An Ode to la Drôme 

​This last post of the current stay turned into one focused on the river Drôme. It’s not a river you could call ‘mighty’: though navigable by kayak (that’s big business in the summer), it has never been one to facilitate trade. (That’s why the railway was so vital at the start of the 20th century.) But it still feels like an artery running through the area. What is certain is that it’s a pretty river – rarely in spate, though the rock-strewn river beds suggest it does occasionally get angry.

For my last ride before departure I had planned to go down the Drôme, up the Sûr, down the Gervanne, then back up the Drôme. Well, at least to go along the roads next to those rivers. But my frozen overnight washing, and no flexibility to leave riding till later, persuaded me to stay low with the Drôme, and its salted roads. It still strikes me as somewhat ironic that I can do a far flatter route here in the pre-Alps than I can in Devon. Today it was just to Mirabel on the D93, and back via the back roads.

The beautiful weather gave me the excuse to take a few different photos of the Drôme. (I’ve sneaked in a couple of tributaries.) At the moment it is a lovely clear colour: there have been no storms lately to dirty the river with marl run-off, just the thawing snow from the higher levels thanks to all the sun this week. Apart from in Vercors, the snow’s now nearly all gone. Maybe spring is just around the corner, at least for the Drôme. 

First time: Vercors in February

A corker of a day today: here I am sitting in hot sun at the Tourist Office at La Chapelle-en-Vercors, with hardly a cloud in the sky, and just a gentle cool breeze. I’ve never ventured up here on the bike in February before, but this was too good a chance to miss. Most of the snow has gone (other than at the ski resort at Col de Rousset), and the roads are dry.

A totally standard route via the village of Rousset and back via Vassieux, but there’s never anything standard about this place, in any weather. But when it’s as clear as today, it’s even more stunning.

Mist, sun, blue skies, clouds, wind… and trees

The valley mists soon cleared this morning, and with not a cloud in the luminous blue skies, the roads beckoned. The route: a standard down to La Charce and back via the Roanne valley. It involves a couple of satisfying but sub-1000m cols, and has plenty to look at, not least the geology. Lunch was taken with a view at Col de Prémol.

But the weather also put on an interesting show today, with increasing cloud (and a pesky strong headwind) on the return. And you’ve probably noticed my trick of using trees in photos in various ways in the composition: this time of the year they are doubly interesting for their skeletal shadows. Thanks, trees.

A quick Col de Menée

I had to wait at home for a delivery of logs this morning, and by the time I’d stacked them, it didn’t leave me long to take advantage of the glorious weather today. So, one of my favourite ‘quickies’, the 50-miler to Col de Menée and back. I wasn’t sure if I’d see the top of Mont Aiguille, or what the late afternoon light would be like. But I needn’t have worried: what a show it put on for me. Even more exciting than my pile of logs.

Recovery ride

Feeling a bit more with it this morning, time to do a more medium-length ride, this time to a col I’ve not done in February. Col de la Chaudière is not one to do if there’s the slightest risk of ice, as it’s never salted, but with this week’s mild weather, it seemed like an opportune moment to see its sights in its winter colours. You’ll see there’s little snow left, other than in the one view to Dévoluy from the col itself.

If you know the area, you’ll know how Les Trois Becs dominate the Drôme valley at the western end, and they certainly dominate the ascent to the col, changing profile at every turn, always impressive.

And a little geological bonus that caught my eye, from the ascent to the col: ready-made concrete (albeit rather crumbly).

February warmth

It sometimes pays to wait. It was just 4.5C when I woke this morning. In my post-viral state I was in no hurry to get out, so passed the morning doing exciting things like washing sheets, baking my favourite almond cake, and eating home-made squash soup. And by that time the temperature was up to 21C, and the sun was properly out. Time for a quick Quint loop to stretch my uncovered legs. Not bad for February.

February 2017

​After the big European freeze in January, I’d been hoping that my February getaway wouldn’t be problematic, so it was good to see the forecasts for this half-term week looking considerably more promising than feared. It’s going to be a thin year for me here this year, so I don’t want to waste any precious days!

A slightly modified itinerary for getting here from Devon meant I arrived in time for breakfast in Die, food shopping at the market, home-made squash soup for lunch, and a quick spin to Châtillon to take in some Alpine air. As you’ll see from the photos, it all went a bit grey as the day went on, but the small snow flurries were confined to higher ground.    I was slightly amused to see that Devon was colder and snowier than Die this morning!