Going Transatlantic. From Montreal to France on a red Ducati.

Discussion in 'Epic Rides' started by Z0RR0, Sep 14, 2011.

  1. Z0RR0

    Z0RR0 Been here awhile

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    Allow me to preface this by mentioning I am also covering this in my blog. At times there will be more on here (like this intro post), other times I might put more pictures over there to keep the thread somewhat manageable.

    Either way, CHECK IT! www.JulienConstans.com

    _____________________

    I've wanted to start this thread for quite a while now. Never knew where or what to start with.

    FWIW I still don't know what I'm doing. But I'll do it anyways. I think peeps will enjoy the whole documenting of this trip.

    So here's the deal.

    I've been in Montreal for quite some time now (12 years), and for various reasons (none making much sense), I decided I'd had enough and needed to gtfo.

    I'm leaving Sunday Sept. 18th.

    Why France? I'm originally french. I can work there if I want to. That's what it comes down to, essentially.

    Oh, and it's pretty, and the food isn't too bad, and there is no winter, and there are mountains, and old stones. Unfortunately it's full of French. Which I'm quite apprehensive about. I hope my fears will be proven wrong.

    Where exactly am I going? Carcassonne. I have family there.
    Yep, Carcassonne, with the medieval city and such.

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    From there, I'll visit the Pyrenees quite a bit since they're right there, and plan on hitting the Alps as well, hopefully before winter. No precise plans, but rest assured there will be many trips.:evil

    I mean ... this is what my backyard will look like.
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    Do I have your attention now?:D

    I've mapped out a few interesting roads. Hopefully they're pleasant in real life.

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    I like to take pictures, so you'll just have to bear with me. There will be many pictures, hopefully documenting every single step of the journey.

    My gear is very basic, but it's rugged and I won't mind losing it. Canon 10D body with Tokina 12-24 and Canon 50mm f1.8 lenses. Again, basic but yields good results and is tough as nails.

    I also have a helmet mounted GoPro HD. I'll use it a lot, but think I'll chicken out when time comes to edit videos. That shit takes time. A lot of it.

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    Now, I know I promised a red Ducati ... so yeah. It's a Duc. And it's red. And shiny. And spent last winter in my living room.
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    Yep, that's snow. First ride this spring.
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    And everyone says you can't tour on them. I don't give a shit. I've done 1,000km days with no problem. Plan on doing it again.
    Little bit of luggage space
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    So that's the transportation. I'll be forward and say it's not too shabby.

    This is how it stands now in my yard, with camping gear and all.
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    How's the bike shipped? Air France Cargo.
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    Damn right.

    I'll go and drop it off tomorrow all loaded up, no crate. Go home, finish packing up, take my plane on Sunday, and on Tuesday the bike will be waiting for me in Toulouse. The trip actually takes 2 days, but it's easier for me to drop it off a bit early.
    This is a ridiculously simple way of transporting a bike. And you'll get great rates if the staff is bike friendly. :evil


    I battled quite a bit with insurance issues as I wanted comprehensive coverage and not just the minimum liability most companies offer. Motorcycle Express came through, and this little thing showed up in my mailbox!
    Can't believe I summed up 4 weeks of research in 2 goddam lines.:huh It's easy once you know.

    GREEN CARD FTW!!
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    So that's that for now!!!

    I'll update this thread and my blog as frequently as possible. I'm hoping I can pictures of the bike being loaded in the plane ... and if I can't, well it'll be pics of me loaded in the plane. Not quite as exciting, I know.:lol3

    ______________________________________

    TL : DR - going to France
    #1
  2. danny4744

    danny4744 Been here awhile

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    :lurk

    Awesome, good luck man!
    #2
  3. Z0RR0

    Z0RR0 Been here awhile

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    Update!

    The bike has boarded the plane.
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    Looks scary. I'm not sure if it'll really land unharmed ... there again, shouldn't move about too much. It'll be a surprise next Tuesday when I pick it up in Toulouse. :)
    #3
  4. AlpineGuerrilla

    AlpineGuerrilla Been here awhile

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    That looks promising! Subscribed. When will you arrive in France? Is your bike there already?

    And if you're going to the alps, write me a PM and we could probably do some riding together. I'm planning to ride around Lyon in 2-3 weeks.
    #4
  5. Z0RR0

    Z0RR0 Been here awhile

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    Alright, time for some proper updates!!! Sorry about the delays, guys. I'm now up to speed and it'll be updated more regularly. ;)

    In order.

