This morning did not begin well. We slept in, ensuring a full day of riding in the sweltering Provence heat with nobody to blame but ourselves. Making matters worse, just as we were leaving I realized my rear tire was flat. After tearing everything apart and patching the tube, I was unable to find the cause. There were no glass bits or any other foreign objects to be found! I hate mystery flats; more often than not they cause multiple leaks before they are located.
As I finished up I grumbled to myself about how it was practically noon and we were still in camp, that I was already sweaty and we hadn't gone anywhere, and that I was pretty sure I would be tearing my rear wheel off again before the day was out. While tightening my rear skewer (the part that secures a bicycle wheel to the frame) I felt the unmistakable click and slip of a stripped bolt. "You've got to be f***ing kidding me," I said under my breath.
I sullenly informed Tara that it looked like we weren't going anywhere until we got a new skewer. She calmly headed to reception to inquire where the nearest bike shop was while I held down camp, sitting on the ground grumbling dramatically to myself about how our bikes would completely fall apart before we ever made it anywhere. After imagining numerous equipment failure scenarios that were sure to happen, I decided to snap out of it and see if I could do something productive about our problem. I immediately remembered packing a bunch of nuts and bolts before we left, vividly recalling how I had thought to myself that I'd never use them.
Poking around in my spare parts bag I found a one with the same threading as our skewers!
Just as I was finishing my save-the-day repair Tara strolled into camp with a smile saying she'd saved the day by getting us a ride to the nearest bike shop, 40km away. I don't know why I waste time getting upset when we have problems. It never serves any useful purpose and between the two of us we always find a solution; often more than one. After showing Tara my repair and explaining that we'd be fine until we found a bike shop on our own, we headed out, stopping to let the friendly campsite owner know that we were a-ok.
It was exceedingly hot as we coasted into the nearby village of Aiguines. It was going to be a 12 water bottle day. We hid our bikes in the shade and had a very late breakfast of bread from the local bakery spread with our numerous toppings. Feeling a bit more level-headed with some food in my stomach we continued coasting down the mountains we'd climbed two days ago. As we arrived at the shores of Lac de Sainte-Croix we were both taken aback by how blue the water was. The whole scene was so colorful it was almost as though we were in a dream.
We stopped to buy fruit, take a quick swim, and investigate the cost of renting a paddle-boat to float around in the lake and nearby calanques. Tara wanted to scratch the entire day, make camp and go sightseeing. Unfortunately the paddle-boats were extremely expensive and the prospect of setting up camp 20 minutes after tearing it down sounded terrible. Ultimately we decided to continue on, heat or no heat.
Normally any downhill is cause for exuberance but today we coasted joylessly, feeling as though we were riding in an oven. Bubbling tar stuck to our wheels with a disquieting sound reminiscent of continuously running over june-bugs. The air above the road was hazy, rippling like a mirage in the onslaught of heat pouring down from overhead. Seeking refuge in the shade we momentarily gave up, talking about what we wanted to do with the day. Unable to arrive at any conclusion we sat around for at least 20 minutes poking at bread and sulking. Being in the shade drilling holes in the crust with sticks and making masks out of our baguette was a lot more appealing than stepping back out into the sun.
In the end we decided to push on. The terrain began to climb again, and we survived by drinking copious amounts of water and listening to music. Just a few minutes after our rest break in the mountains we descended into spacious plains full of lavender fields and sunflowers. We were both stunned by how quickly the scenery changed and disappointed that the weather hadn't turned with it. It was still unbearably hot, like an oven filled with lavender (a smell Tara dislikes), but at least we could make some time now that we were out of the mountains.
With a slight downgrade, new scenery, and music to occupy our minds we managed to get into the groove of riding. Escaping the trap of self- and weather-loathing, we managed to cover 50 kilometers with relative ease, snapping photos and enjoying ourselves along the way. It was a hard day but we agreed it felt good to put some distance between us and our crappy morning.
Here are a few photos we captured of the harvest season: