Lourdes, France - May 21, 2012
Bonjour from Lourdes, France...after what was a mercifully short riding day. Not one of the most enjoyable in my experience. I got a late start because I was basically trapped in the hotel. Guess they are late risers... I'm not and was hoping to get going before the weather started to crap out again. I had planned to cross two passes of over 1700m and I saw forecasts of freezing levels between 1300 and 1800m. I didn't care about the cold but did about the precipitation. Rain is a pain. Snow is a no. Anyway, I could unlock the hotel door to get out, but it needed a key to get back in and the room key didn't work. Hmm... I should have thought to just bring everything down to the door, shove it all outside at once and then leave. Oh well, I would have missed breakfast, as late as it was.
Trapped in the Hotel
Anyway, I headed up the main pass towards France and it was raining pretty good, and cold. Forgot to swap gloves when I packed up and so I had my summer gloves with the mesh on the back. Kind of cold even with the heated grips. The grips only keep your palms warm, not the other parts of your hand. Before long, I started noticing that I was getting pretty close to the fresh snow, then started seeing it in the grass alongside the road. And the road was still climbing. Big mountains around from what I could see. Well above the snow level, I finally made it to the top where there is a restaurant/cafe and about 10 motorcycles parked. I was thinking about going in and trying to get some information on the road ahead, even going so far as to find a place to park and shutting down. But at the pass, the wind was much stronger and the snow more intense. It was definitely sticking to the road, although slushy, and sticking to me and my visor. What information was there to get? Better to go than to sit. To sit might have meant sitting in the cafe for two days.
So I passed through the now unmanned border crossing station into France, and just headed down the other side in 1st gear. I didn't want to use the brakes or lean too much in the turns. With the French side being much steeper then the Spanish, it didn't take long to get out of the slush, and I was probably below the freezing level in about 10 minutes. Then it was just rain... and pretty heavy rain.
I got down to the turn off to where the road up and over the second pass would have taken me on a more direct route to Lourdes, but decided against that one as it was higher than the first and is a much less used and narrower road. So I took a more circuitous, albeit lower, route. The pass would have been fun as it is part of the Tour de France but today, it wouldn't have been fun at all. Maybe next time.
Would Have Been Fun
So got into Lourdes... tons of small hotels here and just picked one with a place to park. This one had a driveway running up the side. Got a room. The owner asked that I park farther up. It was steeper up there and hard to park but eventually got the bike maneuvered around so that it was fairly stable. Then I started to unload it. Stupid. I took the sidecase on the high side off first and as it was too dirty to take into the hotel, I turned my back to the bike and started wiping down the case. Crash!! The weight of the sidecase on the low side had pulled the bike over snapping the right mirror off at the mount and scattering everything from the unlocked topbox down the driveway. And now with the bike lying downhill, a bit upside down, gas was running out the fuel cap and down the driveway. No one around and the bike had to get upright. Well, that requires an absolute maximum effort from me. My body can't handle that.
So the bike is back on two wheels and luckily I was able to scavenge a good mount from the old stem that lost it's mirror back at Tarifa. So the bike's fine. I'm not so good though. I knew I was hurting my back lifting it, I could feel it, and so I'm laid up for a while. Not the greatest room, and internet only in the lobby, but no bedbugs that I can see. It will do for a couple of days. And it has been absolutely raining and blowing all day with no breaks anyway and is forecast to do so tomorrow. So not so anxious to move on. I'll just lie here in a drug-induced stupor, listen to my Russian tapes on my iPod and watch French TV. Things could be worse. I could be siting with 10 other guys in the cafe, stuck at the pass.
Some days are great... some aren't.