Sorry fellas, not much to report last week! No bike content, really.
Spent a fail filled day in Toulouse Thursday.
Morning at a trade show, with wasn’t exactly what they advertised. Spider monkeys and midgets are of no use to me if they’re not Mexican! This is a crucial difference.
I did hang around the Capitole though. Took 3 horrible pictures. I hate being “that tourist” with a camera around his neck all the time.On my way back … moose signs. Oh crap. This can only mean one thing.
QUEBEC RESTAURANT! I had to try it. I knew it’d be disastrous, but I had to give it a shot. For science.
Ordered a poutine. With smoked meat.
For those who do not know about this Quebec delicacy, it’s fries, with squeaky cheese and gravy poured on top. You can add bacon or various things on top. It’s actually awesome, perhaps a bit of an acquired taste.
After 35min (!) it arrives. It’s tiny and toasted, shouldn’t be. Fine, it looks wrong, it might taste good.
Fries are wrong. The toasted swiss cheese is very wrong. The toasted smoked meat produced a $hit-ton of oil sitting at the bottom. And the worst? The sauce is not gravy, it’s maple syrup.
Can you say disaster?
Absolutely revolting. Tastes wrong, and I’m usually not one to complain about food being too greasy … but goddam that was so oily.
I have no idea why I actually ate it all like an idiot. Felt sick all afternoon.
Cut my losses and GTFO that place. Will not do that again.
Dessert was much better thank you.
So I wasted my morning and lunch was horrible. Hardly the end of the world. It gets worse.
I head to the bike avenue, where all the shops are, my rear tire is just about done. I impress the girl with the 1098 (a common thing, people always go “ooooh” when I mention it), but when I ask what she has in stock in 190/55 … nothing.
Fine, I’ll order a Metzeler M5 then … when should I expect it? A week.
Whatever, that’ll do, not like I have much of a choice anyways.
Oh, Ducati dealer is across the street. Let’s check it out. And this is where things go awry.
They have a boatload of superbikes, Monsters and Streetfighters. Not much else. Don’t recall seeing a Diavel or HM.
They’re also dealer for Kawi, Triumph … and MV Agusta and Benelli.
4 MV F4RRs next to each other. YUM. DO WANT. There’s also an Aprilia RSV4 sitting outside.
I’d inquired before leaving Montreal about making my bike France legal, and had been reassured “you’re in luck, all you need is a 60 euro part for the French 100hp limit”.
So I head to the shop area, and ask again, so that I can get working on that if it takes a while.
“oh, importing a 1098? we just received directions from Ducati on the subject few weeks ago. Ah there it is … oh shit … we can’t produce a conformity certificate for any US bike anymore, due to emissions”.
Great. Exactly the same unsubstantiated bullshit you get when trying to bring a US bike to Canada. Fucking Ducati. I bought your damn bike, I like it, let me use it!
I still have a lot of options of varying degrees of unlawfulness, but the most honest and legit one seems to be a no-go.
I do have quite some time ahead of me to decide what I’ll do.
So yeah, that wasn’t a very successful day.
On the upside I did see 2 Belugas. Yo Dawg I heard you like planes …
Shot with the 50mm, it was quite low and landing in Blagnac nearby I presume.
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.
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.
Now the road looks narrow, doesn’t it? It was narrow. How narrow? This narrow.
I filmed the whole ascent … absolute blast as you could imagine.
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.
Look at that contorted little bit of tarmac!!! Sweeeeeeeet!!!
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.
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.
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.
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.
More pictures of the road going down, this is pretty close to the top of the pass.
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.
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.
Let’s zoom in a bit more. More better! And yes. I’ll be ripping up that perfect curve in a few.
Beauty shot!!! I do fancy this bike.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It’s Saturday, Pas de la Casa is busy as hell. Like a giant mall. Overcrowded for my liking. I just ride through the mallvillage town. 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.
And indeed I found a nice place to have lunch and ditch the gear a bit.
Baguette, saucisson and Opinel knife. Yeah, we’re in France alright. Oh wait. In Andorra. Shit. Nevermind.That’s me! I tried to look menacingly funny towards the saucisson. I think I failed. Screw you, I ate it anyways. I win.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Crossing Georges’ Gorges again on the way back. Giggled again.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I didn’t take any pictures, I couldn’t be bothered. I did film with the GoPro a bit.
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.
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.
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.
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.