31st: Trip down to Gourgas with Luke.
Luke is up for the round trip to St Etienne de Gourgas, but at Grandpa’s recommendation we decide to do the side-leg to Gourgas as well. We set off without too much fuss, and we negotiate the steep hill down to the D25 without bother. Remembering Luke’s intrepidity while skiing, I have cautioned him about the need to be careful while descending a steep slope, and to stop at the junction at the bottom. I have the brakes hard on as we go down, and I remind him “Snow plough! Snow plough!” as we wind our way down.
But as soon as we are past the junction, I am about 100 metres behind him. Rather like with Emily, but with Luke, he doesn’t stop for photo opportunities, so by the time we reach St Etienne, I am about a quarter of a mile en arriere. Luke finally stops at the junction to Gourgas, and I catch up a few minutes later.
Despite 23 years of visiting Soubes, we have never visited Gourgas. In fact, it is a beautiful village with a chateau outside, a water fountain at the centre, rows of blue and yellow shaded houses, and beautiful fields all around. We take a few photos, and then drive back to St Etienne, over the bridge and then right on the Rue des Condamines, staying roughly together until Mas Fabregous before Luke takes off once again. I catch up with him on the road into Soubes, where we have agreed to meet Jenny for a beer.
We turn off into the village, and stop at Bar du Terral for a large “biere au pression”, which goes down a treat. We are on our second by the time Jenny joins us, and we order burgers and fries, which are the best I remember. Luke has been reading about Nietsche among several tomes of philosophy and French literature, and somehow the cycling has made me rather philosophical about life. After the second beer, I have started to day-dream about developing a cycling philosophy of life. There is something about the freedom of the road, and lading a nomadic life on your own terms, that feels Nietzchean.
We have already had several arguments with grandpa during the holiday about individualism and the state. I am not sure I can easily summarise my own political position but left-wing libertarian feels fairly close, although I am also communitarian to some degree. Grandpa in the wisdom of age has adopted a position of traditional communism, and he has been reading Marx approvingly. He frowns on Nietszche for not having read Marx.
At the end of a long evening, I reflect on what easywheeling means to me. I think it is about being outside the control of the state, about being free to cross borders, about being part of humanity rather than a nation, about being close to nature and what’s around you, rather than depending on public transport and urban infrastructure. In some ways, it is like Schumacher’s Small is Beautiful, but in another way, it’s about seeing how big the world is, and getting a sense of proportion about distance. We can travel half the way around the world in a single plane journey and see nothing but clouds. Or we can do as Blake did and “see a world in a grain of sand”. I feel that my bike journeys have opened up a whole new world, and I am eager to explore it, on my own terms, and at my own pace. It is exciting! The last book I buy before leaving France is a comprehensive guide to the Voies Vertes of France.