I left foggy Villefranche on a road that winds up the side of a hill, one wall of the valley that protects the town. As I climbed I got above the clouds for my first full blue-skied sunny day of the trip, a day I’d been anticipating for a long time. Behind me the fog was like soup filling the cracks between the hills, pouring over all the towns down there. Ahead were round, green fields against the sky.
And then there was a little white on the green.
And as I kept going it got whiter, then totally white but I could still see green to the south from these hills, so I felt the better riding couldn’t be too far ahead. The hills are high bumps and you feel like you’re on top of the earth in the way you feel on top of the water when you’re water skiing, so from these bumps on such a clear day I could see miles in any direction. It was clear because a huge storm passed through on Saturday, which probably also left the snow. Ahead I could see more and more snow, which meant cold, which meant caution and it meant that I had to slap my hands against my legs to keep circulation going, and I had to flap my elbows like wings and wiggle my toes while I was driving.
I finally stopped in a boulangerie and got a quiche and an apple tartlette for breakfast, then a hot chocolate for my hands (and nothing for my toes). It was Sunday morning and every time an old man walked into the cafe from the bright morning he shook the hand of everyone he knew, which was everyone but me, and they’d talk French to each other. I’m kinda a scene in every shop I visit, I’m the guy who makes the needle scratch off the record when he walks into a place and everyone looks up because I’m sporting either a) a full-on “I’m gonna rob this place” style ski mask or b) a full-on “I’m gonna rob this place” style mohawk. Not to mention I’m soaking wet, usually, and am wearing five layers. I’ve learned to own it – walk in, sit down, start talking, pretend you’re normal. I asked one of the old men, “I’m going to Milau (‘me-oh’), is there more snow there than here?” “Oh no, not in Milau, it’s better there.” I asked a couple more people along the way, same answer.
In fact I should have been asking, “is there more snow ON THE WAY to Milau?” in which case the answer would have been, “Oh yes, you can’t go that way.”
By the time I figured this out, trembling with aching hands and numb fingers, I was asking snowplow drivers. “Oh yes,” they said. “You can’t go that way.”
So I had to turn around in Baraqueville (yes we did!) and I headed both down and south to the green. I was watching the temperature reading on the bike the whole way, elated with each changing number… 2… 3… 4… 6… 9!… 11!… 14!! Fifty-five degrees has never felt so good! It meant I no longer needed to wiggle my toes or slap my legs or breathe toward my ears! I shot through a small mountain range and by the time I descended I had reached the Mediterranean – in one day I had left behind the traditional French-feeling parts of France and had made it to the coast, which feels more modern and developed.
After about an hour of driving in circles, I finally found my hostel in Montpellier, a very cool town with an aqueduct thing that comes right into the center. I had a gyro and fell asleep at 9.