    _____________

    Leaving Montreal

    So the bike left Montreal earlier. My turn to get outta there.
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    Great strategy on my end, I picked a seat on the wrong side of the plane, and had a beautiful view of ... Laval and the South Shore. Just Great.
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    As straightforward as you'd imagine. Hop in plane, sit next to an annoying fool for 6h, and land in Paris at 7am with zero sleep whatsoever.
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    Then, hop in the train, and voila! New home, Carcassonne. It's sunny. And warm. Quite pretty, too. And I'm so tired my head exploded twice, I feel like crap having spent the last 18h sitting down, A shower was welcome. No pics of that.
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    #5
  6. Z0RR0

    Z0RR0 Been here awhile

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    From 2011-09-21

    I PICKED UP THE BIKE!!!!!!!

    It was as smooth as ever. Got to Air France Cargo in Blagnac (Toulouse Airport thing) in the morning, paid some 60 euros fee because it was over 200kgs, went across the parking lot to customs, where they made a copy of my registration, and rode out. And everyone was super pleasant.
    They didn't check shit, not even insurance. Can't believe I stressed all that much about it.
    And the bike is in perfect shape.

    Didn't get lost getting out of the city and headed straight for Carcassonne to unload some unnecessary items.

    In the evening I went for a quick ride since ... well shit. Do I need a reason? I'm in southern France, and I have a 1098 sitting right there. What else am I gonna do?

    Headed for the first small departementale I could find, 5 mins away.

    Aaaand it was spectacular. Wide views going all the way to the Pyrenees, winding little roads.
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    Must be mushroom hunting season too, there were more than a few cars parked on the side of the road, and old men looking belliquously, for fear I'd snitch on their secret spot. Fear not old man, I don't even know where I am, I was lost 30min ago and I haven't stopped or asked where the hell I was since. I could be on the moon, for all I know. Except prettier.

    Managed to hit a main road to Limoux and headed back to Carcassonne via some more small roads. Paused at Gaja et Villedieu. My grandparents used to have a house there. Kid memories and stuff.
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    Unpleasantly enough, on some innocuous corner I had the rear tire slide out a bit. Not enough to call it a highside, but unpleasant. Blame it on my body positioning, on the odd coagulated gravel road surface, or on the shitty Michelin Power Pure that I hate with a vengeance ... the end result is that I'm a bit wary. That's good I presume, will keep me from riding fast. I might get overtaken by grandmas on their Vespas though.

    Made it to the Cite before sunset. It's still there!!! And it's still quite imposing. I'll have to actually walk in it again at some point.
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    #6
  7. Z0RR0

    Z0RR0 Been here awhile

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    From 2011-09-23

    Not sure why they're called the Black Mountains. They're not black, and they're barely mountains. They should've called them the Nice Gorges. Or something to that effect.

    Anyways. In an effort to get familiar with the riding here, I went for a brief afternoon stint.
    This is the route I followed.
    http://g.co/maps/nxnyy
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    I didn't take any pictures, I couldn't be bothered. I did film with the GoPro a bit, but I'll need full on proper internet to upload it in less than 500 hours. Patience.

    Going to St Pons was fantastic. Typical Black Mountains scenery, hillside road in the woods, popping out on to fields. I stopped at a viewpoint. Not sure what it's called. Or why I didn't take a picture or 2. It was nice though! I spent a good bit of time just sitting on the rocks looking around.

    Then headed for Mazamet and back down via Lastours. The first part of this, right out of Mazamet was a pita. The road was covered in gravel for kms and kms. That's already unpleasant on normal roads ... but when you're alongside a rather deep gorge, wondering if you're going to go straight at every corner ... fuck that shit. I didn't like it one bit. Shame, because it was beautiful, but seriously, fuck gravel. Ruined everything.

    Oh! I got chased by a dog at some point. In a village, General Dumbass (that's how the dog shall henceforth be known) crosses the road right in front me ... I brake, swerve and shout "AAHHHHH DOOOOOG!" (not necessarily in that order), avoid le pooch of course (that's how talented I am) and go on my merry way, putting about. As I'm exiting the village ... a glance in the mirror reveals General Dumbass running after me, in the ditch. Who runs in a ditch instead of ... oh I dunno, the goddam road?! Stupid dog.

    The following part, going back down onto Lastours was absolutely terrific. No more gravel and just kms and kms of tight downhill road, spotted with medieval villages hanging on the hillside. Like in the postcards, but for real. They also have people living there, somehow.

