Day 3: Beaufort to Tignes (85km, 1500m)

Beaufort, it turned out, had 2 church bells: one to wake you up, and one to make sure you knew what time of night it was when the first one woke you up. I slept through most of it, but Mike did not.

We quickly got dressed, packed, and then had a hard time finding someone to open the door to the bike storage room. We did spot a worker coming in after about 10 minutes, however, and she quickly found the key, let us have our bikes, and then collected monies for our stay.

Breakfast was at the bakery down the street which opened early. We ate our selection of bread quickly, and discovered that we needed to oil our chains from the rain the night before, but didn't know where the bottle of oil I had brought with me from California was. (It turned out that it was sitting in the Mike's jeans, but we wouldn't know that until that night) We asked the lady running the bakery where a bike shop or hardware shop was, and she pointed us to one down the street. We walked down the street and discovered to our surprise at 7:30am that it was opened!

We bought some oil, and two bungee cords that would solve Mike's saddle sag problem for the rest of the trip, at the expense of making it a pain for him to get the saddlebag on the bike. Then at 8:00am, we finally made it out of town and up Cormet de Roseland (1968m). The climb starts out shady at the bottom, and was cool and green as it weaves back and forth amongst forests, campgrounds, waterfalls and the occasional house. However, several fertilizer trucks must frequent the area, since there was fertilizer all over the road, which was apparently feeding hordes of flies that would startle and swarm us every time we rode by. It got to the point where we would sprint past any fertilizer mounds on the road, often to no avail except to lessen the amount of time we spent with flies surrounding us.

We eventually reached the dam near the top, which didn't look very impressive, but we stopped for water and then proceeded to ride next to it for a bit before turning away , which made it look a lot more impressive and pretty. From here on out, we were almost at the treeline, and the road granted us dramatic view after dramatic view, winding alongside a stream with wildflowers by the roadside with mountains off to the side before culminating with a waterfall that roared and roared.

The summit, by contrast was almost a disappointment, but the descent was fast and easy, and we made it down to Bourg St. Maurice by 11:30, which meant that finding lunch was difficult. After a few duds, we found a sandwich shop served by a pretty French lady and sat down for a meal. I ordered a sandwich and Mike ordered some chicken and chips. While we ate I commented on how slim young French women were compared to Americans, and Mike said that it must have been the "schlepping of stuff up and down the Alps." I laughed and said, "No way. Most of them look too pale to have been doing outdoor work. It must be the smoking --- it gives you cancer when you're 40, but in your 20s it depresses your appetite so you eat less and look good." As if to illustrate my point, our waitress started smoking outside in our seating area.

We also wanted to find a cell phone for Mike while in France, since my Swiss paid SIM card would be subject to roaming charges. However, our ride through Bourg St. Maurice and Seez (904m) did not yield anything but a grocery store where we bought Bananas. The day had warmed up considerably and the descent from Seez to the start of the climb up Col D'Iseran warmed us up even further before the start of the steep climb, switching back and forth between sun and shade. I switched to my cycling cap early, but even then sweat dripped down the sides of my face and rolled down my chin onto my legs or my bicycle.

After an hour of climbing we found a shady spot and stopped to take Endurolytes, to cover our salt intake. There, we discovered we had already used more than half our water! There was a fire station at the next town, so we stopped there to get water from the bathroom and proceeded to climb. The bright sunlight was harsh and we felt thoroughly cooked and broiled. There wasn't any ice cream to be found, either.

Another half hour took us to a fork in the road where there was a bus stop with a shelter. We quickly took advantage of that for water and to eat our bananas. A truck drove by spewing black smoke from its tail pipe. Mike looked and said, "That truck does not have long to live." Sure enough, moments later it stalled and we rode past it as the driver got out and lifted the hood. I cruelly hoped that this would stall traffic behind us as we approached the first set of tunnels that would take us up to Tignes and Val D'Isere.

We approached our first tunnels with trepidation, and stopped to turn on our taillights and headlights, and then proceeded to dash through them. Then we realized that tunnels provided shelter from the heat and began to enjoy them!

After the first set of tunnels we saw Tignes, rising on the other side of the road. It would actually be a detour to visit Tignes, so we stayed on our side of the road and eschewed what looked like a gratituous descent and climb in the afternoon heat. After a particularly long set of tunnels and galleries we emerged at a dam where I looked and saw a hotel. Hey Mike, want to check out this hotel? He looked as baked as I felt, and agreed. We went in and asked about the rates, which were quoted as 39 Euros a person, but which we misunderstood and thought was 39 Euros for a room.

No sooner had we showered than storm clouds gathered and the wind picked up for what felt like would be a howling storm! Safe in our hotel room, we sorted through our stuff and found everything we thought was missing: the Handspring with the European translator module, the oil that was hiding in Mike's jeans. We washed our clothes in the basin and hung it outside, hoping the wind would dry everything. Our mileage was pathetic that day, but given the heat, thunderstorm and the efforts from the day before we didn't feel bad about stopping early.

Dinner was quite serviceable (at the hotel, since there was no other restaurant near by), and after dinner I stepped outside for a picture of the storm.

That night, both of us slept really really well.

Up: Contents, Prev: Day 2, Next: Day 4