Chapter Four Crossing France
When the Going Gets Tough
When the going gets tough, the tough haul ass. I'm now in Montelimar Nord which is three hundred or so kilometers from San Rafael where I started. The only way I see to save on rooms is to make more distance between them so there are fewer nights staying in them. The best I could find today is €49,40 and it's quite spartan. There are three bunk beds in a room the size you would find for kids at Camp Wichipookee. I will do a Google search for low-price hotels to see if I have any luck that way.
The way to cover the mileage is to do what I said I wouldn't but you all were clear you don't want any wimps on this adventure. So, I took the adventure to the Autoroute (French version of the Autobahn). While the speed limit is 130 kph and that sounds impressive, it's only about 75 mph or so. Of course, many exceed it but they do it in a very mannerly way. This is not American combat driving. No-one drives slowly in the fast lane to prove a point and I didn't see any kind of road rage anywhere.
What I did see / hear was a Ferrari when the driver put his foot hard into it and all those beautiful cylinders were getting magical while the exhausts were singing the most beautiful automotive symphony possible. 'twas a thing of incredible beauty.
Lady Byrd Johnson talked about keeping the Interstate Highways free of advertising and France really did it, there are no billboards anywhere. Imagine the heartbreak if you won't see two hundred signs for Stone Mountain or the Lost Cave as you drive down I-75 to Florida. If you have driven from Little Rock to Texarkana any time recently, you know the blazing eyesore that has been made by the side of the Interstate there. Perhaps that happens somewhere in France but I didn't see any road advertising anywhere.
Nevertheless, the Autoroute is just as sterile in France as it is in America. It even has McDonald's.
I did see some unusual stuff, tho. There were multiple wind turbines doing their little jobs ... right in front of two cooling towers for a nuclear reactor. Interesting energy policy there.
There was an eleventh century fortress on top of a mountain but there was no way to stop and look at it without a big deal in getting off the Autoroute. Much or all of it is a tollway so exits are relatively infrequent. I also saw a church on top of a mountain and this probably served the same defensive purpose as Bussana Vecchia although this one appeared to be in pretty good shape.
I saw huge fields of lavender and it was all under cultivation. It is being farmed for perfume and it's obvious people would do that but seeing it is still extraordinary to me.
Unfortunately, I don't have a picture of the fields of sunflowers and those were really magical. Every single one of them faces directly toward the sun and the appearance of thousands of them doing that is almost mystical, like something out of the Wizard of Oz.
So there weren't any good photo ops as there would have been if I were on a smaller road. However, the Autoroute offers the huge advantage of being very easy to navigate and I didn't get lost at all today while making very good time coming up from San Rafael.
Since I don't have any actual Adventure pictures, I give you one of a whole different kind:
Apart from the glorious scooter tan, the picture has the story of damages from the last few days. The big toe is bloody from the step into the bathroom a few nights ago. It doesn’t look like much but you bet it hurts. There is a step into the bathroom here and I imagine you can guess what happened. So I wrecked it again.
(Ed: It's a year later and the toenail has almost grown back. The reason it hurt so much was I killed it back in Italy and it would bug me for a good while yet to come. Take care of those big toes as I have learned they really love attention.)
I laugh because I'm a barely-walking demolition derby. The other cuts and scratches are all from when Haximoto went down. Even though the right foot is the one that was trapped, you can’t really tell it by sight. There are so many broken bones in that foot as this isn't the first time it was crushed. Given the history of this tour, likely that will not surprise you.
And we have a story:
When I crashed I couldn't get my foot out of the way in time and Haximoto landed on it. At first no-one was there and I could not do anything to get her off me to get my foot out so I was savoring a quite exquisite level of pain plus the gorgeous frustration of not being able to do anything to make it stop.
Some people came to my aid very quickly and one guy took the lead. Even though we did not speak the same language, it was clear he did not want me to move. We could communicate that much but I had trouble conveying that I promise I won't get up if you guys could please get Haximoto off my foot.
Eventually we worked it out and after a bit I did work my way to my feet. I had to know if it was broken and he had tried to check it but couldn't tell too much. I don't know who he was and people who do that stuff never leave their names but thank you wherever you are. Merci beaucoup.
The day was painful but I needed to show you all and show myself that I wouldn't be stopped. It's not at all over yet but it did feel like I was kind of walking it out a little bit with my ankle.
Enough aches and pains stuff. Time to try to get some sleep. This was a long hot run today. Toward the end I was stopping every twenty to thirty kilometers to soak my head and I would put the helmet back on with my hair still dripping. It’s cheap air conditioning but it works.
The Map is updated with the progress from today. As you will see, I have turned north and I'm pushing up the center of France. My objective is Lyon, Dijon, Reims, and then make for Calais. I have no intention of going to Paris.
The map is live as you can move it around, zoom, etc.
View Searching for Ithaka in a larger map