September 13, 2013

Cycle Touring

As my masthead implies, there are a thousand ways to enjoy a bicycle. Probably most of us who love touring, that is to say traveling, on two wheels share some mindsets in common. I believe we think that pretty much whatever happens, there is something new to be experienced, something new to be appreciated, perhaps even understood, something new to be learned, some fun to be had. I believe we would agree that there is a big, complex, varied, fascinating world out there beyond the confines of our daily lives that, if we are fortunate, we may have a chance to engage with.

The view climbing up and away from St. Geniez d'Olt 

This morning started in the low 50s, grey, damp. The city I began in today is, I'm sure, a fine little city to live in, but I don't live there, and I wanted to get moving. As it has for the last three days, my road climbed immediately, but not with difficultly. It was grey, the forecast promising rain. I was looking forward to riding across the Causse de Sauveterre today, and after that to rediscovering a little of the Gorges du Tarn.

Everything was lovely, a good day on a bike. Actually, for me pretty much all days on either of my bikes are good days. Today started as, well, not overwhelmingly anything. Pretty, starting to climb into the Cévennes mountains. Chilly, in and out of jackets. Like many of you know, I detest being cold, and won't tolerate it for very long. I am a wimp that way.

Sign painted on the side of an old building, right at the edge of the road.

I was descending a long, gentle descent. Enjoyable. No traffic. Rounded a corner to find this. Now, how cool is this, anyway? No one puts my nickname on the side of a building in my home country.

Before too long I saw another sign. It also made me smile. And that smile made me think: I hadn't realized how much I was looking forward to seeing the Languedoc again, but there it is. And almost immediately the sun came out. That made me smile even more.

The Languedoc: Promises of Sunny Southern France (SFF)

Near la Canourgue, I stopped at a store to buy food for lunch, and the owner and I got to talking. She helped me pick ripe fruit and vegetables, asked where I was riding. I told her, mentioned that we have nothing like the medieval villages of the Dordogne in the States. Turns out she has a nephew who lives in New Jersey she had visited, maybe a dozen years ago. We visited a bit more, then I left and sat at the picnic table outside to eat. She came over, brought me the photo album from her visit to NYC and New Jersey,and we shared memories about the places she had been, since I know many of them. The castiron building. Le fer a repasser. How fun is that for lunch?

Vival is a chain of small grocery shops that I frequently see in France. The food has been fresh.

Scrapbook of a visit to New York, with the flatiron building top right.

And just how handsome are these cows, and this chicken?

Wish I knew the names of these pretty cows. They are not the same as the white cows of the Aquitaine.

I believe this chicken inspected me, inspecting him.

The road climbed gently up to Causse Sauveterre, a ride I've been wanting to do since first nearby in 2010. This Causse is mostly forested, green, I saw tall oaks and pine trees. There is clearly some agriculture, now in cover crop, and how about this little road. I saw perhaps a half dozen cars in two hours.

Rocky cliffs appearing above the forest

The open Causse, not flat, more very gently undulating

All too soon (I didn't want to lose this day) I started seeing signs of my destination, the Gorges du Tarn.

The Gorge du Tarn in the distance

My descent began, into the canyon floor.

The route dropped, and dropped, sometimes steeply

The river, still far below.

It was sometimes steep.

One of the switchbacks

And, I am sure you have noticed how the vegetation is changing.

Different plants, different geology

I arrived in town about 3:30, which was good for me.

Roofs of Ste. Enimie. The rounded slate roofing tiles are typical of the area.

Road with drainage stones in the side and middle

Good, because the last time I was in Ste. Enimie this austere 12th century church, with its famous carved statues was closed. I wanted to see them.

So sometimes, I don't know quite what it is: the mindset; the people along the way; the bike; the legs and lungs; the terrain, the climbs, flats, descents; the insects, and animals; the road surface; the weather, sun, rain, wind; the history, the architecture ... somehow, magically, everything meshes into an extraordinary, not-to-be-forgotten experience.

View St.-Geniez-d'Olt to Ste. Enimie in a larger map



  1. Wonderful trips photos and enjoyed the 12th century medieval church discovery.

    1. Thank you! And thank you also for reading and taking the time to comment!

  2. Exceedingly steep, I would have said. That is one part of the journey that I would not have liked to share with you.

    1. Steep, but downhill. You might enjoy Ste. Enimie, and could reach it by the (far more gradual) climb up the Gorge du Tarn from the Millau side. Or better yet, the downhill run from Florac.


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