Day 16 31/07/2012

Valros – Beziers – Nardonne – Carcassonne

Dist: 103.78 km
Time: 5.39.42
Avg speed: 18.3 km/h
Max speed: 40.2 km/h
Tot time: 91.38
Tot dist: 1686.4 km

Another very hot day on the road.

Started very early this morning. Was on the road by 7.50. It was already very hot. The temperature didn’t.drop much during the night. It was really warm in the tent.

First part to Beziers – a lot of uphill and slow rise. Then after the trip to Nardonne landscape changed again. I was I the vineyard valley.

As I was getting closer to Carcassonne ride became more and more difficult due to temperature. Had to stop quite a lot to cool down.

Got to the hotel, washed my stuff and was out to see the castle. It looks and smells exactly the same as 25 years ago. There is the same smell of urine. It brought back memories. 😀

Now to plan for tomorrow.

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Day 15 30/07/2012

Aigues-Mortes – La Grande-Motte – Palavas-les-Flots – Pignan – Montagnac – Pezenas – Valros

Dist: 101.65 km
Time: 5.57.32
Avg speed: 17 km/h
Max speed: 47.6 km/h
Tot time: 85.57
Tot dist: 1582.5 km

Day of two completely different rides.

First part on the sea side – more difficult to get around and find my way.

Part 2 back to mainland and hills.

The first part took a little longer. I wanted to visit La Grande Motte. Went around the town reminiscing one of the trips we had with a dancing and singing group 24 (25) years ago?

I managed to find familiar places. Took some photos. It took a while to find my way around. So I did additional few km in the town itself.

Even though I’m not the best remembering things there were a few places that stayed the same all these years. The stage, the library with writing on the building, squares on the beach were the group performed, dunes we had our space on the beach, showers all around.

Although nice and memorable I decided to get into the mainland and proper roads. There were too many tourists and not enough information how to cycle around.

As soon as I hit the normal roads hills started. I have to say I missed them. Flat runs are not half much exciting. Soon after I was climbing the hill I was looking at from the beach. There was an up and then long and fantastic down hill. Just great.

I am sure it wasn’t a mirage. As I was cycling slowly up the hill before Villeveyrac I saw a massive cat crossing the road. Puma or something similar? I’m pretty sure the thing was real.

Then I went through Pezenas. It was around 4.30 and I wanted to get to Beziers. Another 20 or so km. Went through first few km and suddenly this strong headwind started again. Them as I struggled through the wind and uphill there was a sign to camping. Took the road. I is a great camp in the middle of the vineyard Montrose. And there was 1 pitch left. Got to be a sign.

Loads of residents so nice and familiar – my tent – way away from the main place so it will be quiet at night.

As it is a vineyard got to taste the wine. Maybe even two different ones.

Day 14 29/07/2012

Istres – Port-St-Louis – Arles – Aigues-Mortes

Dist: 110.55 km
Time: 5.45.31
Avg speed: 19.1 km/h
Max speed: 37.2 km/h
Tot time: 79.59
Tot dist: 1480.7 km

Really tired today. I went in all of the directions today and somehow had to pedal against really nasty wind all day. Even with my positive mind set it was a challenge.

Had really good breakfast this morning at the hotel and was off relatively early at 8.30.

Never get surprised enough by the variety of resources France has got. I started cycling through swamps. Rather strange smell. There was nothing on the horizon and suddenly I saw fields that looked like rice plantations. I had no idea they produced rice here, but they do. They were selling local produce all along the road today and rice was there. Stopped a few times to eat couple of peaches or some really nice apples.

It was a good Sunday ride.

Then rice was growing on one side and on the other I started to see more and more vineyards. Loads of ‘Mas de …’ Then there were only vineyards. I think the most popular variety here is Moscat.

Then of course sunflowers and flat, really flat terrain. I think they produce salt in this region as well.

The wind was coming from the Grand Rhone. Another great French river on my way.

Liquid intake in the past few days has increased really drastically. I think by 1 I have gone through 4.5 liters. By the time I got to the hotel in the afternoon (couldn’t find camping around) I was through 6 ltrs or more.

