We just had probably the best crêpes I’ve ever had, thanks to my friend Yann. Delicious, merci!!

Dreams do come true…

and while seeing the WORLD has always been a dream of mine, Paris has always been at the top of my list.  This past weekend we took a couple of rest days from pedaling and flew to the “city of love”, and it truely was everything I had imagined and more.  From the fresh smell of baguettes, to the simple beauty of the street side flower markets and vendors along the Seine River, we began our walking tour at the Notre-Dame Cathédral, which was quite impressive to say the least.  While we chose not to go into any of the tourist traps and spend too many Euros, we decided to see as much of the city by foot and logged close to 30,000 steps on Saturday.  This is a list of the areas we walked through and stopped along the way to people watch ever so often.

  1. Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris
  2. Louvre Museum
  3. Tuileries Garden
  4. Luxembourg Gardens
  5. Montparnasse Cemetery
  6. Place de la Bastille
  7. Sacré-Coeur Basilica
  8. Moulin Rouge
  9. Eiffel Tower
  10. Le Bear’s Den

We had an amazing croque monsieur for lunch at Café Trama thanks to my friend Shannon’s recommendation from her business travels to Paris, a fancy truffle inspired dinner at La Truffiere, and ended the evening with a beer and water at a ? bar.  We slept in a little on Sunday morning and enjoyed a late brunch at Who’s in the Le Marais district, and seeing the Picasso National Museum, before catching our flight back to Marseille.

Merci to Tim for planning and most importantly navigating the weekend trip as this was his 10th time to Paris.  

I’ve been whistling and singing this song all day as it seems appropriate from the high I’m on from my first trip to this magical city.

What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of
What the world needs now is love, sweet love,
No not just for some but for everyone.

What the World Needs Now Is Love” is a 1965 popular song with lyrics by Hal David and music composed by Burt Bacharach. First recorded and made popular by Jackie DeShannon, it was released on April 15, 1965, on the Imperial label after a release on sister label Liberty records the previous month was canceled. It peaked at number seven on the US Hot 100 charts in July of that year.[1] In Canada, the song reached number one.

Merci Paris…until next time. ????

Paris au printemps

Flew up to Paris to explore the city for a day… Some photos and obligatory selfies…

An interesting baguette we saw in Le Marais district of Paris, near the Picasso museum that we visited on Sunday.

High tech route planning on-the-fly for cycle touring

In addition to our travelogue, I’m going to start making some posts describing our particular style of cycle touring, in case others may be interested in the more technical details of our trip. One of the things I love about cycle touring is that there are as many ways to have fun touring as there are tourists, and I think we are no exception. I hope our experience is useful to some of you. For the first article, I’m going to write about how we have planned our routes and the other options we considered.

Introduction and Goals

For a short tour, it’s possible to completely plan your route, your stops, etc. beforehand. For longer tours, it’s important to have the ability to be flexible and plan specific routes as you go. With modern smartphones and GPS units, it’s become easier to do this without bringing a laptop or lots of maps. I wanted to find a solution where I could plan very good routes both ahead of time and on-the-fly using just my smartphone and a GPS unit. The GPS unit needed to have the ability to follow a route and show turn-by-turn directions.

Cycle computer

Although I really liked the Garmin 1000, with its color touchscreen, it has a really clunky interface, and there’s no way way to send a route from your smartphone to the Garmin. Garmin has the bike GPS market almost locked up, but after some research, I found a good alternative! The Wahoo ELEMNT is a $350USD bike GPS with almost all the features of the Garmin 1000, plus it has a kick ass smartphone app that supports, among other power features, the ability to sync routes with several websites and also to send GPX and TCX routes directly from your smartphone!

I made the plunge and bought one, and I love it. The black and white screen is not as nice as the Garmin’s color touchscreen, but the route syncing and smartphone app more than make up for it. It also has better battery life in my experience, which is important since we are living on solar power for much of our tour.


The smartphone choice was more about worldwide internet coverage than route planning capabilities. I decided on Google Project Fi service in order to get coverage in 135 countries for roughly the same reasonable price. Cell phone coverage is important for the ability to plan routes even when WiFi is not available. This service only works with a select few Android phones, and I settled on the Nexus 5x for its lower cost and decent specs.

Websites for route planning

Now, the only thing left is to actually plan the routes to send to the GPS. There are several services I have been using to do this.

