Photo by Jason DeVarennes

Thursday, October 4, 2012


On Tuesday, the forecast called for heavy rain. When we awoke, the visibility out the door was zilch and Eddie felt it would be a bad idea to ride. While he took the day to get caught up on chores around the house, we decided to explore Vézénobres and then do a 6 mile hike, followed by some shopping...

Eddie and Chisa's place is next to the Marie and the tourist office is in the lower level around the back. Armed with a map of a 6 mile hike, we headed out into the fog to explore town and try to find the markers for the hike. After about an hour of wandering around the medieval village, we stopped into the tourist office to try to find the first blaze for the hike. We'd seen lots of yellow signs for longer hikes, but hadn't spied any green signs, as our hike was supposed to be marked in green. Leaving the tourist office armed with the route for the first kilometer, we finally sped the tiny green blazes painted on various signs and buildings through town. The map had a verbal description (in French), and between the verbal description, the map, and some GPS consulting, we managed to find our way onto the trail. Since part of the hike went through the center of town, it wasn't simply a matter of following a worn track through the woods! And the blazes were about 1cm high by 3cm wide - and could be generously described as being placed discreetly! We had a great game of trying to find the next blaze as we made our way out of town. Fortunately we did eventually turn into the woods and it was a bit easier to follow the worn track than  it had been scanning for turns along the village streets!

I'm sure there were mountains out there yesterday!

Tableau d'Orientation - to show us what we can't see!

Vézénobres is famous for it's figs. John thought the leaves were a bit small!

See that little green blaze on the post! Yep, took us a little while too! That's what we were following. 

There is another one!

The X means don't go this way

We had a few cat sightings along the way, including the perfectly French looking moustachioed cat!

We did manage to navigate the entire hike and made it back to Eddie's in the early afternoon without getting wet. The forecast was wrong. The sun even began to poke through.

Our next order of business was to drive into Alès to visit an Orange store and get a French SIM card for my (unlocked GSM) Android phone. Our friend Piaw, had alerted us to an inexpensive internet option for our android phones. This other blog entry provides lots of details for setting this up. Sadly I hadn't committed all this to memory, and the staff at the Orange store in Alès didn't seem know about the 9 euro a month InternetMax mentioned in these two blogs. They did eventually sell us recharge cards for 5 euro a week Internet. This did work quite well, but was a bit tricky for me when I needed to call back in to recharge the second week. The menus and prompts were quite confusing, but we did get the recharge to work after a few tries. When working, the service was amazing. I had a data signal in a surprising number of remote places. I was able to use my phone as a portable hotspot to share the connection with our MacBook Air, and use RideWithGPS for planning out routes! And I could use gmail, facebook and twitter to keep friends and family up to date on our trip. I had hoped to be able to use skype or google talk to make calls home for free, but while the call would connect, no one could hear me. I'll have to do some more research on this before we go back. There were also inexpensive options for international calls, but I need to do some more research there too, and it will surely change before our next visit.  All that said, it is well worth looking into local SIM cards when travelling to Europe. 

Now armed with Internet on my phone, we headed back toward Eddie's car, but I was looking around at the sights too much and tripped on a low curb. For the record, my now internet enabled phone was in my purse a the time. Honestly I was not FB'ing or tweeting. I went flying and landed spread eagle on my palms. The wind was knocked out of me and I took a lot of force through my right hand and up my arm. We headed for a coffee shop so I could get some ice and wash up a bit, but decided to forego a long visit in the local ER. Mt hand stayed swollen for the next two weeks and my shoulder complained on descents, but I toughed it out and waited until I was back on US soil to get x-rays! No fractures, but I do still have quite a bit of tenderness in my hand over two weeks later!

We headed back to Vézénobres so we could pack for an overnight ride to scout out a 200km permanent route that Eddie was putting together for Audax Ireland. We planned to take two days for the scouting mission, partly to allow plenty of time for photo-taking and also in case some of the roads turned out not to be roads! For us, we carry as much for two days as we would for two weeks, with one minor exception - we don't bother doing laundry for an overnight trip, so we could forego our small bottle of laundry soap! And I didn't bother with a second jersey.

