October 4, 2021
In Avignon we got our bikes back on the road for the final push to Barcelona. This would be the last 350 Km for Scott and Gillian, before returning home to Portland, OR.
It would also be a shift in style for me. After Barcelona, I am planning to spend much of October enjoying Portugal with my family and friends. This would use up the last of my 90day visa waiver, thus I would be required to leave Western Europe (Shengen Area).
On the train ride down to Avignon, Scott and I discussed his interest in ‘getting out on the edge’. Meaning, he wanted to learn the navigation tools and take control of the tour. It was a good idea.
In the few days after arriving in Avignon he and Gillian had developed sufficient knowledge of how Komoot worked. We parted ways after Aigues-Mort and agreed we would probably meet up again in Barcelona.
The days ahead was a charming ride down the Mediterranean coast on my own. Riding through many port towns, both small and large. Each of these towns had sandy beaches and warm crystal blue water. Each was nestled into the rocky coastal hills and separated from one another by scenic mountain roads cut into the rocks 100m or more above the ocean surface.
Though there was only one main road through most of it, there was not much automobile traffic. Mostly I felt I had the road to myself. I met many cyclists there too. It was very peaceful, very beautiful; in spite of the challenging climbs with my 50kg bike.
Though my language skills were lacking, the folks I met along the way made me feel quite welcome here. It is well worth memorializing this.
It was good fun talking with Paddy from Limerick, Ireland. Old guys on bikes have the best perspectives on things.
Some 6 years ago, I stayed in Limerick. It was a very good moment with some fine locals from Ireland, though I still have many questions about why they were so interested in me.
It seemed to me that the Irish are remarkably generous and fun loving people. I hoped that Paddy could explain this behavior.
I remember they were worried that we might actually elect Trump as president. I laughed and explained that he would not likely make it through the primaries…
I got great advice from the hotelier in Vias Plage. He too is a cyclist and knew the area well. He told me I needed to hug the coast going south. It would be more climbing, but well worth it. We looked over my Komoot plan in detail. We made valuable edits.
Cruising down the beach cycleway in Sete, France, I met a French couple from Lyon. Lionel is a professional firefighter in the city of Lyon. His wife, Cristelle also works in Lyon. They were on a long weekend at the beach.
I started drafting the two while riding at an easy pace. At some point, Lionel handed off something to Christelle which enabled them to go much faster. It took a lot of effort on my part to keep up, but I managed to hang on for several kilometers.
We stopped at the end of the path. They showed me what they were using (see photos above).
The steel cable on a spring loaded spool was attached to Lionel’s seat post. The looped end could be handed off to Christelle. She attached it to her stem in some kind of quick release mechanism.
This enabled Lionel to tow Christelle. If needed, Christelle could quickly release it. I was fascinated by this. They were curious about my bike as well.
We ambled south for several kilometers more, talking in English the whole time. They apologized for not having better mastery of the language. I was most impressed.
Lionel rescues people for a living and trains other firefighters to do the same. He spends a lot of time training with technical climbing gear. He also works rescuing skiers in the French Alps which is only 25 minutes by helicopter from Lyon. He loves his work and tells great stories about it.
In his spare time he also races mountain bikes in Europe. He also did PBP which got us swapping stories of sleep deprivation and the weird hallucinations that can result.
“When you’ve been riding all night long through the California farmlands and in the pre dawn your riding buddy tells you he sees crawdads in the road, you know it is only a matter of time before you start seeing the crawdads too.”
We ambled toward Agde and found a nice spot to have lunch in the harbor. They bought me a savory pie filled with squid and tomato for lunch. It was quite good actually. They said it was a traditional food from this area. Unfortunately, I cannot remember the French name for it.
So, I arrived in Barcelona earlier this week. Scott and Gillian have been cycling on a different path but we met again in Barcelona. Here we shared an Airbnb for a few days. It gave us a chance to be together and say goodbye before they headed back to Oregon.
I have been busy getting my ducks lined up for the next leg. However as luck would have it there are no ferries to Africa from Spain, due to the pandemic. There may be some starting next month. Unfortunately that will not work for me because of my visa waiver expiration this month.
Plan B: I will return to the US following my tour of Portugal this month. There I will get a student visa to study Spanish in Barcelona. After that? Don’t know yet