#AtoZChallenge: April 3, 2013 ~ (Les) Cévennes

Les Cévennes

Les Cévennes They are a mountain range in the South-East of the Massif Central of France (les Cévennes are part of the Languedoc-Roussillon administrative region).  Their highest peaks are Mont Lozère and Mont Aigoual, respectively 1699 and 1657m high.  This remote area has a special geography and an even more special history.

Here rivers separate between those flowing west to the Atlantic (Loire, Allier) and those flowing east and south to the Rhône and the Mediterranean (Ardèche and tributaries).  The water dividing line follows the highest ridges of the area from Mont Lozère down South-East.

In the seventeenth century, during France’s long religious civil wars, les Cévennes were the theater of the protestant Camisards’s resistance to royal and catholic power.  The war  was atrocious with the King’s dragons persecuting the huguenot population, torturing men, molesting women and destroying crops and cattle.  In the eighteenth century the Bête du Gévaudan terrorised farmers and their families.

Today the mountain is the site of a national park, and a welcoming haven of peace and beauty.

Book:  Robert Louis Stevenson ~ Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes

La bête du Gévaudan

#BlogMeMaybe: May 22 – May I tell you something about myself?

The old daemon

This post is dedicated to @JenVinci

“What is the one thing you really wanna do that you keep telling yourself you shouldn’t ? And what’s really stopping you…?”

Three motorcycles with a view on the Alps, parked at the rim of an abyss

Photograph from:
the Lazy Motorbike site.

Yes, I must tell you about this… One of the great passions of my youth! I dreamed about it at school, watching with envy those older neighbours who were earning, and thus could buy a… motorcycle… Ahhh the sound of the engines, the symphony of exhaust pipes! During my time in the armed forces – some five years – I read the magazines, talked about it with other guys who were also fanatic. Then it was my turn to earn enough to make a decision. Then, we worked six days a week and 10 hours shifts, in my industry. After a year I could buy my first bike, a second hand 250cc Triumph which was my training steed. A very nice bike, very rigid frame, and a beautiful sound, though it was losing a bit of oil! I learned, frightened myself in occasions. By then I was living in the Rhônes valley – a short distance from the Alps, and some 200km from the Mediterranean coast…

Ahhhhhhhh those rides, in the Spring, over the recently open passes, still littered with snow drifts and ice, the thrill of sharp bends, over those mountains, to reach the Italian plain and then the magic name: Imola, then the temple of two-wheel serious races for big heart bikes, 500cc and above – soon to be dominated by Oriental steeds under the banner of Honda and Suzuki. I indulged in my first new 750cc bike for my 24th birthday – a BMW R75. Parents helped a bit, and then I was earning comfortably, having no other responsibility than for myself. Those were the days: long rides to the coast, Cannes, Nice, the Alps of Hautes Provences. We were camping, drinking, and were, by the standards of the time, rather promiscuous. But then, we were clean, and so were our women. The days before Aids and worse are now long forgotten. Penicillin, then, just worked.

I rode thousands of klicks to Germany and Northern Europe. As a reserve officer, I was then prohibited to go further East, behind the Iron Curtain. But there was plenty to do this side of it! Those nights with Finnish and German Angels – men and women looking as if they were inclined to drink the Bavarian Hydromel and Finnish Vodka in the skulls of their enemies (maybe they did!). I enjoyed the orgies, the dancing and drinking around the huge fires, the worship of the bikes.

And one cool morning far North in Jutland, on an isolated beach, I saw Aphrodite, in all her perfection. She was from Norway, and was bathing nude, as I was, there were only the two of us, and the bike, I still have no idea how she got there. Probably with a group camping nearby. It was a happy encounter, without complication, the sort of thing that I still remember and cherish today, (without kidding) a dozen bikes, and a couple of  hundred other bodies later, and being married, and loyal, to the same very beautiful person, for some twenty years… The bike took me to England and her short circuits, my first encounter with Brands Hatch, at the time one of the fastest circuits for motorcycling competition in Europe (but was England Europe then?) We live nearby now.

I never had any serious incident, broke down a few times, had near misses. Some 120,000 klicks later, I was drawn irresistibly by money and the big city. Traffic scared me. I had other needs. I was working 70hrs a week, no longer in shifts, but a gruelling schedule that left me exhausted every week. I got older, and sold the last bike.

Since then, every few years, it takes me in the guts (no it takes me in the balls): I wanna ride again, I look at the youngsters, and occasional oldies, on their steeds… I get restless. But I am now heavier, married, committed to other activities. So, even when I see bikers winding their ways around the beloved Italian passes, in the clear Alpine air, I told myself to stick to who I am now. So fade old bikers, on their way to Walhalla.