Saturday, May 14, 2011

Polar opposites

Gravity dropped us in Malaucene mid-afternoon on a Saturday, a bizarrely disagreeable town. Its centreville featured a boulevarded parking lot, choked with traffic trying to enter. Calvacades of motorcycles, RVs and the occasional tractor (driven by, no lie, a leering frenchman wearing a beret and flying a tricolor) rumbled through the streets. We fled for the outskirts of town, and found a campground, which at first glance appeared delightful. The camping, Le Bosquette, is on an orchard perched above town. It has a swimming pool. It has spotless bathrooms. Great.

Grapes all over the place

Oh, I forgot to mention that the orchard was subsequently covered in a uniform layer of sharp gravel, with nary a patch of grass for the beleagured tent camper to patch her/his tent; tractors are roaring from dawn-dusk in the field below in some sort of exhibition; the swimming pool is just a dry pit; and the toilets, while clean enough for the Virgin Mary to eat out of, have neither seats nor TP. So yes, bizarrely disagreeable.

Highlight of Malaucene centreville

We got as quick of a start as we could manage the following morning, feeling sapped and slightly demented from the angry rays of the sun that hit our camp as soon as it had risen. The tractors, too, had already began their combative droning, while vaguely militaristic symphony music echoed up to Le Bosquette. We had hatched a plan to shorten our day to Orange by taking a little penalty climb at the start, then cutting through the Dentelles de Montmirail, a range of limestone teeth that formed in the wake of the orogeny that lifted Ventoux.

Dentelles from a Col

We crossed the ridge and our outlooked improved immediately as we caught a minor breeze and left the tractors behind. The penalty climb was quickly dispatched and we began a 10k descent on banked roads with clean, smooth asphalt and kickass views that dropped us on the edge of the Rhone's alluvial plain. Some more quiet, smooth roads led to a narrow, more trafficked road that we conquered with our new technique of the flying wedge. (In which Erin takes shotgun and rides near the fogline. Andrew rides a bikelength in front, and rides far enough into the lane to force a lane change in passing cars. Cars can tell how many bikes they are going to pass, and both Andrew and Erin can see approaching cars in their mirrors. It also works well in roundabouts, which while are great traffic engineering for cars, hover between frightening and unnavigable on bikes, depending on diameter and traffic volume.)

Looking back at Ventoux and the Dentelles

We quickly arrived in Orange, a dusty, medium-sized city with some Roman ruins 'n' stuff and a poorly signed, but very helpful tourist office. We stayed there for a bit and ate pizzas and nutella.

We carried this pizza about 50 km from Malaucene in 80 degree sun. It miraculously didn't make us poop our pants when we ate it.

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