It was maybe 1 o'clock when I started climbing. The gradient was easy, and traffic was almost nonexistent. I wouldn't even need a tow. Perhaps 15 minutes later a truck slowly caught up with me, and the passenger waved and laughed. I made a grabbing gesture, and he waved for me to catch up. I grabbed on and grinned. The strange string/elastic/nail device was in the side pocket of my front pannier, but I hadn't had time to reach for it. The passenger in the cab beamed at me, and offered a cigarette. I laughed and shook my head "no", hitting my chest and making a coughing gesture. (I probably should have said "yes", just to see how he was going to get the cigarette to me!). This tow wasn't really needed; the climb was no worse than earlier climbs. I stayed with the truck, however, justifying my ride by remembering the backtracks and headwinds that had been a part of the trip to date. On one of the flat sections I pulled ahead of the truck, and used the break to reach into my pannier pocket, for the hook. As the climb resumed, I neatly placed the nail in a seam on the rear of the truck, let out the string, and gripped the elastic. I was now a safe six feet from the truck, and traveling in comfort, with both hands on the handlebars and the elastic correcting for variations in the truck's speed. The passenger seemed delighted by this new twist. As we continued, a local also bicycling up the hill scurried over to join us. First he grabbed me for a shoulder tow, but when I yelped and almost fell, he biked around and grabbed the other side of the truck's rear.

We pulled over at a turnout where other trucks were adding water to their cooling systems. My crew signaled that I could put the bike on the top. I shook my head no, thanked them, and continued biking. Although the climb was not over, I was ahead of schedule and grinning from ear to ear. While true bicycle tourers will no doubt frown on this form of "cheating", for me, it was a highlight of the trip.

Soon enough I was over the pass. I stopped at the top for a few moments to take a few pictures and walk through the old French fortifications. I checked my brakes, then dropped 1600', ending at my destination for the evening, the small village of Lang Co. I took one of their ten rooms for $10, walked out to the beach, and finished my paperback.

Looking at Marble Mountain from the climb.
Stopping for a photo was also a chance to rest.
This French fort still guarded the pass.
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2008-2014 by Bill Fridl  ( )
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