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LOIRE VALLEY (FRANCE) TOUR, SUMMER 2002


For over two weeks in July, a dozen intrepid Knickerbikers joined together to ride in one of Franceís premier cycling regions, the Loire Valley. On the trip were Marshall Moriarty, Ralph Peterson, Rona Djeddah, Ken King, Stogs and Susie Stogsdill, Mary Ann Hautman, Doug Paulson, Walter Schmitt, Jean Monfort, Joanie Mahoney, and Helen Santospago. As we cycled downstream within the Loire river valley, we had a little rain (or a lot of rain, depending on whom you believe), very few hills, and plenty of time to visit many chateaux, vineyards, orchards, manors, gardens, churches and patisseries.

People ask about the favorite part of the trip, and thatís a tough question. Without a doubt, though, some of the highlights were the chateaux at Chenonceaux and Chambord, Le Clos-Luce (last home of Leonardo da Vinci, in Amboise), and the gardens at Villandry. Le Croisic, the beach community where our trip ended, was a special place as well.

When we were tired of touring chateaux, the charming villages with the shops for coffee and pastries beckoned. The forests, gently rolling terrain, light traffic on small country roads all made the area just about perfect for cycling. We even cycled off the pastries. Well, almost!

The trip was specifically designed for us: 10 days of riding, three rest days, two nights in Paris, and a couple of travel days. The riding days ranged between 30 and 50 miles. The rental bikes were new---heavy but serviceable. Our rooms, breakfasts, dinners and luggage transportation were all paid in advance, so all we had to buy was lunch, extra chocolate and wine!

Our trip started in Blois, about two hours from Paris by train, and ended in Le Croisic a couple of weeks later. Le Croisic is on the Atlantic coast, and is reminiscent of Northern California, with its rocky coastline, punctuated with small sandy beaches.

Since all twelve of us ate together every night, we could compare stories of our daily adventures: we had maps and detailed instructions, but they were not always accurate. Some errors were minor (a stop sign replaced by a roundabout), but others (turn right instead of left!) were of more significance. Nevertheless, everyone found his or her way to dinner every night.

On the day it poured, most of the people opted to ride to the nearest train station, but as luck would have it, the train schedule just didnít work out. So they chose to ride in the rain. Fortunately, the rain stopped by 12:30.

We had a mix of very modest hotels (tiny rooms, most of which were upstairs with no elevators), and fancy ones. One, in fact, was a chateau complete with a private dining room just for us! Most everyone agreed that the food was uniformly excellent. This was France, after all!

Following the tour, the organizer, Ken, was presented with a fancy jersey depicting the route of this yearís Tour de Franceóthe OTHER Tour de Franceówhich was taking place at the same time. Then, most of us took the high-speed train back to Paris, and spent an extra day there enjoying Bastille Day. Thanks, everyone, for making it such a special trip!

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