Strava – although the web site is not optimized for mobile, it does work okay to plan routes by going to which you have to open in Chrome or Safari. Unfortunately there is no mobile app. It has been my favorite option because:

  • It syncs directly with the Wahoo ELEMNT (when on WiFi) and also with the smartphone app, so you can sync over cellular, and then later send to the ELEMNT even with no internet connection.
  • By default, it follows roads that Strava has found to be popular with cyclists. This means that you usually end up cycling on roads where actual cyclists go. This can be good and bad, so you have to pay some attention. In areas where mountain biking is popular, it will tend to pick off-road routes vs. paved routes, which has put us in some difficulty on our light touring bikes at times. In areas where racing groups are popular, it may pick really difficult climbs because that’s where the racers like to train. In commuting areas, it will often pick busy main streets rather than quiet more comfortable roads for touring. All that said, it will almost always pick a really decent route just by selecting a start and end point, and it’s relatively easy to add multiple routing points to go elsewhere. The heatmap overlay is very helpful to visually see where the popular routes are. Once you save the route, just sync the ELEMNT over WiFi (using your phone’s hotspot feature works), or sync the Wahoo app and then send the route over Bluetooth.

There are some down sides with Strava however. It is very fiddly to use on the phone, requiring good eyesight and very precise finger movement. It’s also somewhat buggy, sometimes locking up and requiring you to start over again. And it’s not possible on mobile to insert new way points into the route, making it tricky to adjust the route that is automatically calculated. It also requires you to use the frustrating “Manual Mode” sometimes for roads that it doesn’t know exists or roads that obviously connect together, but that it doesn’t realize do.

    Google maps – Google maps is an obvious choice for finding cycling directions. When you are online, it has an option to suggest cycling routes instead of driving. The routes are generally good, but they very strongly favor dedicated bike paths, including unpaved ones, so it can sometimes give directions not suitable for light touring bikes but good for mountain bikes. When you get the directions, you can either follow them on your phone, or you can send them to the ELEMNT using the following procedure:

    1. Select the option in Google Maps to share the route and select Copy to Clipboard.
    2. Paste the directions into a text editor, like Google Keep.
    3. Look for the link at the end of the directions posted that looks like Copy this link.
    4. Visit and paste in the link into the field and tap the button to download the GPX file.
    5. Most of the time you can simply open the GPX file using the ELEMNT app, and it will import it immediately.
    6. Sometimes the ELEMNT app gives an error about an invalid GPX file. This can sometimes be solved by simplifying the GPX file by visiting and turning on the highest level of Route Simplication under Options. This will give a much smaller GPX file, which usually works better and with no noticeable loss of information.

    One unfortunate problem with this: Google maps often gives several route options, and you can select which one you want by tapping on it. However, will always only pick the first route option that Google gives, so it can be frustrating to get the route you want. One workaround is to add a secondary waypoint to force the first route suggestion to be the one you want.

      Find GPX courses online – many websites have GPX routes for download for great touring routes that you can find by Googling particular areas. For example, Italy has GPX files available for its EuroVelo routes at . Once you’ve downloaded them, it’s easy to import into the ELEMNT app, though some GPX files may need to be simplified (see instructions above).

      Use the Wahoo app – The ELEMNT app has an option to search for a destination either by tapping it or searching for a name. This is very convenient, but in my experience, it does not give good directions. It tends to pick the absolute shortest path, ignoring cycling routes, road surface, etc. Hopefully they will improve this in future updates, as this is definitely the easiest option.

      Other options

      I considered many other options that may work for others, so here I will list them and explain why I decided not to use this option.

      Garmin cycle computers – I could not find any way to plan a route on the smartphone and send it to the Garmin without having a laptop. I tried everything I could think of, including importing GPX files to Garmin Connect website and then syncing over Bluetooth using the Connect app (very difficult and ridiculously buggy from a smartphone), using a USB OTG connector on my phone to connect the Garmin device via USB (couldn’t mount the file system in order to copy GPX routes), and lots of others, all ending in failure. If you are bringing a laptop with you, though, this might be a very good solution for you, as it’s relatively easy to copy a GPX file to the Garmin using a USB cable. – This is definitely a great app to have with you on a cycling tour, especially because it has offline bicycle routing. However, as of this writing, you cannot export its directions to GPX files, so it’s impossible to get the directions on your GPS device. This means that you must mount your smartphone on your bike and follow the directions on the screen. This may work for some people who expect to have power every night to charge their phone, but since we are using solar many days, I found that uses an extremely high amount of battery to do the routing and provide directions, so it would not work for us.

      Google maps – another must have app, of course, and it is possible to download offline map areas. However, when offline, you can only get driving directions, not cycling. Also, you would have to mount the smartphone on your bike, and while Google Maps uses significantly less power than, it is still too much to keep charged by solar power every day.

