September 13, 2012

Rue, or chemin?

Today, let me be the first to tell you that I am guilty of spreading misinformation in the blogosphere and so I mean to correct it. This didn't happen out of maliciousness, or spite, but just that old-fashioned downfall, ignorance. Regular readers have heard me tell of the beautiful surfaces of French roads, with nary a pothole or fissure. They have also heard me sing the praises, chant the praises perhaps, of Michelin maps. This needs a footnote, though I am convinced it is generally true.




I set out this morning from Espelette to Saint Jean Pied de Port. The beginning of the route used the same section of road as I travelled yesterday, then continued to Bidarray, with its 12th century church, and Roman bridge over the Nive River. Its continuation to Bidarray maintains the character of yesterday's road: narrow, twisty, rolling, fun. Slow going, but fun. In Bidarray, the decision needed to be made: use the red D918 (red D roads are generally main roads, frequently busy) or continue on the little road. Of course I continued on the little road, it is the French countryside I want to see.




Michelin shows no chevrons indicating climbs on this road. I was sure though that it would climb, because the road twisted a fair amount on the map. No chevrons: gentle climbing. Ha ha ha! The grade soon put yesterday's 17% and 19% to shame. Not that the climbs were ever very long, but they were steep, steep, steep. This was the steepest section of road I have hiked up, let alone ridden up. It reminded me of foot trails in the Blue Ridge of Virginia: when they need to go up, they just go up. No messing around. No need of switchbacks or other engineering delicacies. It was hard pushing the bike, I was walking out of my cycling shoes. Forget riding. But it was gorgeous, and soon enough I was over the mountain, careening down into town.


Needing to now find the D918, I asked a local man, "How do I get to the D918?" Instead of answering, he responded "Where did you come from?" "Today, Espelette," I said. "Well, that is the D918, the road you used to get here." "No no,"  said I, "I followed the little road from Arrossa." "You came over the mountain??!!" said he, incredulous. "Yes, it was quite steep." I thought that nicely understated. He gave me good directions to the D918.


Oh yes, road surfaces. If you look closely at the self portrait with road, not only at the shadow, you get an idea. Or at the photo of the road width. I don't often put Papillon on the ground, but today I did, since many readers have wondered at my description of narrow roads. This shows the width, a bit more than my bike is long.




 The rest of my ride fairly flew by. It is amazing what a difference a smooth, graded roadway can make. I reached St. Jean Pied de Port 4-ish, and spent a bit of time exploring. More on that tomorrow. Today, I had a very good view of the little roads of France. Or perhaps it was a chemin. I have read before to beware of following directions that include chemins
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8 comments:

  1. More memories of our Camino, thanks! I've got that exact same photo (your last) of the river. Seems we have similar taste in aesthetics. If you pick up a 'credential' and turn right you can be in Santiago de Compostela in a week or so ;-)

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    1. Today I met several cyclists riding it on mountain bikes. I think they either thought I was local (no panniers, going the opposite direction of the pilgrim traffic) or they had spied my map becauze they asked directions. They were young-ish and near the top. At the bottom, I saw two more, much older, with heavily, awkwardly, loaded bikes, walking them, from the bottom of the climb. They had a long way to go.

      I think I'll stick with my plan;-)

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  2. Getting closer, aren't you... And those "chemins" are not Departementales but Communales, or so I would interpret from your pictures. Though regional differences may make what in some places are departementales seem like communales in others. Have fun. Great to read your dailies. I'll miss them from the 8th to your return and then see you in October some time.

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    1. Hard to know what the roads are ... let's look at the map in October. Some sport D (which I take to be departmentale) but sometimes that may change after leaving a town.

      And thanks for travelling with me via technology! Have a great rest of the month ...

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  3. This was a very entertaining read. We are going to France soon and I am hoping that some of the D roads will be nice and quiet.

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    1. Mr. Tootlepedal,
      How nice to hear from you, and thanks! Whether or not you bring your bicycles, have a wonderul time exploring the little roads. If I see someone taking fabulous bird photos, I'll ask if it is you. I've seen lots of what we call herons in the US, maybe storks here, hawks, kites, vultures, perhaps eagles...and colorful little birds that have reminded me of your feeder. Maybe finches. Happy travels in France.

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  4. Chemin...usually means way or path or route, not usually paved. Rue...means road or street. Silly aside...Chemin de Fer = the Iron Path! Sounds much better than railroad. Good name for a super workout routine for your abs.


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  5. Hi TOS,

    I have heard chemin also for very small, driveway like, perhaps poorly paved or gravelled road ... such as I have ridden to old abbeys and eglises .... I think it is open to interpretation, in any case that was my implication in the title. But then I've heard energetic discussions comparing rue et route ... perhaps all fueled by a bit of wine!

    TOS

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