Day 13: Saillagouse to Les Martys, France

Climbing out the valley at the start of the ride

Five miles and 1000 feet of climbing later!

La Llagonne from D 118

It was a very unusual ride today. I started out to ride to Carcassonne, considered changing my destination to Perpignan after climbing a lot in the first five miles - Col de la Preche! - but headed north to Carrcassone on D 118 in the end. I went for the harder - I thought, but more interesting ride. I turned out to be much easier than I expected, with an initial climb almost as high as the 1800 m I saw yesterday, followed by the longest downhill I have every ridden. D 118 follows the Aude river for more than 50 miles, most of it downhill. There is something like 40 miles of downhill - OK with some very occasional uphill - in the 40 miles from Col da la Quillane, at 1715 meters to Quillam! Wow!

This is the Aude river down where it is slow and gentle
most of the first 40 miles was whitewater

D 118, for most of those downhill miles, was quite bumpy

The high point of todays ride

I stopped at a market in Formigučres to get some fruit, I stopped in the middle of the long downhill to snack, and I stopped at a fancy Hotel in Quillam for lunch. That 40 miles took less than three hours to ride. Of course the first ten miles which included two Cols. took more than an hour. Still, 50 miles in 4 hours isn't bad for touring. Lunch was great -I love being in France!

Here is part of the market in Formigučres

And the road marker before AxAt

And D 118 when it barely fits between the walls of the gorge

I rode on another 30 miles to Carcassonne. It was getting hot - I think I'm in heat wave this summer - and I actually had to pedal quite a bit. The biggest problem was that, after Limoux, D118 becomes an access road for the A 61 Autoroute that runs by Carrcassone. Traffic was heavier and faster on that section.

I rode into Carcassonne with high expectations

And left it half an hour later

Carcassonne had been one of my routing points last year, but I shortened that section of the route and eliminated it. This year, coming in from the south instead of the east, I put it in again. When I got there, I found yet another medieval town that has been converted to a shopping mall, and, unlike Barcelona, it wasn't even a fun shopping mall. Moreover, on Saturday, the 14th of June, which is the official start of summer here, it was going to be hard to find a room in this, tourist trap, town. I'd ridden 85 miles in six hours and, thanks to the long downhills my legs still felt pretty good. I decided to ride on towards my next destination, Mazamet.

Only 40 km to Mazamet - I can do that in a couple of hours

Two hours and 21 km later - damn, this is hard!

Boy, was I happy to join these folks at the Auberge in Les Martys

On my way out of Carcassonne, I found two wonderful things. The first was the Canal du Midi! I had no idea it ran through Carcassonne. I bicycled along it last summer, but much farther north. The second was an Intermarche store. I stopped, got YOP - a yogurt drink - bread, water and cheese. I already had a liter of coke, and, after drinking the YOP - I never take it with me - and eating part of the bread, I felt really 'rich' with all the stuff I needed to ride to Mazamet.

I still hoped I could find a place to stay in the Villagailhenc. There was a hotel, but it was full. Right after Villagailhenc, the climbing started. And it kept up, consistently, for the next 25 km. I did over two thousand feet of climbing before finding a place to stay. I rode 105 miles and climbed 4500 feet in just under nine hours today. That was a rough day, but the folks I met at the end of the day were great!

At Les Marty's, only a few km before the top of the climb, I saw an Auberge with two couples sitting at a table outside. I rode down to near where they were, parked my bike, and asked about a room. I not only got a room and a good breakfast, I got to join them while the four - the couple who owned the place and a second couple who are their good friends - had supper. Since this is France, that took the next several hours. I didn't eat - I had made my bread, cheese, and Coke supper less than and hour earlier - but I had a beer, a scotch on the rocks, a glass of wine, some bread, some pate, and, for desert, ice cream. The ice cream part was after I excused myself to clean up after and came back to join them again. I don't speak French, and their English was very limited, but we had a great time together.

It really was rough pushing myself for hours to keep climbing: I had problems with cramping so that I would have to walk pushing my bike - 3.5 mph instead of 5 to 6 mph - and I had problems with exhaustion. It was physically much more challenging than the pass in the Pyreneese, but it wasn't nearly as boring . I also got cheered by several folks along the way and, by a fellow who had been at the hotel in Villagailhenc, toasted for my persistence in climbing that LONG hill as I neared the top. Then I got a wonderful evening with new friends. France is like that!

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