Climbing back

Still raining in the morning, I took my time getting out of the hostel. Unlike many hostels, as a residential hostel (with a number of people living there longer than a day or two) most of the folks left early. I spent a while reviewing the map and GPS to find my route for the day. Headed north towards Ireland presents a clear choice. The Canal du Midi connects Toulouse to the Mediterranean, and I generally followed the canal from Narbonne. The Canal du Midi connects to the La Garrone in Toulouse, a river connecting Toulouse to the Atlantic Ocean, proving a river to follow all the way to the Atlantic. Except of course I’m not headed towards Ireland yet.

To get to Pau, France, 180 km away to the west, the map presented three paths, which sum up as north, middle, and south, all headed towards the Pyrenees. The north and south routes each add some 40 kilometers. The south route follows a river to the source, causing the familiar problem of climbing out of the valley. The middle path crosses a collection of foot hills. I made my decision when I saw two adjacent campgrounds dead center between Toulouse and Pau – a backup option should one campground fail to exist.

For those at the hostel that didn’t leave early, I packed quietly, and headed to Tourist Information. I found a good spot to leave my bike at Tourist Information. While this trip more often than not I’ve played pedestrian and left my bike at the campground/hostel/etc, I still need to leave my bike about town sometimes. I always lock the bike to something, and try to leave it somewhere not immediately obvious to everyone passing by. In this case, the back/handicapped entrance to Tourist Information served that purpose.

Tourist Information gave me the address of a local dentist office right down the street, and careful directions as the office is a bit hard to find. They couldn’t call the office for me to check availability. France also does not allow dentists to advertise in any way that might suggest one dentist over another. Speaking English would be one of those things.

Finding the office no problem, the dentist could understand and speak English as long as I spoke slowly. I had to wait a half hour or so, but he reviewed my teeth, and put a temporary filling on the problematic right side that seems to have done the trick. At this point teeth ache a bit on occasion, but I should be good to go until the next crisis (statistically likely to be dental, but who knows). Total cost for two emergency dentist visits at this point less than a single (non-cleaning) visit at the dentist in the US, and I can still file the visits with the insurance company (more insurance fun).

Most of the day split cycle path, cycle lane, and shoulder on the highway. Rain threatened all morning, and fulfilled that promise on my way out of town. The occasional drop turned to a light drizzle, light enough to dry off as fast as the rain fell. When I’d pass through a stronger storm cell, I’d stop under a tree or in a bus stop until the cell passed.

Suspicion proved reality, a long day of climbing a long hill, a brief flat section, and then another climb. The hills make progress slow, but I’m in no hurry (except for having left town at noon), and I find climbing cathartic. I had a hard time with energy levels today, between the hills, head winds, and low calorie count from the morning, but by mid-afternoon I had my rhythm.

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I arrived at the campground, run by a lovely British couple, at 6:30 pm. The husband wanted to run a campground, the wife to live in France, so they moved here and opened a campground. I learned I’m the only resident tonight; they close their campground next week for the end of the summer season. The campground down the road closed for the season already.

Closed campgrounds (and hostels) could make accommodation tricky; I need to factor that in to travel planning. Campgrounds on the GPS often include URLs, and I obtained a IYH hostel map in Carcassonne. Hopefully the hostels don’t tie as closely to season, but there are some big gaps between them for a while. Time to plan a slightly larger margin of error; at this point, only daylight limits my daily range.

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