Looking across the Rance Valley

I thought today would be arelatively short, hilly, ride. It was. It was also rainy, headwindy, hard, and very pretty.

I saw the sun a few times today - this time was when I was leaving my hotel

I didn't sleep well because I ate too much, too late last night. It was a good meal, but it didn't end till 9:30 and I was ng it asleep by 11. That wasn't enough time to digest a four course meal and I suffered indigestion all night. This morning it was dreary outside - everything was wet and the clouds were low and threatening. Since I needed to get my digestive system back to normal, I was in no hurry to leave. I worked on the computer for an hour before going down to breakfast, then packed up and headed out near 10 AM. It was still dreary, but there were occassional sun breaks as the folks from the northwest US call 'em. I had hopes for a rain free day. It didn't work out that way, but wasn't a really wet day either.

Not far to Albi, those are km

I rode uphill though Lauras, a small town two km from Roquefort that isn't even on my map. I had been riding uphill for a long time before reaching Lauras, so a really nice downhill was in order.

The start of a long, cool, downhill on d999

It was cool - about 60 F - so I had to stop and put on my wind vest. I already had on my knee warmers and my long sleeved jersey. I wore the wind vest all day since the temperature never got out of the low 60sand the wind blew, as either a head wind or a cross wind, at 10 to 15 mph almost all day. That long downhill got me almost all of the way to St Affrique, the big town in this area of the Midi Pyrenees. It was obviously market day in that town. It took a long time to get through town becasue there was so much going on and so many people on the, narrow, streets. I was, as usual, impressed with the civility of the drivers and the geniality of the people. It has such a different feel than a similar situtation in the States!

Market day in Saint-Affrique - this went on for a least a mile
Traffic moved not much faster than the pedestrians

I was passed by this cyclist after Saint Affrique
and saw him again coming back later. He has a good smile!

Even before St Affrique, I had to put a shower cap on my camera because of burst of light rain. After St Affrique, reality struck. I knew there was big bump between St Affrique and St Sernin. They are in two diffrent river valleys and Albi is in a third - the Tarn. The climbng into Lauras was climbing out of yet another river valley. I expected a similar cimb when D999 left the valley where St Affrique is located. I got it, but then it just kept climbing. After over 1000 feet of vertical grades between 5% and 10%, I was able to see the new valley - the Rance valley. It certainly was pretty, but that was pretty hard climb - into a moderate headwind, of course, and with intermittent light rain. I kind of hoped that would be the worst climbing of the day, but, of course, there was this great descent into Saint Sernin and an even bigger climb back out of that valley.

Climbing - it went on and on with several false tops
including the one in this image

Saint Sernin - neat town on the Rance river

Those long climbs take a lot of time - I climb at about 500 m per hour on my loaded bike - so it was after noon when I reached St Sernin. I stopped in town and considered my eating options. Since my tummy was still working on food from Lauras, I decided to wait till St Albans, 20 km 'down' the road. That down turned out to be almost entirely up and those 20 km took a lot longer than I though they would. The climb out of Saint Sernin was over 400 m in maybe 5 km of switchback going up the side of the valley. Not as easy climb, but the views helped make it enjoyable. After I reached the top of the steep part of that climb, it started raining hard enough that I put my camera away. I put on my rain gear at the same time, but took it off ten minutes later. I didn't take the camera out again.

The climb out of Saint Sernin to the west is a bunch of switchbacks

This is what Saint Sernin looks like from 400 meters up

And this is looking down another valley from nearly the same viewpoint

When I got to St Albans, it was 2 PM; almost everything closes before 2 PM. There was no way to get a meal in St Albans, but I was able to stop at a store and get Coke and some granola to help me on my way. Actually, the way after St Albans was mostly a gradual downhill and the riding was much easier that before St Albans. I was cruising at close to 20 mph for much of that part of the trip. I stopped half a dozen miles before Albi at a bar for an expresso and a bathroom break, then cruised on into town.

Coming into Albi wasn't bad riding, and the riding got better as I got nearer the old town. The center of town is a Cathedral, so I aimed for that and, after some problems caused by streets closed for construction, I got there. The tourist info place was nearby and they told me where I could find an internet cafe. Then I wandered around till I found a hotel near the internet cafe. It is a three star hotel with a very fancy restaurant, where folks are having a grand supper as I write this. Supper here is from 7:30 to 9:30. That doesn't mean you can come in at 8 or 8:30. That means you will spend two hours eating supper. I learned my lesson about eating a big meal that late last night, so, after I cleaned up and went to the internet cafe, I ate a sandwich at a place on the main square near here about 6 PM. Then I wandered around town a bit. When I got back to this hotel at 7 PM, there were probably 25 people in the courtyard talking and visiting and waiting for supper. The French take eating very seriously! Unfortunately, their eating habits and eating schedule don't work very well for bicycle tourists!

Today I saw no other tourists - I figure those nasty hills scare 'em off - but I did get cheered several times by passing motorists. That really helps when I am grinding up long steep hills!

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