Now some people have a birthday bash on their special day; some people take an exotic holiday; many people just carry on as normal especially when the years are something to be counted backwards! And some lucky people can take a biking holiday in December! So we find ourselves in a region of the Correze some two hours from home with two bikes (no trailers!) and lots of hills and valleys. It is also true that temperatures are just on the plus side of zero and the rain and sleet have not been shy in putting in an appearance. Sensibly, we/Alan have selected a base from which to cycle which requires no canvas of any kind and no cooking on a camp stove. All meals provided, log fires to lounge around after a day of cold and wet and a bed of great warmth and comfort! (Much more about this great place later)
This morning, our first, the weather promised not a lot and indeed, delivered exactly that. However, our base has been designed by cyclists for cyclists, so we even had our route and map provided for us. Despite all this first class organisation, decisions on what clothing to don occupied us for a very long time! Inevitably, having wrapped up to combat the cold and wet, we needed to unwrap to use the loo! Eventually, suitably kitted out and with bikes at the ready, our relieved hosts waved us off. Under normal circumstances, we would have been delighted with the long downhill that began our day’s journey. However, what warmth we possessed when we mounted our bikes dissipated in about thirty seconds and we ran out of hands and feet in about forty five! Never has a promised uphill looked so attractive! An additional bonus of uphill riding is the views that appear on route. We are very familiar with trees as those of you who have had the patience to read previous blogs will know. But at this time of the year they possess a different quality; that of being devoid of leaves, thus allowing vast glimpses of villages and mountains which in the spring and summer would be obscured. Even winter has its up-side. The downside of all these leaves departing their parent tree is the accumulation of slippery debris on the road which does require riding with some caution.
If we thought the roads around our home were quiet, we were to reach new height of quiet. Not a car was to be seen until EDF appeared. Not one, but several blue cars careered around corners narrowly missing oncoming cyclists. (After all who in their right mind would be on a bicycle at this time of the year?) The reason for this proliferation of small vehicles soon became apparent when we encountered and crossed a spectacularly huge dam. The continuation of the ride along the river to Argentat passed without incident and we even managed to buy and quaff a snack lunch sitting on benches in the dry. Even without the benefit of the garmin’s record keeping, we knew that as Argentat was in a valley and we were living on a mountain top the return ride was going to be uphill! So, no surprises when we reached the base of a climb which did go on a bit……..and then a bit more. On the whole the weather had been pretty indifferent and a degree of complacency had set in. Always dangerous – just ten minutes from ‘home’ a freezing deluge soaked everything down to underwear. We dripped our way into the bike shed, shook off the surface water and carefully, without too much dripping, made our way to the fire, tea and cake! What more could you ask for? We didn’t actually ask, but there followed drinks, (alcoholic), a delicious five course dinner accompanied by lively conversation before sleep enveloped us. Mountains tomorrow!