Friday, August 31, 2012

Cycling the Canal du Midi--The Serial, Part Two

It says a lot about the Canal du Midi that I kept on trying, kept on stoking the fire, kept on wanting so much to  have a long day of peaceful cycling with my family.

{reason enough}

To continue...
Last Wednesday P-Daddy got all the bikes prepared. He disassembled the Middlest's, took off the cute, cerise colored basket and the Littlest's seat from mine, greased and oiled gears and changed out pedals, all ready to leave at a decent hour for a great day of cycling.

We left early on Thursday morning, stopping outside Beziers to ride up the canal. There are so many kilometers of it that you can stop anywhere along the way and start riding. We figured it would be best to start, double back, and end up closer to home. We found a little opening down a dirt road just outside of Beziers and began the unloading and reassembling process. We were off in ten minutes flat, easy-peasy.

We cycled happily and relaxed, the Littlest bouncing in his seat behind me on the orange marked roots of the big, shady plane trees as he sang, 'school's out for summer!'. We laughed and rang our bells and had a happy old time of it all.

When we reached Colombiers, a cute little town along the canal, we had to stop to cross the bridge. We had a moment's rest, drink of water, and decided it wasn't time yet to stop off for a nice cafe lunch like we'd planned. We could continue on a bit further to Capestang, have lunch and then turn back for home.
As we took off down a wide spot with big luncheon cruising boats parked alongside, it happened. Phhffft.
Ma Fille's tire made the dreaded sound. 'Something's wrong with my tire, Daddy.' And so it began.

We pulled over and set about getting comfortable while P-Daddy worked his patch magic on a phhfft tube. But. Somehow in all the unloading and reassembling process, we (maybe it was me, I'm not sure) left behind the little wrench that was required to remove the tire from the wheel.

You know how you have that initial burst of frenzied thought? How your mind starts zipping and oofing and being annoyed and frantic in turn? Or is that just me?

During this frantic burst, we crossed through the options.
1) go into the town and try to find a replacement tool
2) but then there's the French and so it would have to be me and I don't know anything about tools
3) do we just eat lunch and call it a day
4) no it's too early for that, no one will serve us lunch at 11:30, it's France
5) sit and wait for half an hour?
6) P-Daddy should ride like the wind back to the car and get the little abandoned tool, return to us, fix it and then we'd be on our way.

Yes, that was it!
Off he went in search of the magic tool.

{showing his 'meatballs'}

And in the meantime, we all got comfortable. There's something to be said for all those plane trees. Merci beaucoup Napoleon. Fantastic idea.
We waited. And waited. And smelled roast potatoes wafting from the bobbing big boats tied up, full of diners settling into the lunch portion of their tour and lunch along the Canal du Midi.

{still smiling, but hungry}
There's also something to be said for mobile phones. I clutched mine, ringer turned up to high, waiting to hear from P-Daddy with an ETA. When he did call, it wasn't as I expected, to say that yes, he had the tool and was now pedaling happily and quickly along his way back to us. No, it wasn't.

{magic of mobile phones, was this the moment?}
He called to say that while doing his fast and furious pedaling back to the car he saw a short-cut through a field and so took it, naturally, and in doing so, he absolutely did cut down on the travel time.
Unfortunately, he also blew out both his tires. Riddled with thorns from all the brambles that were silently growing in the short-cut field, they were toast. The next day, he picked out over 100 thorns from his two bike tires.

He drove around to a couple of shops from what I can gather, I'm not really sure. (It was a black moment for me and I basically tuned everything but 'we're done for the day' out.)
And then, because of course it was lunchtime by now and all the tool shops were closed, he drove back to us.

All along the canal where we sat and waited for all this short-cut thorn gathering, driving and fruitless searching to take place, people cycled. Families with kids in bouncy trailers, on tandem bikes, with training wheels and dogs and professional looking sorts in tight, padded shorts. They paraded past. Showing off their expert, fully buoyant tires.Waving and smiling, ringing their bells, calling out 'bonjour' as they passed.

When P-Daddy got back, he hugged me and said how sorry he was and happy birthday anyway and what could we do to fix it. So, as any normal person would do, we went to lunch. And shared a demi-pichet of pink wine. Along with a fat, yellow mushroom and cheese omelet, big burgers, pasta and ham, and a seafood salad.

{Littlest's Fanta in a Jack Daniels glass, made me laugh}
We watched as the happy blonde family we'd seen cycle by earlier from our perch on the big rocks along the canal, finished their lunch and loaded up their two boys, one in the trailer, one on a tandem bike behind his mother, and continued on their merry cycling way. Flaunting their success. Full, bouncy tires carrying them on to an after lunch spin under the plane trees, dinging bells and chirping, bonjour, bonjour!