    Arriving in Carcassonne revealed quite some traffic. After a brief "wtf traffic? it's not even a real city!" moment ... I feel like Noah as cars move over slightly to the right to let me through. A common practice over here. Sweet stuff.
    #7
  8. Z0RR0

    Z0RR0 Been here awhile

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    From 2011-09-25

    Ariege, a taste of mountains

    No pictures from the first leg of the day as it was strictly business. Well, as strict as friends saying "yeah yeah, we got the bbq ready, show up whenever for lunch".
    Still jet lagged (or lazy, one of the two) I opted to sleep in and head for Toulouse via the main road. Quick-ish, but not as lame as the Autoroute.

    Sounds boring? I thought It would be as well! Turned out there was a classic car rally underway, so I spent half of the trip watching a gentleman rip through roundabouts in a 30s Delage, overtaking Bugattis 35 and Rolls Phantoms II. Many nice cars. Everyone was having a good time.
    I then took a wrong turn, turned out to be a very pretty departementale lined with centuries old tree and the Canal du Midi. And it still got me where I wanted to be.

    Lunch was had. Toulouse sausage on the barbecue ... can't go wrong with that! Watched a bit of the F1 Grand Prix too. Enough to laugh at Schumi having a good look at the sky and splattering the nose of his car in the guardrail. Ah! No bike 24h of Le Mans could be found on the television though.

    Next leg was the interesting one. Going back to Carcassonne via St Girons and the mountainy bits. Which turned out not all that mountainy.

    However they have flying deer. The sign is pretty clear on the matter.
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    Going into St Girons is a beautiful beautiful beautiful small road going up and down hills that reminded me of Tuscany. That's a compliment, in case you weren't sure.
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    At some point, I again had the rear end step out for no good reason. I'll say it again, I hate the Michelin Power Pure. I was poking around some very mild twisties and it just slid out, not by much but enough to ensure I'd be taking a very slow pace the rest of the day questioning its integrity and grip. I'm on holiday goddamit, not out there to break stuff! What a shit tire, I'm tempted to do burn it out once and for all before I crash for real.
    Anyways. I digress.

    Once in town, I headed full steam on the correct road ... in the wrong direction. Only took me 30min to realize nothing matched. Ahem. Turn around. It was pretty though.
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    Back on the right track, I was soon headed up the Col de Port, the highest I'd be going today at 1250m. As usual the road is narrow and technical, with views of deep valleys at every turn. I'm liking this. Note odometer reading 14,995km.
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    And there was no better place to tick over 15,000km on the odometer. Yeah. I stopped just as the odometer displayed 15,000 and took pictures. That's a random spot on the road. And that's how nice a random spot looks.
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    I also stopped at the top. The view was awesome, only enhanced by early evening sunlight.
    I was very amused by the cows, until one looked at me. I ran for my life.
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    As it was getting late in the day, I pretty much dashed for Carcassonne. Got home, had dinner, took a shower. Nothing special there. Move along.

    Next up ... err, I don't know. Still want more mountainier scenery. Might head to Andorra soon, as it's still 30 degrees at sea level.
    #8
  9. Z0RR0

    Z0RR0 Been here awhile

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    2011-09-29 (yeah, that's today! Live updates from now on!)

    Last weekend I noticed an engine check light come up as I filled up. It went away as I restarted. "meh. eletrical glitch. italians." I thought.

    Going up the last col, I thought the bike sounded different, more hollow. "meh. must be the altitude." I thought.

    As I was heading back home, I couldn't find a way to fit my earplugs ... they were shoved in my ears so deep they require a fishing line to get them out. Forget the ear canal, they were up in my brain. And it was still loud as hell. "meh. these earplugs have always sucked. I just don't have it today." I thought.

    Went to fill her up yesterday, loud as hell. Not a good loud either, loud and hollow. "meh. must be because I'm not wearing the earplugs, plus I'm around town so it's reverberating." I thought.

    That was a lot of thought. So I gave in and inspected the damn thing before leaving for Andorra today. Yeah. That's not gone well.
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    Dropped it at the local dealer who will fix it up. Back on the road tomorrow.
    #9
  10. AlpineGuerrilla

    AlpineGuerrilla Been here awhile

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    :clap Fantastic pictures and storytelling.

    No problems communicating with your (probably different) french?
    #10
  11. lemovice

    lemovice Been here awhile

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    bienvenu en France cousin :freaky
    #11
  12. Z0RR0

    Z0RR0 Been here awhile

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    Technically, I'm originally French so it's fine. I'm the one who needs to pay attention when others speak ... got used to the Quebec accent!

    I'll holla when I head to the Alps. Should be in the next few weeks. :D
    #12
  13. Z0RR0

    Z0RR0 Been here awhile

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    Tadam!

