This time last year I was taking part in my first ever race in France, under sunny skies and mild temperatures. This year, I’m not.

It’s been brutally cold (as always, climate adjectives should be taken as relative) in Le Sud recently; part of a deep freeze that has landed on all of Europe. Our woefully inadequate apartment is frosty and a water pipe has even frozen up. I couldn’t take the cold, so I joined John for our weekly Sunday ride.

John was early at our appointed meeting place and I found him riding in circles to keep warm while waiting for me.

John is from the mid-west, so not unaccustomed to the cold. He is particularly well geared up, too, and had some pretty cool ‘gumby gloves’ that had only two places for his 4 fingers, apparently keeping his digits warmer by keeping them together. If he cared to do it (he wouldn’t – he’s far too sensible), he could pretty handily whip out a Vulcan Salute or a Nanu Nanu with those things.

I didn’t have web gloves, but I was wearing, from top to bottom, a tuque (Canadian for wooly hat), a fleece headband, undershirt, poly base layer, wool cycling jersey, winter wind breaker, wool gloves, winter cycling gloves, winter cycling bib, long johns!, heavy ‘Norwegian’ socks, regular socks, winter booties.

There were others out there with much less on and they didn’t seemed fussed about the weather at all.

After our encounter with nature John led me to the Château de la Tuilerie, a big and impressive winery south of the city. This was as close as we could get without trespassing. The website as some nice photos, however.

In the morning I went down the street to the organic lady’s place and was apologized to for not having much to offer. She said that everything was frozen out there in the fields, mentioning the heads of ‘salade’ (French for lettuce) in particular. This got me wondering how these things were grown in winter. I even consulted John at the beginning of our ride I was so curious. We thus passed half our ride in ignorance till we came across this unfortunate field of completely frozen (and totally useless, I imagine) lettuce! It was pleasant to find the answer to my query on the very same day, but sad that whoever the farmer of this field was is not having his best year.

John, trying to hide from my camera by using lettuce as camouflage (and disproving my ‘sensible’ statement earlier!).

As we rode up this pretty, olive-lined road, John reminded me of the Great Frost of 1956 in France. The weather was so severe that virtually every olive tree in this region died (along with a whole bunch of vines). Only the oldest survived and it pretty much destroyed the industry for 30 years. It was a reminder that, although it was cold (-2C), it could get worse.

By the time I got back to Nîmes I was freezing, hungry and thirsty, so I stopped at what I have come to call My Salvation, the Ronde des Pains on Ave. Jean Jaures, a rare bakery that stays open all day Sunday AND sells beer.

I’m now back at home with that beer sitting in front of me, my core temperature slowly rising, and the knowledge – gained from experience – that February can’t last forever.

21 thoughts on “F-F-F-February

  1. I’m full of admiration at you braving sub zero temps for a ride, but I do think you’re crazy! We’re still very snowy and icy and the roads are so bad that school transport is cancelled for tomorrow again. No cycling in Creuse for a while yet 😦

    • It was actually pretty pleasant till the headwind on the way home. And yeah, unlike you, we haven’t had any rain or snow really so the roads are bone dry for the most part. I’ll visit your blog when I need a pick-me-up for my winter blues!

  2. Tough stuff. The roads looked quite ice free which was a bonus. I need more protection about the mouth and chin than you have but I must say that you look remarkably cheerful for such a chilly day. What a bonus to have a bakery that sells beer. Two birds with one stone.

  3. You’ll be pleased to know it’s been about 30deg here every day for a week. Not a cloud in the sky. Off to Byron to surf in boardies today (water is 24 C) then home for some farming. Tomatoes going well,planting a frangipani and coffee tree today.

    Though, we *don’t* have baguettes, so…

  4. I saw 3 energetic, but well covered cyclists braving the Caledon Hills in Ontario today. Balmy here for Canadian winters plus 2 deg, with no wind. Bare roads. I’m a minimum plus 5 myself.. I can just smell spring around the corner & have the urge to get off my indoor bike stand and feel the wind in my face. Maybe next week.

    • The indoor trainer really makes you appreciate the great outdoors, doesn’t it? We have no salt or sand on our roads here in the winter, so they are bare and safe to ride on all the time, which is nice. And since it’s sunny all the time winter looks like summer, just browner. Good luck getting out next week. Hope the temperatures cooperate.

      • I was in the south of France last summer and really appreciated the well-maintained roads, even the ones to the local “vignobles”. I was amazed how easy it was for cyclists to get around on the back roads.
        “note to self” call local Road Works department to place local potholes, on good cycling roads, at the top of spring maintenance list . Quite the maze out there !

  5. You and John are a couple of STUDS! Talk about hard core riders. I feel another, “I am a cyclist video” coming. That’s a cold day in the saddle! I’m saying this as I enjoy riding in +20C weather under sunny skies at my place in Arizona. I feel like such a wimp.

    • ‘Stud’. I haven’t been called that since….since….I’ll get back to you on that. Enjoy AZ while you can. 20C sounds like such a long time ago, even though my blog says we had it in January. Bring it back!

  6. Ah yes as my wife says to me, “revenge is a dish best served cold”. From all of us damp, soggy mortals up North, where the sun don’t shine!

  7. I do believe you are whining my dear brother. You certainly have been over there way too long lol. Sunny and plus 5 here today…..tata

  8. I can imagine the business meeting years ago at Ronde des Pains. Everyone was pleased with the quality and diverse selection of the baked goods, but the owner still thought something was missing. Then, one enterprising individual said, “I know what we need – beer!”

    Congratulations on braving the elements, though it must be said I believe you’ve squandered an opportunity to look down your nose at the locals’ concern over this so-called “cold weather” you are experiencing. You can regale them with stories of what a proper winter looks like and how you used to cycle in shorts until the temps reached -10C!

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