Riding in the heat yesterday, we both latched on to the idea of having popcicles. Sadly, the opportunity never presented itself. Today while we were picking up groceries in the quaint coastal town of Martigues I spotted a bag of "Mickey's Mr. Freezies" and promptly purchased them (16 to a bag). We sat down outside like a couple of 10 year olds, intent on consuming them all before they melted. By the time I made it to number 4 I was starting to feel a little queasy. I used to eat Mr. Freezes non-stop all summer long as a kid, so I guess this means I'm getting old (or just eating healthier)! We didn't even come close to finishing them but we had a great time trying.
Feeling a little twitchy from our sugar binge we cycled further south to meet the Mediterranean coastline which we hoped to cycle along for the rest of the day. After some considerable hill climbing we coasted down to a small beach overlooking the ocean. It was stunning; I have never seen water so blue! We quickly decided to go for a dip, parked our bikes and waded out into the cool waters. I keep thinking we're far enough south for the ocean to be warm but I guess we have ways to go before that happens(?). It was extremely cold but very refreshing.
Soaking wet and grinning from ear to ear, we decided to have lunch at our majestic beach before continuing on. Tara gathered food supplies and I ferried them down a nearby rock face to a nice spot where we could sit with our legs in the water. We shared various leftovers, making sure not to set any of them on our laps for fear of them getting soaked. Tara worried that our things would be washed away in the "rising" tide (as I write this Tara says, "It was TOO rising!").
After leaving our picnic spot, we continued biking along the coast. Here are some more photos:
We keep saying that we're going to stop routing ourselves through, or even near, big cities. Yet somehow we (okay, I) keep doing it. Towards what we had hoped would be the end of our day we rode into Marseilles from the north on a sea of extremely busy port highways. It wasn't exactly fun being the only bikes on such a heavily trafficked route, but we were in relatively good spirits and feeling quite capable as we navigated our way along the bridges and narrow shoulders with an endless stream of traffic racing by just a few feet away. Unexpectedly, our ride was actually pretty enjoyable once we made it into the city itself.
Laughing at the gridlock of slow-moving, loud, polluting cars, we darted to and fro on our way in and out of the city. It was such a circus with cars, delivery trucks, scooters, motorcycles, and pedestrians cutting each other off and acting in their own self-interest regardless of safety, that no one seemed to notice two fully-loaded touring bikes trying to navigate the streets as well. We were so engaged in riding through the spectacle of people and traffic that we barely took notice of several very large hills we climbed along the way. If I learned anything from our trip through Marseilles it was that if you are in France, on a scooter, there are no road laws of any kind! They scooted in and out of bicycle lanes, pedestrian only sidewalks, bus lanes, and cut traffic constantly (it looked like a lot of fun actually).
Upon leaving the boisterous city I realized how much I am learning to appreciate the quiet of nature. Until very recently I've never taken notice of how overwhelmingly LOUD motorized transport is. Where before all of the racket was just everyday white noise I now feel assaulted by the din of modern life. The only thing louder than traffic that we encounter regularly is the ubiquitous chirping of the millions of cicadas that fill the trees.
Just getting through the city was quite an experience; it wasn't until around the time we were leaving that we realized we hadn't found a campsite yet. For some reason I expected we would come across one in or around the city. I was wrong. Rather than riding on blindly hoping for an opportunity to present itself we stopped by the side of the road and consulted the internet for a solution. We were both excited and crestfallen to find a site in Cassis, right next to a swimming spot we planned to visit, but 30 kilometers down the road. We took a few moments to feel sorry for ourselves about the distance before we shaped up and carried on happily knowing we had a place to stay.
As we made it to the outer edges of Marseilles we spotted a grocery store and decided to take yet another break for a cold snack. Ice cream really helps bolster morale when the weather is hot! While sitting outside the grocery store devouring our treat we noticed that the road leading to Cassis appeared to wind up what seemed at the time to be a rather large mountain. Again, we took a few moments to feel sorry for ourselves before putting our heads down and pedaling away.
It was hot, sweaty work but we ascended a full 230 meters to the top of the pass, making our total ascent for the day over 1000m! I only recently started using the altimeter on our GPS so I don't know if it was our biggest day ever but it sure felt like it. Tara led most of the way on the final pass, grinding it up in high gear like a woman on a mission. I don't often feel like I have to chase her but I definitely did for this climb. When we reached the top we cheered wildly, knowing that we'd have a long, "free" ride the rest of the way to camp. Before we started our descent I snapped a few photos of this gruesome site of a car:
We cruised down the other side of the mountain into Cassis at 40-50kph, the wind in our face quickly erasing all memory of the mountain we left behind us. Though I often tell myself that what goes up must come down when we are climbing a particularly difficult hill, there is nothing quite like getting the full payoff for your labors immediately after you've performed them. I've decided that I enjoy mountain climbing quite a bit more than riding through a generally hilly area.
We coasted into camp at 8PM singing our nightly "We Did It!" song, thrilled to be home and excited at the prospect of the two days of rest ahead of us. Tara hopped off her bike and went to the reception office to check in but quickly noticed a sign saying "Camping Complet". Merde. Upon talking to the man who ran the campsite and he was sorry but said very firmly that there simply weren't any spaces left. Unbelievably desperate to camp here, and unwilling to bike any more kilometers in our already long day, Tara explained the situation again. This time the man understood we were on bicycles. Instantly his demeanor changed and he told her not to worry. They would make room for us somewhere, even if they had to stick us on the playground for the night, they would find a space. "When people come on foot or by bike," he said, "we never turn them away."
To our great relief a young woman quickly got us registered and walked us to our campsite. We made camp in a crowded but quiet area, only a foot away from tents on either side. No matter, not only were we home, but we had blessed shade and a wonderful cool breeze. Yet another successful day!