How A Train Strike Impacts A Bike Trip

Unexpected stuff always happens on a bike trip. At least to me. This time it involved trains. Or, to be more precise: A French train strike that wreaked havoc across the country for millions of travelers. Including Justin. The poor kid. After getting off the overnight flight from Chicago, his train to Bordeaux (where I was waiting to meet him) was delayed almost two hours by the strike. It could have been worse. It could have been cancelled. Whew, he/we dodged a bullet.

Sort of. On Sunday (today) we planned to take the train to Sarlat and then ride to Beynac, where I had a nonrefundable hotel reservation.

Sorry, no trains to Sarlat today (I’m not sure why I was able to get a train from Sarlat to Bordeaux on Saturday, in the midst of the strike, but am glad I did). The strike continues. For how long? Nobody knows. They just kind of shrug and go on with life.

It’s a 140-mile bike ride to Sarlat/Beynac, so that’s not possible. When we got Justin’s rental bike this morning (in the rain), I was hoping Jonathan from O2Cycles would have a solution to get us to Sarlat. No such luck. No buses to Sarlat and, even if there were, Jonathan said he wouldn’t let us put his bikes in the luggage area. I don’t blame him. He had to go to Toulouse on bike business and was too busy to drive us there (and said it would have cost 300 Euros, which would probably have been a no go). Justin checked Uber, and it would have been 366 Euros. Wow.

Time to reassess. To come up with another plan. In the early-morning rain on the mean streets of Bordeaux (they really are a bit mean near the train station). OK Steve, just accept the loss, and kiss the money for the hotel in Beynac goodbye. It won’t kill you. Just deeply wound you. We can’t get to Sarlat/Beynac, but we can ride to Saint-Emilion, a wonderful medieval town in the heart of Bordeaux wine country (I stayed there last year). It would be nice for Justin to see a medieval town. But there aren’t many hotels in Saint Emilion (they didn’t do much bike touring back in medieval times). We’d have to take out chances when we got there.

We headed out of Bordeaux and eventually onto the bike path that heads east, and the rain started coming down harder. And it was cold. Not freezing cold, but uncomfortable cold. Three-layer cold. We were soaked. Justin, trooper that he is, and still trying to get past jet lag, didn’t complain. Not even once.

We got off the bike path and headed toward Saint Emilion, through Branne and … it stopped raining.

“Look, there’s a rainbow,” Justin said.


Sure enough, there it was, a perfect arc, off in the distance, above the vineyards. Maybe, finally, hopefully, knock on wood, our luck has changed.

A couple hundred meters later we came upon this beautiful field of flowers…


The sun peeked out, briefly, and we rode into Saint Emilion, which is as cool and medieval as I remembered. We wound our way up through town, up the steep, cobblestone streets, and it all started to come back to me. There should be a hotel right up ahead, the one I stayed in last year, around the corner. And yes, there it was and … we got a room.

Dodged another bullet. Maybe our luck really was changing.

We put all our stuff in the room and went for a wonderful, 20-K ride through the vineyards. So, all in all: a pretty nice day, and a great first day of riding for Justin.


Well, they say the strike could be over (knock on wood). If so, we’ll take the train to Sarlat and then ride to Rocamadour, where I have a non-refundable reservation for two nights in a hotel. Wish us luck.

FYI: I emailed the hotel in Beynac and told them what happened. And that we wanted to stay there on October 27 (or 27 October as they write it here). We’ll see what they say.


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