Went to the town – nice old marketplace and loads of tourists. Got myself roasted chicken and some fresh tomatoes for the supper. There is nice Merlot waiting as well.

Let’s see where to go tomorrow, but if the wind doesn’t stop I will be off the coast to mainland in no time 🙂

Oh, was forgetting, I read somewhere that cicadas can produce noise around 100dB. After riding with the constant noise of this guys for 4 days or so. They’re really very noisy and constant and consistent.

Day 13 28/07/2012

Manosque – Aix-en-Provence – Marimas – Istres

Dist: 111.54 km
Time: 5.42.01
Avg speed: 19.5 km/h
Max speed: 41 km/h
Tot time: 74.13
Tot dist: 1370.1 km

Great decision to stop and settle a little earlier yesterday. This morning I was up 5.50 just for a couple of minutes and then I was up and having breakfast at 6.50. In bed :-).

There were couple of very small showers in the morning but at the start of cycling at 8.15 the sky was clean and ready to beam on me.

The ride to Aix-en-Provencewas nice and relatively easy. The sun was calmer and I managed to ride nicely hill about 12. I had a first smell if sea when I was going through Payrolles. Just for couple of hundred meters.

Then when I went through Aix-en-Provence I knew that behind one of the curves I will find the sea. And there it was. It was an emotional moment. Part of the trip was accomplished.

Then I cycled through Miramas and deciced to take a quieter route around the sea site tomorrow. So came to Istres. Staying at a hotel tonight. Supper soon.

Day 12 27/07/2012

Tallard – Sisteron – Manosque

Dist: 92.71km
Time: 4.30.43
Avg speed: 20.5 km/h
Max speed: 48.3 km/h
Tot time: 68.29
Tot dist: 1258.3 km

After great supper and nice wine I didn’t set up the alarm so was up 8.35 and set off after breakfast close to 10. By this time sun was really high up and really nicely hot.

Route was really easy as I was coming down hill most of the time.

Landscapes changing constantly. First there was the apple valley, then all kind of fruit.

Sisteron turned out to be a very picturesque old town. By the time I got there the temperature started to be a bit high. I was ok but the road started melting down and I started to slow down.

Decided to get only to Manosque give my body a bit a a break and hopefully start much earlier tomorrow.

After Sisteron landscape changed again and there were some olive plantations and then just before Manosque vineyards started again.

I bet there is a name for this hot, dry wind that was blowing on the road. Coming from south. The smell of hot pine tree was really strong most of the day.

When I got to Manosque it was either hotel with air-conditioning or camping. Found the camping first so here I am.

It was so nice and warm that it took me good time to set up the tent and settle down. Then there was a very long shower. Got the body temperature back to something reasonable and then headed back to the town for some provisions.

Diner al fresco. Some nice salads, fresh baguette and good cold beer. Sky is cloudy now so temperature dropped down slightly but the air is still – not a tiny breeze. Everybody on the camp and in town is acting and moving in slow motion. Like it. 🙂

Manosque – very old town as well. Nice narrow streets with a lot of tiny little shops. All very old but well kept. Wondered around the old town for a while got my supper and headed back to the camp. Quite a few tourists,

Nearly forgot. Wherever I saw a water feature on my way I had a go. There were couple of showers in the field, (great French way of watering crops), then in couple of towns they were watering grass in central square, even stopped by a flower shop that was spraying water onto hanging banquets.

Really impressed, and admiring more and more the guys that do Tour de France professionally. There are no tricks to beat the weather or the road. Even on drugs.

Day 11 26/07/2012

Laffrey – Col des Festreaux – Col Bayard – Tallard

Dist: 105.33 km
Time: 6.39.02
Avg speed: 15.8 km/h
Max speed: 61 km/h
Tot time: 63 56
Tot dist: 1165.4 km

Day 2 in Alps.

I was a little tired yesterday so decided to sleep a bit longer. Was up around 8 and out of the camp by 9.

But first let’s finish the story from last night. It turned out that the froggies we were having were Polish. Didn’t have any patriotic feelings though and in they went. They were really good.

Now today.

It was a fantastic day of cycling. Beautiful weather – still hot and sunny. Loads of up and down the mountain.