    It's not the most beautiful weld in the world, but it'll be just fine. Sure is better than a 1/2" gap! Ah!
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    And it's all back together. It only took 3 chips on the paint and lots of swearing. I hate exhaust work. It never works as long as you haven't damaged something delicate.
    Anyways. It works.
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    I don't want to jinx myself again, but tomorrow, Andorra and Spain, goddamit!
    #13
  14. Z0RR0

    Z0RR0 Been here awhile

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    And a video from 2011-09-23. I'm taking it slow, I'm on holiday after all.

    <iframe width="560" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/xfJlpGHG-zw" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>
    #14
  15. g®eg

    g®eg Canadian living in exile

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    I'm in!

    :lurk
    #15
  16. speedisgood

    speedisgood Adventurer

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    Fabulous onboard video. I'll give you a free cigar for that, if you like, when you get back to montreal:
    davessite1@hotmail.com
    #16
  17. _cy_

    _cy_ Long timer

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    have a great trip!!!
    #17
  18. Z0RR0

    Z0RR0 Been here awhile

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    speedisgood, no idea when I'll come back, but you're on! :evil

    Here's another vid, from that same day. I say it's even better.:clap

    <iframe width="560" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/75zrrkAbnjk" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>
    #18
  19. Z0RR0

    Z0RR0 Been here awhile

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    Still working on the full update for today. It was fantastic.

    Just a little teaser.

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    :D
    #19
  20. Z0RR0

    Z0RR0 Been here awhile

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    Finally! I've been wanting to head to Andorra for a bit. Not that the whole tax heaven or shopping is of much interest to me, it's just a way of saying "Mountains!". A classier way.

    To get there, all I had to do was cross some mountains. I'd found out about the Col de Pailheres, culminating at 2,001m ... wait. Do passes culminate? Not sure. You know what I mean.

    That seemed high enough, and a quick Google StreetView glance revealed hairpins and small road. Let's do this.

    All I had to do was cross Georges' Gorges (yep, actual name, still giggling), a very short but essentially vertical gap in the moutains.
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    And very quickly things get interesting. By interesting I mean the treeline stops, the air becomes brisk and the sun shines hard. Also, cows appear.
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    Now the road looks narrow, doesn't it? It was narrow. How narrow? This narrow.
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    I filmed the whole ascent ... absolute blast as you could imagine.
    <iframe width="560" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/vTBvLyiXI1c" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

    Getting to the top you get an amazing view of the road you just went up, as well as the early stages of the mountain range.
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    Also, cows.
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    Look at that contorted little bit of tarmac!!! Sweeeeeeeet!!!
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    Those cyclist guys were doing a ton of cols/passes in the Pyrenees, from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean, in a week! This was their last day, headed towards Perpignan. Mad respect to them, that's some hardcore cycling right there.
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    Worth mentioning, around here cyclists are not motorcycle-hating hippies. We had a pleasant chat, ending with the dude going "come on, let's hear those Termis!". I was shocked, used to the North American standard for cyclists.

    Well that's official now. 2,001m, Col de Pailheres. The sign doesn't lie. Very few stickers, surprisingly enough. I would've thought it was a popular pass.
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    I decided to go back down the way I came up for some pictures and videos, the other side wasn't as pretty.

    Now look at this picture. Look at it. Have you looked at it? Ok, good. Do you know how much effort it takes to run up a damn mountain, wearing full gear at 2,000m elevation? I thought I'd die!!! So look at that picture. And say it's nice. I'm waiting.
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    As I was lying down gasping for air, I did notice a flower. It's not very pretty, but it made a fancy "oh, look at this bokeh" picture. So there. Prettier purple flowers were all over. I stepped on them, but no pictures.
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    More pictures of the road going down, this is pretty close to the top of the pass.
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    Again, I'm taking random pictures, catching my breath. And trying to devise a plan to not have to run about so much for my damn shots.
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    I failed the whole "let's stop running far away all the time" thing. I added an extra "let's park the bike real close to the edge and climb up that little cliff, it'll look great". In my defense, it does.
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    Let's zoom in a bit more. More better! And yes. I'll be ripping up that perfect curve in a few.
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    Beauty shot!!! I do fancy this bike.
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    Oh! That's me! Riding up the hill! Magic. I'm on both ends of the camera. And no, I did not set the timer, run downhill with full gear on like a maniac and ride back up. Witchcraft, that's how it works.
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    A bit lower, I stopped to say hi to Mama Horse and Baby Horse. They weren't very friendly ... there again, I was walking around in their lunch plate. I'd have been unhappy too.
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    That video you watched at the beginning of the post? That's when I filmed it. After making it back down and going up again. Useless timeline fact, but I like to be accurate.


