I took a few more noteworthy bike tours before I started writing up my travels online, which was in 2003 on my own website (which I no longer update and many links are obsolete), and starting in 2006 on cgoab. Not all tours were equally successful, but each one was unforgettable in its own way.
1986 - Southwest France in a Group of Six
Ingrid, Gabi, Jürgen, Georg and Frank, those were my traveling companions for a ride from Millau on the Tarn to La Rochelle on the Atlantic coast. Frank organized and planned the tour and looked for fellow tourers in the bicycle club ADFC. So it was sort of an ADFC tour, but not officially as it wasn't posted in the club's touring programs. It was more Frank's tour. We were to take the train from Munich to Millau and had all sent our bikes on ahead which was possible in those days.
I had met the others briefly, except for Gabi who wasn't from Munich. The day before departure, she traveled by train from northern Germany to join us, feeling very apprehensive since she didn't know anybody. She was my guest for the night before we left and it was obvious from the very start that we would get along.
What I didn't know was that Frank had an alcohol problem, Frank, the guy with the maps and itinerary. When he rang the bell to pick us up to go to the train station together, I asked him in for a cup of coffee. He staggered down the hallway, drunk as a lord! He explained he always sobered up on tour. We had our tickets and it was too late to change our plans now. As it turned out, after the train ride Frank didn't touch a drop of alcohol for the duration of the trip and was a sweet and fun guy to be with. I was the oldest of the group, divorced and had three boys at home (at the time on vacation with their father). The rest of the gang were all single.
When we arrived in Millau, all our bikes were waiting to be picked up - except for Ingrid's. We had no choice but to wait...and wait...and wait. I think it came after four days. In the meantime Ingrid was able to rent a bike and we took excursions in the surroundings. On one of these outings, Ingrid crashed and got bad road rash on her hand. None of us was wearing gloves or helmets, of course. When her bike finally arrived, a very nice Koga Miyata, she had to ride with one hand until her injuries healed.
I tried to reconstruct the route but I am sure there were a few more detours to visit the sights. Some of the highlights were the Gorges du Tarne, Gorges de la Jonte, Figeac, Rocamadour, Grotte de Lascaux, and then the Atlantic and the Dune de Pilat.
Frank had planned an amazing tour through beautiful parts of southern France. However, what made the tour really memorable wasn't the sights and the scenery, but the lighthearted and easy going mood of the group. We didn't worry about where we would find a place to camp or whether there would be too much traffic on the roads. I don't recall that there was ever too much traffic, but then I wasn't as sensitive to traffic in those days. We pitched our tents in campgrounds that were already closed for the season but accessible and cooked our meals on our little camping cookers. It was a wonderful experience of just living in the present and cycling.
Although in the following years we stayed in contact and some of us rode together occasionally, our lives took us in different directions. None of our rides together in later years had that special something that this one did.