We’ve started our 2.5 month cycling adventure across and around Europe. Our first day of cycling was a good day, despite the rain. Our route for the next few weeks follows the Loire from Nantes, near the Atlantic, to Nevers then across Burgundy towards Basel, Switzerland. This is the Eurovelo 6 cycling route, which we will follow across Switzerland, Germany, and Austria to Vienna. We will end up in Amsterdam by the end of May.
The cycling on Day 1 was super easy, though we only travelled 25 miles and I was pretty tired by the end because the rain discouraged us from stopping to rest. But the vast majority of the day’s route—and hopefully the entire way—followed bike paths or dedicated bike lanes. This is great, especially in the modern era where I worry that every driver is dinking with their phone.
We identified a few changes to our setups that we’ll work on soon. The basic configuration worked great, and all our gear fit on our bikes. We even have a little extra room, which now is taken up by some groceries to keep us going. That the gear situation worked smoothly is not to be taken for granted. Yes, this is not our first rodeo, but the logistics behind this trip were particularly complex.
Getting the bikes to France: The plan
We decided to use BikeFlights.com to ship our bikes to France. In the past, we’ve carried them with us on the plane, but (a) we have to completely (and I mean completely) disassemble and reassemble them, and (b) we have to stow the bike crates somewhere during our adventures. Reassembly has always resulted in some problem which entails a visit to a bike shop to fix. And stowing the bike crates (which are hard sided and not disposable) is problematic given that we are starting in Nantes and ending far away in Amsterdam.
This time we tried something new, which eventually worked out fine but was way more expensive than carrying them ourselves, and was not anywhere near as convenient as we’d hoped. If I were coming to Europe for a “normal” bike tour of a week or two, I’d just rent bikes.
Months ago we made the decision to ship the bikes to our hotel in Nantes, purchasing disposable shipping boxes from BikeFlights to simplify the process. We needed to contact hotels to confirm that it was OK to ship our bikes to them, before reserving a room. The lovely Hotel Voltaire Opera was happy to oblige, and they have a bicycle storage garage that at this time of year is usually empty.
Just to make things more complicated, I will be teaching in Amsterdam in May, so I need some clothes that have not been wadded in a pannier and washed in a sink for 3 months. My colleague Herbert of Q4K was willing to store our luggage, so we knew we could bring some stuff with us to Europe that wouldn’t be going on the bikes.
The big plan:
- Drive from our home in Oregon (departing mid-Dec 2022), with bikes, dog, bike stuff, dog stuff, and people stuff, to visit Mom and sister Linda in Texas until mid-March.
- People stuff included winter wear for the journey, and tropical clothes for the planned trips to Mexico and Cuba. And bike gear. And other clothes for the remainder of our 2023 adventures in Europe and Kenya. Many of these adventures have not been decided on yet.
- Spend some quality time with Mom, sister, and other family in Texas; take a few small trips.
- Pack up the bikes a week or so before we depart for Europe. We also shipped a box of gear such as our racks, panniers, helmets, cycling clothes, etc.
- Pack up the luggage with non-cycling clothes and fly to Amsterdam from Texas.
- Store luggage, get to Nantes with only stuff we plan to take on the bikes.
- Unpack and reassemble bikes, and take off on our journey. Which we have done! You know how the story ends!
The devil in the details
It worked amazingly well. We left Oregon with clothes, bikes, and gear for a year away. We bought very few additional items while in Texas. We left the dog safely with my sister (thank you Linda!) with treats and medications set up for auto delivery. We packed the bikes and bike gear, sent them off, and they arrived. We flew to Amsterdam, packed up all our suitcases, and travelled to Nantes with only small bags.
But wait! There’s more! Two wrinkles presented themselves:
- BikeFlights had specific rules (rules not terribly well communicated in advance) about what constitutes “bike stuff.” Bike chamois, gloves, helmets, all OK. But not t-shirts, underwear(!), bathing suits, street shoes, nor any liquids/gels. Sadly we only learned about these exceptions after we packed everything up. The first time.
- Correlated with this last minute re-jiggering of luggage was the realization that the last day in Amsterdam, and the travel day to Nantes, we didn’t want to wear anything that wasn’t going on the bikes. Jeans? No way. Cashmere sweater? Nope. Anything too nice or too heavy for the bikes was going in the luggage; anything traveling to Nantes was going on the bikes or in the trash can. Including any bags we were using to carry items.
In Texas we test packed all our gear to ensure it would all fit. Then we packed and repacked (and repacked again) into the shipping boxes, and waved farewell as the UPS guy took them away. We packed the rest of our clothes (including the gear that we inexplicably weren’t allowed to ship in the boxes) into suitcases for the flight to Amsterdam. In Amsterdam we completely unpacked and repacked in order to isolate the “bike stuff” from the “not-bike stuff”, and dropped off the latter set with Herbert nearby in Breda. Finally, we flew from Amsterdam to Nantes (on low-cost airline EasyJet, which I really didn’t enjoy), met up with our bike stuff, and reassembled and rejiggered everything.
All this repacking and rejiggering resulted in a few bad decisions: Tony has no sunglasses or headphones, Joy has no underwear. Solvable problems, but it’s sad to think of those items moldering in Amsterdam (or Texas), where they are clearly not needed.
And We’re Off!
We had most of a free day in Nantes, which is a good sized city and very bicycle friendly. The highlight was our visit to the fabulous Galerie des Machines, which was a load of fun. Watch the amazing video! (If you’re not reading this on the website, click on the elephant, which will take you to the website, and then click on the “play” arrow that appears over the elephant.)
The next day, Saturday, we cycled 28 miles through the rain to a stop in the middle of nowhere, and Sunday brought us 42 miles to Angers.
7 thoughts on “Journey of a thousand miles (or two): Phase 4a”
Fabulous! Keep those cards and letters coming.
Sounds like a great start to your latest adventure!
I think a person could have a psychological field day figuring out why Tony forgot technology and Joy forgot panties.
Have a marvelous time and keep the updates coming.
Reading everything you’ve had to go through makes me tired. It all sounds wonderful. Seeing the pictures and hearing about the journing is exciting. Take care of each other. David
Great to hear you are on your way, and it just be nice to have such good bike infrastructure. Enjoy!
You are amazing! Thank you for sharing your adventures with us.
Despite the few missing items you two are truly masters of logistics and planning. What an amazing adventure this is. Also, I hope you rode the elephant…