Sometimes the hardest part of cycling around the world can be simply getting up in the morning. Actually, I think this is true for accomplishing just about anything in the simple sense that you must first get moving to do it. Today the alarm sounded at 6 AM and get moving we did. Our odd ghost town of a campsite was still doing its zombie-vibe thing and we were eager to leave. While packing I envisioned tumbleweeds blowing around to the sound of showdown music. Our plan was to pay at reception if they were there but to feel no remorse in cycling away if they weren't. With no facilities and barely a drop of running water, the 13 a night advertised seemed more than a bit steep. As we navigated our way out of the dusty site we noted that the reception building was still dark, and in fact appeared to be completely abandoned. We deftly cycled away feeling a bit like criminals.
So single-minded was our desire to leave camp gloom (and honestly, to make a free night of it) that we neglected to eat breakfast before we departed. Thankfully France was serving an overcast sky with a side of very flat roads for our first 20 kilometer stretch. Neither of us felt the pangs of hunger that England's morning hill climbs so often provided. With a decent start behind us we settled down to a picnic breakfast next to a field of wheat, both feeling cheery about the cool, early morning air. It might be hard to get up early but boy is it worth it.
After breakfast we began our trek inland by heading in the general direction of Marseilles. We cycled through quite a bit of ugly coastal town suburbia before breaking clear into the beautiful rural French countryside. As best I can tell every square inch of France that isn't inhabited is covered in farmland. The weather never really cleared up and we were glad of it. Cycling along under pillowy skies and light drizzle was an absolute dream after the last several days of blistering heat. One thing is certain, by the time this trip is over we will have learned to enjoy the specific merits of just about every kind of weather (while complaining about what each lacks in our journal entries!).
As we made our way further inland the flat coast roads we had so enjoyed began a slow undulation into larger and more frequent hills. With my legs spinning along in autopilot I became very aware of how radically our bodies have risen to the challenge we've set before them. We charged up hills in tall gears like they weren't even there in places where just a month ago we would have immediately dismounted to walk. The strength of my legs and Tara's ability to keep up as we spun out kilometer after kilometer of road behind us absolutely blew me away. I was even carrying at least 10lbs of additional weight in my front panniers fresh from a large grocery run this morning and it had no perceptible effect whatsoever.
About 75 kilometers in to our ride, still feeling plenty energized we decided to look for a campsite. Tara has this idea that we should quit while we're ahead and enjoy ourselves. It has taken awhile for me to see the merits of this; if she wasn't here I would probably be "making hay while the sun shines" all the way to Kuala Lumpur without finding time to relax! We quickly found a beautiful municipal campsite (when it comes to camping, France RULES) and settled in at the early hour of 3pm.
The rest of the day isn't much to write home about, I got a lot of work done. We finally heard back from Exped though! I just need to arrange a French address for our replacements to be posted and hopefully they'll have some sage advice for how to better care for the new mats. We really do love them apart from the fact that they are falling apart. We're going to try this early rising business again tomorrow. Hopefully Tara will have another elated journal entry talking about how accomplished we feel :)
Lastly, here are some more photos in my growing collection of frilly French roadsigns: