October 18, 2010

2| Route Planning

Since I first backpacked in them long ago, I’ve loved mountains, and knowing a bit of French history I wanted to visit the Cévennes, in the French midi, located roughly between Toulouse and Avignon, north of Montpellier. Drawn to them years ago by photos of the Gorges du Tarn in the New York Times, I have never forgotten the images of the landscape. Having decided on solo travel, I nonetheless wanted to learn about as many cycling experiences and routes as I could, to best plan this trip. I researched my route using Michelin 300 series maps, web sites, other cyclists’ journals and information on guided, group trips. I was able to find only one supported tour that ventured into the Cévennes; its descriptive material was quite clear: be strong, like hills, best be young, or this isn’t the tour for you! I was undaunted by the descriptions of the climbing, and am certainly stubborn, a trait that would serve me well during those climbs.

I continued planning: the trip now looked like a week of language immersion school in Toulouse at Langue Onze, then the train to Albi, from where I’ll start the bike trip, heading north to Conques, then east up the Lot River, over the col (pass) to the Gorges du Tarn, Jonte and Dourbie, down to the Cirque de Navacelles, back east to Roquefort-sur-Salzon and down the Tarn to Albi. Train back to Toulouse. But the more I planned, measured distances, estimated daily ascents, looked for campsites, the more I realized that I needed to prune this down to something both manageable and fun, that fit into the 10 days that I would have for cycling. I wasn’t aiming to accomplish a super-woman tour, one that would most likely leave me exhausted, but wanted to learn something of the history and culture of the region … and also to eat well. What a shame it would be to be in France, and eat my own campground cooking! So, no cooking for me, though I planned to buy groceries and eat at least one meal a day on the bike or in camp. I adjusted my plans until the trip looked pretty much like what I rode. To shorten the route, very regretfully I dropped the Lot River section, and knowing that I don’t like to retrace my steps (ahhh, pedals?) I plan to take the train to Millau.

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