Biking Along Backroads...






Bike &
	French bread
My F. W. Evans bike, in full camping mode, on a backroad somewhere in France, in 1980. Note the fresh "bâtard" strapped on behind: I could easily go through an entire loaf a day, distributed over lunch and dinner...

I've been a cyclist of one sort or another ever since that first red two-wheeler with the coaster brakes and plastic streamers sticking out of the handle-grips. But my "cyclist" self didn't start to fully form until I decided to try something more adventurous than simply riding down to the corner store and back. During my late high-school years I began to plan what was originally intended to be a post-graduation bike trip through Europe.

That six-month tour in 1980 was the first of the several extended trips I've made by bicycle. The second (and longest) began in February of 1987, when I set out on the road again, using one of those one-year open airline tickets that lets you sketch out a skeletal route around the world. I didn't arrive back in Vancouver until the following February.

After returning home, I was offered a job with SFU's Computing Services department. I accepted (travelling for a year can deplete a bank account quite handily), but asked that I be allowed to start later, in the fall. The timing left me what seemed a scant three-month window, a "reprieve" before re-entering the work world again. I spent that 3-month Indian summer in Paris, living in a small "chambre de bonne" high up under the slanting eaves on rue Monge, near the Place Maubert market...

For the following four summers after re-entering the workforce, I was fortunate enough to be hired as a bicycle tour guide for Butterfield & Robinson, to lead some of their French tours during my SFU holiday times. Provence, the Loire, Burgundy, the Dordogne, Alsace... As wonderful as those tours were (delicious food, sumptuous chateaux) they can't compete with the simpler pleasures I'd had in 1980 while rough-camping in the fields and forests of back-roads France, with only the silence around me...

The 1987 "round the world" journey was my last major bike trip for many years. Until June of 2001, when I decided to burn up a few weeks of unused vacation time with another cycle trip in France. My route that year was along the Stevenson Trail — GR70 — through the Cevennes in central France. This is the route that Robert Louis Stevenson describes so wonderfully in his book Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes. I used a mountain bike so that I could follow the walking trail as much as possible. It was a lovely ride, through a particularly beautiful part of France.

2004 marked my 50th birthday, and to celebrate I decided to bike along the Camino: the ancient pilgrim route through France and Spain, to the town of Santiago de Compostella. That ride was recorded using a web-log, which you're welcome to read.

Text & images © Michael Hayward, 2004. All rights reserved.

Athens to London

Around the world

Cevennes, France

The Camino