As we approached "Route Des Crêtes", the coastal road we had intended on riding this morning, we saw a sign that read "Route Barrée a 1000 m"—the road was closed in one kilometer due to road work. In typical Provence fashion, the work was supposed to have been completed two months ago. As usual when faced with a sign telling him not to do something, Tyler promptly disregarded it and decided we should go investigate, hoping to find a way to continue on our route as planned. I obliged, and to my dismay, the path turned steep early on. Soon we were pushing our bikes up a 30% grade hill in the face of signs every hundred meters warning that the road ahead was blocked and impassable.
Needless to say, I was doubtful of our little adventure, and less than thrilled with our now massive and possibly fruitless climb which would take up the better part of the morning. Skeptical, I followed Tyler as somehow he always makes these things worth the effort in the end. After a few hundred meters of riding/pushing straight up on faith, I decided to stop. I told Tyler he could push the last 200 meters himself and let me know what he found. A few minutes later as I was catching my breath I heard him yelling for me. He was very high on the road above saying we could continue.
I sighed and heaved my bike up the remaining two hundred meters to find, unsurprisingly, the route barrée. A huge metal gate had been shut across the pavement, preventing cars from passing. Luckily for us, there was plenty of room for a bicycle to go around. I was wary, of course. What if we climbed all this way only to be faced with massive road work, large construction vehicles and people angry at us for disregarding their signs? There was only one way to find out.
As we wheeled our bicycles around the gate and began pedaling on the closed road, we passed a local couple who were nonchalantly walking their dog. Tyler laughed and I finally had all the reassurance I needed that we were "ok". The Route Des Crêtes turned out to be an incredible ride. We spent the entire morning climbing beautiful winding mountain roads with stunning views of the coast at every turn.
There was nothing wrong with the road at all! It was perfectly paved! There was absolutely no reason we could see why it should be closed. We weren't complaining though, it was wonderful to have it all to ourselves. This was the kind of road people in sports cars would enjoy driving fast on and I was glad we didn't have to squeeze to the shoulder (the edge of the mountain) so they could pass.
When we reached the top (360m) the wind was blowing with a vengeance. It felt great to have some relief from the heat, but it was also a little unnerving being buffeted about by gale force winds on the way down. At one point during our descent, a Park Ranger's truck drove by and I was instantly nervous he was going to pull over and yell at us. Tyler predicted correctly that he would drive right by as if we weren't even there. We then coasted (and braked) the rest of the way down into the next town where we wheeled our bikes around their big metal gate too. People in cars are missing out on a really scenic ride!
Soon after leaving our private coastal road Tyler spotted a grocery store so we hopped off our bikes to refuel. We couldn't decide what to make and we were feeling pretty lazy so we ended up saying to hell with it, and buying a large tin can of pre-made chili (our first canned meal). After our purchases were complete, I ran over to the bakery across the street to pick up some bread. I ended up coming back with two almond tarts as well!
Panniers filled with food, we set off again, munching on our tarts. We biked beside the coast for a long time, often stopping to admire the Mediterranean views and their increasingly posh cities.
At a relatively empty beach we decided to stop for a swim and have some lunch. We leaned our bikes against a tree and set up our walkstools in the shade. While we ate, we noticed another cycle tourist a little further down on the beach!
After lunch we made our way out to the water, wading in calf-high before chickening out in the face of the arctic-ly cold sea. Heading back towards our bikes we stopped to say hello to our fellow cyclist. We met Stephanie, a badass German girl on her first cycle tour ever, a solo six-month route through France and Austria. We don't speak German and she didn't think her English was very good, but we managed in French just fine.
This was Stephanie's very first cycle tour (and first experience doing anything sporty) and she was doing it all by herself! Instead of camping she asks local families if she can pitch her tent on their lawns. She's been gone two months now, and has successfully found a place to stay every night. She, like me, dreams of ice cream and dreads climbing mountains. Tyler told her if she was brave enough to set off on her own she needn't be afraid of hills. I told her to go slowly and use easy gears; it can suck, but you get through it and the views are worth it!
With lots of smiles and waves we left Stephanie, inspired by her journey, and followed a fantastic bike path leading to our camp for the night. Along the way we were passing through yet another super-touristy beach town when we heard a voice come on an unseen loudspeaker announcing an airshow! Yet again, as is so often the case on our trip, we were in the right place at the right time! Fighter jets came roaring into the sky in perfect formation. Cars parked haphazardly and the passengers left their seats to crane their necks and look in awe at the high-speed acrobatics. Tyler hopped off, excitedly running to the beach to take pictures of this modern marvel. It was so cool!
When the airshow was over, we made our way to "Camping les Mimosas" where we set up camp next to the Boulodrome (the terrain for playing boules, or as it is called in the US: bocce ball). While Tyler made camp I set about making dinner. I pulled a tab on our can of chili, poured it into a pan and heated it up with our whisperlight and I was done! Surprisingly, the chili was delicious (after a few additions of course). Though we love to cook, it was so delightfully easy to have canned food that we both decided we should add it to our repertoire more often. After an easy clean-up, we settled in bed for an early night, amazed yet again by all we'd experienced in less than 12 hours.