We’re biking across Europe this summer, following the Euro Velo 6 route, which covers one of the most popular biking routes in Europe: the Loire a Velo. It follows the Loire river, it’s very well-marked, full of dedicated bike lanes, weaves through wine vineyards and farmlands, medieval castles and bustling cities. It’s perfect. At least in theory. Here’s a photo from the Chambord Chateau:

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If you see this photo you might think, “Ahh, France, so lovely.”

What I see is the sun setting after a long day of biking and rain clouds on the horizon. We’re camping, so that means another (yes another!) cold and wet night in July, in the middle of France. In two weeks of biking we have had 10 days of rain. TEN!

That’s the bad. Then there’s the ugly:

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Biking in wet shoes means I get “old man feet” or as my son innocently asks me, “Why do your feet look like brains, mama?” The thing with putting in all these miles (we’re averaging 30 miles or 50 km a day) is not about your legs getting sore. It’s all the little bits: your feet, your hands, your butt and for me, especially, the small of my back. I could bike forever, except these little aches and pains blossom into ride-stopping moments.

But then there is the good. And there is a lot of it:

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My son rushes out in front of the camera and says, “Mama! Take a picture of my butt!” Why? Because he’s hilarious.

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Despite the foreboding rain clouds, the chateau was beautiful and worth the detour. We camped in the nature preserve just half a mile from here, feeling completely rebellious, but in the most safe, tame way possible. It’s unlikely anyone would be trekking through the woods in the rain.

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Further on we came to the canals of Orleans. These canals run along the Loire river and in parts, they have built bridges to carry the canal across the river. It’s the strangest thing to be on a bridge, filled with water and boats, looking over the Loire.

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The kids are happy. We found black cherries and picked about four pounds worth, and they ate them all. They’ve even started to play together more, now that Stella is getting older, and I love biking alongside the trailer and listening to them talk and laugh together.

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There is so much to see. It makes biking so much easier when every six miles there’s a change in scenery, a new town, a new vista, something beautiful around the corner.

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The farmlands are gorgeous too. The Loire a Velo is not accidentally routed, they take care to show you the best bits of this part of France.

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There’s the villages too, like this one, Briare:

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Or the Alpacas just outside of Gien:

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Or the nuclear plant just after that (okay this one is a mystery, we spent a long time biking towards, and eventually directly next to and around this power plant):

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We’re just about done the route, then we continue on across Europe. There’s a heat wave now. I have a sunburn. Thank you France. You’re hilarious.

(PS: We did 308 km this week bringing us up to 753 km total)