Margaret and Dick   


July '10: Jean-Marc, phone home
I headed into the Corbières mountains for today’s training ride.  Guidebooks, if they mention the area at all, advise drivers to fill the tank before venturing in.  The area is pretty desolate, and it’s the reason we consider this the best cycling area in France (and therefore the world).  Dick insisted that I take the cellphone to keep him posted on my whereabouts.

I crossed over the massif of the western Corbières on a “main” road, that is to say, a road where two cars can cross paths easily.  The descent from the col de Picou is unprotected and windswept, and today’s high winds meant it would be a poor choice for returning home.  I sat on the bridge in the village of Villar en Val and munched my sandwich.  Lunchtime was approaching so, as the French would say, pas un chat (not a cat, i.e. a soul, in sight).  I pulled out the phone to tell Dick I would be home in a couple of hours and was reminded of the futility of carrying a cellphone into the Corbières.  I imagined one of the locals protesting, “When I want to talk to somebody, I cross the street and talk to them!”  I clipped back into my pedals and started up the col de Taurize, a lovely meandering road through the forest connecting this small village on the east of the massif with an even smaller village on the west.

So it was a surprise when I saw a car approaching from the col.  Even more surprising when the driver stopped after passing and began backing up toward me.  I pulled off the road, which is wide enough for a car and bicycle to cross paths but perhaps not so for a car traveling in reverse.  The driver was a pretty young woman, clearly in distress.
Pardon, madame, but have you seen a man, bald, walking with a backpack?”  I told her I hadn’t seen a pedestrian all day – and not many cars, for that matter.  I described my path from Fajac to Arquettes to Villar.
“If I see him, what should I do?”
“Do you have a cellphone?”  Ah!  I programmed his name, Jean-Marc, and her number.  I described my path home and promised to call if I saw him.
“Where did you lose him?”
“I don’t know.  He left.”  Big sigh, the weight of the world on her shoulders.
“I’m so sorry.  What is your name?”
“Good luck, Marie-Estelle.”
She continued down the road, and I continued up the pass.

Back home, I think of Marie-Estelle’s number programmed in the cellphone and resist the temptation to call for an update.  Jean-Marc, if you’re reading this, I really hope you’ll reconsider.

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