October 19, 2010

23| Broquiès

It was a painfully slow ride, as I was dehydrated and tired. The slightest trace of an incline had me panting, and anything more had me off the bike out of for breath and walking, pushing Papillon along. I walked slopes that I would not have noticed any previous day. When I arrived at Le Truel  everything was, by now, predictably closed … but would I have eaten anything anyway? I did want water, and luckily found a public fountain where I filled my water bottles. I thought about stopping, to sleep, to eat later in the day, but the only lodgings I could find were closed. So I sat down for a minute on a metal, upright bench across the road from the river and fell asleep next to my bike. This is something I never do. Asleep in public, I woke embarrassed, self-conscious though no one was in sight, and perhaps a little reinvigorated. I rode on, aiming for Broquiès, where I arrived early afternoon, though it was less than 20 miles. I found a chambre d’hôte close to the town, located in an old mas, or farmhouse.  The owner showed  me to my room, located in an attached, but separate building. Thanking her, I asked what time breakfast was served, brought my bike into the large room with me, enjoyed the views out over the fields for a minute, where there was only one other distant building in sight. By 2:00 in the afternoon I was asleep, waking only to check in with Roy by phone, take a good, long hot shower, throw out the few radishes and bit of cheese left in my panniers, and fall back asleep.

I was up early in the morning, feeling much better and ready to go, but waited until the designated 8:30 hour for breakfast. When I entered the kitchen, I was sure that they had also been up for hours, probably waiting for me to appear. My guess was that my hosts were retired sheep farmers; very kindly, he had gone into town to get a croissant especially for me. But I just couldn't yet look at another croissant, much less eat it. I explained about the food poisoning, and stuck to bread and coffee with milk. We talked about our families, and her nine children, all grown and scattered now all over France, the closest in Avignon. It gave me another perspective on the depopulation of this part of rural France. She told me that the children visit them here in the Aveyron, but that she and her husband rarely leave. Both strongly warned me not to ride through the tunnels between here and Albi, saying they are much too dangerous for cyclists: long, the traffic fast, the tunnels dark and narrow. Go around them, they told me: use the smaller roads. 


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