Following Cards

Editor's note: In late June, a group of five riders set out on a multi-day exploration of the French Maritime Alps near the Italian border aided by note cards from locals, maps and a compass. The following are excerpts from rider Ross Measures’ journal and directions from the cards that guided the group on multiple rides each day.

Our plan was simple: We wanted to experience a mountain-bike trip that was all about getting out there, getting lost and getting it done. We’d all become accustomed to familiar trails and perfectly maintained bike parks. And usually, even when we ride new trails, we have locals along, keeping us from losing our way and often showing us the best lines.

The goal here, though, was to seek out old-school adventure on rugged terrain in an unfamiliar location. This was about using our mountain bikes to get us from point A to point B in a limited amount of time and with minimal support. Bad weather, poor directions, bruised bodies and battered bikes–none of this was going to stop us.

In the end, through the suffering of rain and cold, through the minutes and hours of uncertainty, we experienced a lot more than we’d ever anticipated. And we’re all a bit richer because of it.

June 23

Following our Trans-Atlantic flight, and endless switchbacks and tunnels disorienting our sense of north, south, east and west, we arrive at Auberge col de Brouis–the sun is setting, and so is my mind, as I battle against the effects of 20 hours of travel.

We are given a map and queue cards. The map is extensive, and the queue cards give us directions of where we’ll spend our first day. They didn’t make a whole lot of sense, but I think we’ll figured it out.

June 24

We’re not fully sure what we’re getting into today. Even over breakfast we didn’t fully digest the map and instructions. All we really know for sure is that between now and tomorrow evening we’ll be living out of our riding pack.

Looking at the map, the refugio we’re staying at tonight is a long way from here, so I’m guessing we’ll be getting shuttling in between.

We came here to get lost, but I hope that we’re only lost in theory—not reality."
One wrong turn and we’re heading back up the trail and debating on how to read the map."

Christian drives us to Fort Tabourde, well north of Breil-sur-Roya. We were informed that our ride would be 4 kilometers to Refugio don Barbera. On the way we passed Fort Central, which was massive. After some confusion on his part he dropped us off and gave Adrian some directions by pointing a line along the map.

We climbed to Fort Pepin without headache.

On the way we passed a cross overlooking the valley. Here we signed the guestbook.

'The view is magnifique.' – Ross Measures, June 24th 2014.

High up the Liguria border ridge road, we realized we were 9 kilometers into our 4-kilometer ride — and nowhere close to our destination. The view distracted us from this reality of our situation. And this was the point where the sun disappeared."

The journey continues:

Day 2
Day 3
Day 4