Oh boy, what a week it has been. Like an eagle in search of prey, I have been cruising alone for the last week, leaving Nate to fend for himself against Achilles' terrible rage. Meanwhile, I have had the less enviable fate of riding along a flat,paved road next to the picturesque Canal du Midi, watching flamingos balance one-leggedly in coastal marshes, and camping like a bandito on the lam. I took off out of Toulouse for an easy afternoon ride, and camped just outsied of Castelnaudry, where they have a bridge dedicated to Thomas Jefferson. Just before Carcassone, I ran into another bike tourer named Ann Wilson, who complained about the path on the Canal, which had deteriorated quite a bit in the last 20 km, and was now rocky and rooty and generally pretty slow going and monotonous. "By Jove, she's right!" I said to myself, and soon left the canal in search of smoother asphalt and exhaust. Ah, and what a feeling, soaring down the tarmac at three times the rate of that blasted canal! I trod on to Beziers, to meet my father's old friend Pierre Bayou, who graciously let me stay with him and plied me with a huge piece of meat to build enormous muscles. "Sugar and fat make energy!" he cried, "But to build muscle, you need protein!" He was absolutely right, and with my meat-enhanced leg power, I set off the next day for more adventures.
It sounded like a great idea: ride out across a little spit of land that cut between the sea and a big marsh area, save myself some 20 km and get a great view. In practice, it was fairly grueling. I started out at the end of the spit on a nice road that eventually became unpaved and a bit sandy. Then the road got rough, but at that pointi was already a good ways out on the spit and was extremely reluctant to turn around. Besides, i could see that the road was fine after 40 feet or so, so I picked up my loaded bicycle and carried it over the sand, set it down and rode some more. I passed some more sandy sections, some bulldozers and very confused workers, until I reached a point where there was no road at all, just huge piles of sand. Fuck. Left with the choice of backtracking, then riding the long all the way around, or pressing on in the hopes that the road picked up again, I chose the latter, and dragged my bike along an empty Mediterranean beach, right next to the water, for probably about 2 miles, cursing like a sailor the whole way. But I made it, ate some bread and cheese and drank some wine and felt like a new man, new in the sense that I was much more exhausted than I had been an hour before.
The next days were less exciting, though no less enjoyable. Lots of tiny little country roads, coastal marshes, and seaside towns that look like they have hordes of tourists in the summer and not much else. One was bizarre, with futuristic looking buildings made of white concrete and not a soul around. La Grande Motte. Hit the first climbs in several days getting into Marseille, white stone peaks jutting out from shrub and pine-covered mountainsides. A huge fog bank engulfed me and the mountains as I screamed down to the sea.