Frustration would be the overarching feeling of the past couple of days. Looking at a map the area between Arles and Montpellier has windy written all over it, the Camargue. Miles of nothing manages to scrape it a three star rating on my map, the riding is not so different from the fens around Cambridge with the absence of Ely cathedral. For whatever reason it appeared the Mistral was taking a day off and the ride was really very inoffensive. Little did I know that my frustrations were just beginning, Aigues-Mortes receiving only one star is an impressively walled town, and beyond that La Grande (and Petite) Motte, all beautiful places. However here I start to fall victim of the nightmarish French road system. I think that my ride home is likely to be defined by my struggle to find permissible roads for bicycles. Clearly autoroutes are out, but having been hopefully mistaking a 'no cycling' sign for a 'beware cyclists' sign means that Ive already clocked up 140 elicit km, however i'll backpocket that as a decent excuse when my patience inevitably collapses and I plough onto a forbidden highway regardless, not that the police have bothered so far (hardly china), sadly it looks like the French police taxi is probably a none starter. The major problem is that it's not possible to plan bike routes in advance because of the useless French road naming system which appears to be focused on political point scoring rather than user friendliness. Nobody gives une merde if the road was built by the departement (D roads) or national (N roads) government. What drivers want to know is what the speed limit is and how many lanes it has. What I want to know is 'Can I cycle on it?'. This is completely in-evident from my map and google's. Some N roads are tiny and some D roads practically autoroute territory. Struck with a no cycling D road whilst otherwise completely surrounded by water on my approach to Montpellier. There was no way I was turning back so I effectively past Montpellier to find a cycle route (detour) over the water. After previous complimentary comments on French cycle routes, I was typically dropped from the cycle route with no idea where I was and surrounded by anti bike roads. Despite being lined up at this stage to enter Montpellier from the south west, I eventually made it into the city from the north east along other D roads (farm tracks)! My day was here on enhanced by finding a cheap hotel with bed bugs and without running water as standard. This was especially delightful as some eggs that I had stolen from that morning's breakfast turned out to have been raw and had cracked and pooled inside my pannier bag. A more unusual fate for my camera. A dry clean all round..
Many stealthy hours of google earth reconnaissance went into today's route in an attempt to try to determine the exact size of the D and N roads I had planned on. Turns out this was wasted effort as even some small roads are no cycling zones! Apparently trial and error seems the only tool I'm left with- although quite painful for a cyclist. Another solution would be to attach a motor to my bike, I don't necessarily have to use it but it would technically qualify me to sit on the roads and there is of course pleading ignorance.
After yesterday's taper the mistral was on the top form, escalating my frustration to new levels. Send me mountains anyday, it's possible to grind away at mountains at similar speeds of around 12km/h but there's a certain satisfaction that comes with climbing the cols, there is nothing satisfying about fighting against an outrageous headwind, I tell myself that there isn't 4000km of it..
Im now in Carcassonne, famous for its stunning medieval city built into a castle. This, in addition to a hotel room with running water has done wonders for the soothing of my colere although a definite scent of egg still lingers.
Thank you very much to everyone who has recently donated to my charity, with special thanks to Tilly a student (who I've never met) at a primary school (I didn't attend), who organised a successful bake sale! I'm touched by your generosity and it certainly makes all the difference!