Cycling from Tauves, France to
course a real hotel breakfast and then cycling on the D922
climbing out of the valley of the Mortagne
to 988m, then down to St. Sauves d' Auvergne and the upper Dordogne
again. From here, the D130 follows the river
up to la Bourboule and le Mont-Dore at 991m.
Both of these towns were packed with vacationers enjoying the fresh mountain air. I blew
about 2 hours at the bike shop in le Mont-Dore, trying to get my tires pumped up for
climbing, ended up getting a new tube and full tires, finally.
There's a very nice hostel in le Mont-Dore, but it was full for the August weekend, so
cycling onward on the D983 for 4km to climb out of
town, then the big turn on to the D996. From
here the climb continues 4km up to the Col de la Croix Morand at
1,401m. This was the biggest climb cycling in France so far and on the way I learned the
benifits of stopping
for a good wash off. It was a relais kind of bar where I downed two Oranginas and went
around to the toilet. It was the traditional arrangement with separate WCs to each gender,
with the wash up facilities just outside. I noticed for the first time a huge almond
shaped yellow soap bar impaled on a holder just over the sink. Running the water and
massaging the soap bar I was able to get all the salt off my face and hands and a good
head soak in cool water. A real towel on a continuous loop completed the experience. I
left there really refreshed after about 30 minutes and the rest of the climb was easy.
At the Col the D996 begins a glorious 30 km
descent through the Parc Regional des Volcans d'Auvergne to the Lac
Chambon and then along the Chambon
to Champeix, a drop of 944m! These volcanos are so old that they are now covered with
grass that cows eat. All of this results in the wonderful cheese of St. Nectaire, a cheese
so fine that it's forbidden in the U.S. From Champeix there's a little climb over the
ridge to Issoire on the Aller. Now
on the flat, the C1 through le Broc hooks up
with the D909 to Vichel and then the D35,
and D14 across the Alagnon
By now it was getting late, real late. I was counting on finding a room along the
N102 in Brioude, but as I left the town behind me,
I began eyeing the fields alongside the road for a soft spot to sleep. It was just about
dark when my despair and fatigue came to a quick end on finding the glorious
Hotel du Place in the
tiny village of Vieille Brioude on the Aller.
There was just enough time for a shower before a delicious repas, a demi carafe and lots
of St. Nectaire.