I slept a bit fitfully last night, all night wondering where I was and where Ben was, but I suppose that is part of the territory when you change locations as often as we have been lately. For whatever reason, I woke up just before dawn and when it was finally light enough outside to see the weather, we noted the clear blue, and got on the road once again hoping to avoid the forecast of rain.
The day was beautiful albeit a bit cold when we set out through miles of farmland that looked strikingly similar to Cache Valley on the century ride we do every year. I thought of how anxious I tend to feel before a big organized ride and it occurred to me that I feel like it is “race day” pretty much every morning when we roll out of camp, not knowing what adventures will find us that day.
Our first bit of riding contained some really awful bumpy roads compliments of our GPS (it seems to have a thing for road with bad potholes) and we quickly rerouted ourselves to a fairly quiet highway that seemed to actually be maintained. Within minutes though, the wind kicked up and we were fighting a fierce headwind.
As someone who grew up water skiing, the only thing I could think was how unfair it was that the wind was blowing this hard at 7:30 in the morning. Getting up early nearly always guarantees still skies, but not today. It was actually a relief when our flat road headed up into some mountains, blocking the wind and actually speeding our pace despite the incline. All the while, I was looking side to side at the foothills of what are rapidly turning into Alps and wondering what on earth I had gotten myself into. My legs aren’t as strong as Ben’s and every day, I work hard for every mile and lots of days I find myself wondering if I am physically or mentally cut out for the process of bike touring.
By the time we’d been on the road for 90 minutes, we were climbing through a canyon in the middle of pretty much nowhere with beautiful vistas on either side. The grade wasn’t impossibly steep and the day had warmed up nicely and I finally found my pedaling groove that I hoped would carry me through the bulk of our miles for the day. We stopped to look at a cool windmill though, and within minutes of being back on the road, Ben announced from behind me that his chain had just snapped.
A couple of his links had seemed a bit bent and we had intended to get to looking at them last night, but simply ran out of time. We carry a spare chain and a couple of master links with us all the time, but we quickly discovered that our tool set somehow doesn’t include a chain break that we needed to remove the broken link. Ben got to work with his hex keys and the vice grips to try to pry it off.
After a fair bit of work, the finally managed to free the problem link and he replaced it with a spare and before an entire hour had gone by, we were back on the road. We used the break to eat a quick snack and sunscreen as well so we wouldn’t have to stop again.
As we rolled away again, my body had cooled and I was no longer pounding out miles with such enthusiasm. Fortunately, the scenery was lovely and the traffic not to heavy and we were on a long stretch of downhill from our canyon climb.
We passed the town of Sisteron and its impressive citadel and quickly paused so Ben could head up a small hill for a good photo op. While I waited for him, an older French gentleman came out of his house to check out my bike. He spoke not a word of English, so after we exchanged ‘bonjours’ a fair bit of miming went on about how much the bike weighed and how far we were riding, and he kept repeating “bien, bien” in approval. He waved and headed up the hill where he apparently wished Ben well also.
The final portion of our ride contained miles of foothills, weaving in an out of an occasional town where we literally never saw anyone at all. Lunchtime around here is so unbelievably quiet it is almost unnerving.
Mostly, we rolled through farmland and orchards where we saw lots of trees covered with white nets. We are unsure what they were growing (we suspect some kind of fruit or nutt) or what the nets were for, but Ben really liked them and stopped at least a couple of times to photograph them.
I was mentally prepared for a big climb into our campground as predicted by the elevation profile we looked at last night, but my legs weren’t as excited about all the miles we had already covered today. Just as I was starting to get concerned about how I was going to handle any major mountains though, we simply rolled along the flat road into “Du Lac Camping” which has had us thinking of Shrek all afternoon. The campground was fairly vacant and certainly not the ‘perfect place’ from the song, but we were glad to have the tent up before the predicted afternoon rain showed up. Extra points when we realized we had free wifi access as well!
We took a quick ride into town during a break in the rain for a few groceries, some ice cream, and some more allergy medicine for Ben. He has been sniffling ever since we started our tour!
Today marks our one month mark of having been on the road and I’ve been thinking a lot about our tour. My dad asked me last night how we were feeling about our three month period after being here four weeks. Ultimately, I suppose it just depends on the day, or even the minute! Cycle touring has been a pretty intense experience for someone like me who likes to have things planned out and who doesn’t have legs of steel. A ride that Ben considers “dead flat” tends to have enough hills to keep me panting for the bulk of the day and it doesn’t help that he loves all things mountainous! I am always having a bit of a mental battle with myself, willing my pedal strokes up ever next hill and constantly reminding myself that I can and should do hard things. I find myself lecturing my inner whine that choosing to be uncomfortable from time to time (and sometimes daily) only helps me grow.
Most days though, I spend a good portion of the day wondering how I’m lucky enough for this to be my life. Every day we see beautiful things and meet such interesting people that we would have missed if we traveled any other way. I have watched my body composition change quickly- I thought I was in pretty good shape but I have gotten so much stronger! Also, my appetite has grown into what Ben has now named “the ravenous beast.” Seriously, I think I put away more than double the amount of food I used to eat at home, and I am always on the lookout for the next thing I can eat!
Every day, we have a new adventure together and it has become the ultimate “team building activity.” In our two and a half years of marriage, we’ve had to rely on each other a fair bit, but this trip has taken things to a new level. Our proverbial wagons are hitched together so closely that every decision we make affects the other person on a micro level. The time we have had together to chat the days away and dream about our life together is priceless. I am forever grateful to have such an amazing partner to share this journey with who carries far more than “his share” of the work as we travel. He navigates, he pilots the heaviest bike, he runs the technical aspect of our blog and, he does all the complicated bike maintenance. Further, he cooks at least half the time and does at least half of the dishes, leaving me wondering why he brought me along at all! I am one lucky girl!