5th August 2009.

First I have to say that my Aunt Lucy is not a twitcher, she is  bird watcher.  She also emails me to say that she is 85 not 87 and that when you get to 85 you feel old enough without having a couple more years added on.  I've a bit to go before I reach 85 but I can relate to that.  Although I still think that if you can start to learn computing at 84 you are not in danger of becoming old before your time.

I set off in the morning dutifully following the Autoroute Express planned route.  It started off just great.  Then I noticed it wanted me to turn off from the route I thought I had marked on the map, it was a very tiny road, but I followed it, for a while, until this notice appeared.


Well, it wasn't far to get back to the road I thought I was going to be on, and anyway, it was a pretty way back.  The road I was on - the real road - was pretty too.  I prefer to use Michelin maps, they mark roads with a green stripe alongside if they consider it be to be a pretty road.  It's not certain that I'll agree with them, but the odds are high that it will actually be prettier than the alternatives.  I think Rand McNally do the same thing in the US.  I should know for sure, I've used their maps often enough, I've worn out 3 of their atlases and I've got another at home, but it's  while since I've used their atlas for route finding.

It's not only GPS routes that get things wrong.  Only a short time after encountering the above sign, I encountered the following.  I drove past it, then thought it so amazing that I went back and took a photo.



It really was a pretty road. 


But here it reminds me.  On all the passes I have been over I have encountered loads of cyclists, toiling up the passes.  They are doing it for fun.  When I got to the top of this pass, and stopped to admire the view, some Dutch cyclists hove into view, not all together by any means, there were a dozen or so, all spread out over several miles.

Now this is something I just do not understand.  To come all the way from Holland to spend your holidays slogging up climbs of 3,000 feet or more.  For fun!  They'll spend 1000s of Euros on getting the lightest and best bike that they can afford, then they come and climb these hills. They could get a cheaper bike and ride smaller hills and get just as tired.  I suppose, they have the satisfaction of knowing that they can do it. There aren't any hills tospeak of in Holland so I suppose it makes a change.

I can understand bike racing.  To try to win.  In fact many of the small passes, this one included, have a superb new surface, laid down because the Tour de France came this way.  The Tour is a huge business, and they really do resurface roads to encourage the tour to come their way.  But the majority of these hill climbers are not racers.  They are in their 40s or 50s, long past the age where they would be racing, many are not using racing bikes, but mountain bikes.  I don't understand it.  Unless, maybe, it's the sort of thing that drives people to climb Everest.

Don't get me wrong.  I like cycling.  But when I go cycling, just like when I go ballooning, or touring like now, I go to see the view. I never really understood why people enjoy flying balloons for competition, even though I've done it, I once came 8th in the World Championships.  Each to his own I suppose. 

This is the city hall for a small town - you can make out the sign, Mairie?



At the tourist office they suggested I should visit a water mill.  I was not at an appropriate time for a tour, but I was shown around anyway. The wheel is horizontal, all the water mills I have seen previously have a vertical wheel, which then drives the grinding wheels.  The grindstones here are on the same shaft as the water wheel, and turn at the same rate. There used to be 70 mills on one half mile stretch of river here, now there is just this one.  And this started life grinding iron ore!


It was lunch time so I stopped for lunch.  There are worse places to take lunch.


I stopped to look round an old village and this was the view from one end of the main street.



Here are a couple of street views. Although the houses are old, the inhabitants are not behind the times, they have a village based satellite Internet and I picked up all the emails I had problems with yesterday. This is the main street, and has two way traffic.



This is a view through the church porch.
 
I was now about to go back into Spain. This time there was the old road, over the top of the pass, at 5,500 ft, or the tunnel.  You can safely guess which one I chose, e
ven though I am having trouble with the brakes.  I think the front disk pads are worn out, I get a horrific squeakings when I brake.  No big deal, I now have a new understanding on engine braking, it's a bit slow going down hills in second gear but then that's no big deal.  If I need to go slower, or stop, I use the handbrake.  Nothing I can do about it, they don't keep disk pads for my van in stock, they are special order, and that can take weeks. All the time I've been in France, I have only ever seen three of this type of van French registered.   I've probably wrecked the disks too, I'll find out when I get home.

 There is usually somewhere to park at the top of a pass, here there were acres and acres of empty car parks, massive car parks for the skiers in winter, but signs saying no overnight parking for camper vans.

 I spotted a camper van on a bit of waste ground and asked if the man inside if he was staying here.  Yes he said, so I stayed too. 

continue on...              Get me outa here!