Wednesday, July 21, 2010

High roads, low jokes

I remember when I used to write letters and not have any photos. Then I started writing shorter letters and including a few photos. Now I'm mostly telling stories by using the photos. Either way, it's fun for me. Enjoy!


I'd spent the night not too far from here, back under those clouds, and let the GPS tell me the route. It turned out to be a famous cycling route, featured in the Tour de France as recently as 2008. The top is called "Col de la Bonette." It's one of the highest roads in Europe. 
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In the full-sized version of this photo, I can see five or six bicyclists climbing the pass, even in this weather.
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Here's the top. It turns out the riders were competing in the Tour de Faroz-mi-Bolox. It was cold! It must have rained very hard just before I got there, too, because parts of the road were littered with big and small boulders that had rolled down from the hill.
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The original road had been a donkey trail before it was turned into a road in 1832 and maintained by the army. I think these are part of the military ruins.
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The French are serious about their biking! I couldn't even be bothered to get out of the car to take this pic - I shot it through the windshield. There are many of these signs along the route, on both sides of the pass.
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Now we're down the other side, approaching Nice. An inviting hiking path leads across the little bridge. I really love hikes in the forest.
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This stream bisected a beautiful little village.
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I bought the optional adapter that allows my GPS to map my lower intestines! That would be amazing if it was true. This is another road the gizmo took me on. I've been amazed at the trouble that this thing can get you in. It doesn't just pick easy routes, that's for sure.
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I know I'm not the fastest driver when I'm sober, but GEESH, the bleeping French are something else! My dumpy little rental car can barely attain the speed limit on the curvy roads, and these race car drivers come from behind then pass me so fast it's hard to believe. I'm sure we share a lot of things with the French, but the laws of physics and deodorant (based on the jokes) are not among them. This isn't my rental, by the way.
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I camped below this amazing little village of Touet Sur Var. Amazing! I walked up and into the old medieval part at the top.
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The outskirts of the village, before going into the walled section.
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Looking down from a trail on the far side of town.
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Still higher up. The campsite is out of frame, but just across the river.
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I saw maybe 10 cats in the village. That's an intense expression.
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Inside the walls. I felt like I was wandering through someone's living room.
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Back down in town - this is the "highway" that goes right through town. Seriously, you'd be shocked to see how fast some drivers come through town.
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The view of the pizza maker, looking up towards the old village.
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A different view at dusk.
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The "camping" light was flashing on and off, and I imagined a bzzt-bzzzzzzt noise. It was a funky, bare-bones campsite with hardly any grass, a pet ferret in the cafe, and John Wayne poster hanging on a wall. The owner didn't speak a word of English, and I don't speak a word of French. Interesante! (That might be French, but I don't know.)
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Culture shock. And traffic shock. The Mediterranean, one day after snowy mountains. I wanted to cruise along the coast for a while, but I got in a massive traffic jam, and it was really hot, so that cured that longing. It was a long day of driving anyway as I resigned myself, reluctantly, to driving on the toll roads. I'm turning in my car tomorrow morning, and taking a train to where the walk starts in the afternoon. 
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European liberalism, explained. (As seen on a toilet in a Swiss campground.) If it's not obvious, it means sit down to pee. So it doesn't splash all over your quirky S&M uniform, I guess.
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(The End)