The life rings are back in place, and geraniums have replaced the winter pansies. Eclaircie is cruising again.
At least, we were cruising for a few days.
Before we left Roanne we found a great garage to rent, right near the train station. If we should ever need to go back and get our car during the summer, it will be easy to hop on a train.
On our last night in Roanne, we carefully drove our car into the garage, covered it up and locked the door. Then we walked back through town to our boat. Parking our car was the last item on our "To Do" list before casting off.
Our bikes had already been tuned-up, we took them to the same bike shop that does all the repairs on the post office bikes. Just as we hoped, the man did a great job and they are now just like new.
During the summer, we depend on our bikes as we do on the car in the winter. We love our summer routine of biking everywhere, whether it is riding into town to shop or biking out onto the country back roads just for the pleasure of it. There is something about hopping on our bikes that always makes us feel like we're 12 years old.
We left Roanne early on a sunny Saturday morning when there was no wind to worry about, and by the end of our second cruising day, after about a dozen lock entries, we felt like we had our canal legs again.
The weather was soft and gentle with powder blue skies, and we floated peacefully along enjoying the calming affect of moving so slowly and quietly past farms and villages. Moving at canal speed again was a pleasant change after our winter of driving at what, in comparison, seems like warp speed. You need to drive fast if you want to survive on the French roads. We have gone from a speed limit of 130 kilometers per hour on the auto route to 6 kilometers per hour limit on the canals.
Dogs and small children ran along on the sidewalk as our barge crossed the canal bridge over the river Loire at Digoin. They beat us to the other side. Along the canals, when something sets the cows in the fields to running, they outrun us too. Only snails and French companies doing work for us, move more slowly than we do as we cruise along. This explains why after almost two weeks we are only about an hour by car from Roanne. It always amazes us to learn the driving time of a route that we just completed by barge. It took us four full days of cruising to arrive here. We had planned on stopping here for less than a week, but we forgot that the French clock runs very slowly. So here we sit, waiting for work that is always going to begin tomorrow, but never does.
Fortunately for us, we are comfortably moored at Montchanin Marine, in our mechanic Jeff's new boatyard. Jeff taught us how to drive our barge, and he has been doing the maintenance and minor repairs on Eclaircie ever since other boating friends were kind enough to introduce us.
While we wait for the local steel company to begin their work, we are now on our third postponement, Jeff is helping us make little improvements here and there. And not only that, when he saw that being marooned here in his yard was beginning to get us down, he organized a campfire and sing-along that cheered us right back up again.