Castellane is lovely in the morning. The market is waking up, and so are the riders. I am brave and eat a yoghurt, this works. We pack out of the garage after watching a fish delivery truck turn around inside of it, without coming near the bikes. Either talent or practice, but totally pro.
My map fix is working, I navigate from point to point using the well-located directionals. This is a bit of a surprise, I do not expect such completeness from France. We head north on the D955 in the direction of Barcelonette, changing to the D908 near Le Coulet des Fourches. This takes us to the Col d’Allos. We rejoin the D902 in Barcelonette, where it turns into the D900. In Jausiers, we turn off onto the C4 and head for the roof.
We ride to Col de la Bonette – the highest pass in the Alps – and further out to Cime de la Bonette – the highest paved point in the Alps. Atop Cime de la Bonette is a small observation deck. I walk a bit up to take pictures, the ground is unstable and my boots are not really up for the task. The fog is pressing us, we ride to the actual pass and take some photos. Col de Restefond is on a dirt road to the side, unfortunately, we do not find it on the way and pass it. The road is now the M64. It further changes to the M2205 as we continue the descent.
From Bonette, we ride south to Isola where we pick up the M97 to Isola2000 (Isola at 2000m), and on to to Col de la Lombard. At some point, we pass a marker for the Col de Granges Communes, but cannot find it on any maps later. We do not find the old Lombard road, instead take the new one, SP 255, it is a nice ride and not as difficult as noted in the books we have read. I have maps for a short while in Italy. We turn northwest on SS21 north to the French border and Col de Larche. We rejoin the D900 on the French side, and I am Garmin-less again.
The D902 appears, we ride north and cross the Col du Vars.
We descend into Guillestre and continue north to Col d’Izoard, well-known from many appearances on the Tour de France. It is easy to see why – Izoard hides its magnitude in a gentle slope and not-overly-technical curves. It is a high pass, one that requires a lot of work. The road surface is painted with inspirational messages to cyclists. We encounter a unique type of bourne – milestone – that has the distance to the top, the slope over the next kilometer, the altitude, and various notes marked on them. At our speed, it is difficult to read them in detail.
Atop Col d’Izoard, we find one of the three remaining Refùge Napoleon hospices. Originally, six were built by Napoleon III to honor his grandfather’s various trips through southern France and the difficulties he faced in moving troops. The other two are on Col du Vars and Col de Manse. The hospice is in private hands and an overnight includes dinner and breakfast. We get a room that sleeps six. I pick up a tshirt with a motorcycle theme. We put the bikes in the garage and enjoy the beauty. Pass hospices continue to be the accommodation of choice, they offer all that is needed and the prices are great.