Our first views of the Alps last night had me excited for todays ride. Add on the fact that we were not so fond of our capmground as well as the heavy cotton that surrounds seemingly every riverside campground, and we were ready to hit the road.
After the arduous process of waking up (Bree doesn’t seem to have as much trouble with it) and eating a rushed and unimpressive breakfast of mediocre bread dipped in leftover pesto from last night, and the only snacks or as we call them, energy token – Prince Cookies – we headed north to Gap. As always, we rode quickly in order to avoid the forecasted rain.
We rode, the standard uphill to start. Today’s climbing started quickly and started hard, though, and it was mere minutes before we were stopping on the side of the road to peel off cold weather gear. Since we have climbed in elevation and traveled farther north, the cold mornings have necessitated arm warmers and long sleeves for me, while Bree usually tacks on an extra layer, leg warmers, and a rain coat until the sun warms us up a bit.
While the going was slow and steep, we were mentally prepared for the climb and quickly made it go Gap. Our guide book does not give Gap much credit, but we found it to be quite nice. It has energy, a very quaint old section, and the kick-butt pasticcerias that we have a hard time avoiding. Our time in Gap didn’t last long, though, as we wanted to make it to camp quickly and knew we had a stiff climb out.
The beautifully flat terrain of the river basin that we saw yesterday had all but disappeared as we passed signs warning of 10 and 12% grade markers and multiple switchbacks. We had not expected the roads to be this steep. The valley floor where Gap is situated dropped quickly as we climbed.
Thinking that we would only have the climb out of Gap before we would drop down into our campsite, we were quite disappointed to see a sequence of hills and valleys to be reckoned with. This meant a ton of climbing, and as is often the case, great views. By now the views of the Alps were in full force. I could not seem to capture how absolutely ginormous these mountains are. Every picture I take makes them look puny and distant. It doesn’t help that I was having a remarkably un-artistic day today behind the camera, either.
After hour upon hour of climbing up the side of random mountains on our journey north, we decided that we better stop for lunch since the worst thing that you can do while on the road in the middle of nowhere is run out of fuel. Bree spotted some 16th century ruins as we coasted through a town which I totally missed (surprise, surprise), so we stopped to eat lunch at a picnic table nearby. The ruins are fenced in with chain link so we couldn’t get too close, but Bree got some good pictures anyway. These are the kind of surprises that we have grown accustomed to that would be missed by driving straight down the highway. Maybe we will even reconsider how we road trip in the future?
We finished the day off by climbing and then climbing some more – straight through the heart of several valleys. Ever since coming to Europe I have been obsessed with the Alps. My thing in Italy was to have my hair cut by an Italian Barber. My thing in France is to climb Alp d’Huez, and since we are on bike, that means riding to the base of the Alp d’Huez, which I am now convinced will be harder than the iconic climb itself. My obsession with seeing these mountains and being in them has not yet disappointed. The mountains here are strikingly massive, harsh, and beautiful. Bree is not so enamored, though – possibly due to the fact that we spend most of the hours of our day crunching along at less than 10 mph, or the fact that the snow which still heavily caps many of the peaks in the distance hint at colder temperatures as we climb. She is totally awesome for following me up these massive mountains on this crazy quest.
We rolled into camp complete beat, after 72 km of riding and climbing over 5000 feet through 3 or 4 mountain passes. In order to save our food stores (since there are no markets nearby as we are once again in the middle of nowhere), we decided to eat at the campground restaurant. Now, after a hearty pizza, omelet and salad, we either look forward to or are fearful of our steep climb into Bourg d’Oisans tomorrow.