Or perhaps ‘au revoir’ would be more accurate.
But once I arrive in Europe, all my misgivings fade away. To put it quite simply, European roads are better for cycling than American roads. And the roads on the Cevennes Tour, and the rides in Provence we did afterwards, were the best cycling roads I have ever enjoyed riding.
The number of wonderful cycling roads we rode was quite amazing. Little twisting roads that follow old animal paths and trails and footpaths. Roads that trace the contours of the land because they were built before modern equipment made it possible to change those contours. Those little roads pass through the scenic beauty of the French countryside, with rivers and gorges and mountains, and very old stone houses and bridges and churches in every little village. At intersections signs with arrows point in different directions, a guide to cycling adventure.
Many of these roads are remarkably devoid of traffic. The climb up Mont Lozere took me 90 minutes, and I encountered one car and one motorcycle. On the descent into Meyrueis I had the road to myself for 15 km, which was fortunate since there was a drenching rain falling for the first 10 of those km’s.
Even when there was traffic (rarely on most of the roads of our tour) French drivers are very courteous to cyclists. Cars will follow you at a safe distance, not tailgating impatiently as seems to be common here. When it is safe they will pass quickly and smoothly and give you plenty of space. Cars coming from the opposite direction will even move over to give the passing car additional room. That almost never happens here. French drivers (Italians too) don’t just tolerate cyclists, they accept us as being a normal part of traffic. Some drivers here are like that, but it is certainly not a majority.
My friend Jack is a fine travelling companion, but he tends to be a ‘glass half empty’ person. While I gush about how great everything is, he will point out something that is less than perfect which I may have noticed but chose to ignore. But he agreed with my conclusion about these being the best roads he had ever ridden, and he has been more places cycling than I have. If he says that, you can be sure these roads are pretty special.
Quiet, hilly, twisting and occasionally very steep roads through scenic country. Courteous drivers. Great food. Maybe purgatory was worth it.