Iron Mountain Road and Needles Highway 2013

It’s snowing like mad tonight, which made me decide it is the perfect night to sit in front of the fire and remember summer. Here’s another post about Sturgis 2013:

Besides shopping, Sturgis week is about scenic rides, of course, and as a passenger of a rider I trust, I was free to enjoy the scenery.

Iron Mountain Road, near Keystone, South Dakota
Iron Mountain Road, near Keystone, South Dakota

All week long we rode past photographers snapping away, always with a big sign letting you know which website to check in search of your photo. I bought this one, because it absolutely captures our riding experience: me relaxing on the back, David eyes forward with laser focus. The road you see in the background is where we just were about three seconds before this shot was taken. Iron Mountain Road is stitched together with little curliques of wooden bridges, which I loved–David, not so much.

All in-motion riding photos are taken with my little pocket-sized Nikon CoolPix. Love my Canon DSLR, so it lives in a case until we STOP.

Iron Mountain Road, South Dakota
Iron Mountain Road, South Dakota

Needles Highway was similar. The passengers were snapping photos non-stop. The drivers were white-knuckling it through all the hairpin turns, trying not to overbalance and lay down the bike if someone ahead happened to stop suddenly. There was a lot of traffic, mostly Harleys, but also a few dazed-looking out-of-towners in sedans and station-wagons, no doubt wishing they’d picked a different week for their vacation. So there were occasional sudden slow-downs and you REALLY did not want those to happen in the middle of a hairpin turn. It wouldn’t have been catastrophic, because speeds are so low on sharp turns, but it wouldn’t have been fun either, and there’s a fine line between too fast and too slow on a curve when you’ve got 1200 leaning pounds of Harley, luggage, passenger and self.

Needles Highway, Keystone, South Dakota
Needles Highway, Keystone, South Dakota

But when the traffic stretched out a bit, it was just plain beautiful.

Iron Mountain Road, South Dakota
Iron Mountain Road, South Dakota
Needles Highway, near Keystone, South Dakota
Needles Highway, near Keystone, South Dakota
Needles Highway
Needles Highway
Stretching Break!
Stretching Break!
Lots of time for self-portraits!
Lots of time to practice self-portraits!

Saint Émilion 2013

Grâce à une gentille Française (Thanks to a kind French woman) a few errors in my French were noticed and have now been corrected in earlier posts: Il fait soleil (not du soleil) and Train à Grand Vitesse (à not de). Merci beaucoup! The following is another of the accounts of our trial run last spring:

Au Revoir, La Rochelle
Au Revoir, La Rochelle

Sunday, 9 June 2013, was goodbye to La Rochelle for a while and  Day 1 of the road trip. We rented a car at the La Rochelle airport. Pascale and Jacky kindly drove us there and went in with us in case my French was not up to the task. (It wasn’t.) The guy filling out the form to note the previously existing damage on the rental car was a bit cavalier and we had to have him add a few X’s once we actually saw the car. If you’re familiar with these tiny streets with stone buildings pressing in on both sides, you’ll know why all the cars are so small here. Yes, actual cars drive on la petite rue pictured below. 

One of the tiny streets of Saint Émilion
One of the tiny streets of Saint Émilion

It’s not even full tourist season yet, but parking was at a premium. David was not too excited about driving through the town searching for a spot, especially at one VERY tight corner. I think he was relieved we had to park several blocks out of town. Definitely, made leaving easier.

We stopped for lunch and a look around in Saint Émilion. It was nearly 2:00 by the time we got there, found a parking space (no easy task) and a restaurant that would let us in (full or done serving), so within a few minutes, everyone else in the place had finished up and left and the staff was resetting for the dinner crowd.

Saint Émilion
Saint Émilion

We apologized (in French of course) for arriving so late, ordered and ate quickly, and the waiter was gracious. Lunch is served at very specific times in France and if you miss it, too bad for you!

Saint Émilion
Saint Émilion

Tough to get photos in Saint Émilion without having them infested with tourists. You have to point, focus, shoot, with no dilly-dallying or someone in shorts and tennis shoes will pop around the very medieval corner you were framing so artistically. I shot this one over everyone’s heads.

