Day 18: Castellane to Gap, France

Castellane from N 85 while climbing out

I greatly enjoyed my stay at Les Canyons du Verdon, which is the last hotel on N85 heading west out of town. For essentially the same price I paid in Pertuis for a shoddy, minimal, room, I had a room with a kitchenette and a spare bedroom for my bike! More importantly, it was cool and the bed was very comfortable, so I slept well. Tonight I'm at an Ibis (it's a chain) hotel in Gap. I stopped here because I am trying to find some friends who will be in Grenoble for a week starting tomorrow and will be staying at an Ibis hotel. Unfortunately, the folks here couldn't find my friends reservation. I was also here in hope of finding internet access in Gap, but that failed, also.

This was another hard days ride with 3300 feet of climbing and several hours of grinding gently uphill into the wind. It started with a 450 M (1500 ft) climb out of Castellane and went, mostly, downhill from there . Actually I am slightly higher tonight than I was in Castellane. Hmm, so why is it hotter here? It is in the low 80s outside at 9:30 PM.

Gap is neat looking place with real mountains in the background

It is also a busy place with, on N 85, a lot of traffic

Speaking of too much traffic, A 51 ends about ten miles south of gap.
All the autoroute traffic as well as N 85 traffic is on this road

I knew I would have hard climbing getting from Castellane to the Durance Valley, yes the Durance again - it is the main river in the lower part of the wide valley in easter France, but I didn't know that, when N 85 turned north, I would be riding into a headwind as well as climbing. That headwind added at least an hour to my riding time and turned a, relatively, easy day into a hard day. I was exhausted when I finally got into Gap at about 7 PM.

My other problem tody was that my expensive lunch wasn't as good or a substantial as it should have been. In addition to being exhausted, I was hungry when I rode into Gap. I normally have been making my own bread, cheese, and fruit supper, but tonight I stopped at McDs and devoured a supersized (they don't call it that here) Chicken Premiere Menu. Oh, I'll never get over the shame of eating at McDs in France!

When you see the switchback ahead that far above you, you know you are in for a climb

The view looking north from the middle of the climb

Looking back from near the top of the climb
That little squared off thing sticking up beside the weed
on the left hand side is the big rock that dominates Castellone

The high point of this ride

After the initial climb, there was a great long downhill in another river valley.

Here is a view of the valley from near the top of the descent

There is a little tunnel in that rock wall

A more mundane part of the descent near the river

Riding along the river

After I had descended steeply into that valley and had been gently descending along the river for a while, I stopped at a pull off area to eat. There was another bicyclist already there. He is Austrian and riding from Genoa Italy to Geneva Switzerland. He had also done the Gorges du Verdon yesterday and was headed north today. We had a very good visit and then he rode off intending to go right at Digne while I intended to go left. Going right means staying in the mountains while going left means descending into the river valley. He wanted to ride the cols on the way to Gap while I wanted to take the easier route. Given that $!@%^! headwind, it might have been easier to ride those two cols. It is also almost ten miles shorter...

I stopped for lunch at a hotel just before the climb to the second col. This about 10 km from Digne. Lunch wasn't all that it should have been, but I still enjoyed it. Then I climbed the 150 meters to the second col - no big deal - and rode on to Digne. Digne was a bit of a pain with lots of traffic and N 85 heading for the valley was curbed which always makes riding in heavy traffic more dangerous. That only lasted a mile or two, but I got passed by a lot of vehicles, including big trucks and buses, when I could not get out of their way. It would have been dangerous in the US. So would much of the remaining section with moderate traffic, narrow lanes and, most of the time, no shoulder. No big deal in France.


The second col wasn't much

Leaving the mountains on N 85, a look back

Riding north on N 85

The ride down that river to the valley had, except for the last ten miles into Gap, the most traffic of any part of this route. It was OK, but not fun. Once N 85 turned north, it paralleled the autoroute, and therefore had less traffic, until the autoroute ended ten miles before Gap.

The ride north was a real grind, except for the part through Sisteron which is an interesting town. There were also some good view of real mountains and, in some parts, the wind was blocked so that riding wasn't bad. When N85 gets the traffic from A 51, about ten miles south of town, the riding gets harder. That section also has several substantial hills on it and, late in the day, they weren't fun. Speaking of fun, there is an airport just after A 51 ends and I did get to watch a glider which I think had been launched from there, playing in the updrafts for an hour or more. Nice.

A neat bridge over N 85 and A 51, 15 miles or so south of Gap

This is Sisteron, the road goes through that rock with the buildings on it!

The Durance is channeled and right alongside N 85 for much of the ride north

I'll be riding to Grenoble tomorrow, hopefully to visit with my friends. It is only about 60 miles from here, so the ride should be easier than todays ride. I don't really know about the climbing, but I suspect it will be a lot less than todays 3300 feet. Good, my legs are tired!
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