross the Rhone river - on a beautiful bridge - and ride D 991 on the other side. For some reason, I decided not to cross, and continued through Seyssel - looking for lunch, but not finding it - and on on D 992. D 992 was very pleasant rural riding though forest. Nice. Then I saw a good looking restaurant where D 992 T's into N 508 ! It was getting on 1 PM by this time, so that restaurant was probably my last chance for lunch.

It was a pizza place, so I ordered a salad, a pizza, and wine. I knew I had done well when they brought the salad. It was gorgeous and very good. About the time my pizza arrived - oh, how am I going to eat all that? - a couple from Paris drove up. He stopped to examine my bike and then the sat close to me and, since he spoke English but she didn't, we had a two way conversation about US/French problems (he started it) and, when I told them I was a Jew, she identified herself as a Jew and we talked about French/US/Jewish/Israel problems. Then, after we had all finished eating, he asked if I had images they could see - we had talked about my digital camera and the fact that I carried a computer - So I showed them some of my web pages from this trip and they bought me two cups of Cafe. I was really glad to be able to talk politics with them, especially since she was Jewish and I am friends with a lot of Jews who think that France is very anti-semitic. She didn't see it that way at all. Oh yes, the pizza, like the salad, was excellent. The folks from Paris said this restaurant was well known and well respected.

Nearing the top of the N 508 climb

Here is what I saw looking back from the top

And here is a town on top, Clarafond, with the Rhone gorge behind it

It was good that I had an extended period after lunch before I started riding again since N 508 climbs about 300 meters in the next three kilometers. 1000 foot climbs right after a big lunch are hard on the tummy! Then it stays nearly flat for four kilometers - really nice riding - before a 3 or 4 kilometer descent to Belegarde. It is great ride down. Later, climbing out of Belegarde, I realized that I was climbing the same ridge only on the other side of the gorge. Looking across the gorge from the top of the N 206 climb , I could see the church tower of a town, Clarafond, that I had ridden by on N 508. Neat, even if those two climbs made up over half of my climbing today!

View of top of climb out of Belegarde

Several hundred meters lower, climbing on N 206

View of the Rhone Valley

I rode N 206 to D 984 which is found just after the tunnel. Riding through that tunnel was exciting since I was going about 30 mph and had a group of cars riding my tail waiting to pass. They passed me in the tunnel. Fortunately, it was well lighted since coming into a tunnel at 30 mph doesn't give your eyes much chance to adapt to the dark.

D 984, which now becomes an expressway, D 884, runs high up in the Rhone valley. The river is down around 200 M and D 884 is at 500 to 550 M. There is another substantial climb up from N 208 which has descended to 300 M or so from over 500 M before D 984. It was easy riding after that climb. at least till D 884 ended and I continued on D 35 and then D 984 C. Then there was another hundred meters or more of climbing getting to Gex. Before I got on D 984 C, the route started passing lots of C.E.R.N. places. C.E.R.N. is the European Nuclear Research Center and I have known several folks who worked/taught/studied there.

The D 884 expressway with the Jura in the background

And a sign showing distances on D 884 and other roads

View of Gex from D 984 C

I'm in a somewhat over priced hotel room tonight, but it is the only hotel in Gex. It does have one unique feature: There is actually a screen on the outside door/window for my room! It isn't a US style screen, actually it is similar to a modern German shutter in that it cranks down in its own channel in the door frame. It also isn't perfect - there are some bugs in here, but it is nice to be able to open my room to the world without fully opening my room to the world!

Last night's hotel, a part of an extensive budget hotel chain - Buffalo Hotels - was the best hotel room and breakfast for the price that I've had in France. Highly recommended. This one is 20 E more expensive and, other than the screen and a little more space, not as good.

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