The Longest Ride of Our Journey

Despite changing the end goal for our ride, we faced the longest ride so far as we left Marseillan. Google Maps says it is 135 kilometres. We did more than that. It was another day when things didn’t quite work out how we had hoped.

Knowing that we had a long day’s ride ahead of us, we got up together with the sun. We had had the warmest night in the tent for weeks, and it was wonderful to wake up and not feel cold. And the tent was dew free, too. It makes a big difference to the weight when you can carry a dry tent.

Last night, when we had arrived to Marseillan, we had cycled through the town looking for somewhere to camp. It had been like a ghost town. It is clearly a place that lives on tourism and now, outside tourist season and combined with COVID, it was eerily deserted. But, judging from the numbers of bars and nightclubs we passed, Marseillan is a proper party town when the summer season is in full swing.

We soaked up the sun as we breakfasted near the beach. You could tell we had arrived at the Mediterranean from the heat of the sun. How wonderful it was to feel its warming rays! Especially after the miserable wet and windy days we’d had recently.

Before too long, we were riding in t-shirts, or in Justin’s case, shirtless. 

A little side note – what is your feeling of shirtless men? I think there are times and places for that. A beach, yes. Exercising in a hot climate, yes. A pub beer garden, no. Shopping on Oxford Street (or anywhere), hell no. And it doesn’t matter whether they are sporting a beer belly or a sixpack, the opinion remains the same.

Anyway…

Our first target was to head to Beziers and from there we could follow Canal de Midi all the way to Carcassonne. Sounds simple, right? Of course it wasn’t. As you can see from the route map below, we did some extra.

The first extra loop was down to very misleading signs. We rode all the way back to the seafront and faced a dead end. There was no way to cross the river other than way further back. Not an auspicious start to the day.

The second extra loop was when we followed the signs correctly, but then the cut through was closed. And had been closed for a while as we read from the note posted on the roadblock. We were not happy. Neither were the other two cyclists who’d also followed the signs and found the road barred.

Which reminds me. This was part of the EuroVelo 8. I had the intention of emailing them regarding the signs leading you to a dead end. But I haven’t got round to it yet. I must do. I will do. Hopefully, other people have as well and they get the signs updated to save others an extra loop.

There was a point in the journey later on as well when the route was closed and we had to find an alternative. That doesn’t show on the map, as we didn’t have to backtrack. But it took us away from the Canal and added extra kilometres to Google’s 135.

I’m not sure exactly how many kilometres we did. My watch battery died after 120.31 kilometres and over eights hours on the road. I know, however, that when the watch gave up, we still had about 20 kilometres to Carcassonne and then another 25 to Limoux.

That would add up to 165 kilometres. But Chris had to come to our rescue about 15 kilometres from Limoux. So we reckon we rode about 150 kilometres. Shame the watch stopped recording as it would be nice to know what the total – and my longest ride to date- was.

Much later than expected, we made it to Beziers and had a moment of “We’ve been here before” when we saw Lock of Fonséranes. Of course, we hadn’t been there before. But we had seen it on TV. Prunella Scales and Timothy West featured this lock in their series Great Canal Journeys.

At the time, I remember thinking that it would be great to visit it one day.

And now, here we were, at the Lock of Fonséranes. It was an even more amazing feat of engineering, with its eight locks and nine basins than we had imagined. It is a staircase of water and we watched while we lunched how they maneuvered the boats along the canal.

We could have stayed and watched it the whole day, but of course we couldn’t. We still had 117 kilometres to go!

Determined to make it, we continued to follow the canal, and it was mostly smooth going. Until we came across another poorly signed detour and we ended up cycling away from the canal and up some steep hills before we found our way back to the canal again.

Though the canal route was a pleasure, except the detour, it was taking us too long as it meandered through the countryside. Which is why we abandoned the canal route, opted for the main roads and got on the D5 from Capestang.

We could pick up more speed on the main roads and were making up time until we had an issue. A puncture-kind of issue.

Justin is quick at repairing punctures, but with all that gear on our bikes, it wasn’t that straightforward. It required taking a lot of the gear off the bikes before we could even begin to fix the puncture. And it was time we couldn’t afford to lose.

Puncture fixed, we were back on the saddles and cycling as fast as we could towards Carcassonne. From there, and by now the darkness had fallen, we headed south to Limoux.

We had notified Chris earlier that we were running late. Then we’d messaged him, when we got the puncture, that we were running even later. He offered to come and meet us somewhere with his pickup truck, but we said we were ok. We were only 20 kilometres from Limoux by that point.

But then, about 15 kilometres from Limoux, I got the second puncture of the day. It was dark, and we were tired and in no mood to unpack everything and start fixing a puncture in a flashlight. We’d probably end up losing something else in the darkness.

So, we messaged Chris, and he came to our rescue. Oh, the pleasure of throwing (not literally) our bikes at the back of his pickup and driving the rest of the way. An equal pleasure was the food Chris had saved for us.

Then bed. The biggest pleasure of all after the longest ride.

Until next time, and as always, thank you for being here.

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