Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Many years ago in the city of Lourdes nearby a series of 18 apparitions appear to Bernadette a young shepherd girl. Call it mass hysteria if you will but it has persisted. Lourdes is the second most visited city in France and everyday pilgrims pour in seeking their own miracles. They pray for health, wealth and love and purchase water and wax by the gallons. The apparition held out for a while before revealing her true identity, she asked only one thing of Bernadette; Penance and likewise promised Bernadette one thing; Happiness not in this world but the other.
The last few days had been so much fun that I doubt that it would qualify as true Penance and the other world on my mind was the Land Down Under. Yes, Sydney to Melbourne 1200K was fast approaching. Time to recover.

Day 6: Hourquette D'Ancizan, Col D'Aspin and Lourdes.
It is our last day of riding in the Pyrenees, I am perhaps already thinking of home. The Chinese say that a journey is its own reward, perhaps one of the rewards is an increased appreciation of home. Mostly I missed my own bike.
I would do today's climbs at recovery pace but I would do them all. We start from Bagnere and head up to the remote and pristine Hourquette d'Ancizan. This is Yumis favorite climb and starting from just under 2000 feet a straight climb of 3500 feet to just over 5000 feet. Stopping on the way in the Village fountain at Ste. Marie to keep hydrated, I am trying very had to not create any more lactic acid on the climbs.

A rider on the way down warns us that it is very windy up there, but it is nothing compared to Windy Ridge on the Mountain 600K Pre-ride.

At the top all we find really is the Gendarmes as this is a remote path often chosen by smugglers from Spain.
Second climb is a Tour Favorite; Aspin

But it is just as pretty.

A well rested Trudy is well ahead and I am Lanterne Rouge today, yet no one can tell me the origin of the term. I am sure Dominique B. knows.
After flying down the steep grades, the route starts to make sense as a recovery ride with a high cadence spin down the 2% grade to Bagnere.
Guess who is in the office?

Monsieur Fignon, the last French winner of the Tour, he is looking well and he is pretty busy, but takes a time out for a photo with old glory in the background.
Then off to the city of Bernadette.

We all need Miracles.

Thanx to Laurent Fignon

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Grange

Dominick at the Miramont spoke very good English, she like all our hosts in Argeles were eager to be helpful. We would always see her at dinner time when she was eager to explain the menu.
On learning that I had climbed the Hautacam her interest was piqued and she reminisced about hosting a famous Texan while encouraging me to try his favorite desert. She remembered he was pissed because the Hautacam was closed. Like me he likes to climb in cold weather I thought.

Day 5: Cirque Du Troumouse, Cirque Du Gavarnie
Up early to get the bikes from the Grange

Trudy would decide to leave her bike in the Grange under the watchful eyes of Champion American teams who left memorabilia to thank their hosts.

A wise decision indeed as this would be a difficult day on the bike for me.
We set out to climb to the Cirque Du Troumouse (Jean-Phi's favorite) we had missed it as the second climb when I broke the cranks. I am doing fairly OK until we get past Gavarnie and the real climb begins.
I wonder if I need protein, but the charcuterie only serves to bloat my gut, I am not climbing well.

I can see why it is J-Phi's favorite climb, it is desolate and preaches for solitude.

I encourage my friend to ride on ahead as I plod slowly through switchback after switchback.

Very wobbly amongst the sure-footed.

Lost in my own thoughts till I need a break from those thoughts.

I do make it to the top and walk it off in that remote natural amphitheater.

Time to go back down to Gavarnie.

We have climbed close to 5000 feet in 27 miles and I am pooped.
We spend the afternoon hiking up to the Cirque Du Gavarnie, on the way we are entertained by a donkey show.

I think I am happy to be off the bike.

In this other famous natural amphitheater.

So Happy I perform a little rap skit.

Thanks to the Owners and Staff of the Miramont

Friday, November 13, 2009


For the years that I have known Jean Philippe. we had spent almost all our time together either fighting our way up a stiff grade or descending on the other side, with greater trepidation on my side. Like quite a few cyclists that I know, he must have some disdain for my almost always clasped-on headphones. He had told me once that he much prefers the sound of nature, but on I-90....
As we clawed our way up Hautacam, I saw the sign indicating 1k to the summit and I gave it my all. J-Phi then did two things he had never done before. He rode close and removed my left earpiece, and he asked me to back off. He had good reason, though his clock would stop as it did in the TDF time trial at the posted summit, we had to climb 2 more miles to the Ski Lodge.
He had opened Pandora's Box, he would discover what I keep shut down in there. That I talk a lot and with a loud guttural African voice, that I am not reluctant to be opinionated about controversial subjects and that I interrupt without being aware of it. Qualities that can make me rather insufferable.

