Sunday, August 29, 2021

Le Gorge de Nesque and Mont Ventoux

We're in France staying in Tain l'Hermitage, a town we love on the Rhone midway between Lyon and Avignon. On Wednesday I planned to climb Mont Ventoux from the town of Sault. There are three ways up the mountain from the towns of Malaucène, Bedoin and Sault. While Bedoin is the classic TDF climb and hardest Malaucène is not much easier. I hadn't previously climbed from Sault and not being a fan of out and back rides I decided to start at Bedoin and make a loop through the Gorges de la Nesque to Sault where I would have lunch, then climb Ventoux before descending back to Bedoin.
Just before 10am I arrive in Bedoin to find it jammed with cyclists and hikers but luck out finding my usual parking spot. I pump up my tires with the loaner pump outside the Bedoin Location bike shop and see the train of cyclists heading up the mountain as I take the road to Sault.

It was sunny in the 70s and clear and it is nice to find the road through the Gorges de la Nesque has been resurfaced. It is a balcony road carved into the side of the gorge. There is a wall of rock on my left and an 18 inch parapet on my right protecting me from a near vertical drop into the gorge below. It is beautiful and I'm glad I have chosen this route to Sault.
Sault is one of those classic French villages built on the top of a rock! Great fun riding the last 400 yards to town on a 10% grade wondering if lunch really is that important.
Powered by a ham and brie sandwich and refreshed bottles I am on my way to MV at a touring pace. Yeah, it's not so hard from Sault. Just grind out 11 miles at 5% and you arrive at Chalet Reynard which is where the trees end and the stones begin. Here you can get anything from lunch to a Mont Ventoux jersey. Me, I fill my bottles again and finish my Sault sandwich before the fun part.

At Chalet Reynard the Sault and Bedoin roads meet and from here to the summit it is 3.75 miles horizontal and 1600 feet vertical, a little better than an 8% average gradient. Not having been in mountains for two years I had thought I might just short cut to Bedoin from here but the other side of the equation is that once you reach the summit you can descend the 13 miles to Bedoin without turning the pedals even once!

As I start for the summit it is becoming cooler, cloudier and breezy which is not so bad for the ascent. It is tough, I stop a few times to take pictures, yeah right, and as I finally reach the summit it starts to rain and my Garmin battery dies - coincidence or . . .? So, take a picture, get my jacket on (always take a rain/wind jacket when riding in mountains), take a rest, chat to other riders and off "Wheeeeee" go.

My descent is notable for sheep and rain. On the way off the summit just past the Tom Simpson Memorial shepherds are bringing a few hundred sheep across the road which is quite entertaining. The sheepdogs are an enormous breed called Patou known for their ability to protect the herds from wolves and bears The shepherds have made a couple of the dogs lie down in the road to stop traffic! 

 Continuing down through the clouds that have formed I find rain which makes for a slow careful cold descent into Bedoin.

Later we have a bottle of Ventoux wine with supper.

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Venetian Gardens

I’m riding over the wooden bridges from island to island in Venetian Gardens where Leesburg residents come to enjoy nature, feed the many varieties of birds and look for alligators. But the idea of the gardens wasn’t to feed the birds but to feed Leesburg residents. It was one of Roosevelt's WPA projects to get America back on its feet.

With the country reeling from the Great Depression following the stock market crash of 1929, Venetian Gardens was a place where men went to work to put food on their families’ tables. “My dad worked down there,” said Gordon Dorris and “I guess half of Lake County worked there. Times were pretty hard.” His father took home $7 a week. 
By WW2 the physical labor had turned the swampy land into a community park with connected islands, boat docks, a ball field, swimming pool and landscaping which included rock gardens with waterfalls. Since then much of this has changed with a new community center replacing the swimming pool and the gardens have  become home for the indigenous flora and fauna.

[[Aside: Times were tough but my grandfather managed to beat the 1929 stock market crash – he went broke in 1928]

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Lady Lake

 I’m riding east on 466 and turn right just after Lady Lake Cemetery which takes me down to McClendon Street which is like a time warp. No longer the busy county road but instead the green and shaded laid back rural Lady Lake community. I meander through here to the Old Dixie Highway and there on the opposite corner beside the road is the Lady Lake railroad depot complete with tracks, freight cars and a caboose.  Originally the rails lay on the other side of the street but have been relocated and the depot has been repurposed as the Lady Lake Historical Society and Museum. It is open on Tuesday and Saturday mornings and is well worth a visit, especially on Tuesdays when you can also go to the farmers market in front of the adjacent Chamber of Commerce. 

 Around 1880 Sam Sligh was one of the first to settle in this area at Sligh’s Landing on Lake Griffin, about four miles to the east, where he took advantage of the steamboat trade plying between Palatka and Leesburg. Sligh, an entrepreneur, ran a grist mill, cotton gin, post office and a stage coach line from Ocala to Leesburg. This only lasted until 1884 when the railroad en route to Leesburg built a depot at Lady Lake. Sligh and the other residents of Sligh’s Landing promptly upped sticks and moved to the new community to take advantage of the railroad’s cheap and fast transportation. In all probability Sligh’s stage coach line had taken a big hit.
Moving right along, slowly that is, I go south on Old Dixie, turn left onto Lady Lake Boulevard and continue along it by crossing 441 – not recommended. But across 441 opposite the Chamber of Commerce I want to see the The Hotel Lady Lake. I can’t see it of course because it is long gone but I can see the white front wall and the original steps leading up to the hotel’s front lawn and I imagine a grand hotel along with the railroad depot dominating the center of a bustling community.
Ahead of me lies the best part of this ride. For nearly a mile I ride along Lady Lake Boulevard under a beautiful canopy of Spanish Moss laden oak trees which provide shade while the morning sun puts on a splendid light display through the branches. For all of this we can thank two early settlers, Mr. Loveard Lee (yes, he was known as Love Lee) and Dr. Newton Stevens who wishing to beautify the town planted small oak trees along the boulevard from Lady Lake the town to Lady Lake the lake. And we all know that “Blessed are those who plant trees under whose shade they will never sit.” although no one quite knows who said it! 
To the end of this canopy road I see the right turn sign which our club rides follow but I am going straight ahead to see Lady Lake, not the town but the lake itself. The road is a cul-de-sac which has beautiful views of the lake and some wonderful lakefront homes.