After a good breakfast this morning and a slow packing up process after being stationary for a few days, we rolled out of our camp at the base of the Alpe d’Huez. Although the mountains had caused me a fair bit of angst, I was actually sad to be leaving their towering majestic atmosphere and the beautiful sunrises and sunsets we’ve seen in the past few days.
With crystal clear skies, we headed finally downhill towards Grenoble. We rolled quickly along in the cool morning and both Ben and I were thrilled to actually be going somewhere with some amount of speed. It has been a tough change to ride on these heavy bikes after so many years on our ultra light bikes at home!
The scenery wasn’t as show stopping as that which we’ve seen in previous days and we had a lot of distance planned (83 km) so we pedaled with a fair sense of purpose, not stopping as often for photos and snacks. Unfortunately, during our big climb yesterday, Ben managed to get himself really quite sunburned and today he ended up feeling like it would be a good idea to wear his long sleeve base layer to keep his skin protected. As the day warmed up though, this plan got pretty uncomfortable. When we made a mid morning grocery run (and had some fellow shoppers very concerned about why we were eating ice cream at 10:30 in the morning but hey, it was hot outside!), he ran down and soaked his shirt in the nearby river. He said it was cold, but by the time we had been back on the bikes for 30 more minutes, it was bone dry and he was back to being really hot.
We stretched through miles of well kept suburbs today on pretty quiet streets and I think we actually passed more grocery stores today than we have in more than a week before now. Although I miss the quiet roads of the countryside, it was nice to know that at least we had some resources at our disposal! The best part though, was the very gentle rolling hills that kept us climbing only a bit, and coasting just as often. After so many mountainous days, it was such a nice change!
By 1:30, we only had about 10 km left to go for the day, when like clockwork, the road turned deadly steep. We were both hot and tired and getting hungry, and the wind was blowing pretty hard in our faces. Obviously we should have stopped for lunch long before we reached that point, and finally we got some sense and stopped to eat before climbing whatever was ahead to our campground. With a quick break in the shade, some food, and Ben’s shirt once again kind of wet, we begrudgingly headed up around another mountain.
My legs had been feeling pretty good on the fairly flat sections of road that we’d covered most of the day, but my climbing muscles were pretty well defeated yesterday and every bit of uphill felt like a battle. I wanted to be out of the sun and drinking something cold, and I did not want to climb up any more hills! As I brainstormed all the places I would rather be than sweating hard, pedaling my bike up a French mountain, I realized that despite my discomfort, that days like this were the reason my legs are as strong as they are and honestly, we were almost there anyway. Gratefully, just as my legs were truly running out of gas, the terrain leveled out a bit and we finished a gentle climb into the campsite.
We were greeted by a friendly guy in broken English who lives near and manages the site. We picked a nice shady place to get set up and and took a long rest under the big trees listening to the nearby pasture of sheep, each wearing a bell. It was so nice! There are far less bugs here than we’ve seen in other places and we enjoyed actually sitting in the grass and just hanging out. The heat had really gotten to Ben after a whole day in long sleeves, and he got a good nap while I got showered and started dinner.
Tomorrow we head toward Chambery to meet our friends that we met a few weeks ago. We are so excited!