      Paper maps – I know many tourists swear by paper maps, which require no batteries, are often available with water resistant coatings, and keep you free of technological distractions. There is definitely something to be said for this approach, but it was difficult for me to find good paper maps for the whole around-the-world trip that we have planned. It would have involved lots of research and stops at tourist offices, etc to collect all the maps we need, and they take up space and weight.

      Other apps I recommend for touring

      OsmAnd – a good, if not a little clunky, front end to the amazing and free OpenStreetMap maps. It includes cycling modes, routing, downloading offline areas, following GPX tracks, and tons more.

      Rome2Rio – great option for finding ferries, flights, public transportation, and other routes for those segments where you cannot or choose not to ride.

      DotTrax – developed by a friend of mine in San Diego, this Android app is a great replacement for a cycling computer with lots of options including combining multi-day tracks, and real-time wind direction reports so you know when you’ve got a headwind or tailwind. It also connects with wireless HRMs. If you will be using your phone as your GPS unit, I highly recommend this app for tracking your ride.

      Les mistrals!

      The mistral winds were blowing strong yesterday, so we were very happy to have a day off riding to spend with our friends sightseeing in Cassis and Marseilles. These northerly winds are known to be strong this time of year between winter and spring and can come and go.

      We had a great lunch in Cassis at a restaurant on the water, and for dinner, we made Mexican food (chicken tacos with pico de gallo, rice and beans, and margaritas) for our friends, a reminder of their visit to California.

      I think we’ve decided on our future route for next week. We are planning to cycle through the Gorges de Verdon and then head south to join the Cote d’Azur near Fréjus and continue along the coast from there. This means we will take four days instead of two to get to Antibes, but we will get to see both the Verdon region as well as the coast. I’ve updated our itinerary estimates on our route plan, and even with this, and with a more leisurely place through Italy, we have 7 extra days on our visa in case we need to use it.

      This morning we are off to Paris for one night!

      Il fait très froid !

      It never warmed up above 10°C today, starting off in Avignon at a brisk 6°. But, we had massive tailwinds all the way to our destination near the Marseilles airport, where we are staying with friends for the weekend. Otherwise the ride was good, quiet country roads and wide shoulders most of the way. No touristy stops except for a cemetery where we heard some famous Frenchmen were buried. It was too cold for us to be in the mood for sightseeing though, so we pressed on and stopped at a cafe to warm up until our friends could meet us. It’s really good to see them again, as it’s been 4 years since they visited me last in San Diego.

      To be honest, I’m so happy to be off the bike, and I don’t want to see it for a few days. We’ve decided that from here on, we will try to limit our riding to 80-100km/day and no more than 4 days in a row, so that we have time to see things and relax and not feel like we are doing nothing but riding.

      After the weekend, we have four choices for how to continue towards Italy. If you have a recommendation, please give us a comment.

      1. Ride coastal roads on the Cote d’Azur. Pros: lots of beautiful scenery, lots of places to camp and stop, some bike paths and boardwalks, warmer weather, touristy so it will be easy to find anything we might need. Cons: might be very busy traffic, some roads will be not really suitable for cycling, very hilly along the rugged coast with lots of traffic in places, more expensive, lots of tourist traps.
      2. Ride through Luberon and Verdones regions. Pros: beautiful scenery, quiet and popular cycling routes, more laid back, less expensive. Cons: very mountainous so will be harder riding and take longer, somewhat cooler weather, fewer options for camping and lodging.
      3. Ride through the countryside between the coast and Verdones. Not sure this is really a very interesting area or what the traffic will be like. Don’t see a lot of info about it, but it’s a more direct route with less hills.
      4. Take the train to Antibes and continue riding from there. This would save us some time and get us away from the most developed parts of the coast, but it would mean probably taking our bikes apart to take them on the train, and we might miss out on some nice parts of France and reduce our time spent here.

        Foodie day

        We rode through many cute towns today, including Sommières, the start of a gorgeous 20km long dedicated bike path called Sommières Voie Verte, which wound through country, farms, small towns, and under Roman bridges.

        We stopped in Nîmes to do a little sightseeing before making our way to Avignon.

        The riding after the bike path was mixed between country roads and busy thruways. The French still win no awards for driving, having us white-knuckled on our handlebars as they skim by us. The quiet rural roads are nice except that every car is going 40kph over the speed limit and there’s no room to pass. The main roads are clogged with traffic (where is everyone going??), have no shoulder, and the cars refuse to slow down even with incoming traffic, giving us just one or two feet of space, well under the legal 4.5ft required and sign posted… I love everything else about France so far, but my fantasy of living here and riding my bike all over is fading quickly. Spanish drivers were 100x better, so courteous and patient. Maybe we just need to find the right area for cycling; we haven’t seen very many other cyclists.

