Lacaune to Mazamet - From Munich to Spain to France - CycleBlaze

May 7, 2024

Lacaune to Mazamet

Lies, damned lies and weather forecasts

A relatively simple route today.
Heart 0 Comment 0

From Dave: Today was to be our easy day, a modest riding profile, mostly downhill, marred only because the weather was looking to be a bit iffy. When we went to bed, the weather forecast showed light rain in the morning, temps in the mid 50s and things clearing up a bit after 11:00. Our strategy was to have a leisurely breakfast and lurk around the hotel as long as possible in hopes of riding in the clearing skies. How naive we were!

I awoke before Jill and looked outside. The skies were an ominous dark grey and it was raining steadily. Looking at the revised forecast and noting that it had changed for the worse. Now we were looking at rain all day, temps in the mid 40s(!) and no clearing until 1:00. Ugh. By the time we finished breakfast, it was raining harder and Jill said that things will only get worse in the next couple of hours and that we'd better get going, which we did. Komoot said the ride should only take 2 hours 18 minutes, so we were thinking we would power through without stopping.  We left Lacaune in a steady drizzle with the temperature around 45. The weather channel said “feels like 38” and we can attest that it did.  We immediately began the climb out of town after Jill struggled to get her bike turned around on the only busy corner of sleepy Lacaune. We remarked to each other that although we were uncomfortable, our clothing (we each had donned every piece of clothing we had) and rain gear were allowing us to manage.  Our one nagging concern was that our hands were starting to get quite chilled even with our "water proof,” full-fingered gloves.  The winds were starting to gust.

In nicer weather, this would have been a lovely ride.
Heart 5 Comment 0
The conditions were just OK at the start.
Heart 6 Comment 0
Reaching the top of the first climb, getting ready for the descent.
Heart 4 Comment 0

We steeled ourselves for the first downhill section, knowing that between the cold temps and wind blown rain, which was starting to increase, we'd have a miserable descent. I was leading the way down as I enjoy descending faster than Jill who was especially worried about the wet and slippery roads and still lacked confidence in her ankle. We got about 200m into the downhill section when my bike started getting squirrelly. I attributed it to the strengthening cross winds, heavy bike and panniers, but I soon realized to my deep exasperation that no, it wasn't the winds, I had a a slow leak in the front tire. By the time I slowed from about 35kph and found a place to safely pull over, the front tire was completely flat and I was having a very hard time keeping my bike upright. I parked and waited for Jill, who started to ask if she should continue down, and after seeing my body language, realized that something was wrong and pulled over.

What ensued next could only be described as a near worst case scenario. We both were really cold and our hands wet. All we wanted to do was have this ride over with knowing that a hot bath was awaiting us. I unloaded my panniers, water bottle and phone, and flipped the bike onto its saddle & handlebars and removed the front wheel. "Jill, where are the tire levers?" She thought they were in my seat kit. Nope. Turns out they were in hers. "OK. Jill. Now where's that fancy little rechargeable air pump I bought for this trip. I think I gave it to you to pack."  Neither of us could remember where it was packed so we checked all 3 miscellaneous bags and then scrounged through my panniers, in the rain, in a frustrating search for this thing. By this point it was pouring. I found it and quickly realized that it was set up for presta valves and our tubes used Schrader valves. I had the tiny little pieces to convert the adapter, but my hands were too frozen to manipulate things, so I had to go to our trusty hand pump. I repacked the panniers hoping things weren't getting too wet. OK. Fine. Now I can replace the tube (no way could l patch a tube in the freezing rain).  Crap. Where's the spare tube?! In desperation I reopened one of my panniers hoping that a) I had chosen the correct pannier and b) that I could locate the spare tube by feel without having to unpack the panniers yet again. It's a miracle! I was able to feel the tube and yank it out. Now I can finally fix this damned thing and get going. (From Jill: bear in mind that this above-described event called “assembling the tools to change a tire” took almost half an hour because our hands were so cold.)

Not so fast, Buck-o. When I started to pry the tire from the wheel, I realized that this was not going to be easy. Try as hard as I could, I simply could not gain purchase on the bead. After many fruitless attempts, I finally got hold of the tire and pried it barely over the tire rim. I locked the lever onto a spoke and tried to engage a second lever which proved equally difficult. Eventually I got the second lever employed was able to release half of the tire from the rim. No way was I going to be able to take the whole tire off. I removed the tube and with frozen fingers, and tried to find the offending thorn or whatever caused the puncture. I slid my finger around the inside of the tire but found nothing. By now we were both so cold and frustrated I decided to roll the dice, install the tube, restore the tire to the rim, hoping I wasn't pinching the tube, and reinflate the tire. I held my breath as I pumped air into the tube and sighed in relief as I realized the tire was holding pressure. 

A picture of frustration.
Heart 6 Comment 3
Scott AndersonOh, my gosh. Aren’t you two about due to catch a break?
Reply to this comment
2 weeks ago
Kelly IniguezThis is vivd writing! I feel as if I'm right there with you, freezing!
Reply to this comment
2 weeks ago

While all this going on, a big gust of wind came along knocking my bike on its side--the derailleur side. But nothing seemed amiss when I righted the bike, so I went ahead and reinstalled the tire, only it refused to go in. The brake's disk wasn't going in between the brake pads and when I wrangled it in there, the tire would not rotate. Turns out the front fender had been bent from the fall and was preventing the tire from aligning properly. In utter frustration, I yanked on the fender, got it back where it belonged and the tire went back on normally.

Jill and I are wet from the rain, bodies shaking from the cold, hands barely able to function. This was a recipe for stress and severe marital discord. (I'm embarrassed to admit how many times Jill suggested I pack our bike repair stuff in one single place where it could quickly be found. Mea culpa.) Instead Jill recounted the scene from Apollo 13 where Tom Hanks reminded his crew mates that it was pointless to bounce off the walls as they would be in the same situation 10 minutes later. Let's just work the problem--which we did.

While I was wrestling with the tire change Jill checked Komoot and noted one upcoming village, Angles, but google wasn’t cooperating - her phone was soaked- to tell if there was a cafe or something similar where we could stop and warm up.

From Jill: We began the descent; a rare time we would have much preferred riding up, rather than down. Dave signaled he needed to stop for a nature break and I continued on. I pulled over outside of Angles, surprised he had not caught me and after a few minutes of “no Dave”  I turned my bike around to go find him, by now worried he had crashed. Just as I was mounting up to start back up the hill, he reappeared: it turns out his hands were so frozen he couldn’t get his fly done up, hence the delay! Even in our frozen state, we laughed at that.

Angles, it turned out, had a bakery which inconveniently closed at 1 pm, and we arrived at 1:10 . Nothing to do but head to Mazamet. The descent was every bit as miserable as we had anticipated.

Unfortunately (a word I'm using a lot in this entry), we couldn't check in until 4:00 and we arrived in town around 3:00. We stopped at what appeared to be the only bar open then and went inside to be greeted by a very boisterous group of men drinking, laughing and occasionally going outside to have a smoke. Screw it. The place was warm, we could order lattes, the Giro was on the big screen and Bon Jovi on the speakers. We gratefully hung out there until we could go to our hotel and check in. (Jill: my hands were so cold I couldn’t lift my cafe, but the warmth of the cup was heavenly). 

A welcomed and very much needed spot to escape the rain and cold.
Heart 8 Comment 2
Scott AndersonI’m so sympathetic. This reminds me of a ride in central Greece years ago that turned out more or less like this. Rachael was seriously hypothermic when we finally got to a refuge. It took her an hour with tea, coffee, hot chocolate and chicken soup before she finally stopped shaking so we could finish the ride.
Reply to this comment
2 weeks ago
Kathleen ClassenYou are smiling! That shows real resilience. What a miserable experience. Definitely type two and a half fun.
Reply to this comment
1 week ago

Le Jardin in Mazamet was a perfectly respectable place and our room was comfy, the proprietor served me a beer and a very hot tub soothed away what had been an extremely difficult day for us. Thank goodness there was a heating rack in the bathroom and we spent most of the evening and morning working on drying out every single item of clothing including Jill’s belt pack and our passports.  (Jill: my Lululemon belt pack is allegedly waterproof but it got soaked and I should have tucked it under my rain jacket. Mea culpa from Jill).

