The Pine Barrens

When I said goodbye to La Ferme des Jarouilles, I got on my bike with only the vague destination of The Pyrenees in mind. I knew that this mountain range, which separates Spain from France, is known for its farmstead sheep cheese. I knew that areas within the Pyrenees would be isolated and spectacularly beautiful. For some reason, I had trouble finding a farm to stay at down there. But since I had been having so much fun just riding around in France, I just went for it.

The first day, I rode to the pretty riverside city of Bordeaux and stayed for a day of sightseeing with a great family. Then I took the flat and windy main road back to the West coast.

And then there were pine trees. From the Gironde River almost all the way to the Spanish border, the Landes Forest covers 3,900 square miles of south-western France. It is a man-made pine plantation that is almost all managed for industrial use. But it’s also a great place to go for a bike ride. There were almost as many bike paths as roads. I could ride through the forest for hours without coming across a car. And though the evenly-spaced maritime pines did get a little monotonous, the understory was blooming with yellow gorse and purple heather. And as I think I’ve mentioned before, pine plantations make for well-hidden and well-padded camping spots.

One night, I made myself a little bed on a patch of heather underneath the pines. The only road in sight was a bike path. The sky was so clear I didn’t even bother pitching a tent. In the morning, I woke up to a nip in the forest air, packed up and got on my bike. I rode along the path until around 9 AM when I came to a little turnoff to a completely deserted beach. The air was still quite chilly, but when I felt the ocean water, it was WARM. So I took off my hat, gloves, and under armour and went for a dip. Bicycle touring at its finest.

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