June 8th, 2005


Nîmes to Arles, Sunday May 8th

"Beware the River Monster"

Sunday was our first day of bicycling! First, we met the rest of our fellow adventurers. The group was small, just 8 people total -- including our Friendly Aussie Coordinator Brek. Me and Lynn, two girls from Canada named Kris and Jacqui, a married couple from Boston named Dave and Jen, and Adam from Texas.

Introductions were made all around, and everybody seemed friendly. We discussed what route we wanted to take, as our first day offered two different routes to Arles. The "default" route is 42 km, but there is a longer option that goes up to the Pont-du-Gard, an interesting-sounding Roman aqueduct. I was really interested in seeing the aqueduct, but I also didn't want to overexert on the very first day. After all, I had to make it through two weeks of cycling! The info sheet also warned us that the next day was to be a very challenging ride.

After some uncertainty, Lynn and I decided to stick with the default route. It would give us more time to see Arles when we arrived, and it was probably a better way to ease ourselves into bicycling mode. Only 3 people took the long route, I think, and Dave showed us his pictures at least. Almost as good as being there....

Some time was spent fussing around in Nîmes, getting our new bicycles ready. Blue Marble provides bicycles as part of the tour, and Brek helped us adjust them to fit. I had brought my own saddle, which Brek installed for me, and Lynn had brought her clipless pedals. We made various adjustments, attached our panniers, and pedaled around the block a few times to get used to riding with panniers. Definitely a different feeling, having so much weight back there! Once we felt that everything was in order, we put the route sheets into our map-holders and pedaled off.

Getting out of the city proved to be a bit of a challenge. Really, getting in or out of any large city on a bicycle is a challenge. Nîmes has lots of roundabouts to ride through, which made the traffic confusing and a little scary. We made a wrong turn at one roundabout. Eventually we realized our error, then we had to find our way back and figure out the correct turn. As we were coming back from the wrong turn, we saw a bicyclist who had clearly just been hit by a car! He was sitting in the middle of the road, holding his face in his hands, looking banged up, surrounded by French people jabbering at one another in confusion. Unable to help, we rode around the scene very carefully, inspired to approach the city traffic with even more caution than before.

Finally, we made it out of the city without further incident and onto a peaceful country road. We were surrounded by farmlands and vineyards. I breathed a sigh of happy relief. Now this was more like I'd been expecting!

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Time to build an ark?

It was so cute: after David (11 years old) and Kim and I went wading on sunday, and he helped clear the drains to de-flood the street, he kept hoping it would rain again. He had so much fun -- we all did! Then the rest of the night he kept opening my front door and going onto my porch, checking the sky for rain.

Naturally when the rains came again today, I immediately thought of David. It's such a bummer he left before today's flood -- he would have loved it!

Yes, I said today's flood.... it happened again. And honestly, I would say it was actually worse than on sunday! On sunday, the highest point of my street was only an inch or two deep. Today, the water covered my ankles there. Seriously! At the lowest part of the street, where the drain is, the water almost reached my knees.

Quite a bit of the grass was submerged along with the street. I waded out and cleared the two drains with my feet again, then splashed my way down to where a couple of neighbors were standing. "Got a canoe?"

They both laughed. They were standing on either side of the street, shoes still on, shouting across the lake in order to communicate with one another. I commented that it was seriously deep enough that a canoe would float, and how much I'd love a picture of somebody canoing down the street. Then I went back inside to wash my feet, leaving my door open.

A short while later, I heard my neighbors hollering my name. I glanced at my door, and saw flashbulbs going off. Somehow, I knew. I grabbed my camera and went running back outside.

Time to build an ark

There was one of the men from a few houses down, determinedly paddling his way down the street in his kayak!

It's got to be one of the funniest things I've seen in quite awhile. Kind of a bummer that I'd just cleared the drains though, because he really only needed another inch or two to actually get speed -- he was able to paddle, but only barely.

Eventually he reached the end of Lake Wellesley, as we christened it, and I asked him, "How does it feel to be a pioneer? You're the first person to boat on Lake Wellesley."

Afterward he got out and waded back, pulling it back toward his house. A car drove by, and somebody said to the driver, "Hey, boats get priority in this area! And this is a No-Wake Zone, you know."

Flood 2

We then started a debate about property values. We figure that our property values should skyrocket, now that we have lakefront property. But the big question is: will it be enough to compensate for the basketball hoop duct-taped to the tree???