Border Run (FR/CH)

July 17, 2013

6 hours, 252km

Map Link

One of the benefits of being unemployed is that there isn’t a boss to answer to. So this morning I hopped on the Honda and headed south/southwest. I wanted to explore more of the Jura canton and the area that Dan and I visited briefly last Sunday. I meandered my way out of Basel with the GPS set for “most direct route” and “all avoidances”. I had no where in particular to go and all day to do it in.

I was on the road for six hours and I can’t complain about a single stretch of road. Every turn was perfect, every scene glorious, every village charming. Ok, maybe not all of the villages were charming, but they were at least interesting. I felt compelled to take pictures almost the entire time, thinking that how could I possibly be on roads for six hours and never see anything that wasn’t beautiful? It was unfortunate that the morning cloud cover didn’t burn off for another hour, but the roads and scenery itself made up for the lack of blue skies.

One thing that caught my eye were the border crossings. If you check out the Map Link above, you can see that the Swiss/French border is anything but straight in this area. And the roads, much to my delight, were also anything but straight. I crossed the border 11 times today. One time I crossed it and didn’t even realize that it was the border until I re-crossed it again half a kilmeter later. A simple blue sign was all that proclaimed this territory change.

There were a variety of roads, from fast open motorways to narrow farm lanes to a rocky two-track path. Most of them were in good shape (not the rocky two-track, of course) and usually clear of gravel or sand in the corners. And all of them were empty. I think that I passed one car the entire day. Tractors, horses and bicycles are not included in this tally.

And a surprising number of times I found that the road led directly through a farm. Caution at its highest!

At one point I got turned around with the GPS and asked it to get me back on track. It suggested that I take an “unpaved road” to meet up with the road I wanted to be on. It looked unassuming enough and there were no signs saying not to enter. At least, no signs I could read: they were in French and just had a picture indicating no trucks. A couple of deer posed for a picture shortly after I took the turn and they stood very still for quite some time. The road was short and paved nicely – until it took me directly into a farmyard. The pavement ended and the gravel was spread between the farmhouse and the outbuildings. It appeared that the “road” continued around the side of the house so I followed it – and found a short, uphill rocky track. At least I now know that the Transalp can handle this much!

Why do pictures never make it look as rough as it really was?

My only real plan for the day was to re-visit Saint-Ursane and see what it looked like when it wasn’t full of 20,000 people. By the time I reached the town it was 11:00 am and a busload of grey-haired tourists were the only things moving on the streets.



From Saint-Ursane I followed the river south. My fuel guage was getting low and I was hesitant to get too far into the mountains before topping off. It was a delightful riverside ride, with the road following the valley and providing graceful and fast corners the entire way. The grin could not be wiped off of my face.

I set the GPS to find me the nearest fuel stop and it sent me up the ridge, away from the river. I crossed the border yet again at the top and passed by a prehistoric park (Prehisto Parc), the parking lot full of families and campers. I left this hive of activity behind and found fuel in the tiny village of Damvant. Unfortunately I don’t know any French, but I was still able to pay for my gas and ask to use the restroom! Sometimes success comes in little packages.

Now I had no plans. I had been on the road for about three hours and decided to start my meandering back to Basel. Earlier in the day I had seen signs for the town of St Hippolyte and for some reason it sounded familiar. I made my way there, thinking that lunch was also in order. And once again, the countryside offered up a delightful mix of forests and farmlands for my pleasure.

It turned out the St Hippolyte was not familiar to me and there must be some other connection to that name. I thought about lunch, as half a dozen motorcycles were parked in front of one particularly nice looking hotel/restaurant, but when I looked over the menu I was not inspired. In fact, the entire town was not inspiring. I took some photos, got back on the bike and left town. And then rode back through town when I realized that I mis-read the GPS. Whoops.

St Hippolyte

St Hippolyte

St Hippolyte

Medieval garage

By now the sun was out and it was getting warm. The morning had been overcast and cool, with even a couple of raindrops hitting my visor. In contrast, there were now fluffy clouds and blue skies above me, and a blazing sun to keep me from going too slowly.

France to the left of the river, Switzerland to the right

Welcome back to Switzerland!

I was now 45 minutes from home. I could take the “faster” route and save 10 minutes, but it was hardly worth it. Besides, the roads were so enjoyable, it was hard to give them up just to save a couple of minutes.

Twenty minutes from home…

Once more into France!

And then back into Switzerland a kilometer later

I was home with just enough time to go to the store and pick out something for dinner for Dan and I. Tomorrow I get a new tire put on the Honda; it was nice to get a few more miles out of this one, but I look forward to breaking in the new tire this weekend!