The weather reports here are often quite unpredictable which is a bit of a problem for two people very bent on avoiding the rain. As we have been somewhat concerned regarding the weather for the next couple of days, we have paid very close attention to various sources for forecasts. We rolled into camp last night looking at three different reports – one said that it had already rained, one said that we would have partially cloudy skies without very much chance of rain, and a final report claimed that it would rain for the next 3 days. Erring on the side of caution, we decided that a rest day would be in order in the next day or two to avoid the worst of the thunderstorm and to give our legs a break.
We woke up this morning to low, dark, swirling clouds overhead. There seemed to be glimpses through them into blue skies, but it seemed that the last forecast – the one predicting rain – would likely be the winner. Not particularly liking our campground’s location near the military base where we could hear soldiers shouting in unison throughout the evening and its unusually dull location (in the middle of nothing awesome), we decided to try to make it to a campsite about 65 km to the northwest.
Not knowing how long the weather would hold, we hurriedly broke down camp while eating a rushed breakfast of plums and baguettes (which, by the way, are amazing AND cheap here) and were rolling out of camp by 8:15. In an effort to beat the rain, we didn’t poke around much, and took very direct routes instead of weaving through the small towns accessed only by small, relatively unused roads off of the highway. As soon as we rolled out of the campsite, however, we were slapped with the stark realization that we had to climb what is probably the steepest hill in the history of cycling.
Feeling a little fresher than last night when I rode it last to talk to Bree, I made it up the hill that rivals even Hidden Lake Drive above the Eaglewood Golf Course. While waiting for Bree to meet me (she gave her legs a break and pushed her bike), I knew that today was not going to be my day. Between not eating enough for breakfast and a recent weight redistribution between our bikes in an effort to level out our cycling speeds, my legs weren’t feeling it.
We buzzed through dull suburbs as we headed for Draguinan, stopping only once for an ATM run and a couple of mid-morning pastries.
I miss Italy’s phonetic language in which we could at least attempt to pronounce the words. In France, I cannot pronounce anything – much less remember its name. That said, Draguinan was, in all of my American sensitivity and ignorance, referred to as dragon-land. As we pedaled into the town, a picture of a dragon backdropped the city’s name. As we pedaled further into the city center, dragons adorned each light post. Maybe we aren’t so ignorant after all!
The scrubby terrain of the south has transformed into something that resembles Tuscany. The hills aren’t as steep, though vineyards and an occasional olive grove graces the countryside. It does, however, lacks the rustic simplicity that Tuscany had, instead feeling a bit less tamed. Bree is in love with the rolling hills and various towns here, and even moreso the architecture of the villas that serve as center points for various fields, vineyards, and orchards.
For the first time today I had a hard time keeping up any kind of pace. I’m not sure what was wrong with my legs, but they started giving out around kilometer 40. Realizing that we might outrun the storm if we hurried, we decided to be a little more aggressive with our riding and shoot for a rest day in Aups. Bree had no problem with the hills, but as the kilometers rolled by, I started dragging. I now know how Bree feels as I drag her up mountain after mountain. It’s hard!
We finally made it to Aups, by which point I was starving and dehydrated, though Bree was still pedaling strong. The first and only campsite that the GPS had record of proved to be somewhat expensive and also closed for the afternoon (to open again in the evening)which was not encouraging based on the impending rain clouds, so we decided to pursue some other options that we had noted signs for coming into town. After I struggled up a couple of hills a few kilometers out of town in pursuit of option 2, we decided it too far from town and hoped that our final option would pan out.
After a quick ride through town and down a dirt road alongside some fields, we made it to camp in which Bree mimed her way into a campsite (everyone seems to speak English in the bigger cities, but out here in the country, not so much). It is inexpensive, has internet and electricity and nice hot showers, and is very beautiful and quiet. Perfect! We set up the tent and loaded in all our belongings just in time for the rain to start and the thunder to roll. We sat on the floor of the tent and basically inhaled our open faced sandwiches and bars of chocolate and then took an afternoon nap and got cleaned up for the day. We are excited to be in such a cool town in this tiny campsite for our rest day tomorrow.