Chip Seal and Headwinds

I saw the signs as we started up the Col de la Suzette. “Route Barrèe”. These signs are common on the roads in France, but usually they mean that there might be a small excavation or blockage coming up, and cyclists can almost always just ride around it. Or at worst, walk 50 meters or so before the road is clear.

Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect 200 Euros

Not this time. We had finished the Col du Chien, which is a pretty significant climb from Malaucene. We were on a descent before the smaller climb up to Suzette when we had to pull over. First came a truck spraying fresh oil on the pavement. Just behind that came another truck dropping a layer of pea gravel onto the oil. Fresh chip seal, hooray! What a great start to our ride.

There were some nice road workers in a van who smiled at the hapless American tandem team silly enough to ride through a “Route Barrèe” sign. They told us it was 2 km to the end of the road work. At least that is what we thought they said.

The wind was up today. Not a full blown Mistral, but not calm either. Probably sustained at 18 gusting to 28 mph. Pedaling on the fresh chip seal would have been like riding in sand going uphill. And any downhill curves would have been really dicey on any bike, let alone a tandem.

So we hoofed it for 2 km. We had cleat covers, but we got fresh oil on our shoes. Cycling shoes are not meant for walking, so we kind of waddled and tiptoed our way down the hill. Diane was out ahead, and I trailed pushing the tandem. After 2 km of this the road was clear and we could pedal again.

The road they were fixing with chip seal didn’t really seem to need fixing when we rode up it a couple of days ago. It was pretty nice pavement. And now it is awful for cyclists and will be for a couple of months at least.

When we got over the Suzette and down to Beaumas we had a choice. Turn left, head for Caromb and maybe Bedoin on roads we know. Or turn right and head for Vaison on roads we really didn’t know. This was a longer option, but we had a couple of days off the bike coming up, so we chose Vaison. Probably not the best choice.

After Beaumas, the country is rolling open vineyards of the Côte du Rhone. The next 10 miles were almost all slightly uphill, 1 to 3%, occasionally 5%. And right into a headwind, with no trees or hills for cover. And the roads were a little bigger with more cars. It wasn’t terrible, but the wind and the slight uphill drag did make me a bit irritated. The wind was battering and made the ride much more difficult that I expected. I thought we would never get to Vaison.

But we did. At 12:30, time for lunch. We ate at a place we had eaten before. It was good then and it was good today. I had “parmentier du canard”. It turned out to be a base layer of mashed potatoes, then a layer of boneless duck in a brown sauce, then a layer of more mashed potatoes with a melted cheese topping. It was served with more of the brown sauce on the side. It was delicious!

Diane had a glass of rosè but I abstained since I was driving. We both had a coffee to get us back to Malaucene. We were both leg weary so the ride back was a bit of a slog, but at least there wasn’t any headwind to deal with.

Our first “route barrèe” that really was “barrèe”. Another adventure.

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