Mimizan, France: My day started at 1:30am and it deteriorated from there.
I awoke to a thunderous siren. At first I thought it was an errant alarm clock, but it continued and continued until my slumbering brain processed what was going on: FIRE ALARM. I jumped out of bed, grabbed my hotel key and dashed down three flights of stairs barefoot in the compression pants and t-shirt I was sleeping in. No shoes, no passport, just the room key. I was surprised the stairwell was quiet, and even more surprised when no one was in the lobby except for the receptionist, who informed it’s a false alarm as the sirens continued. He said — with an air of experience — the alarm would shut off in a few minutes. I got the sense this isn’t the first time the fire alarm has gone off in the middle of the night.
The hotel was nearly full last night, yet I seem to be the only one who roused from my room. Strange. Call me quirky, but I prefer to not sleep through hotel fires.
A few hours later I received my 6:00am wake-up call and discovered over baguettes and soft-boiled eggs that Mother Nature had fooled the meteorologists. Il pleut, as the French say. It was raining…a cold, grey, steady release from the clouds. I considered waiting out the rain. I considered taking a rest day in Biarritz, which wouldn’t exactly be hardship. It was bound to happen sooner or later, so I took the plunge, put all my things in dry bags inside my supposedly waterproof panniers, loaded Bubba Too up, and took off into the rain to join the traffic rushing to work. How fun.
About three hours later, as I was soaked to the bone but acclimated to the wetness, I had another Uh Oh moment. If you’ve been following this blog you probably realize Uh Oh moments are not good moments. They’re more like Holy Shit moments, pardon my French. The road I was following led straight to a highway, and in France, like I have discovered elsewhere on this journey, bikes are a no-no on highways. So with the assistance of a truck-driver I found and took this unmarked, deserted access road that ran parallel to the highway:
I took the road until the road ran out. I then made my way to a small town. From the center of town there were roads going in many directions — except the direction I wanted to go. So I found a dry spot at a cafe, spread open my new Michelin map, and looked at my options. I could probably figure out a patchwork of zig-zagging to the town of Labouheyer, but looking for more unmarked roads in the cold wetness of this day didn’t seem like too much fun.
So I changed course. I headed westward toward Leon, near the coast, and then headed north to Mimizan, a small and ordinary tourist town. I had initially considered this semi-coastal route, but the hotel staff in Biarritz assured me the inland route is superior and there’s pas de probleme for a bicycle. Sometimes local intelligence, I am finding, isn’t so intelligent.
115-kilometers later and past forest, corn and sunflower fields, I find myself staying in a town I had not planned visiting. This is the second time on my Euro cycle where I’ve yielded to the direction of the road.
While it may not be my definition of fun, today has certainly been a memorable day. And as I reminded myself many times today, after the rain comes the sun. Usually.
Day 18 (Wednesday, June 22): Biarritz — Mimizan, France
Day 18 distance: 114.63 km
Day 18 ascent: 350 m
Weather: Wet, cold and grey
Distance: 1,345.30 km
Climbing: 9,343 meters
Rest days: 4
Police interactions: 1