The longest day

Day 73, Barr, 6.084 km

It flashed through my mind as I was planning my trip between Beaune and Barr: “What if …”. Then it went away quickly and I didn’t think about it anymore. And on the road to Besançon it came back: “What if I did it in one day …”. And the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to give it a try, just to see if I could. I spoke my sister in Besançon about it, and I convinced myself that it was a good idea: travel from Besançon to Barr in one day: 220 km, relatively flat. With my average around 20 km/h, it would be about 11 hours on the bike… A long, very long day…

But before that, I have to get to Besançon: I leave Beaune at the end of the afternoon for the day’s “stage” and cover the 5 km that separate me from Pommard where I will spend the night with my uncle and my aunt. A nice walk, paella, wine and tea make up for a nice evening menu which ends with a bit of reading (including a very nice comic book gem that I would be happy to recommend to those interested). The next day, when the time to leave has come, my aunt decides to make me a traveling advertising billboard for the Domaine Lejeune (their vineyard) and I leave loaded like a missile: a 2020 harvest t-shirt (which I must wear every day), a yellow vest (to go and demonstrate for the protection of Pinot Noir), a bottle of Grand Cru, not to mention a pot of wild boar terrine, a sandwich, an orange and half a cake for lunch. I have never been so well equipped to face a day of cycling!

The weather is a little overcast, it rained in the morning but it is dry when I leave. Let’s hope it will last for the day! On the road, a little before the village of Bonnencontre (which could be translated in French as “nice encounter”), I catch up with a couple of cyclists, Arnaud and Valérie, who are returning home to Alsace after a journey of a few weeks. We do a little bit of the road together, it’s nice to have a talk on the road. They give me some tips for cycling trips (not their first try), including a community that offers a hot shower and accommodation for passing cyclists. I definitely have to try this instead of sleeping outside one of these days! We finally take a little lunch break on the banks of the Saône. It’s a nice change from my usual dried fruits and seeds!

Unfortunately I have to leave them after the meal, they plan to stop at Dole while I want to push on to Besançon to meet my sister. It starts to rain. I ride along the Rhone-Rhine canal. I even race with a barge (for a lopsided victory). I find the Doubs around Dole. It must be nice, but since it has started to rain a lot, I don’t linger. I also start to feel a little cold. So I go along the Doubs to Besançon. Other than the entrance to town where the cycle paths are so narrow that I’m afraid of being run over at any time, the rest of the journey is smooth. I’m happy to be here, to be able to take a good shower and put on dry clothes!

Dole in the rain
The Doubs

I use the next day to visit Besançon, go up to the citadel under the pouring rain, enjoy a beautiful view of the city under the sun (we go from the rain to the sun in less than 20 minutes, quite impressive), drink a few beers, eat a fondue and even play games until late at night. In short, a busy day!

The citadel overlooks Besançon…
… and the Doubs surrounds it.

The next day is the big day: I get up earlier to leave at sunrise and try to get to Barr during the day. Departure at 7.45 am. The sky is gray. It’s cold. But I have the wind at my back, and that makes a big difference! The start of the stage is superb: the Doubs valley is quite deep, I am surrounded by mountains, the sun is even showing itself between the clouds, and the wind continues to push me. At 11:21 am, I decide that I will be in Barr at my sister’s house the evening before my 2 years old niece goes to bed. So I push harder on the pedals, stopping only to put on or take off layers of clothes and have a drink of tea. Cyclists who pass me are even surprised that Jay is not electric.

The banks of the Doubs
Still on the Doubs

I also pass kilometer 6.000. For those who would like to do the Pélurinage one day, you can go to Mulhouse (which will soon be renamed Millhouse): I haven’t really been there, but if you look at the map from far enough, you could almost think so. In a slightly megalomaniacal impulse, I intended to stage myself, I had even prepared a little speech that I intended to proclaim in front of Jay and Bob on a hill overlooking the Alsatian vineyard and which would have ended with: « From the top of these hills , 6,000 kilometers contemplate you… ”. In the end I don’t overlook anything at all, it has been raining for 3 hours, I’m soaked and I’m starting to feel cold. Maybe for the 7,000 km…

Fortunately the road is beautiful, in the vineyards, far from the cars. The Vosges appear from time to time from the clouds in the distance when the rain stops a little. With on their flanks small villages with colorful houses and from time to time a castle topping a summit.

We climb in the vineyards
A castle in the distance

The road is also long. I’ve never been this far in a day and my legs are starting to hurt. In addition, I left the flat behind me in the Doubs valley and I feel like I drain my remaining energy every time I have to climb a hill. But as always, I finally arrive after 228 kilometers and 9h48 of cycling (thanks for the wind!). I wouldn’t do this every day, and luckily I have a week to rest and enjoy Alsace and the family (my niece adopted Jay and Bob very quickly)!

Nina with her new bike

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