Margaret and Dick   


Day six: Mont Louis to Cerbere

Distance:  129 km (~80 mi)

Total climbing:  ~760 m (2,466 ft)

Calories burned:  2,115

Resting heart rate (a.m.):  64

The cols:  A screaming 30-mile descent from Mont Louis to near sea level; rolling hills as we worked our way down the coast.


Magic happens.

We expected a day with very heavy traffic.  Many French people take vacation in July, most take vacation in August, and when July 31/Aug 1 fall on a Saturday/Sunday, you have The Perfect Traffic Jam.  Traffic engineers had anticipated 500 miles of bottlenecks on the autoroutes (later reported to be only 420 miles).  We were headed for the coast -- oy! 

We finished our screaming downhill run toward the coast just as traffic was beginning to increase, then switched to small village roads that JC had scouted out for us.  We had the roads mostly to ourselves.  When we began our 20-mile ride along the coast through the tourist meccas, the roads were easily navigable.  We don't understand how this happened, but we've all suspected that cycling tours are somehow protected by a cosmic bubble. 

Lorna and Sonia found a bit of shade on a side street in one of the villages that we would pass at lunchtime.  As Lorna waited on the road to direct us to the car, Sonia was approached by one of the locals who offered her a glass of Rivesaltes (a sweet wine) as an aperitif before lunch.  He charmed us all when we arrived.  Another neighbor, seeing us, brought out some miscellaneous bike parts to ask advice on assembly.  Finally another neighbor called out from their yard, "You'll be much cooler eating lunch up here by the pool."  His wife joined in, "Nothing ever happens in this neighborhood.  This is exciting!"  We joined them for the next hour; Lorna and Sonia lingered to cool their feet in the pool.  Our host, a retired Major General of the French army who had served in Riyadh with American troops during the first Gulf war, exchanged stories of Saudi Arabia with Daphne and Doug.  Le monde est petit.

As we approached the scenic coastal town of Collioure, Doug and Neil raced up the long climb over the hills that surround the town.  Daphne and I mused at their testosterone levels and wondered how they could still have so much energy.  JC led us up the hill at a moderate pace and pointed out the terraced vineyards as we climbed past. 

We arrived in Cerbere and encountered a New Zealand family vacationing from their home in Brussels.  Their car was festooned with bicycles of all sizes, and they had children of all sizes to match.  A son looked longingly at our yellow bracelets -- he had admired them on the Tour de France riders.  Lorna gave him her bracelet.  

We were all a bit overwhelmed when we realized the trip was complete.  Jean-Claude, who had dreamed of this moment for many years, spent a long while just standing looking out at the sea.  It felt strange to get into a car after six days on the bike, strange to travel at automobile speeds. 

(Pyrenees day five)

(Pyrenees summary)