Day 4: Col Du Solour, Col D'Aubisque, Hautacam

By morning the clouds were gone.

Trudy led us up the beautiful Col D'Aubisque

And though I wish I could fly up these mountains.

I am more like these fellas.

It is nice to be out there and Trudy is climbing strong in her blue shirt.

To get to the summit of Aubisque we have to pass through the Solour.

We descend into a wooded area with beautiful fall colors.

And stop to refuel with dried fruit.

Finally Col D'Aubisque.

There is a restaurant open up there and I order the Plat de cyclistes. It is Gabure as it is called in the region, similar to a Cassoulet, It is a hearty soup with beans, potatoes, pork and other vegetables. This time they have a drumstick of duck in it. I wash it down with a heated light wine almost like a Sangria and it is time to descend. Trudy follows us back down and up back to the Col Du Solour and joins Yumi.

As we descend deeper into the valley towards Argeles, J-Phi starts to lighten up and I follow suit.

Next is Hautacam. J-Phi wants to time us on this brutal climb and its the last thing I want to hear. I had spent it all a week ago on the last 3 days of "Endless Mountains" I am on vacation.

I block his encouraging words out with my headphones and the numbing view.

Yet I let him pace me up, using the milder 8% grades to clear the lactic acid.

Battling through the bonus 2 miles after the official summit, I can only wonder if we made his time cut-off.

That look on his face at the Ski Lodge says it all.

Ice cream at the lodge; this one's for Kole.
And a shot of cognac for the cold descent.
About 10,000 feet in less than 60 miles

Thanx to Kole for his backwheel on many a climb.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Whidbey without the Mambo

Ferry Chaser's at Fairhaven

Thanks to Mark Roberts for the Photo

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


I came across this link on the randon wire, usatoday.com/communities/driveon/post/etc. Got me thinking. I did not approach riding in the Pyrenees as though it was a very safe thing, the roads are smaller with no shoulders and the drivers are just in the same big hurry. Maybe I was somewhat prejudiced by Jean Phi's constant admonishment to be careful and that the drivers here are crazy.
I did not find much broken glass and human debris on the roads, but there are always debris from falling rocks in the mountains. Conspicuously different was the attitude towards cyclists. One motorist swung his vehicle around one of the switchbacks on the Tourmalet rolled down his window to yell at me "Allez! Allez!" The attitude reflected, to me was "I wish I was riding today". Workers on a roof stopped for a moment to cheer you on.

Day Three: Tourmalet and Croix-Blanche
Yumi is driving SAG today as she will for the rest of the tour. A minor mechanical, actually "Vince breaks something else", takes us to the local cyclery in Argeles. Problem solved at a decent cost of 5 Euro's and Yumi drives off with Trudy to the foot of the Tourmalet. She looks nervous, it is the giant of the Pyrenees, it is steep and long.

I ride up from Argeles with Jean Phi and we catch Trudy. I know I will irritate her on her climb so I push on after a while leaving that job to Jean Phi. This side of the giant is moonscape with cliffs I would not want to overshoot.

And the last kilometer gets a little more steep

I ask a spanish cyclist at the summit to take a photo. He asks me if it was difficult. I give him my standard answer; "it is always difficult".

It is getting cold, I put on my coat and why not a hill repeat.

I go down to join them for the last 2-3 k.

And that last steep pitch. I will pay later.

Congratulations T, you have conquered the Tourmalet.

Then Jean Phi leads me on the descent. A quick bike check at La Mongie and we fly all the way to Bagnere. This side is greener with more shade and will be a more clement climb in the summer.

But there is more, Jean Philippe knows the Pyrenees better than the back of his hand and takes me on a scenic tour of this area popular for its healing natural springs.

And beautiful old Churches.

Rolling Pastures, that got me thinking, if sheep are so stupid, how come they make wool.

After a steep Climb of about 1000ft we stop for a picnic which Yumi and Trudy will spread from the SAG. Jean Phi stretches, for he knows what lies ahead.

For after rolling through the most beautiful countryside on a road that would not fit 2 cars side by side.

We climb to Croix Blanche through a brutally steep 1000ft. I can barely stay with Jean Phi at this point. At the top I take a sweeping look at the panorama.

Before Collapsing like Roland.

But clouds are beginning to gather in the mountains quickly.

No sniveling, time to go home, hope the clouds clear by tomorrow, Oh! who can think that far?

Back at Argeles Jean Phi asks Dominick, the wife of the Chef and owner of the Mirramont to add an extra bowl of pasta to my Dinner. "Pas de Probleme" I will need it.
10, 000ft of climbing in just over 70 miles.

Thanx to the people of the Pyrenees