Day 20 Montpellier to Grenoble

Saturday  Dateicon  20.8.2016  Tigericon  383km Total:6550km

The day starts of gray and overcast and soon transitions into rain.
I know it's childish and very un-credible as a biker but sustained raining just gets to me.
I'll ride on regardless but all the joy of it is out the window... and that the best case scenario.
Add to that the motorway pileup from hell and hot-tempered Frenchmen who completely lacks the ability to line up at a standstill and you get the perfect storm.

The ear plugs where chafing so much I rode without them so I think it was probably because of the wind noise but I can't completely rule out that it was my outbursts in that traffic that was the cause of my hearing not returning to its normal level for several days after.
At a standstill you can often ride in between traffic (called filtering or lane splitting) which is one of the great advantages to travelling on a motorcycle (and in case you don't ride, this is completely legal in most European countries).
But here the traffic was never completely at a standstill, it was like motor-vehicles with parkinson's disease. One minute practically still, then 50, then 20 asf.
And then out of nowhere it opened up and where up to 130km/h again (which was the limit) only to get down to a crawl again.
Without any obvious cause or explanation at all, no lanes shut down, no accidents, no nothing.

After zig-zagging through traffic in all four lanes, riding in between vehicles in speed way past my comfort zone (I usually don't filter in speed higher than first gear) I realize that this isn't going to work in the long run.
Either I conform to the traffic which is painfully slow without any sign of it getting better or I'll continue this kamikaze style riding which is an accident just waiting to happen.
The scenic routes that went out the window with the rain are now back in the game, even if the it's doubtful if the weather will make the view enjoyable the chances of me surviving the day are considerably higher.
And I really don't see that the overall speed on the smaller road network could possibly be any slower than this.

I exit the motorway and it immediately seems like I've made the right decision.
Not only is the much lesser traffic a joy to behold, it would seem that the rain is starting to lessen as well.
If not completely it's at least now down to just a light drizzle.
And what the lighter traffic and better weather does to bring my adrenaline-level down from status:axemurderer Sarah McLachlan does the rest.
I might be a metalhead but I'm not the least ashamed to say that Afterglow is a god damn masterpiece of an album.

I would have known had I spipped it but I'm really glad I stuck to my original route.
The description on dangerous roads of Combe Laval which leads to Col de la Machine: Frequently recognized as the most magnificent road in the French Alps gives you a good idea about what to expect.
When it's impossible to even depict, describing in text is obviously impossible but to ride through what might as well be an enchanted forest, in parts covered by a crown of leaves across the whole road leading up to a gorge where the mist is to thick is looks like cotton wool, no it simply defies all description.

It felt like a was riding above the clouds looking down, it was purely magical.
Probably scared off by the weather (although it has now stopped raining entirely) I had the road almost to myself which obviously greatly added to the experience.

I do try to learn something from my mistakes and last years terror-ride on the Old Eastern Railway outside Sarajevo have made me a bit more cautious when it comes to creative routing.
Route de Presles was at least on paper the stupidest route I was going to take this year.
A so called balcony road with no side barrier, single lane only and regular landslides.
Sound completely idiotic doesn't it? I'd be damned if I'll put myself through that... until you read on:
Words can’t describe the road and pictures don’t do it justice. It’s one of the most spectacular balcony roads in the country.
Who can resist that kind of desciption. Surely not me.

Luckily have no real disposition towards vertigo but perhaps I wasn't all bad that the scenery was covered in fog and mist.
The lack of traffic was very lucky because the description of the road contritions was pretty accurate, on the worst part there wouldn't have been a chance in hell to pass another car, even meeting another bike with as wide an ass as mine would have been tough.
Fortunately though I didn't meet a single soul.

Considering how spectacular this was with the present conditions this must be a completely divine experience in clear weather, definitely a bucket-list ride.
Not even the few drops of rain on my way down from the misty mountains can take anything away from that experience, but I couldn't let the mind wander to much since the serpentine road down through the fog was some of the worst conditions I've ever ridden in (at least in what was supposed to be daylight) and the side barriers where still non existent.

But the rest of the way to the hotel in Grenoble was uneventful.
After the normal check in routine I got a tip from the receptionist about an Italian restaurant so that's where I went.
Grilled swordfish washed down with a Peroni beer was definitely not a bad way to end a good day.

 

Col de Rousset



Col de la Machine and Combe Laval



I wasn't stupid enough to stop and take pictures on the Route de Presles so edited some footage from the action cam instead.


I'm already most of the way down the mountain and the visibility looks a lot better on the picture than it felt riding in it.