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Old 11-03-2012, 12:51 PM   #15
MikeO OP
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Joined: Jul 2002
Location: Scarning, Norfolk, today...
Oddometer: 6,661
3rd November 2012 - Continued…

The Adv’s packed and I’m on the road at 0900 heading towards dry weather and perhaps a little sunshine…

I get both straight away, as Bettie directs me onto a wide, fast N-road (National) heading vaguely southwest.



The road is the outer ring for St Etienne, by the look of it. There are some huge Stalinist apartment blocks built on the hillside

For the first time this trip, I’m not wrapped to the eyeballs in waterproofs and I feel that I can take time to smell the roses – which is what travelling is all about (to me, anyway). There is a blue sky, decorated with a mackerel skin of stratus, a light breeze from the right and it’s about 55° F.

Life is good…

My target for tonight is Narbonne, where I have a room booked. Bettie reckons I’ll be there for 1430 if I don’t stop.

I intend to stop.



For the time being I'm going to let Bettie get me away from the city - we're heading for a favourite destination of mine in this part of the world - Le Puy-en-Velay.



I use the 110kph limit as a guideline. The Adv is running well and all's right with the world. The misery of the last couple of days fades into memory.



I see a lot of these - each signifying someone killed in a road collision at that spot. Sometimes three or four together...



Onwards!



I start the descent into Le Puy - I intend to refuel here...



Always time for a bridge shot, though...

Le Puy is famous for the enormous volcanic plugs that rise out of the valley floor...



...and more so for what they've built atop them...



I went up there one summer. There isn't a lift, you know...



The red sandstone Madonna & Child on the other outcrop is obviously having a makeover.

I fill the tank at an Intermarche and set off back onto my planned route...



Stopping for a couple of pics as I climb out of Le Puy...



Aah - the pleasure of wearing unlined gloves...



I'm smiling behind the visor...



I get cracking again - great roads and a route I'll definitely be keeping to redo on a summer trip. There's some weather on the horizon to my right, but that's not where I'm headed.

The road climbs and the temperature - in Le Puy a comfortable 58° F, drops to the mid 40s. The humidity is high, which makes the change more noticeable - I switch the heated grips on and ease the power on to my heated jacket.

Well, any fool can be uncomfortable, can't they?



The chap in the silver car was doing 45kph in a 90kph zone - with solid lines preventing overtaking. The Golf and I were forced to sit behind him for eight kilometres, before we both turned off to the right at the same junction.



I'm soon past the Golf as well, heading down some narrower, more interesting D-roads, ultimately heading towards the city of Mende...



Just short of Mende, I pull off into a roadside Aire to have a breather and spend some time chatting to some friends at home. My Vodafone £3 per day Euro Traveller deal means I get to use my phone anywhere in Europe as if I was at home - in my case unlimited calls & texts and 2Gb of data...

It's now a beautiful morning, with the temperature brushing 60° F and bright sunshine. It feels a lifetime away from yesterday afternoon.



Time to move on.

As I enter Mende, I remember that this is the stepping off point for the Gorges du Tarn - a route I discovered by accident when travelling solo several years ago and which Peter and I revisited in 2009 (I think). I turn off my pre-planned route and head for the gorges.

Until I'm distracted...



OK - I need some lunch...



I get a ham salad baguette and a bag of assorted pastries, together with Lipton's Peach Iced Tea.



My tank bag has an extending zip, which I undo to allow storage of said lunch. My bike gear is not so equipped, alas...

There's a considerable climb over a col to get to the gorge on the Tarn valley - several sets of really tight switchbacks - I'm having flashbacks to the Alps...

Once at the top, there's a lovely area of heathland...



...which gives me the perfect place to stop and have lunch...



The baguette was delicious. Unfortunately, it would appear the bag of pastries was a special offer and they were stale, so went to feed the local wildlife (well, except for one pain-au-raisin).



I ride slowly down the gorge - it's very different from riding here in the summer, where there is a continual stream of riders from all over Europe tearing up and down. It's nice to take a little time and enjoy the views...



It is a great road on a bike, though...



I don't know what effect this deviation from my planned route will have on my ETA - but don't really care...



...which is one of the luxuries of travelling solo...



There are houses built in seemingly impossible places...



...and the Tarn has beautifully clear water. It's full of kayakers and rafters every summer - in fact, dodging crew-buses towing boat trailers is an occupational hazard then. But not on this early November afternoon...



Today it's just me and a load of other (four wheeled) tourists...



Another good reason for taking it easy is the work they've been doing on the road surface. The dreaded Gravillons are everywhere - and quite good at disguising themselves...



It's a great afternoon...



...for a ride though...



I'm smiling inside



Onward!



A crafty bonus for bridge fans...



...and for the sub-set of tunnel freaks...



Can't help myself - I duck when riding along here



This is the Hotel Les Detroits...



Closed for the season, but Peter & I stayed here when we last came through and can recommend it...



I duck through the last of the overhangs and then start making tracks towards Millau - some 20km away...



Famous for its breath-taking viaduct - seen here on the distance - Millau will see me re-join my original route. We won't be going much closer to the viaduct, as I steer the Adv up the twisty and fast D999...



Well, one quick snap then...

I'm too busy to take pictures on the way up, but the road is superb and it crests onto a good fast dual carriageway...



...which is exactly what's required to make some progress towards Narbonne - still 100 miles away...



Strange rock formations on the horizon to my right look like ruined castles, but are completely natural...



A great road with very little traffic...



I'm steered through a small town (Cavaliera??), where they've sympathetically renovated this stone barn as a sort of function centre in the village...



I'm soon back out of town. This was obviously the old road before the AutoRoute was built and it's good and fast...



Sometimes it runs directly alongside the AutoRoute for several miles...



Apart from the crucifix, all this is a natural rock formation...



The village of Le Caylar is big on wood carving, apparently...



That reminds me - it's past my teatime...



This is a beautiful part of the world - and, with the leaves turning, a great time of year to see it...



...as usual, the camera doesn't even begin to do justice to it...



I carry on down the 'Grand Route' and seem to be heading directly for the setting sun...



Through some beautiful avenues of Plane trees...



...and past what - if memory serves me correctly - is a six foot replica of a Humphrey Davy safety lamp. Clearly a mining area, then. It was a town called Le Ruffas.



I've hardly seen any other bikes. This clutch were heading in the opposite direction, then turned around and passed me...



Giving me a racer's wave with their right legs as they did so...



Bridge fans are getting a treat today, aren't they?

I turn off the road where that picture was taken and ride up through the town, where the viaduct just continues...



I'm riding into a low sun now - it's very bright and I really miss the peak on my XD.



I notice a natural phenomenon and stop at the roadside. There are tens of thousands of starlings 'murmating' (I had to look it up). They are moving in a swarm, but with some organisation to it. I watch for several minutes and try to capture it on video. I may try to post a link if I can work out how. It's awe inspiring to stand and watch...

But I must move on.

At 1645 I'm about ten miles out from the hotel and I stop for fuel.

Getting back on the road, I'm relieved to see that the sun's behind a cloud formation...



...that looks disturbingly like a scorpion heading for me - or perhaps I've been on the road too long...

Soon...



I'm given Room Number One - with a parking slot right outside - excellent. I unpack and start to upload 230 pictures.

It has been a very good day...

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