Today my tour took on a whole different character. Sunny, in the forties, I rode all day in my favorite outfit: wool tights and wool jersey. Gloves off at midday for the first time. Even too warm for the Fedora. A tailwind blew me through the suburbs of Bordeaux and soon I was in flat farmland, then managed forests of Scotch pine or similar species. Instead of wondering when I would ever get to the next town to warm up, I was saying, “What, here already?” For adventure, I took an unpaved road, a 10k shortcut to save a few kilometers. Good halfway, it turned to unridable sand, hard to push through. It was over soon; I didn’t save any time, but with my plan to camp tonight, time was not an issue. I made ten more kilometers than I had planned anyway.
Every so often an inviting logging road appeared on the left or right. When the sun got low and I felt some chill in the air, I picked one at an edge between field and forest, so that the morning sun would hit my campsite. Bread, cheese and fruit for dinner. The soil is sandy and dry, covered with pine needles. It doesn’t get much better than that.
A little walk showed me tracks and signs of small deer and large wild boar. These feral pigs are not the giants that menaced medieval peasants, but they are big enough to be a danger. Usually wary of contact, they will attack if you are on their established trails.
I really have the urge to chronicle lately. My only human contact today was at the grocery store. It’s dark now and my tent is lit by this little screen as I type. It is not yet 8:00PM but I will be asleep soon.
Next day now (Friday, February 17). This morning I awoke at dawn and was pedaling an hour later. More flat and beautiful woodland, much of it on a smooth new bike path away from the roads. Late in the afternoon, however, this paradise gave way to seaside tourist land, off-season. Rows of giant hotels and crowded boutique avenues, it reminded me of the Jersey shore, right down to the style-challenged vacationers and occasional surfer bum. And this was when It was time to find a campsite. When I heard the surf, I made my way toward the Atlantic and was awed by the horizon, as I am always awed by the ocean when it appears. I watched a lone surfer catch two ten-second waves in fifteen minutes (admirable dedication) and proceeded south. I consulted the oracle (Google maps) and soon found paradise, a municipal forest of huge oaks and sandy trails. The sign said no camping, but it was in French, which assured me that I would not be disturbed by French campers. I got set up by dark and cooked pasta, which I had carried half-way around the world for this occasion. Magically, I could hear the distant surf, but not the nearby highway. This was Capbreton, France.
In the morning I took my time, letting the sun dry my sleeping bag and tent before setting off. This tent is my first “single-wall” design, which means that instead of lightweight walls with a separate rain fly, it employs a breathable waterproof fabric, like Gore-Tex. Advantage: lightweight simplicity. Disadvantage: condensation. Last night’s cold temperatures (frost), even with vent and door open, produced wet interior walls, all from my breath. Condensation around the hood of my sleeping bag is normal in any small tent. I am preparing some separate “Technical Information” pages for gear enthusiasts where I will review my equipment (which I call my “kit” to honor my British friends I miss so much), so that’s enough for now.
Saturday’s ride brought me to Bayonne, which surprised me with its beauty and charm. I lunched by the downtown river waterfront (carrots and clementines) while a carnival, complete with costumed revelers and musicians, filled the air with happy sounds.
In the afternoon I encountered the first significant hills since England, and the massive Pyrenees appeared in the distance. I am happy to report that only five weeks since my accident left me feeling feeble, my legs are like pistons and simply obey my commands without complaint, and it takes a good long hill to get me huffing and puffing.
I arrived at the home of my good friends Francis and Irene a bit early, and here I sit in their sunny dooryard awaiting their arrival. The mountains loom closer now to the south and on the other side, Basque Spain. I will stay here a few days to visit my friends, clean my bike and rest my bones. Thanks for checking in.