        We made up for it though with the food, which we splurged on a little today, since we haven’t had a proper French dinner. Wow, it was really incredible. Here’s some food porn…

        Croissant aux aumonds

        Quail egg casserole

        Steak with foie gras sauce

        Cod with buerre blanc sauce over quinoa

        Chocolate cake

        France ! Je t’adore ! Les voitures françaises… Je te déteste !

        What a day with too many kilometers… Because of the rain forecast, we changed our plans last minute from camping at a vineyard in the country to an uber cheap crappy hostel in the middle of nowhere so that we could stay a bit more dry. Unfortunately that meant we had to ride an extra 25km, making today a bit of a chore. I don’t like the idea of grinding out distance on our bike tour, but with our flight and hotel in Paris already booked, we couldn’t take a rest day. Steve and I agreed to limit our rides to 100km from now on, ideally 80km (about 50 miles) per day.

        That said, before the rain and traffic, we had a lovely day cycling through adorable towns and vineyards in the Languedoc region. We stopped at our first boulangerie for a croissant aux aumonds, and I think we are going to gain weight in France. Omg! I want one of those every morning!

        We followed the uncompleted EuroVelo 8 for bits and pieces of the ride, but soon joined really busy highways leading to Montpelier.

        Everyone warned us about the Portuguese drivers, but they were an absolute delight compared to the French, who had me yelling obscenities a dozen times today, for cutting me off, passing too close, honking at me, and various other rude and unsafe manuevers. For a country with the most well-known cycling race in the world, I was really disappointed with the horrible way the drivers treat cyclists, at least in this region… The other cyclists we met, however, were awesome; everyone said Bonjour, and a few greeted us with big smiles. And in a lot of places, especially close to Montpelier, we had dedicated bike paths that paralleled the highway.

        Had a pizza for lunch at a really cute pizzeria in a tiny town, where the neighboring patrons heard my bad French and assumed I couldn’t understand them and wondered out loud whether we were German, Canadian, or Swiss (we have Swiss cycling caps, a gift from one of our WarmShowers guests). I didn’t have the heart to disappoint them and say we were American, although given that this region voted overwhelmingly for Marine Le Pen, maybe they like Donald Trump…

        We unfortunately had no time to see Montpelier, aside from riding straight through the downtown area, along the rail lines, where we joined other cyclists dodging the commuter trains and slipping on the slick stone paving, wet with the fresh rain that had just begun to fall. We passed through an area that felt like New Orleans with some transplanted African Americans lamenting loudly (in English) about the difference of life here vs back home in the states, and some other kind of gritty but a little hipster urban neighborhoods.

        Our lodging for the night is just barely one step above a campsite in the rain. It’s a hostel chain called Hotel F1, where we have to crawl over our bikes to get to the bed and sink, you don’t get any towels, soap, etc (I’m surprised we get sheets on the bed), and we have a bunk bed in the room, and the shared bathroom is not much more than a stinky hole in the ground with no toilet seat cover… But it was almost as cheap as camping, next to a discount supermarket where we got stuff for dinner, and sheltered from the crazy thunder and lightning and rain that’s going on outside our window…

        We are going to hole up here until the rain stops, watching Les Marseillais, which seems to be the French version of Jersey Shores. Should be tomorrow morning sometime and then head towards Avignon. I was there last time on a cycling tour in 2003, and I hope it’s as cute and beautiful as I remember!

        Kicked out of the grocery store!

        Followed the French election a little last night, as everyone in the campground was talking about it. What a crazy result! What is happening in this world??

        Very flat coastal day of riding from Argeles-sur-Mer to Narbonne. We cycled through many beach towns, very quiet for the season, but beautiful, as well as lots of cycling paths that form the beginnings of France’s EuroVelo 8 route. It’s far from compete and we had lots of various surface, and it went from shared roads to dedicated paths many times. The final part of the day was through the Narbonnaise en Méditerranée Natural Regional Park, where we cycled for over 10km on narrow strips of land besides railroad tracks, with ocean on either side.

        We saw a few other cycle tourists today and rode part of the way with a guy from Germany who was on the 9th month of his 1-year around-Europe tour, heading back to Germany. Even with 23kg of gear on his sturdy mountainbike (about twice the weight of what we have), he was beating us to the top of every climb. Amazing what that much time on the bike will do for your fitness.

