With three blissful days of rest behind us we bid farewell to Bluesoleil Campground and started our trek southeast to Estelle (just outside Millau). We are hoping to reach Ingrid and Yvves of
BikeAway by Monday. It'll require riding 70+ kilometers a day until we get there but as we continue to get stronger and wake up earlier we're finding it easier and easier to go further.
As soon as our wheels hit the pavement under the cloudy morning skies of Rouffignac I felt absolutely elated. I always feel an incredible sense of purpose at the beginning of our day (the purpose can wear a little thin 4 hours into a blistering hot day of hills!).
Pedaling away from camp after a good night of sleep, when the cycling is still easy, I often reminisce about planning this trip. We stretched a huge map out on the floor, held in place by heavy books so it wouldn't roll up on us. Then we would get down on all fours armed with dry-erase markers, drawing lines on our laminated world, all the while laughing because it felt completely absurd and unreal. Now we're doing it. We're actually doing it!
The air was crisp and the roads were inviting this morning; our ride began with a 6 kilometer downhill that I knew was a blessing and a curse. We swiftly wound our way downwards, coasting into a beautiful valley. We would spend the next several hours battling our way up long ascents only to be pitched right back down to the bottom to begin again. Somehow we both felt rusty after only 3 days off. More likely though, we'd been spoiled by a few good stretches of level roads.
Even though the riding was hard and the sun made an earlier appearance than we would have liked, we were in good spirits. I stuck it out in the heat wearing my long sleeved shirt, deciding that I'd rather sweat like crazy than deal with sunscreen. After numerous long climbs we stopped for lunch in the quaint village of Saint Geniès. Tara ran around town, snapping photos of the village and its shops. She is much better with villages and cities than I am. I never know what to look for or how to frame the photos. I much prefer nature and candid photography (so far).
After a longish lunch we tore out of town at a good clip, feeling very refreshed and hopeful that we'd find level ground. One or two demanding hills later we were rewarded with 20 kilometers of pancake flat riding at the base of an absolutely gorgeous valley. We passed by some ridiculously stunning wheat fields, a few run-down villages and a foie gras farm before starting the inevitable end of the day campground sign chasing.
We were considering touring the foie gras farm, but as neither of us particularly likes duck liver pate, we were content to take pictures of these guys, destined to an early death:
After circling around quite a bit we found our intended destination in Mayrac, "Le Pic Campground". We were thrilled as the campground was very secluded, far away from any sort of hustle or bustle. The scenery was still magnificent and we pushed our bicycles to the entrance up one last, ridiculously steep hill. From the top, I spotted a pool, and immediately exclaimed that I was going to jump in before doing anything else.
We exhaustedly leaned our bikes against the reception building, found the owner and received a short tour before I made a quick dash for the inviting blue water. I jumped in fully clothed save for my shoes. The water was freezing cold, but it was great; I had felt like I was going to melt if I didn't lower my body temperature by a few degrees! A few minutes later Tara joined me and we happily let the heat of the day dissipate into the water while cheering about another successful ride.
Thoroughly refreshed, we found our home for the night on a flat, shady pitch located conveniently close to the bathroom block. I began setting up camp while Tara went to find the owners to pay and to ask about the internet connection we saw advertised. She brought our laptop with her and the owner gave us the wireless network password; it was free! When she returned, she put the finishing touches on camp while I retired to the tent to get some work done. Not long after, I heard her whisper intensely "TYLER! LOOK! GOATS!" Sure enough, two fearless little goats were on their way over to investigate.
We thought they might keep their distance or be quickly frightened off, but they shamelessly entered our camp, perused our stuff, and walked right up into our faces to say hi. We were giddy as we petted them, but then a sudden loud noise sent them bounding haphazardly down the hill. Thanks for coming to visit us, little goat friends! Tara found out later that they are the owner's goats, and are allowed to run free! We decided that we need to have goats on our future farm.
After our new friends bid us a rushed farewell, Tara got to work making dinner, bravely facing the buggy evening. This was the first time we've noticed an abundance of mosquitoes and it made us both aware how how lucky we've been so far, and how desperately we now need to pick up some bug spray! I did some work for my clients in the safety of our tent until Tara called me for dinner. She had made a delicious salad complete with lettuce, ham, hard boiled egg, apple, onion, cheese, and other toppings, along with what we've dubbed "home soup," a very comforting salty chicken noodle soup with big chunks of potato and onion.
Stuffed from another wonderful dinner and exhausted from another successful day we settled in for some journaling and reading. Tara didn't get very far before falling asleep, face first into her book. I programmed for another hour or two before rousing Tara to join me in the sleeping bag. Tomorrow we're off to see some caves!