Day 15: near Nimes to Pertius, France

D973 near Lauris - easy riding with a bike lane near the end of the day

N 113 11 KM from Arles, early in the day. also easy riding
I ate at that restaurant last year

Although I sometimes forget where I am riding, medieval towns always remind me I'm not in the States
This section of road is on the same road as the first image above and is more typical

I left Hotel du France about 9:30 this morning, after saying goodbye to Paul, the owner. I enjoyed Paul's company last year when I stayed at his hotel, and told him I try to be back. It was great to be there again and to visit with Paul and his wife. This year he promised me a discount if I came back again .

Paul told me "Left, Left, Right" on the way out. so I did left, right and ended up back on D 135 instead of N 113. Since the trafiic was heavy and I took a while to figure out what I'd done wrong, I wasted about 20 minutes on that wrong turn. Once I was on N 113, I had a fast ride to Arle, averaging nearly 20 mph. This part of France has a strong wind from the north at this time of the year, and I was going south.

Speaking of this time of the year, I confirmed with Paul that it had been and is, unusually hot. I think it is at least 10 degress F hotter this summer, in mid June, than it was last year in early July! I've been, and am again tonight, suffering from hot rooms. The hotels here are not designed for this heat and sleeping, as well as creating these reports, is less pleasant in an uncomfortably hot room! the only cool, non air conditioned room I've had in France was at 2500 ft in the 'Black Forest.' The rooms at Hotel du France have better ventilation than where I am tonight, plus I had a fan there, so it was OK. With no fan and only one window, sleeping may be a problem for me tonight.

Vaucluse Department - a part of Provence

I'm in Pertius, a town I'd never heard of which is in Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, but farther east than I have been before. Last year I rode north from Marseille to Sault, on my way to Mt Ventoux. I crossed that part of my route about ten miles before I stopped today. I started the day by, after I got to N 113, riding the reverse of the reverse of a later part of last years ride. It is kind of fun to be places in Europe where I have been before.

When I got to Arles, I got off N 113 at D 17, the exit before N 113 merges with E 80 and gets very bicycle unfriendly. There is an old, bicycle friendly, bridge across the Rhone that you can eaily get to from that exit. On the other side of the river, I instinctively (?) turned left and rode a few hundred yards on a pedestrian/bicycle street and came out in a major square - City Hall is there - that I knew from last year. I then rode directly across that square to an internet access place that had been closed when I was there last year. It was open. I was really pleased with myself until I discovered that it was service for Arles residents only. The fellow running it was very nice and told me how to get to 'the Cyber Cafe' It was only half a dozen blocks away and, other than riding the wrong way on a one way street, easy to get to.

I got there, went in, saw that the machines had floppy drives and appeared to be running standard Windows. Wow, I could do my uploads! I spent the next half an hour fighiting with those deliberately crippled excuses for computers and their French keyboards. I couldn't ftp because Windows FTP screws up with foreign keyboards. I couldn't use a web mail interface to attach my archived web pages because the system wouldn't allow my to attach large files (less than a MB). I could use Windows badly broken telnet, to, sort of, check my mail, but I couldn't run my own version from the floppy because the machine wouldn't let me do that. I managed to send one mail message in half an hour. Did I mention that the first machine crashed after about ten minutes when I tried, using a method I've used successfully before, to cut and paste between Telnet and FTP? Arghhh! I wasted about an hour, and paid two Euros for very little effect, before I gave up. France is really a bad place for internet access. Portugal and Spain are both MUCH better.

I tired to leave Arles on D 17, but ended up on N 453 instead. It is a really nice road that seems to have been supplanted by N 113. It is flat, tree lined almost the entire way to Saint-Martin-de-Crau, and, when the pavement is good - about half the time - it is great riding. When the pavement is bad, it is like the bad roads in Portugal. I had such a bad problem with intermittently bad pavement today that I cut my day short to avoid some serious seat problems. Note that I have wide tires (700x37) run at relatively low pressure (probably about 50 lbs) and a supension seat post and my butt is still getting beat up by some of these roads. Actually, it isn't just my butt. my upper body suffers too, despite my suspension stem. Some of these roads are so bad that I don't know how folks can stand to ride them with road bikes.

I rode N 453 to Saint-Martin-de-Crau, had lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant, and then had to ride N 113 to Salon. That wasn't much fun. Although N 113 runs right alongside the Autoroute, there is heavy truck taffic and lots of car traffic on N 113. Sometimes it has a rideable shoulder, sometimes it has an unrideable shoulder, and sometimes it has no shoulder. Other than two SOB car drivers that passed into me when there was not a rideable shoulder, I never felt in danger, but the narrow road, heavy truck traffic, and - I was heading east - the strong cross wind coming across the road through the traffic made riding unpleasant. I only had to ride it for 15 miles, but I still stopped once for break, just to get away from that bad riding.

The Jean Moulin Route

Goes over a ridge north of Salon

And then there is good riding on D 23 on the way to D 973

When I got to Salon, had a hard time finding the road I wanted going north. I ended up finiding it by simply riding east across town, often on small one way streets, till I came to what looked like a major road heading north. Navigation by compass often works pretty well. Of course, this morning it got me on the wrong road to Salon...

Heading north out of Salon, I passed a beautiful monument to Jean Moulin. It's major feature was a large statue of a woman looking like she was about to launch from a diving board. The road, N 538, is designated as the Jean Moulin route and the markers say " Chemin de la Liberte" which sounds pretty heroic to me. If I had internet access, I'd find out who Jean Moulin was. (Note added - He was a major French Resistance figure and his ashes are now in the Pantheon.)

About six miles north of Salon, after N 538 climbs over a big ridge where the road runs next to a huge canal and the Autoroute runs on the other side of the canal, a road marked as D 17 D, and the canal, head off to the north-east. The road becomes D 23 in a few miles and runs gently down and across the big valley behind the ridge. Somewhere in there it becomes D 32. The valley is the Durance river valley which runs east to a point where several rivers, including the Verdon, come together.

On the far side of the valley, D 973 - which is marked as a bicycle route (!) - runs, mostly next to the railroad tracks that go up the valley. D 973 has some wonderful section where, with a good tail wind and a bike lane, I was cranking along in the high teens. It also has older sections that reminded me of Portugal! When it reaches Cadnet, it climbs into the town and then stays farther away from the tracks in hillier country. That was the part that finaly did in my butt. Climbing into town meant lots of bumpy riding. Riding in any French small town seem to mean bumpy roads- riding out of Salon I alomst hit a car because a bump in the road literally tossed my front wheel into the air. I caught it, but with a swerve the took the wheel within inches of a car that was passing me.

After Cadnet, the road was narrow, had lots of wonderful trees planted rght next to it, and had a lot of traffic. I had to ride next to the edge of the road, even though it was extremely bumpy with tree roots and potholes. A few miles of that battering made it obvious that I was on my way to a saddle sore unless I got some relief. I stopped at a side road and applied some Chamy Butt'r, which helped, and decided I would stop for the day at the next town. I have about 45 miles of (hilly) riding to get to the Grand Canyon of Verdon tomorrow. I'm looking forward to it.

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