Photo by Jason DeVarennes

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A Day of Surprises

After getting glorious dry sunny weather at the wettest place in France, we had to pay the price and Friday was forecast to be dull and dreary. Eddie wanted to take the day off, but he made a few suggestions for areas we could explore on a day ride. We initially thought we would head for the Ardèche Gorge, but when we mapped it out, it was a bit long for a day ride - at least one with nice scenery where we'd want to stop lots for photos! So we decided to still head in that direction, taking in a few other sights along the way, and then plan to get back out to the gorge later on our longer tour the following week.

Someone failed to notice that spike in the profile!

Despite me entering the route on ridewithgps as John selected roads from the paper map, I neglected to actually look at the route profile that was generated, so I was caught completely off guard when we started up Mont Bouquet. It was an innocent enough looking turn. We rolled past a few shops and turned at a sign that said table d'orientation. I assumed it was just a short distance up the road to another viewing spot, like many we had seen before. Instead it was 5km with many sections at 20% grade up the road to the viewing spot. For me, it was like climbing Mt. Washington, but with no warning whatsoever! Good thing I'd done some hillclimb training this year! There were several places where 20% was painted on the road, and I believe it! The Garmin and my heart rate also agreed. The climbbybike site says average of 9.5% and shows a long section over 16%.

It's steeper than it looks in the photo, but I am still smiling!

You'll have to take my word that Mt. Ventoux is out there in the distance! At least that's what the table d'orientation claims!

Edge of the world!

After all that work, we didn't have much of a view, but decided to take advantage of the picnic tables and relatively mild temperatures to have the sandwiches we had brought with us. We weren't very far into our planned route mileage-wise, but after the big effort on the climb, I was ready for some food!

The descent on the far side was quite different from our climb. It was wide open and dramatic, where the climb seemed to be up through a forest! I imagined that on a clear day the views from this side would be spectacular.

Once down,  we rolled along quiet lanes until we reached one of the highlighted viewing spots out toward the Ardèche area. It was still quite overcast so again the view wasn't as spectacular as it would be on a crisp sunny day.  But it was still gorgeous. We then followed a long swoopy descent down to the Gorges De La Cèze. It seemed this was a popular route for cyclists as we saw several groups along the way.

We stopped for coffee and chocolate eclairs in the lovely village of Goudargue, known as "Venice Gardoise" as it is situated along a canal. The canal was lined with cafe's and we took full advantage of this bit of civilization! We spied a few more cyclists doing the same.

We had picked our route by connecting a series of  roads marked as scenic on the Michelin map. Eddie had told us it would be hard to go wrong in the area, and he was right. Despite the grey skies, the scenery was lovely. And the grey skies were even starting to clear a bit.

Our next surprise was Lussan. This was another medieval village built up on a hill. We stopped to take photos from a distance and then decided to get closer, and eventually rode up into and around the village, taking loads of photos. The sun made an appearance for the photos!

Looking out toward Mont Bouquet from Lussan

Another glorious day riding in the Cevennes. We arrived back in Vezenobres and learned we had an invitation to join Chisa and her friend, Siobhan, the following night at Siobhan's home on Mont Lozere. This would make a great start to our mountain tour. We pulled out maps and again tried to connect lots of scenic roads and some with triple arrows.

We packed up our panniers, adding a couple of warmer items, like heavier gloves and overshoes, and John added a warm jacket. We also packed the computer this time, so we could get routes on the GPS and change plans/routes from day to day as the weather and whims dictated. I've mentioned that we plot out routes to download to the GPS, but we are never restricted to just doing a pre-planned route. We still carry paper maps and still change plans on the fly. But it is nice to have a an idea of where the climbs are and how long a proposed route might be, and when possible to look up whether a town has services. The computer weighs a bit over two pounds, but since I pack so light otherwise, it has been approved by the pack-mule for cargo! Also by using my phone with the French data card as a wifi hot-spot, we could get news and update friends and family along the way, as well as backup some of the 1000 photos from John's camera.

The final thing we did was to remount our fenders. We'd been pretty lucky with weather, but at some point, we were certain that luck would run out.  For travel, we have found the Roadracer fenders from Crud to work quite well. These are full coverage plastic fenders. They have three sections, so pack quite easily with our S+S bikes. They are also relatively robust, although everything breaks if you work at it! For their weight and convenience and ease of mounting, they provide surprisingly good coverage. I've talked about these fenders elsewhere on the blog, so I won't repeat too much more. But I'll just say that after 18 months and lots of riding in New England plus 4 trips on planes, I still love them. 

Now prepared with our first night's destination set, and some packing done, we'd try for a relatively early start. Stay tuned for more stories and photos from the week of touring...

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