A Tarnished Image (102km)

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Europe » France » Languedoc-Roussillon » Meyrueis
June 24th 2014
Published: March 22nd 2018
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There may yet be something to the notion that I might be getting wiser as I age: this morning I chose to forego the optional 14% climb (although I did elect to ride the remainder of the alternate route). Leaving Mende was also uncharacteristic - there wasn't a lot of traffic to battle, and our route out of town involved a 5km descent to Balsieges rather than the traditional diesel-choked climb. Of course there then followed an unrelenting 5km ascent to earn back all the elevation we had given up (and perhaps more), which culminated in an unanticipated plateau that then gently rose for a further 10km, at which point the road pitched down at 6% for 6km of joy before the floor dropped out and we hurtled to the valley floor at 8%.

Then it was on through the Tarn Gorge on a road that continuously rose and fell, and whose condition ranged from baby-butt smooth to ridiculously bumpy, and which terminated in several km of loose chip and seal. I had been here in 1998 and remembered it as a pretty ride, but perhaps because I had high expectations, did not seem to enjoy it as much as others. There must be some universal Law of Nearby Gorges/Valleys, though, because I thoroughly enjoyed the Gorges de la Jonte, the same way I had preferred California's Sonoma Valley to its better-known Napa Valley. Or maybe it was just because the road was in better shape, there was less traffic, and the few towns were not so tourist oriented.

Regardless, I spent a very solitary day despite waiting several times for others, whom I had assumed were behind me, to appear. It turned out many had chosen to take today's nominal (and more direct) route, and they were already at the hotel when I arrived. Unfortunately the same could not be said for our luggage. Getting in somewhat early also meant waiting for the grocery stores to reopen, as in extra-typical French fashion they were closed until not just 2:30 but 3PM.

Update: As I sit here Wednesday morning munching on the croissant I just bought from the bakery up the street, it dawns on me that France has slowly been working its magic on me: my rides are not as rushed, I am stopping for more photos, and generally enjoying the day has become more important than riding at any particular pace; in fact I believe I have actually been riding slower each day since we left the mountains, And the food....Last night I was pleased to have remembered correctly the name of a local dish, which I ordered for supper. The plate was a bit spartan, but overall the menu (what we would call table d'hote back home) was quite delightful. Both accommodations and meals are quite reasonable here (especially since there is no extra tax or tip added), and the pace of life is quite civilized. I hadn't imagined it previously, but I may yet return again...

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