Saint Émilion
Saint Émilion

Lucked out here with this tiny alley, but if you look carefully you’ll see the top of the tower is full of people.

Saint Émilion
Saint Émilion

Another cute little private spot. No one is there because, as we’ve already covered, LUNCH IS OVER!!

Saint Émilion
Saint Émilion

No one in sight. Shoot fast!

Vendredi Soir (Friday Evening) 2013

Here’s the rest of vendredi soir (Friday evening).

Coquelicots, Ile de Ré
Coquelicots, Ile de Ré

Driving back to Pascale and Jacky’s. This is still on Ile de Ré. Doesn’t it look exactly like a Monet? The red poppies (called coquelicots) are eye-catching in private gardens but absolutely stunning massed in huge fields.

Le Jardin Chez Jacky et Pascale
Le Jardin Chez Jacky et Pascale

More gorgeous flowers, these in Pascale and Jacky’s backyard.

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Jacky trying to BBQ after the rain started and sent the rest of us inside. David’s compassion is apparently stronger than mine or Pascale’s.

Jacky and David
Jacky and David

Gotta love le BBQ!

Pique-Nique on Ile de Ré 2013

Toward the end of our two-week trial run, we spent another thoroughly enjoyable afternoon and evening with our new friends Pascale and Jacky, which somehow works even though David still speaks pretty much zero French.

David gamely ventures a “bonjour” or “merci” from time to time and neither Pascale nor Jacky speak English, although Pascale occasionally does a goofy imitation of David saying “Me too.” Not sure why that strikes her as funny. David comes up with teasing and jokes that I manage to translate at least well enough that we’re all laughing much of the time.

Site of Pique-Nique
Site of Pique-Nique

This set of photos is from our afternoon on Ile de Ré where we had a pique-nique, then a complete tour of the whole island. The pique-nique was very French, even though we were sitting on rocks looking out to sea, complete with aperitif (our favorite Pineau de Charentes–sweet and cold), then multiple courses and wine, ending with a nice soft camembert. We’ve never liked camembert in the states, but Jacky says the secret is to find a soft one, a week to ten days before the expiration date. To confirm that it’s soft, you take off the lid and give the middle a good press with your thumb. “C’est pas poli,” (it’s not considered good manners to do so) he warned us, so you have to first glance around furtively to make sure no one is watching.

This island is very popular with cyclists, so many went by while we were there, and every man, woman and child, without exception, wished us, “Bon appétit!” Dining is VALUED here.

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It’s definitely the height of rose season right now. They’re everywhere, and definitely on Ile de Ré, the island just over the bridge from La Rochelle. The bridge is a big swooping 2 km beauty, that you could walk or bike over, but you’d have to be dedicated. The middle is HIGH.

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We climbed up another little tower, this time a bell tower in a church in Saint Martin, with a tiny creaking wood staircase so small, they’ve installed a couple of stop lights to regulate the flow. It’s actually forbidden (in French) to pass anyone on the straightaways. Your only chance is if the person on the descent crams into a corner at one of the turns. The person in the lead of the ascenders announces how many are in the ascending party so the descenders don’t resume heading down before all are by. Et voilà!

Saint Martin de Ré
Saint Martin de Ré

This is the view from the top. Worth every claustrophobic, dusty, hair-raising moment.

We climbed down just in time. The huge bells tolled just as we made it outside.

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Then we walked toward the port to try to see the donkeys that wear pants called “les ânes en culottes” but, alas, they only work Saturdays and Sundays.

Ile de Ré
Ile de Ré

In a week or so the entire island will be covered with holly hocks. Here’s an early one.

Ile de Ré
Ile de Ré

Looking out from the western tip of the island at the base of the old lighthouse. This beach has concrete and stone walls that trap fish when the tide goes down, but this method of fishing is dying out with the older generation. Seriously gorgeous, though, n’est-ce pas?

Ile de Ré
Ile de Ré

Another cool sign.