    Going down the other side of the Col was a major PITA. The road was covered with fine gravel, almost sand. On purpose, by the DDE (DOT equivalent) for no other reason than fucking up awesome roads, I presume. It was sketchy, and maddening. Very unpleasant.

    Thankfully, things improved and I made my way in Ax les Thermes. The descent on the city is spectacular. And the town itself is chock full of bikers. Every cafe, bar, restaurant has dozens of bikes lined up in front.
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    I struggled a bit to find some much needed gas. I usually hit reserve around the 140km mark. Yeah, that's 80 miles, I guess I'd run dry shortly after 100 miles. Anyways. Fuel was found, and poured in the tank. Let's make it disappear again.

    Leaving Ax les Thermes is a major fast-ish road with lots of traffic. I love how cars almost always move to the right to let you through. It's almost embarrassing not to ride like a maniac "no thanks, I'm really comfy taking it easy behind here! thanks, no, I'll stay behind". Again, a totally new to me habit, you'd never see this in America. I love it.

    Then, the much anticipated Pas de la Casa, the climbing road leading to Andorra. So much fun. A bit of traffic, quickly dealt with with a swift twist of the throttle.
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    It's Saturday, Pas de la Casa is busy as hell. Like a giant mall. Overcrowded for my liking. I just ride through the village ... no, town ... no, mall! That's the one. Mall. The road keep climbing, great. Maybe I can find a peaceful spot for lunch.

    I had no idea I was climbing the Envalira Pass, apparently the highest of the Pyrenees at a quite impressive 2,408m. That's 7,900', for the metrically challenged.

    Please note the prankster Andorrans called it a port. Clearly that's bogus, there were no ships in sight. Funny guys.
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    And indeed I found a nice place to have lunch and ditch the gear a bit.
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    Baguette, saucisson and Opinel knife. Yeah, we're in France alright. Oh wait. In Andorra. Shit. Nevermind.
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    That's me! I tried to look menacingly funny towards the saucisson. I think I failed. Screw you, I ate it anyways. I win.
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    Coming back down, I had to stop at the ski lift. You know. For ski related purposes. That was a bad call, I lost my earplugs somehow.
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    Rode back down a bit, and headed up the Col de Puymorens. Nothing special, other than I'd been there a couple years back when going to Spain.
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    A bit more boring road, with a few too many cops (2) and I'm entering Bourg-Madame. Why is this important you ask? This is why.
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    Unfortunately, it turns out Spain is full of Spaniards. So I turned around, towards Font-Romeu. I was too late to see the giant solar toaster, might have to do that at a later time.

    Villages have funny names here.

    Ill.

    Err.

    Ur.

    Yeah. Those are real names, apparently. Either people are really lazy, or they steal letters off signs. Or they just have a funny language. Oh crap. Now all the Catalans are gonna go after me. Well ... it's been nice knowing y'all.

    This being said, the roads were quite nice at times. Quiiiiite nice.
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    There were gliders all over the sky, I even raced one as it was landing. It won, disappointingly enough.

    I stopped at the Matemale dam. Turns out it's where the river Aude starts. The same river going through Carcassonne where I'm staying. Funny, no? No? Really? Okay.
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    Then followed 40km of painful sand covered bumpy tight roads. Fucking nightmare. I've been out since the morning, not exactly "fresh and focused", I'm not liking this at all. And by gravel, I don't mean a patch here and there. It's patches. All across the road, in the middle of a corner. Hate.

    I did ride by this village. Escouloubre. Yeah, another funny name. Pretty funky, as you have the road, lined with a cliff on one side, a small gorge on the other ... and houses on the other side of the gorge, with bridges leading to them. I wouldn't call those driveways. very cool though.

    Shortly after, one of those houses was very nicely restored, and it just looked fantastic. I only took pictures of the derelict one though.

    I clearly remember thinking "ooooh, that was a good break from this gravel stress". The road was still shit, but I was a bit more relaxed.
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    Eventually the gravel finally ended. Turned into a bumpy-as-fuck (yep, that much) tight road. Not pleasant, but at least I can start breathing again.
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    Crossing Georges' Gorges again on the way back. Giggled again.
    [​IMG]

    I was unusually happy to see a main road, straight and smooth. I wasn't even tempted to hurry! Set cruise on 110kph, use tankbag as a pillow and head home after a grueling but fantastic 350km.

    What a day.
    #20