Another day of climbing up and down the pretty hills of France into a headwind.
Craig was a bit slower today, having exerted himself the day before, and he spent more time grinding up hills at the pace of us mere mortals. There were times today when I wish I had just one more gear lower. My 26/32 was a struggle up some of the long and super steep grades that we were climbing.
We bumped into an extremely chirpy German fellow who had just retired last year and was enjoying his new freedom by touring everywhere. He didn’t tell us his name so I’m going to call him Gunter. Gunter had the typical German touring machine, with a big beefy frame that looked similar to a mountain bike, four bright red ortliebs, rohloff hub and super heavy duty Schalbe tyres. He had ridden in Canada, china and Vietnam in the last year. And he loved china and Vietnam. He also loves bike paths. So there were a few things that I would have disagreed with him on if I could be bothered talking. Fortunately I was too spent from climbing a hill and Craig did all the talking.
We left Gunter and continued climbing. Being a Sunday there is of course not a single shop open in France so we were getting a little concerned about food. A Casino brand supermarket presented itself in mid afternoon and allowed George to get in a little dumpster diving. It wasn’t a bad haul, we scavenged about a dozen yogurts, a few litres of fruit juice and some iced tea drinks. We could have scored some shellfish too but that stank.
The rest of the afternoon is all a bit of a blur now but I do remember that we had a couple of particularly sensational ten degree slope descents going down into Castres that put a grin on my face. I managed to hit 67kmh in a full tuck. I still felt a bit ripped off as I would have made it to 80 if it hadn’t been for the headwind and bulging panniers on the front of my bike.
Everyone in Castres were going nuts when we arrived since their team had just won the French national rugby championship. Every car in the town was honking and waving flags and somewhat impeding our progress towards the Office de Tourisme where George wanted to seek out Tour de France info. While trying to find it, we bumped into a French couple on the street who Craig asked for directions. The next thing we knew they were offering to take us in for the night. I was more than happy to accept a shower and a bed, but George seemed a little reluctant as he loves sleeping in his tent so much. Craig was no doubt a little worried that he would be the designated interpreter since he speaks fluent French.
Marie-Helene led us to their warehouse residence not far from the centre of town. She is apparently a retired ballet dancer and her partner Frank a painter and motorcycle enthusiast. The downstairs section of their warehouse was thus filled with motorbikes and large canvases in various stages.
It turned out to be a pleasant night. They fed us and Frank somewhat confused us with esoteric utterances. At first he said that we were all poets on the bike. But then later he said that Craig was a poet and that George and I were just voyagers. Or was it George who was the poet because he described a bike tour as a work of art? I can’t remember. Anyway it was nice to sleep in a bed.