July 13 – Thursday

On the road to Mont Ventoux right at 9:30. Started passing more and more cyclists going up – stopped a couple of times to cheer them on, then drove towards the top of the mountain. It’s by far the highest peak in the area, with a weather station on top.

There’s a restaurant about 6 km from the top where a lot of folks had stopped for refreshments – Colin saw someone he knew, so took the dogs for a walk while I found (eventually) the WC. I must say that there are so many kinds of toilets, and ways to flush them that it sometimes amazes me. In every country I’ve been in so far there have been: ordinary toilets (with seat), toilets without seat, hole in floor with places for feet. Then there is the method of flushing: choice of two things to press – one small and one large (can figure that one out!), push button on wall, step on button on floor, pull cord from above. But for today’s I had to be a bit of a detective – the flusher was actually the same button as the door locker – when you pushed it to indicate you wanted out, it flushed – a combination lock!

The reason for our foray up the mountain, as well as many of the riders, was a memorial ceremony for a friend of Colin’s who had died on the mountain while competing in a race. Tom Simpson was a Brit (that lived in Belgium) and was only 29 years old, and they’ve built a very nice memorial right were he passed away very near the top of the climb.
We drove to the top and walked around a bit – awesome views in every direction. There was more than one person selling candy of all sorts, another selling cookies and sausages, etc.

Chatted with a few of the cyclists, then drove back down 1 km to the memorial site. There were hundreds of cyclists that made the climb, and even the vehicle traffic came to a stop when the service was going on. There were a few speeches, mostly in Belgian (or Flemish?) but it wasn’t overly sombre – rather seemed happy and perhaps inspiring. Bradley Wiggins had ridden up, but left before the ceremony (probably so he wouldn’t distract folks).
After the ceremony we drove down as far as the restaurant, then turned onto a different road the rest of the way down – heading at first east, then north towards Gap. Partway down we got on one of the roads we had come in on, and followed it to Sault, then north and east to just south of Sedron where we turned north.

Near the end of this road was another gorge, although not as long or high up as the one the other day. At several points there were cars parked at the side of the road – folks were down at the river swimming and having picnics. At one very narrow corner we met a truck coming the other way – we ended up having to back up so he could pass, as he was pulling a small trailer and it was easier for us to manoeuvre back and forth so he could get by. As usual I’m glad I’m not driving!

Made it to Laragne Moteglin where we expected to get onto the E712 highway, but took several wrong turns, then found the road was closed so had to back-track a bit and get onto another highway going north.

Got to Gap, did some shopping and headed further north to just before La Mure – some very beautiful countryside. Passed a bunch of solar panels on a large building then further on a couple of huge wind turbines.

Got to the campground at Valbonnais not long after 7 – it’s very beautiful, surrounded by Alps and has a small lake. Setup camp – I had wanted to put my tent facing west toward the lake, and with the campervan’s awning also facing the lake but the wind was so strong we turned everything around and are now facing east instead.

Colin took me out for pizza for dinner at the restaurant on the lake – I had a Hawaiian which was very good – leftovers for breakfast, too.

Sat outside the office for a bit (where the wi-fi is best) and got caught up on things. Froome, Quintana and Contador all had a bad day, and Aru is now in yellow – we’ll see how long that lasts, or if Froome can come back. Quintana and Contador are likely out of it, although you never know – the race is only half over.

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