It was one of three long climbs for the day, each of over 1,200 feet, through spectacular scenery. One was out of a steep canyon that had a hydro plant, making Andrew feel right at home, as he works for such a firm in Australia managing its computer programmers. He had been doing such a fine job he learned during the China portion of these travels that he had been given a promotion, contributing to his good mood, his natural state during our three travels together.
We battled a strong, swirling wind all day. The wind power interests would like to introduce wind generators to the region. Graffiti along the road protested. Andrew said wind generated power doesn't make economic sense and is no threat to hydro. Solar has much greater possibilities to be a viable alternative.
Andrew and I were challenged to keep up with Craig's fresh legs. We had yet to fully recover from our hard push to reach his house Thursday night. We didn't arrive until after ten, completing the final steep mile-and-a-half climb to his small village in the dark. It was a 94-mile day, mostly into the wind, but we were determined to arrive that night so we could have a full rest day at Craig's. I was hoping to go for a ride with Craig on his new tandem, but we were so busy with various activities the day escaped us before we had a chance.
Some of the day was spent working on our bikes in Craig's basement. The French term for it, "cave," could not be more appropriate. It has a dirt floor, a high wooden-beamed ceiling and solid stone walls. It could have been used as the town dungeon when it was built 200 years ago. Craig has ten bikes hanging from one wall. He hadn't ridden his touring bike since last summer, so needed to give it a good tending to before heading out on a five-day ride, his longest since riding with me to Cannes four years ago.
One of Andrew's projects was to oil his new Brooks leather seat that he had purchased in Bangkok after ruining his previous seat in China. Craig too is a devotee of leather saddles and had various lotions to apply. That was just one of many of their shared interests that gave them plenty to discuss. Andrew too has ten bikes back home, including a tandem. He had much advice on how to ease girl friends into being riding companions. All the conversation made the day fly.
We joined Craig in his Citroen Deux Chevaux for a serious of errands. We stopped off at the local butcher in a neighboring village hoping it might have horse meat for Andrew, the ardent carnivore. He told us we could only get it from a butcher who specialized in horse meat, as it is so is similar to beef, a regular butcher who sold it would be suspect of mixing it in with his beef. Craig knew of such a butcher in Le Vigan, a town we would be passing through the next day.
The butcher was another of the great cheery figures we crossed paths with on Saturday. Andrew said he was further proof of his theory that meat eaters have a better disposition than vegetarians. He didn't have a great selection of cuts left when we arrived mid-morning, as he is only open one day a week, on market-day. He had a steady stream of customers during our brief time there. Andrew had to settle for a cut with a little less fat than he would have preferred.
Leaving Le Vigan we shortly came to a sign saying the road was closed up ahead. We knew cyclists could often navigate through such blockades and it being a Saturday, it wasn't likely there'd be a road crew to contend with. We could narrowly make it through, having to walk our bikes along a narrow ledge with a thirty foot drop.
At the summit of our first climb of the day a magnificent chateau rose above the small village of Montardier. Andrew and I would have missed it if Craig hadn't stopped us and told us to look back, as it can't be seen until after one has passed through the village from the side we entered.
We also made a slight detour later in the day in the town of Lodéve to see what Craig called the most unique WWI memorial in all of France by a local sculpture who is also honored by a museum devoted to him in the town. Most of the more than 30,000 such monuments in every town and village in France feature a soldier holding a rifle. This showed a downed soldier's relatives grieving over his death.
We had one last climb for the day, smaller than the big three, leading to our campsite at the top of a ridge down a path that protected us from the wind. It got our total number of feet climbed for the day to 6,000 in just over sixty miles, an extraordinary amount of climbing. We were all quite tired.
Andrew looked quite dapper wearing an argyle sweater that Craig had given him. Even though it was the warmest camping since Andrew and I left Cannes, it was still a cool evening. Andrew had mentioned to Craig back at his home that he was in need of a "jumper," Australian for sweater, and wondered if there might be a place to buy one, as it had been much colder than he had anticipated and was often wearing all the clothes he had brought and was just barely staying warm. Craig actually had a spare that he had intended to drop off at a local resale shop.