Friday, April 19, 2013

France cycling trip recap

Thanks to everybody who followed along with me on this trip. It made my day to read your comments :-) Felt like you were right along with me on the road. I replied to most of your comments, but I don't know if you're notified of my replies. If not, you better go back through each post to see my replies! (kidding)

My variety of experiences included:

  • Weather ranging from:
    • In the north: freezing cold to the point I was wearing every piece of clothing I had, and I couldn't feel my toes, to 
    • in the south: scorching hot to the point that cyclists were riding shirtless
  • Winds ranging from: 
    • Nice 15km/h winds pushing me along allowing me to do over 80km without getting tired, to
    • gusts of wind almost knocking me off my feet while just standing, making me take 3 hours to walk 15km.
  • Hotels ranging from:
    • Hotel rooms without a bathroom, or a bathroom which smelled like piss, to
    • a castle with a restaurant which served a classy, multiple-fork meal, and a wine list several pages long.
  • Roads ranging from:
    • Long flat roads without a bend or hill for kilometers, to
    • the beginning of the Pyrenées, with tough climbs and winding roads along the coast.
  • Scenery: Farms, forests, major cities, small villages, beaches, lakes, rivers.
  • Animals: Horses, cows, chickens, sheep, poneys, dogs, cats.  No bears.
  • Transportation: 
    • bicycle (obviously...)
    • train (to get to Dunkirk and to return from Hendaye)
    • ferry (from Blaye to Lemarque)
    • car (to go to an ATM in Maroueil)


Here is a list of the different cities I stopped in, with the distance traveled that day as reported by my gps. Click here for an interactive map (which is based on driving directions, not my actual path). You can click on the distance for each step, to see an interactive map of the actual path I took for that day.

A) Day 1 - Dunkirk
B) Day 1 - Veurne (Belgium) (28km)
C) Day 2 - Hazebrouck (47km)
D) Day 3 - Maroeuil (62km)
E) Day 4 - Maroeuil (rest day)
F) Day 5 - Amiens (64km)
G) Day 6 - Beauvais (64km)
H) Day 7 - Magnanville (64km)
I) Day 8 - Chartres (72km)
J) Day 9 - Mondoubleau (75km)
K) Day 10 - Tours (83km)
L) Day 11 - Richelieu (62km)
M) Day 12 - Vouillé (51km)
N) Day 13 - Maisonnay (58km*)
O) Day 14 - Cognac (68km)
P) Day 15 - Margaux (78km, ferry, 10km)
Q) Day 16 - Biganos (70km)
R) Day 17 - Mimizan (79km)
S) Day 18 - Capbreton (88km)
T) Day 19 - Irun (Spain) (63km)

* The distance for day 13 to Maisonnay is estimated, since I didn't have my gps on for part of the day.

That's a total of 1186km. To put this into perspective, some similar distances are:
  • crossing California from south to north via the 5 freeway is about 1280km. 
  • driving from Paris to Madrid is 1263km.
  • driving around Paris in circles 34 times would be 1191km (driving the boulevard périphérique)
  • in 2011, a dog, Fadiddle, was found about 1200 km away from his Salt Lake City Home, in Oceanside, California.  The dog had been wandering around for about 8 months.   I don't feel so slow now.


Here are some interesting and less interesting numbers about the distances, times, and speeds during this trip.
  • Total time on the road: 133 hours, 3 minutes, 32 seconds (5.54 days)
  • Total time moving: 91 hours, 46 minutes, 52 seconds (3.82 days)
  • Total break times: 41 hours, 16 minutes, 40 seconds (1.72 days)
  • Average speed (including break times): 8.9 km/h
  • Average moving speed (excluding break times): 12.9 km/h
  • Average distance per day: 65.9 km
  • Average time on the road per day: 7 hours, 23 minutes
  • Average time moving per day: 5 hours, 5 minutes
And some charts:


I had difficulty including videos in this blog from the road.  So now that I'm back at a real PC, I can share them!

This speed radar shows how fast I was going.  

For much of the trip, the scenery was open fields.

The first forest I cycled through was Chef-Boutonne.

A video on my last day, as I neared the end of the forest bike paths, before entering Bayonne.

Now that I'm back

Things that I'll miss from being on tour:
  • Being outside in nature
  • Getting some exercise by riding through a variety of landscapes and roads
  • Sharing my trip experiences
  • Eating full meals (starter, main course, dessert) to replenish my body
  • Having hotel staff clean up after me every day
  • Reading comments from people on my blog :)
Things that I'm glad to return to:
  • My boyfriend
  • Real laundry
  • A PC with a real keyboard (no more thumb typing!)

What next?

This trip, I was very focused on "finishing" the trip.  I had a goal to cross France from the Belgian border to the Spanish border.  I think the next time I go on a bike tour, I will simply choose some nice bike paths, and just plan to spend X days in the area, without a specific goal of a destination to reach.  I really enjoyed the long distances of bicycle paths in the forest, in Aquitaine, so I might think about coming back to that area.  But there are surely many other similar possibilites in France or not too far.


  1. Boyyyy, in all these videos you even met a car. hahaha.
    Well, I am happy and relieved that you made it home safely.
    I am very proud of you, starting and finishing adventures.
    Now that Margaret Thatcher is dead, her nickname of 'Iron Lady' belongs to you.
    My compliments, dear Carmen.
    I love you

    1. Haha there were actually plenty of cars, but I guess I didn't think posting pictures of cars on busy streets would be as nice as the scenes with quiet roads.

      Gracias :)

  2. Hi Carmen,
    I didn't take any time to comment your cycling trip on your previous notes, but I had a great pleasure to read them all !

    All this time I was wondering where and when you were going to stop and go back home... and when I finally read your last note, with your arrival in Spain I finally understood :)

    Anyway, all this makes me and my girlfriend want to plan some sort of a similar trip someday. But I'm not sure we will be able to do it, and share the experience the same way you did :)

    Congratulations !
    Say hello to BoD, bye

    1. Ah, I didn't know I had secret readers :) I had serious doubts about being able to complete the trip, which is why I was purposely ambiguous about where I was planning to go. Looks like my plan to be vague worked! :)

      If you do ever go on some similar trip, let me know so I can follow you :)


  3. Congrats again Carmen!!!

    The very first 40 mile bike ride I did around town I uploaded to the same Garmin website and I named it "Epic 40 Mile Ride".....but now I really know what an "Epic" ride is. Thanks for sharing!!!

    1. Your ride WAS epic :) I just checked the stats (you sent me the link by mail a while ago). What you did in 3 hours with nearly no break is what would typically take me a whole day (7 hours, or 5 hours moving). So you could probably do a tour like this in 2 weeks, whereas it took me nearly 3. :) If you can't take that much time off, you could always do a nice tour on a 2 or 3-day weekend. Looks like there are plenty of bike routes in the national forests around you (but probably in very hilly terrain).

  4. I am very impressed. Congrats! I'd love to have time to do the same kind of trip.

    1. Thanks! You could do a trip like this sometime: maybe the next time your wife is at a desert rally, you can be on a bike tour :)