        We spent a lot of time in Narbonne looking around this adorable city and getting food for dinner at the market. There are some historic ruins from 118BC near the cathedral and a very scenic river running thru the center. The styles here are quite different from Spain, which is refreshing. While we were shopping across the street from the cathedral, a security guard came up to us and said something really fast in French. We smiled and I said, “désolé, je ne comprends pas”, and he said, “fermé!” Closed. But we had walked right in with the lights on and doors open and never saw any indication the shop was closing. He said we had to leave and couldn’t buy the things in our hands. We protested, and the cashier took pity on us and re-opened her register to check us out. On Monday everything is closed in France, but we were able to find a bakery and one other shop open to complete our shopping for our dinner.

        Speaking of food, France is definitely quite a step up in terms of average quality of the food so far. And I’m so happy to have a choice of hundreds of cheeses in the market. Too bad we aren’t here for that many days. Here are some pics of our restaurant and supermarket meals and snacks…

        Omg, the French make pâte out of everything. Pâte of speculoos cookies?? It’s like liquid crack frosting. Steve and I ate the whole jar in 24 hours. ?

        Tomorrow is a long day and it’s supposed to rain later in the day so we plan to start as early as possible and we changed from camping to a hotel to stay dry in Montpelier.

        À demain !

        Adiós España

        As we said farewell to Spain yesterday, it seemed only fitting that we had an amazing experience with our Warm Showers host George in Girona on Saturday night.  When we entered Spain almost five weeks ago, we slept in an old aircraft hanger from another host on the hospitality network for touring cyclists.  We really enjoy the time spent with these hosts who’ve completed tours or have plans to do another one soon like the couple (Ana & Diego) we stayed with in Jerez that will tour Japan for their anniversary this summer.  They often cook for us or we cook for them and we sit around swapping stories upon stories of our journeys on the road, which is quite inspiring and enjoyable.

        Spain for me was just as beautiful and stunning as Portugal with the tiles that framed a window or entryway of a home, all the amazing architecture of the Roman Catholic Churches we gazed upon, or the beautiful countryside in full Spring Bloom that took our breath away.  The cities were amazing but a little too busy and touristy at times, as we both appreciate the quiet back roads and less traffic.  Spain sure loves their roundabouts and they can be nerving at times but also quite beautiful with their artistic designs in all of them.  The food was good (although it made me gassy and afraid of being kicked out of the tent some nights),  and I fell in love with the tapas all throughout the country.  Most often I wasn’t sure what I was eating and Tim would say it tasted like chicken and guess what…..the rabbit paella actually did.  I still have a hard time eating anything with eyes still attached but hopefully will get over that soon or just order a pizza or hamburgesa….LOL.  One of the best things about touring is being able to eat anything we want and getting dessert from all the calories we burn each day whether we pedal or walk over 15,000 steps being a tourist on a rest day.  Once we arrived in Valencia, it had a similar feeling to Southern California, and Barcelona had a San Francisco vibe to it.  We both fell in love with the coastal town of Sitges and the riverside town of Girona that is very popular with pro cyclists. 

        It doesn’t seem possible that we left San Diego almost two months ago.  We’ve now surpassed the amount of time we spent on our last tour from Canada to Mexico during the summer of 2016 when we  both fell in love with cycle touring.  We’ve pedaled into our third country now and have visited four total with the day trip we took to Tangier, Morocco when we took a couple of rest days in Tarifa, Spain.  

        I hope to get better at this blogging thing and continue to post my favorite pictures to Instagram (scubastevecyclist).  I’m looking forward to the crosiants & baguettes and many different cheeses that France will offer and can’t wait for our two rest days when we fly to Paris this weekend.   I also look forward to hearing Tim speak his French fluently that he studied 4 years in high school and one year in college.  

        Here are several of my favorite pictures from Spain with some duplicated from Instagram that you might not be on.

        Enjoy and Bonne nuit from France.  

        The aircraft hanger we slept in on our first night in Spain.  Our lovely warm showers host made us a perfect lentil soup for dinner and she fried us some eggs the next morning from the 10 chickens that wonder the landscape.

        Sevilla (our first of many tapas consumed)

        Alhambra in Cordoba

        Roman Bridge and Ruins in Cordoba

        Our climb out of Tarifa


        View of the Sierra Nevada Mountains on our way to Granada for some rest days. 


        Sunset from the Airbnb Cave we slept in.


        Palm Sunday lunch stop



        Gaudi in Barcelona

        Girona River and (a dirty chai latte at the popular cafe for cyclists called La Fabrica)

        I fell in love with the stunning doors all throughout Spain and these are just two of my favorites.

        and last but not least me being funny when I would see my last name on buildings and menus and asked Tim to take this one.  I’m sure he won’t miss this.