Leaving Aude, entering Tarn, at the high point on the way to Mazamet
This area is known as the Black Forest
It does look like the Black Forest area of Germany
Mazamet from D118 on a hazy morning
For the last two days, I have taken the high road. Today I took the low road. Instead of continuing up onto the next ridge in the Massif Central, I took the roads that follow the valleys. I still climbed over 2000 feet, but I descended a lot more than I climbed, and it took about six hours of riding to get to my planed destination, Clermont l'Heuralt. If I had taken the high road, I'm sure it would have taken several hours more.
After a good breakfast, and a stop at the store in Les Martys for bread and fruit, I rode D 118 to Mazamet. It was ten miles, but only the first mile or two had any climbing. Then D 118 entered the Tarn Department and became a fast downhill ride to Mazamet. Mazamet is a big town with lots of services, and it was busy on Sunday morning, but I didn't need the services, or the traffic, so I rode out of town on N 112 heading east/northeast.
Despite being a major road, N 112 is very pretty
And it has a Col on it
N 112 was flat to gently rolling at first, but then it developed some pretty good climbs. Almost at the top of one of them, I had my first bad riding experience in this part of France. There was a bit shoulder, and I was on it, so I wasn't paying much attention to the traffic. Then a car came by so fast and so close that it felt like my shirt was jerked as it passed. I'd guess it missed my bags by less than a foot at 100 kph or better. I yelled US obscenities by reflex, but I suspect the driver didn't even notice I was there. This behaviour is MUCH less common in France than in the US, almost every driver is very careful about bicycles here. Part of this is civility - which is definitely lacking in the States, part of it is training - US drivers training is a joke compared European driver training, and part is liability - if a car his a cyclist here, the car is at fault unless it can prove otherwise.
One of the climbs on N 112 turned out to be to a Col, Col Femille, but I suspect that was because of the climb in the other direction which is much longer. It is strange how D 118 climbing over a 800+ m high ridge doesn't have a Col, but N 112, climbing less than half that height even on the hard side, has a Col. There were several other places today where the road climbed more than N 112 does at Col Femille, but no other Cols.
I rode N 122 down to Saint-Pons-de-Thomières, a distance of about 25 miles, then I took D 908 from there to Clermont-l'Hérault. N 122 is nice, D 908 is spectacular. Both follow deep mountain valleys. D 908 follows the river Orb for more than 25 miles. The scenery is stunning, and on much too grand a scale to photography well. Wow.
The medieval village of Olargues
The setting of Olargues
The river Orb valley from D 908
The river Orb
Climbing out of Bédarieux
Riding the ridge - there are lot of motorcycles on these roads
Later on the ridge
And descending on an 8% grade
The view out my window