This happy blonde family would not be beaten.
Friday morning saw P-Daddy and the Middlest at Decathlon, (their idea of heaven) buying magic tubes; boxes and boxes of them. 'Indestructible!!', said the Middlest. 'That means they can't go flat, Mommy!', in translation.

P-Daddy spent the entire afternoon putting those self-fixing tubes into every bike tire we own.
Now it was personal. We were going to beat the Canal du Midi.

And so it went, cheers of 'here we come,Canal du Midi!!', a packed lunch and a reservation for an hour on a small electric boat and we were off early Saturday morning. Indestructible!

Starting again in Colombiers, we managed to cycle an hour plus some out before turning back to end up again in Colombiers where we'd booked the electric boat. This was the highlight for the Littlest.

{doo, dee, dooooo!
We loaded up and broke into our picnic basket of ham and butter on baguette sandwiches, chips and homemade zucchini bread as we peacefully, and very slowly, putt-putted along the water of the canal.

{my ship's captain, any day}

We rode for the perfect amount of time, had a wonderful lunch and enjoyed seeing the view from the water too. Not a flat tire in sight.
And we watched all the cyclists, legs pumping, wind in their hair, bouncing on the orange marked roots of the plane trees, ringing their bells and singing out, 'bonjour!' as we glided past, waving and smiling and responding in kind. Bonjour, bonjour!

(If you would like more details about the logistics of cycling the Canal du Midi or renting boats or where we ate, I'll be happy to share that information. Just send me a note. I've found it difficult to search for good, detailed information regarding itineraries for cycling with families so plan on writing a practical post in the future.)


  1. I've used those self-fixing tyres and have not had much luck with them. Basically they didn't do what they said on the tin.

    I get through a lot of inner tubes as my youngest does BMX and mountain biking. Sometimes it's worth patching them up, sometimes it's just less hassle to replace the tube.

  2. Oh Aidan, what a day! The only thing worse would've been the littlest telling you he had to go No. 2s while you waited. That always happens to us.
    So glad to hear the story had a happy ending though, and that you beat that Canal into submission! x x

  3. What are the odds? Before the flat tire did you see any bicyclists on the side changing their tires? And on your birthday! I'm so very happy to hear the third time was the charm...

  4. Yeah! You showed that Canal!!! Whoohoo!!!

    Loved this post, I raced through it right to the end. :)

    1. Oh, yeah, we did! (Littlest)
      Glad you liked it Heather.

  5. Don't they make hard or solid bike tires?? If not, I think that would be a good new business!

    1. Mem,
      We couldn't believe it! And truthfully, we kept looking around at everyone wondering how they did it so easily when our tires keep on busting. I think we found the answer in the new indestructible tires though. I heard a few popping sounds from mine and Middlest's but they must have self-repaired because we had no trouble.
      Thank you for always reading and always commenting. It means so much to me.
      Aidan xo

  6. I admire your perseverance! So glad you finally were able to do it.

    Reading your posts makes me want to cycle the midi the next time I am back in the South of Franc.

    1. You should do it! It's really the most peaceful thing...once you get the right tire tubes. The boat ride was pretty nice too although I think kids would get bored after a day of it.
      aidan x

  7. I would have told that happy blonde family exactly where they could stick their bonjours!
    And you know who would never get flat tires... S.T. at F.T.A.T. Just saying. x.

  8. Sounds like you had great fun although you had to make a second try. I have always thought it would be fun to rent a barge and float down the canal du midi. Riding a bike alongside sounds like a good substitute. Have a great weekend.

  9. I really admire your determination. I would want to cycle that beautiful route as well! However, I heard that one of the old Canals en France was going to have to have their trees pulled up due to a disease in them... is that the Canal du Midi?

  10. Aidan...I am sitting on my veranda, in the Vietnamese sun and laughing out loud. When you mentioned that P-Daddy blew both tires via his short cut...I had to laugh. This sounds like something that would happen in our family. And yes...I get that initial burst of frenzied thought...completely! We had a happy blonde family...all in matching outfits, alongside us during a hike through Scotland. We were not so fashionably dressed...tragic was more the word for it. When it started to pour with rain, they were prepared and we were not and so on and so on. I get that part too....just loved your post! Sending you best wishes with many thanks for checking in. Lovely to hear from you...
    Jeanne xx

  11. My home town in on the canal du midi (I grew up near Carcassonne). When I was a child (10 year old), I did a 2 day cruise with my girlfriends, I have great memories! We even swam in the canal (yuk!!!). I have spent countless afternoon and evening walking or fishing by the canal du midi as a teenager. It's a beautiful place.

  12. This is too much! All those flat tires! If I were you, I think I would forget the bikes and take a boat, too. Loved the story. And now I want the meal! I do want to bike the canal!


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