To Arles - Three Seasons Around France: Autumn - CycleBlaze

November 8, 2022

To Arles

I like staying in a place where you can open the door to the deck, take a quick shot of the sunrise, and then quickly back into your room where it’s warm.

The view from our deck. Red sky at morning, sailors take warning.
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About that door to the deck though - it kept me awake off and on throughout the night listening to what sounded like a gale force wind blowing in off the sea.  Stepping out on the deck though was reassuring because I wasn’t immediately flattened against the wall by the wind.  It’s strong enough to be sure - but it sounded much worse inside because it’s apparently whistling through a gap somewhere.  Really, it just feels like the 20+ mph wind the weather app warned us to expect.

We’ve changed our plans again, something we discussed yesterday but only finalized when we woke up and checked the weather.  We’re dropping out of our second night here and biking up to Arles a day earlier than we had planned.  It sounds rash, but it’s been on our minds for a few days as we’ve watched and fretted over the weather forecast.  We’re experiencing what looks like an adverse weather event: today calls for high winds all day long, with the chance of light rain for most of it.  Not terrible, but not really inviting a bike ride or an exploration of the lagoons.  

The real problem though is tomorrow, with a forecast of strong winds, thunderstorms, up to two inches of rain, and the possibility of localized flooding.  We’re booked to bike north to Arles tomorrow, and the idea of biking 20+ miles through the open, empty Camargue on a day promising thunderstorms and heavy rain is pretty daunting.  We know the kind of intense downpour a thunderstorm can drop on short notice, and there’s not really any place to hide on that road.  We decide it’s smarter and safer to bike to Arles today with only light rain or showers, blown north on a 20mph tailwind.

There are other considerations too that help us seal the deal with ourselves.  One is my front brakes, which are steadily worsening.   I’ve been hoping I can nurse them along for another three weeks until we fly home, but I’m thinking now it would be better to get them into a shop and have new brake pads installed.  In retrospect, I should have had them replaced at the same time the rear ones were back in Perigueux.

And, there’s one more thing.  If we leave now, there’s the promise of another CycleBlaze meetup at the end of the day.

Breakfast at the hotel is served at eight.  Not long after we start packing up, and by about 9:30 we’re on the road.  It looks like the rains will hold off for a couple of hours, and if we leave now we’ve got a good chance of arriving in Arles dry with the afternoon free to head off to the bike shop.

Grey but dry, for the moment at least. Very windy, but generally in our favor for the first half of the ride anyway.
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Rachael reminds me that the rain day rule is in effect today.  Once she starts she’s not stopping.  I can stop and take photos to my heart’s content if I want to risk getting soaked, and she’ll meet me at the other end.

And she means it, at least for the first fifteen miles.  I do stop for a few photos - very few, by my standards, you’re seeing all of them - and each time I stop she slips a couple hundred yards further away.  I put in the work and gradually close in, and never really lose sight of her light flashing far down the road; but I don’t catch up until she stops about eight miles from Arles to check in on me and is surprised to find me roll in not far behind.

She’s gone.
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White birds, grey sky.
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Have to stop for the heather, don’t I?
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Jen GrumbyYes! A must-stop with those ribbons of color and the moody sky.
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2 weeks ago

Up until now we’ve been heading north generally following the Petit Rhone, making excellent time pushed up by the strong quartering tailwind.  The last miles turn northeastward though, so now we have a full crosswind that’s not nearly as advantageous.  It’s not really a problem though, and best of all we’re still dry.  In fact, we never do see rain today and at all.  The forecast was a clean miss.

Heading east toward Arles, under a gloomy sky that comes to nothing.
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The sideways view to the northwest. I’m curious what the high ground out there is but can’t figure it out.
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The view to the rear. It looks like we’re racing a storm, but were not. In retrospect, it was really a pretty stimulating day for a ride. We should have stopped for more photos.
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Video sound track: Desperate Man Blues, by John Fahey

We check into our hotel, an impressive place in the historical center, barely a block from Arles’ famous Roman amphitheater. It’s in a building that’s obviously stood here for centuries, and though doesn’t look like much from the outside it’s quite attractive and impressive once you’re inside.  I’d like it fine, except there’s no covered place for the bikes.  They’re inside, but in an uncovered atrium that makes us worry about those threatened thunderstorms tomorrow.

