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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