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Europe » France » Alsace » Thann
October 22nd 2017
Published: October 23rd 2017
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The view from the pass as I began climbingThe view from the pass as I began climbingThe view from the pass as I began climbing

Parc Naturel Ballons des Vosges
With the weather changing, and it still being a weekend, I decided to spend Sunday driving down the Route des Cretes (route of crests) through the Parc Naturel Ballons des Vosges. In the next few months this will be home to a number of ski fields, but for now it is still open to cars. I asked at my hotel for a map, but language difficulties resulted on me being given a print-out of directions to the tourist information centre.

So I put my first destination, Col du Bonhomme, into the GPS and fortunately it took me the way I wanted to go, via Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines. The drive up the hill was nice, but very windy and the road is good, but there’s nowhere to stop on the side of the road to take photos. I had to take my first photo at the top of the pass. There were a lot of hikers about, in their all-weather gear, so I got a couple of odd looks as I was only wearing a t-shirt.

I continued on and the temperature kept dropping. I stopped at the cross-roads at Col du Bonhomme and looked at the tourist sign to determine the
View from the side of the roadView from the side of the roadView from the side of the road

Parc Naturel Ballons des Vosges
best way to continue because my gps has no setting for “scenic route”. It was now down to 6 degrees Celsius but while I could feel the cold, I was still okay in my t-shirt. Which was good as I had decided not to bring my jacket!

Continuing to climb up the mountains, there were a couple of places where I could stop along the side of the road to take photos. There were few cars about, so I probably could have just stopped anywhere. But soon, it didn’t matter because I entered the fog. Or perhaps it was low-lying cloud, as I was now at about 1,200m above sea level and it was raining. Then the ice warning came on in my car as the temperature hit 3 degrees Celsius. It did get down to 2 at one point, but most of the time up the top it was at 3.

I kept driving, but could see very little. My plans for a photography drive were pretty much dashed, but it was still an enjoyable drive. The road is very good, and fun to drive although a few people were having more fun than me and drove
View from the side of the roadView from the side of the roadView from the side of the road

Parc Naturel Ballons des Vosges
quite fast. I found it difficult to get much above 50kph, but I’m not used to driving in those conditions and I was not in a hurry anyway.

I stopped for lunch at one of the many restaurants along the route, once again getting a few looks for only wearing a t-shirt in 3-degree weather. It honestly didn’t feel that cold, and I was only walking between the car and the restaurant so I’m not sure I would have bothered with my jacket even if I had brought it.

I continued on and the road began to descend after reaching the height of about 1,400m at the Grand Ballon, the highest mountain of the Vosges mountain range. As the descent began, I could see a bit more and decided to stop the car and get a photo that showed the fog. As I walked back to the car, the side of the road was obscured by dead leaves and I misstepped on the edge of the hard surface, slightly twisting my ankle and landing unceremoniously in a bed of dead leaves and mud. I was unhurt, although apparently, I took a photo as I fell. My jeans were
View of the fog from the side of the roadView of the fog from the side of the roadView of the fog from the side of the road

Parc Naturel Ballons des Vosges
covered in mud and I was a bit wet, which started to make 3 degrees a bit chilly. Fortunately, nobody was around to see it!

I continued driving down into the town of Thann, with a couple of photo opportunities, but not many as you can see. I was thinking of driving to Munster, but as I was dirty and it was now past 4 o’clock, I ended up heading back to the hotel. The drive was about an hour and I had to pass through Colmar so I got to see the mini statue of liberty again.

A few years ago, I bought a car and, having not owned one for five years, decided to do a “safe driving” course. There were a lot of good things to learn, and I highly recommend people doing such a course. The main thing we practised though, was emergency braking. It might sound obvious, but in a car with ABS brakes you just slam the brakes as hard as you can. Everyone on the course, myself included, did not do that instinctively. And we had to practise it over and over again until we got it right. The instructor recommended
Photo of my fallPhoto of my fallPhoto of my fall

Parc Naturel Ballons des Vosges
we find a quiet road somewhere and practise it every few months so that we do the right thing on instinct. I must confess, I have not done that.

But today, I got to do it for real. And, I’m glad to say, I think I did pretty well. So as I’ve mentioned, I have been avoiding the motorway for the last few days. However, some of the non-motorways are still divided roads where you can do 110kph, the difference from the motorways (besides the 130kp speed limit) is that these roads can have side roads, and on the way to Strasbourg there’s even a mechanic’s garage!

However, just past Colmar there was a connection with the motorway which had a series of roundabouts and entrances and exits to the motorway. I was not going onto the motorway, so my road just continued with a sweeping right-hand turn and the speed limit dropping to 90kph. It then joined with an exit from the motorway (coming in from my left) and the speed limit increases to 110kph again. Just after this, there was a small road off to the right (See here). Just as I was increasing my speed, two
Beginning the descentBeginning the descentBeginning the descent

Parc Naturel Ballons des Vosges
cars were stopped in the other lane when the first one decided it was clear to turn into the road on the right.

It wasn’t clear because I was now heading straight for the side of his car at somewhere between 90 and 110kph. Thus, I got to practise my emergency stopping for real. He must have seen me, as he started turning away, missing the road he was turning into. I stopped right on that road so if he hadn’t have turned, we’d have collided. Still, I came to a stop in a shorter space than I thought possible and the cars didn’t touch. Not only that, but apparently I still had the reaction time to beep the horn as I was stopping! I didn’t think at all, so it was all instinct. The second car was, presumably, his wife or girlfriend following, and she gave an apologetic smile as they both drove off. I took a few moments to gather myself before continuing on to the hotel for what was, thankfully, an uneventful drive.



So, a boring day nearly became more exciting than I wanted. A fall and a near accident both ended up
Forest on the side of the roadForest on the side of the roadForest on the side of the road

Parc Naturel Ballons des Vosges
fine, and so my holiday can continue. My apologies for the lack of photos on this blog.

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25th October 2017

Omg David , what a day!
Firstly, I'm glad to hear you are ok 😀 Secondly I must say your blog made me laugh (once I realised you were ok of course).

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