September 10, 2014

Sault to Tallard

Today's ride was lovely, very engaging with dramatic, frequent changes of landscape. But nothing so compelling and unforgettable as yesterday's ride up Mont Ventoux! Not a lot can match that, but I'll work on it in the next several days.

Sault would be a good town to base in for a few days, and explore the surrounding countryside. But I didn't stay, leaving early and riding back to the northeast. Why, you ask? Why go to the northeast, when Nice, your goal, is to the southeast.

Mont Ventoux was a diversion during a trip based on the classic Paris-Nice race; it is off the route from Paris to Nice. The race doesn't go there. It is held in March and the summit is closed. But I was nearby, in Nyons, and wanted a chance to try the iconic climb. Also because the race is in March, it doesn't visit the Alps, but I want to see those high mountains, so I am headed northeast before turning south to Nice.

The blue blue sky of sunny southern France

My route left Sault on a classic little road of southern France, surrounded by fields of lavender. The ones next to the road above look to me as if they are either young, or overcut.

The landscape was full of lavender fields

There was lavender everywhere, the air was vaguely scented of it. Nothing else was filling the landscape.

Solar cells in the field

Oops, one more thing I was wrong about. Turning a corner there was a huge, massive, solar installation.

Dead Man's Pass

This climb was neither hard, nor very long, but it was a nice way to start my 60-ish mile ride. Col de L'Homme Mort (Dead Man's Pass ... sounds like something out of the Colorado Rockies gold rush era) is 1212 meters, abut 700 meters lower than Mont Ventoux.

Just after this pass, the landscape changed dramatically. Oddly, the route pretty much descended all the way to Col de Macuègne.

After a straight, flat section about 30k long, the landscape changed again, entering the Gorge de Meouge. It was just beautiul, and clearly enjoyed by swimmers. Not as dramatic as the Gorges I have visited in the Cevennes, nonetheless it was very fun to ride next to, as the road twisted and turned, descending to Laragne-Montéglin.

Apple land came next. Acress and acres, no, miles and miles. Virtually all of them covered in netting. In the past I have speculated that netting over orchards is for protection from birds, or the sun. But a grower told me it is to protect from hail. Violent summer hail storms are not unusual and they can easily ruin an entire season's crop.

Unusually, I travelled through three Départements today, the Drome, Hautes-Alpes, and Alpes de Haute-Provence, where I am now.

A very muddy Durance River. It must be the irrigation source for these huge fields of fruit trees.

The end of my ride paralleled the Durance River, which Roy and I rode next to (but well downstream of here) back in 2009. Here the river seems very controlled, with a canal, and I suspect multiple dams. This is probably irrigation water for these huge fields of apples. My first view was of a very muddy river. Agricltural runoff? Whatever the cause is, it doesn't look healthy for fish or much of anything else.

Not too far upstream, it was much cleaner.

Tonight I am staying in Tallard, a city somewhat north, and more east, of Nyons. Although Paris-Nice doesn't come here, the Tour de France did, in Stage 15, a flat stage from here to Nimes. There was only a bit of nearly indecipherable writing on the road surface.



  1. Sounds like fun. I sure would like to be floating down that river. Sounds like you are having a wonderful time. Thanks for all the posts and great photos.

    1. It is fun, and I am lucky to be able to be here. Very happy to have you commenting, and along for the ride, so to speak:-) Thanks!

  2. You managed to plan a wonderfully varied day for yourself in spite of the miles of apples.

    1. It was lucky, I didn't expect so much geological change. The covered orchards fill whole valleys, and are very odd-looking from above.

  3. Looks beautiful. I really must get myself over there and ride 'beyond Sault'. Oh, when you hit Barcelonette, by the way, you must stop in and have a bite to eat at Adelita Mexican restaurant. We've taken two sets of cyclists there now, so hopefully Fabienne et Alexandre will remember me!

    If you think eating Mexican in France is insane, you might not after setting foot in town ;-)

    Bonne Route!

    1. That ride was beautiful, the gorge a pretty mini-version of more famous ones. Thanks for the tip, I'll plan to eat there.

  4. You're so fortunate to be doing such a wonderful trip. If you're going to Barcelonette, as Gerry indicates above, you may want to ride up the highest paved road in Europe; "Cime de la Bonette". It's about as "fun" as the Ventoux (it was used for the Time Trial during Haute Route Alps in 2013). Once at the top the view is spectacular and the decent is the best I've ever done. Thanks for the daily reports and great pictures. I'm living vicariously through your posts. Enjoy the Ride....

  5. I couldn't agree more, and I say it every day ... I am very lucky, fortunate and thrilled to be here. Am now staying in St. Pons, just outside Barcelonnette, and Bonette is tomorrow's agenda. Will be here for 2 days, so if you have other suggestions, I'm listening. Then I head to Nice via Col de Cayolle.

    Glad you're along for the ride, at least in the virtual world:-)


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