The staircase to our room, Hotel de l’Amphitheatre.
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Keith AdamsTres magnifique!
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2 weeks ago
Eva WaltersHey, we stayed at that hotel in November 2011. Glad to hear they're still going. I remember having to park our Bike Fridays in the uncovered atrium. Luckily it didn't rain--in fact it was beautiful weather for mid-November.
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2 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Eva WaltersThe same place! You were dry here to make up for how drenched you got back in Sommieres.
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2 weeks ago

We check in to our room, eat lunch, and then I’m off to the bike repair shop a mile to the north.  I tell Rachael when I leave that I have no idea how long I’ll be gone, and will give her a call when I know more.  Maybe if they’re not busy they’ll deal with the brakes while I wait, or maybe I’ll leave the bike there, walk back to the room, and pick it up tomorrow.  I called the shop yesterday to confirm they’d be open today and to see if I needed an appointment.  He speaks very little English, I speak very little French, but I understood him to say I could just bring it in.

I’m back at the room in under a half hour, with the bike.  When I get to the shop there’s nothing about it that inspires any kind of confidence.  The gate is barred, on the other side are some fairly junky bikes, and from the sign and general appearance it really looks like a bike recycling drop or chop shop.  I decide my brakes really aren’t that bad after all, but they easily could be if I put them in harm’s way.

No, I don’t think so.
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We could go out and see the town, but we’ll be here all day tomorrow so we don’t feel any pressure to move, and don’t.   We occupy ourselves with loafing, stressing over the U.S. election that’s underway, and proposing restaurants for our dinner companions to consider.  We reach consensus and head off at 6:30 for La Mamma, a modest Italian place where we anticipate arriving early and watching for a pair of Yellow People to walk up the alley.  On the way I stop to check out a couple of doors and windows, because that’s what seems to be catching my attention lately.

In old Arles, on our way to La Mamma. With a name like that, it just has to be good!
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In Arles. The Xmas decorations just went up today. If you watched the video you would have seen they were stringing them up when we biked into town.
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A window in Arles.
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Another window in Arles.
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Oh, I almost forgot. Here’s a door, because I said there would be one.
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It’s a slight disappointment to arrive at La Mammas and find the famous Grampies already here and positioned at our table, their yellow jackets shed.  I’d been looking forward to arriving first and catching an image of them walking down the dark alley, their bright outfits gleaming under the streetlights, but we’re too late.  As consolation we enjoy a couple of hours of conversation, catching up on their travels and picking up where we left off when we last saw them in the Classen’s back yard four years ago.  What a long, strange trip this has been - the Fraziers, Susan, Suzanne and Janos, Ann and Steve, Janice and Barry, and now this notorious pair!  And tonight we’re especially honored to be able to help them celebrate their wedding anniversary.  55, and counting!  We’ll done, Grampies!

Catching up at La Mammas.
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I think these two could just keep talking for a long time.
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It hurts!
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Another one for the meetup gallery!
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Suzanne GibsonWonderful picture of yet another meet-up! Keep up the good work.
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2 weeks ago
Bill ShaneyfeltWhat a trip this has been! So many familiar faces! Must be some kind of record...
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2 weeks ago
Jen GrumbyWonderful that y'all were able to get together!

I love to imagine the web of connection woven by the community of cycle tourers.

Riders, writing riders, readers, and all the stories (and photos and videos!) that are passed along to fellow pedalers and the friends, families, and fans of pedalers.

(Not to be confused with peddlers!)
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2 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyWe were glad this worked out. I’ve had my eye on them ever since they returned from England wondering if our paths might cross.
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2 weeks ago
The Yellow Jackets come to Arles.
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Ride stats today: 25 miles, 300’; for the tour: 1,626 miles, 90,600’

Today's ride: 25 miles (40 km)
Total: 1,626 miles (2,617 km)

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