September 18, 2011

Pyrenees Tour: To Limoux

Foix was wet, and much chillier today than it has been. The forecast this morning told me it was in the low 50s, and that it would rain all day. So I dressed in layers, with a wool base, and hoped that my rain gear would be sufficient to keep me dry. I have a lot of confidence in my panniers. Not so with my rain gear, especially the jacket. I later learned that the rain I rode in was snow in the high Pyrenees. 

As I loaded up my panniers in the hotel garage, another cyclist appeared. He turned out to be Russian, though now lives with his family, including grandchildren, on the Mediterranean here in France. He was headed to Toulouse, and said he's made 9 cycling trips to the U.S., including LA to San Francisco, and the Skyline Trail in the Blue Ridge. I noticed that we had very different approaches to the rain, me in layers including rainpants and jacket, he in shorts, cycle shirt and rain jacket. I hate to be cold, once found a hiker with hyperthermia, and like my layers.

It did rain the entire 45 miles to Limoux, sometimes a drizzle and sometimes in windy sheets of heavy rain, with enough wind gusts to push me and Papillon around a bit.

I imagine that had I been able to see more of the countryside, the ride would have been lovely. It had extensive flat stretches, two easily managed climbs to marked cols on my map, good long downhill runs and very little traffic. Actually the riding was very fine, the roads small, well surfaced mostly, and provided enough climbing and descending to keep it interesting. But I am a cautious solo cyclist, and rode slowly on the wet surfaces. In dry conditions I would have had more fun with the long, curving downhills. I was glad for my sturdy bike and its touring tires, but even so, I didn't fly today!

Unfortunately, I could rarely see very far in the mist. Took only a very few photos, when the sky was a little lighter. The terrain reminded me a bit of hilly areas of Vermont. I've had some very good pumpkin soup since I've been here, so enjoyed the garden with pink cosmos and orange pumpkins in the background.

As I descended into Limoux the landscape suddenly and dramatically opened up, becoming flatter, with fields of grapes, something I never saw in the Pyrenees. I don't remember ever seeing a landscape change so suddenly. There must be some strong micro-climate influences on this edge of the ridge. It was pines, oaks, heavily forested, with open fields and cows grazing, then suddenly the landscape opened, and the horizon, to fields of grapes. Still raining, though.

Happily, except for feet, head and hands, I did stay dry. I could pour water out of my shoes, though, and my rain gear deposited a large puddle on the floor in the hotel. When I first arrived in my hotel room and took my shoes off, I was very startled to find the floor so very warm. I wondered the kind of tired, wet things one wonders: surely this floor isn't heated ... surely, there isn't a fire downstairs. Then I realized that my feet were so cold that room-temperature floor felt warm. Next trip I will bring along a pair of wool cycling socks.

The Ortlieb panniers kept everything in them bone dry, particularly important with this tablet in them. The tablet is great to have along. Not only does it let me keep in touch, which has turned out to be quite important to me, but it provides me with maps of towns, so I can more easily find my hotel, restaurants, tourist bureaus, or just the route through town.

Rain is forecast again tomorrow, hope my gear dries out overnight. Actually, I don't have much hope for the shoes.

I think I've realized that one of the things that helps to keep smaller hotel prices lower here is that they are not staffed all the time. Arrived to find a phone number on the door, called, and the owner came right over to let me in. After a couple hours drying out, rinsing clothes, checking email,  I went out for a walk, and found the sun had appeared. What a nice surprise! My window opens out close to the back of the church, so there's not much sky to be seen from it.

Tomorrow I head to Lagrasse, a short ride.



  1. This blog is so much fun to read! Living vicariously is pretty good, especially if one has developed a lazy streak. When are you coming home? Laury

  2. Laury, Thanks!! It's fun to write and so is this trip ... hope some of that comes through! It would be better, though, if my editor ... you know who ... had a shot at it first!! I fly this Saturday, the 24th. Into Boston late in the afternoon, I think. Suze


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