Archive for April 9th, 2010

Capmany, Spain to Sigean, France (73.36 miles, 6 hours 49 minutes moving)

I slept terribly overnight, worried about what a stupid mistake I had made, to not secure the cover to my bike in such strong and gusty wind. When it became light, I headed back downwind of my tent and resumed the search for my bag.  I was having no luck, and figured that in the 8 hours it had been gone, it could be halfway to Barcelona, at the rate the wind had been blowing.  As I was heading back to my tent, a dark black shape caught the corner of my eye, and it was the cover!  I triumphantly brought it back to my tent and I was so overjoyed that I had to tell someone.  I walked over to Birre from Holland, whom I had met last night and bragged about my good/bad luck.  I broke camp in a much better mood after a nice hot shower, and despite the fact that it was 10:30 a.m., there was still no activity in the camp’s office.  With no prices listed and no drop box, I was forced to hit the road without paying.

As I rode towards the Pyrenees, I wondered how long the climb would take.  I hadn’t done any real research about which pass to take, and was just going to stick with the N-II road that I had been following yesterday. The wind was still strong and right in my face, making it difficult to climb any faster than about 6-8 miles per hour, but at least the sun was shining, and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.  This, along with finding my cover,was doing wonders for my mood, as was the hope that I would be leaving my bad luck in Spain when I crossed the border.

I wish I could brag about how tough the pass over the Pyrenees was, but it wasn’t very bad, and was rather anti-climactic. It was just over 10 miles from my campsite to the top, and I was able to ride it in just over an hour. It was certainly much better than my experience the day before. There was no fanfare or confetti or even a little drive up window where you could get your passport stamped. The only visible change was that all of the signs were now in French. I had passed a road sign that said “France 1km” but figured I would get a photo of a sign that said “Welcome to France”, but there wasn’t one to be had.  It’s somewhat funny that in the United States, you get a nice “Welcome to…” sign overtime you pass into new state, but they couldn’t put up a nice one at the border of a completely different country! There were, however, loads upon loads of little touristy shops lining the last couple hundred meters to the top. On the descent down, I didn’t even really have to wear out my breaks, because the head-wind kept my speed at a comfortable 17-22 miles per hour.

When I reached the city of Perpignan, I pulled off at McDonald’s and ordered my first McD’s meal since starting the trip.  I had read online that all of the McDonald’s in France were offering free WiFi internet, and sure enough, they were right!  I quickly tried to catch up on emails that had piled up in the last 36 hours without, but ended up spending more than an hour there. I may become rather friendly with McDonald’s over the next few days…

The Vineyards of France
The Vineyards of France

The rest of the day was spent riding on a mixture of highway shoulders, dedicated bike paths, and small-city streets.  I loved to see the abundance of bike paths, but the design and planning left a lot to be desired for long-distance touring, and after a few miles, I relegated myself back to the roadway.  The paths, despite having a good surface, would take half-mile jaunts away from the path in order to cross perpendicular streets, and it was frustrating for me, not only because of the added distance, but also because the signage along the paths almost never had arrows pointing to upcoming towns, making it difficult to know which way to go when I reached forks or mini-roundabouts.

By 6 p.m., the realization that I had eaten through most of my food supply set in, and I started looking for a supermarket to stock up on bread, yogurt, water, and more sweets like candy bars. The first two times I pulled off the highway, I was unsuccessful, but the third time I found a market, although unfortunately I had to backtrack more than 2 miles to get back on the highway. Nevertheless, I was in good spirits with the knowledge that I had food and water for tonight. I’ve decided that there are perhaps three occasions in the day of a long-distance bicycle tourist when they feel most happy and content. The first is when they do the math and realize that they should reach their stopping point for the night soon, or at least in plenty of time before dark.  The second is when they have just secured all of the remaining food supplies for the following day, and the third is when the tent and campsite are set up and it is time for a nice dinner before bed.

The sun went down when I was still about 2 miles from the campsite, marking the third time that I would be putting up my tent in the dark in as many riding days. The campsite reception closed 40 minutes before I arrived, so I chose a place for my tent and hoped that I wouldn’t have any trouble signing in and paying in the morning.  It was after 9 p.m. when I had my tent up and my possessions inside, leaving only a little bit of time to check my maps for tomorrow, write, and download/tag photos, as has become my nightly routine. Hopefully my good-fortune in France continues!