On an extended trip, we wash shorts every night. In really dry conditions, they may be dry the next morning, but often it takes longer, so we take a 2nd pair. I also take two jerseys (of slightly different weight to handle a wider range of temperatures). I don't wash my jersey every night, but the same holds for the jersey as the shorts. If my freshly laundered jersey is still damp in the morning, I have another. With one light-weight and one medium, I also have good coverage for a range of temperatures. When touring in Ireland or some other cool place, I usually take a medium and heavy jersey. Also if I get soaked during the day, I have dry shorts and jersey to start the next day. BTW, when washing clothes in the room, one tip for drying quickly is to use a towel to wring out excess moisture.

Over the years, we've gotten very good at efficient packing, carrying enough to be comfortable for changeable mountain weather and descents, but not too much to haul up those mountain passes.

So here's the packing list...

Camera, wallet, passport, phone, glasses

2 pr bike shorts
2 jerseys (of different weights, light and medium, or medium and heavy, depending on conditions)
light arm and knee warmers and heavier wool leg warmers
vest and rain jacket
regular and full fingered gloves
headband, helmet cover, light overshoes

For off the bike
lighweight pants
sleeveless top and sweater (to cover a range of temperatures)
lightweight shoes

small selection of basic toiletries (sunscreen, chamois creme, toothbrush, toothpaste, comb, conditioner, wash puff, nail clippers, razor, laundry soap) We share some of this.

(for both of us) computer, charger, and cables (we have a 11inch MacBook Air, with charger, and two USB ports). An iPad is lighter than the Air, but it can't talk to the GPS, so we take the 2.2 pound Air. This allows us to generate maps for our GPS units as well as charge them. We can also charge phones, cameras, etc. I carry a few plug converters (for whereever we are) and a couple of small USB plugs, along with whatever USB cables our devices use (yes we have mini, micro and SONY). We do also carry paper maps for the big picture and reference purposes. While we may plot out an intended route for the GPS the night before, weather or interest may change our plans. GPS eliminates some hassle of stopping at every crossroads, but it doesn't fully replace maps!

Pump, tools and spares (tire, tubes, patch kits, allen keys, screwdriver, pliers, cables, lube, spoke key, chain tool, links, spare nuts and bolts, knowledge to improvise). Again, we share some, but have pump, tube and basic tools on each bike)


For years, we did bike tours on the tandem. If you look back through the website, you'll see numerous photos of me holding up the tandem, sometimes with an expression that says, "I'm tired of posing, can we please ride?" We decided that if we toured with singles that John could take all the photos he wanted. I could sometimes be a model and he could even get action shots, and then I could continue on, giving him a chance to play with lenses and filters and then hammer to catch back up. But given the discrepancy in our speed, we also decided that we'd neutralize it some, by having him carry a bit more stuff. I'm not too proud to admit that he is much stronger than me. I carry my on the bike stuff for the day (like jacket and warmers), but put my civvies and the computer on his bike! We've done three tours now this way, and it has worked quite well. For our trip in Ireland last fall, John borrowed a bike and only had a saddlebag, so I did carry all my own gear then!

Anyway, we got our our gear together with plans to head out for a couple of days with Eddie. Stay tuned...


  1. Loving your trip chronicle. That mustachioed kitty is quite the find! Do you mention anywhere your gearing for these hills?

  2. I had my standard gearing on my Seven - a triple with 28/38/50 and a 12-30 cassette in the back. John had a compact 34/50, with a 12-32 cassette. For the most part these climbs were long and steady, but not outrageously steep with the exception of Mt. Bouquet, which was a sustained 20%. This is where my hill-climbing racing training really kicked in.

  3. Should we be worried about you and curbs? This isn't the 1st time you have tried street tumbling...

    1. She has a very down-to-earth approach to touring, Dan - getting a taste for the local culture, you could say.