From Pau I drive in to the Pyrenees. A constant issue is the very poor quality of the directions provided by my GPS. It frequently leads me astray. Today it has led me up a steep mountain path. Knowing I am in the wrong place I decide that it is worth taking a look up the road anyway. I ride up the road for about ten minutes and reach a reinforced swale. It is at this point I am thinking the road is getting pretty steep and I should turn around. I make the decision to head up the road one more switchback and see how the road looks beyond. I am about half way up that segment when I lose traction in the damp soil. This combined with the bumpy road causes me to have a low speed fall over. I am fine and go to the work of getting the bike right side up. I flip the bike back up right and make the decision to resume going up the hill, I start off up the hill and it is back lying on its side in a foot. At this point I decide the ground conditions probably aren’t good enough to carry on up the road. Unfortunately the road is too steep and narrow to turn the bike around so I have to back it down the hill to the swale. After wasting a bunch of time backing the bike down the hill I head back down the hill toward the nearest town to figure out how to get where I actually want to go. On the way down the bike loses the rear brakes due to air in the lines. This causes two more low speed fall overs on the way down the mountain as no rear brake on steep rocky roads is not good. Unfortunately I smack my shin on the peg during one of these falls. This will later swell up a fair bit but I am otherwise alright.
After the mishaps of the morning I head down the hill to get pointed in the right direction. At this point the air seems to have worked its way out of the brakes but I will still get them bled to make sure. I end up riding with four guys from Great Britain as they seem to know where the turn off for the right road is. The rest of the day is spent riding up and down mountain passes through ski resorts.
These passes are all part of the Tour de France so numerous wannabe Lance Armstrong’s are on the road. I have gained a large amount of respect for those racers even if they are all on steroids as those are some very steep hills.
Sheep and cows are all over the road in the pastureland. The best part of this is the cows have bells that you can hear ringing from the road, the worst part is the ‘leavings’ all over the road.
That night I stay in Saint-Lary-Soulan and enjoy a few Grimbergen Blanche’s to sooth my sore body.
I have a swollen head this morning from too much self medication and get started late. I look up where the nearest motorcycle shop is and drive to Lannemezan to have the brakes bled. I turn up at the shop and it turns out it is a scooter shop and with limited French I speak to the mechanic and determine he can’t help me and he sends me to Tarbes. I find an independent shop there and get the brakes bled with the help of a local riding an R1200 who helps with the translations. Unfortunately this has cost me half a day so I only make it to Saint-Lary that night. The hotel here occupies a section of town with rooms spread around the town. It is a picturesque location with a river running through the middle of town and narrow winding roads. The wood has been stacked for winter already and you can tell by the overnight temperature that winter is coming. I have a strange dinner that night. I ordered what I thought was trout filets but end up being served what I think was pork in stomach casing, this was to say the least not to my taste but I suck it up and eat most of it while Mr. Beaning (steak tartar scene) the rest away. Then a second meal, this time trout filets, shows up so I have no idea what the deal is but I clearly don’t understand what was happening.
From Saint-Lary I head east. It is raining and very cold at the top of the last pass. As I am heading to Fox I stop at the Prehistory Park. The park contains a museum with reproductions of the Magdalenian art from the Caves of Niaux. I am cold and wet so I spend a couple hours in the warmth of the museum before heading outside to view the stone tool and fire making demonstration the museum puts on.
I start the morning by replacing the headlight bulb which has burnt out. It involves removing the front fairing, disconnecting the electrical then replacing the bulb which is fairly easy and having watched Dad do the same task on his R1200 GSA mine appears to be easier.
I am off to Andorra today. It is more cold mountain passes. Because Andorra is not part of the European Union it acts as a tax free shopping zone and French people flock there do their shopping. I stop in El Pas de la Casa at the well equipped motorcycle store to replace the light bulb. Continuing on to Andorra la Villa I go over Envalira Pass which at 2408 m is the highest pass in the Pyrenees. In El Pas de la Casa I see a sign that says -1 C. It is darn cold so I believe it, however, at the pass the temperature says 5 C.
I think the gas stations at the top of the pass are a bit of an odd sight but I suspect they are from before a 3 km tunnel was bored under the pass.
After Andorra I head towards Barcelona as bad weather is moving in. The highway to Barcelona takes me through Cadi tunnel a five kilometre long tunnel which is quite interesting, unfortunately the action cam batteries are dead so I don’t have any footage of it.