The Invisible Border

Biarritz, France:   Today I entered my third country on this Euro tour and couldn’t find the actual French border.  As I cycled on the outskirts of the Spanish city of Irun, on three occasions I passed a sign indicating the French border is one kilometer away.  And on none of those occasions did I see a line, a sign, or any demarcation between two countries.  Somewhere and sometime this morning — I wish I could precisely say when and where — I crossed a border, and in that instant the language, the government, the road system, and to some extent the way of life, changed.   I knew I was in France when I saw a Carrefour billboard.

The biggest change I noticed is that the French, even in these parts, have lunch and dinner at more reasonable hours.   I rushed to the closet restaurant I could find in Biarritz before things unwind around 2pm, which is just the time they’re getting started in Spain. I find this amazing:  You can travel a few dozen kilometers east, and lunch and dinner timings differ by a couple of hours.

After a delicious lunch of roast chicken, green beans and lemon tart, I strolled around the fashionable French seaside resort of Biarritz.  It’s in a picturesque spot and has some interesting Art Deco and Belle Époque architecture.

I had some escorts exiting San Sebastian — maybe the Spanish wanted me to leave, after all. As I left San Sebastian in the morning rush hour, I stopped to verify with two cyclists that I am headed in the right direction.  “Is this the way to France,” I asked.  “Go right,” one replied, pointing straight rather than right.  When I asked for clarification he said, “Follow us.”  And off we went, for about 15 km until the roads to France were idiot proof and not even I needed to ask for further directions.   “Good luck,” one said as the cyclists peeled off and I kept going.

A year ago today I started cycling across the US from Astoria, Oregon, at the Pacific’s edge.   It’s a propos that I find myself on the other side of the Atlantic on this anniversary date, still cycling eastward.  It’s been quite a journey since Astoria.   What a difference a year makes.

After spending the past five days on the Bilbao-San Sebastian-Biarritz circuit, I head to the countryside tomorrow toward Bordeaux.

Day 17 (Tuesday, June 21):  San Sebastian, Spain — Biarritz, France

Day 17 distance:  54.98 km

Day 17 ascent: 411 m

Terrain:  Hilly, semi coastal

Weather:  Sunshine and blue skies

Trip summary:

Distance: 1,230.67  km

Climbing: 8,993 meters

Rest days:  4 (I took a rest day in San Sebastian yesterday.  Rest day is a misnomer as I spent more than half the day doing “housekeeping.”)

Police interactions:  1

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About Todd

Around-the-world cycling, one continent at a time
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6 Responses to The Invisible Border

  1. derekaDereka says:

    Hey Todd,

    Did you see all the anniversary emails from the ABB riders? If not, and if you want them, give me your new email and I will forward them to you.

    Your blog so makes me want to cycle! Sadly not on the very familiar roads around here but to new and different places.

  2. margo addison says:

    Hi Todd,
    I am very much enjoying both the text and the pictures of your journey. What a heroic thing you are doing,
    Thanks for sharing your adventures with all of us. Stay safe.
    margo, the other one

    • Todd says:

      Hi margo, I am very glad that you’re enjoying the journey. Thank you for the encourangment. I assure you there’s nothing heroic about this ride — maybe there’s some folly, but it’s all pretty easy — we cycled much harder last summer.

  3. Hi Todd,

    Good to see your journey is fully underway.

    I received a note from one of my students, Carter, on the March trip to Yaowawit and he’s hoping to do a yard sale back in the US this summer and donate the proceeds to the cause!

    Keep the wheels going round and round!

    Marty

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