Later when we had unthawed enough to think, Jill stated this day ranked among the top 3 worst rides she had experienced. There was no contest from my perspective. We endured and overcame much. It's definitely one we'll never forget. It did get us to remember, with some laughter, other horrible rides in our recent past: the Danube in October, or the Norwegian fjords after the Hans storm in Oslo. 

The hotel served us a decent dinner that evening of noodles, gravy and meatballs along with a competent wine. We were extremely grateful not to have to venture back out in the rain into town in search of someplace to eat. Instead we went to bed early, exhausted, convinced our string of bad luck was finally behind us.

The lovely dining room.
Heart 4 Comment 0
A lovely sunset after a difficult day. An omen for better things to come?
Heart 4 Comment 0

From Jill: after we have something go wrong we often talk afterwards about how to do it better. Besides the small practical stuff (ie: tuck in your belt pack, keep your bike tools in one place) I actually feel like it went okay. We behaved well, didn’t snap at each other. We made it down that mountain safely, and in one piece. I have to admit that while we were descending in the freezing rain, I was thinking: maybe this bike touring stuff is just too much for us, maybe we’re too old, and timid and just not up for the adventure? Happily, as I write this two days later I am snug in a place in Carcassone, Dave is doing laundry down the street and the sun is out! All is well in our bike touring world.

Today's ride: 50 km (31 miles)
Total: 324 km (201 miles)

Rate this entry's writing Heart 14
Comment on this entry Comment 8
Steve Miller/GrampiesDodie is an obsessive list maker and organizer. We "have to" pack things in one particular way and bring a spreadsheet showing the location of each item. It makes it easier to locate things at the start of a trip, harder to forget where things are, and undoubtedly is a good system, even if stressful for both of us at times.
Reply to this comment
2 weeks ago
Bob DistelbergThis sounds like a classic case of "Type 2" fun. Glad you got through it okay!
Reply to this comment
2 weeks ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesSteve here. We are safe at home just now, with our beloved woodstove to sit beside. But I sat down with my traditional bagel and egg comfort food, looked for some interesting Cycleblaze to read, and came across your harrowing account. It had most of the suitable horrifying elements, but I was thinking it was missing some of the classic extreme elements: tire lever(s) break, flat is in the rear, heavy trucks passing, thorn was still there. For our type of bikes, there is also a special one: gearshift wire nut does not want to come out of or go back in to that strangely angled slot. This most perfect of storms only happens every ten to twenty years, so you are good for a while!
Reply to this comment
2 weeks ago
Kelly IniguezTo Steve Miller/GrampiesSorry to hijack the journal here - Steve, I think your hub is somewhat similar to my new Rohloff hub. I was told if the black box won't go over the nut, to wiggle the shifter gently back and forth to get the position correct. Maybe helpful for you also?
Reply to this comment
2 weeks ago
Jacquie GaudetSo glad to hear from your replies that you’ve recovered from this “what else could go wrong?” start to your tour.

We had a similar awful day in 2019 but it wasn’t just a flat. Al’s tire was irreparable. We now both roll tubeless and I carry a tire-sewing kit (in addition to plugs and a tube), which I hope I never need to use.
Reply to this comment
2 weeks ago
Rachael AndersonYou sure have a great attitude after what you endured! I hope the rest of your trip goes well.
Reply to this comment
2 weeks ago
Laura ClarkThat was downright uncomfortable reading today's journal entry! It is unfortunate that bike troubles ALSO happened during such inclement weather. Nothing like having to figure out complicated repair procedures with frozen fingers. Good thing Jill decided not to ride ahead! If your spirits can remain positive after a day like that, you should be very proud of yourselves. Your dining room that night looked lovely and such a sunset. Tomorrow will have to be a better day. Fingers crossed!!!
Reply to this comment
2 weeks ago
Angela NaefWhat a day! Such an entertaining account of your troubles, your chills and frustration were real! Hope things look up soon.
Reply to this comment
1 week ago