At first there was a series of uphills. Practically till the first Col it was all slowly going up and up and up. Views were magnificent. All the way. Stopped for a photo a few times but could have been taking pics every few hundred meters.

After the first Col came a descent that tested breaks and as the road looked really clean I went down. That was when I got the max of 61 km/h. The fastest I have gone on this bike.

Then there was a series of relatively flat ride. I didn’t realise I was going up again. There are this slow slopes that kept me guessing – is it up or down hill. There was no problem telling the difference. My mind was oh it’s down and my legs were saying – hold on. There is something wrong here. It happened on several occasions.

I had a breakfast in La Mure, then stopped for lunch in La Fere. It was 14 km from Gap but my body was running out of juice.

Had couple of Cokes and quiche with chips. Wise decision.

Next after La Fere till Laye? it was a hell of an up the mountain. I was on my way to Col Bayard. (1246 mtrs).

It was funny how I was bargaining with my body and my mind to get through this one. It was marked at 12 % as well. Same yesterday. Maybe shorter on steep bit. It went on for about 3 km and then it was a bit more friendly.

When I started going up I thought I won’t be able to do it. Then meter by meter the distance from the top was getting smaller and smaller. I was arguing with my mind and legs for another few hundred meters, till next shaded area, till next curve and then to safe stopping point.

Then after Laye the slope started getting milder. And I did get to the top.

Nobody would prepare me for the downhill I had to take afterwards to Gap. 5 km of a steepest serpentine I have been through. All the way marked at 12%. Terrific and terrifying. In Gap stopped at the tourist info and as I prefer quieter places I cycled out and found Hotel. There was supposed to be a camping but I missed it. So Hotel it is tonight.

Went to supermarket to get few bits and pieces. Toilet paper, sun cream, fruit and sparkling water.

Can see the tops of the Alps from the hotel. It has been a short but fascinating adventure. Great food by the way.

Now let’s head down the sea. Where? Tomorrow somehow will tell.

Day 10 25/07/2012

La Veronniere – Rives – St-Quentin – Grenoble – Vizille – Laffrey

Dist: 91.64 km
Time: 5.43.32
Avg speed: 16.0 km/h
Max speed: 44.10 km/h
Tot time: 57.15
Tot dist: 1059.90 km

So the stars weren’t as big as the night before. Camping was nice but at 1.30 some French kids started a party. All neighbours came out and there was a drunken argument till 2.30. Then the guys moved to the lake and followed the party until they collapsed at about 3.00.

The camping keeper gave me yesterday a cycling route to Grenoble from St-Quentin. I had to get to St-Quentin. It wasn’t as easy as it looked on the map. I set off and it turned out that the most obvious routes were closed. Tried one – quite often when the route is closed bike can go through. Today it wouldn’t. Gracefully accepting the defeat I cycled back and managed to find an alternative route.

Got to the cycling path and it was just what the doctor ordered. Beautiful cycle by the river Isere. I seen pictures like this on chocolate boxes. Today it was there for me. All 20km of chocolate views. Magnificent. And the best thing most of this ride was on nice shaded path.

Couldn’t believe my luck. Still, due to temperature I was expelling masses of liquid. So I took more. When I got to Grenoble it was 1.00 and scorching hot. Stopped at a petrol station and had a sandwich and replenished all the water.

The road to Vizille was relatively easy and I was there in no time. Then there was a decision – Napoleon’s Route or some different one. I was warned by people and signposts that the road to Laffrey won’t be easy. It is marked at 12% and goes on for about 7km or so.

As I started going up I realised it won’t be easy. First few hundred meters and all of the water reserve had abandoned me in a sudden burst.

Had to stop every km or sometimes even less to get some liquids and have a little rest. All of this, but slowly and slowly, I was going up – higher and higher.

Finally, after good, long cycle I was in Laffrey. 904 mts up. My first Col.

Set up the camp, washed – stuff and myself, and was ready for a beer.

The restaurant at the camp is really great. Tried some French specials: Andouillette de Troyes and some nicely prepared grenouilles.

Tomorrow direction Gap. See what is awaiting round the corner.

And I’m definitely closer to stars tonight, and it will be really dark. I’m kind of in the middle of nowhere