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Day 15 - A  warm, sunny day at last
March 17, 2010                               Moissac to Lamagistère                                    15 miles
Hiking pole bend
Towpath deadends
Top: I used a steel gate to bend my hiking pole so it stayed in one piece.
Above: Does the towpath end?
Foot of page: Phew, no.
Last night, I washed my mitts. I'd been meaning to do this ever since I left Bram, after the concrete block episode and the narrow squeak with the gendarmes.

At these words, Hobson sat bolt upright. The man has no composure. "What concrete block? What gendarmes?" he demanded.

Well, what happened is this. My hiking stick, self-made in my garage, is a fancy bit of work with length adjustments using telescoping tubing. Spring-loaded pins fit in a series of holes to hold the sections together. Unfortunately, after a couple of thousand miles of faithful service, one of these pins fell out. So, walking along with the handle in hand, I suddenly found no stick underneath the handle. And no pin, and no replacement.

So I decided to fix these two sections in place just by crushing them together. Never mind adjustments.

"So that's where the concrete block came in?" said Hobson.

"Exactly," I replied. "I found a concrete block at a building site. It was a cold day, so I lifted it with my mitts."

"And?" asked Hobson.

"Well, then my mitts needed washing."

"AND?" demanded Hobson.

"Well, as I say, I washed them last night. Soap and water, you know, the usual thing."

"A-N-D?" said Hobson.

"Well, now they're clean again."

At this, Hobson got quite agitated. As I said, he lacks composure. He almost shouted: "Where did the gendarmes come in?"

"Oh," I went on. "I smashed the concrete block on to the stick in just the place to dent the two sections so they stayed together."

"And?" said Hobson.

"It didn't work. The sections still fell apart. All I got for my trouble was some dirty mitts."

"Then what happened?"

"Then," I replied, "the mitts needed washing. And that's what I did last night."

"Darn it, Daryl," shouted Hobson. WHERE DO THE GENDARMES ENTER THIS PICTURE?"

"Oh, the gendarmes? Yes, well, let's see . . .When the concrete block strategy didn't work, I thought of another plan. I decided to put a kink into the hiking pole where the two sections overlapped, so they couldn't slide apart."

I went on, "To do that, I reckoned I needed some leverage. So, when I passed a steel entrance gate to some plant or other, I put the hiking pole between the verticals, and heaved the pole over just a bit."

"Did it work?"

"Yes," I said. "The sections are now fixed together, and in fact the bend has added a touch of class - and even some ergonomic improvement."

"Excellent," said Hobson. "So that was the end of it?"

I paused for a moment as if thinking. "Not quite," I went on. "Don't you want to know about the gendarmes?"

I thought Hobson was going to go nuts, so I rescued him.

"The gendarmes," I said, "came about when someone saw me fixing my hiking pole on the steel gate. He must have thought I was trying to jimmy my way in."

I went on: "So he ran inside his house, as if he was going to call the police".

"And that's when I thought it was time to run in the other direction," I said. "Before the gendarmes arrived."

"Then what happened?" Hobson asked.

"I dunno," I said. "I never saw any gendarmes. I don't know why you're making such a big thing about them. I just mentioned a narrow squeak. The pole is fixed. I just needed to wash my mitts. So I did."

"Mind you," I added. "The darn things don't dry very fast. I gave them the best spot on the radiator too."

The Hôtel la Luxembourg at Moissac was a well-managed place. Seldom have I had a room where everything was at hand and everything worked. It cost the same as the place at Montech, and had the same number of guests - one, me. But I bet it is full in summer.

Moissac is a lively place, not at all like the country towns I remarked on early in my hike. You could go out in Moissac to any number of restaurants. I dined at the hotel on some very tender and tasty duck. The demi-pension arrangement works well for a tired hiker who is happy to remain close to his bed. I just wish there had been some other guests to chat with.

Finding working wifi at the hotel let me get a helpful note from Steve B who had identified an auberge (small hotel) in Lamagistère, which is a village exactly the right distance from Moissac for two reasons. It's 15 miles, and it splits the distance to the city of Agen, my next stop. I booked it right away, which set my mind at rest. I set out early, but found those miles came awfully hard. For one thing, I discovered I had a blister under my left foot, in exactly the same place as the debilitating blister on my right foot in 2007. Meanwhile, my right-foot big toe was pretty well unchanged.

The weather was quite perfect, with no wind, and temperatures rising into the mid-60's. I put away my mitts and cut back to just one wool hat. My only regret is that I didn't peel off my sweater earlier.

My early-morning route review had cautioned me that the towpath might be marginal in some areas, and that three waterways - my canal, another, and the Garonne itself - made nav more complex. It wasn't hard to plan around this, with some use of roads from time to time. Whilst walking, however, I came across some notices about towpath improvements that may have taken place more recently than the survey date of my maps. So, when the towpath looked good . . .  I took it, and never mind the maps.

The route coincided with GR65 for some of the time. But the "Canal Lat", as I'm referring to my canal now, isn't always as "classy" as the Canal du Midi. For one thing, the bridges are often 1950-concrete-style, built cheaply and showing their rebar. There's some graffiti on these bridges, too. But the towpaths have been at least as good, there's very little litter, and it's quite as tranquil.

Arriving at my auberge, I found it a restful country place. Dinner included a generous salmon tagliatelle, and some fresh fruit salad. I didn't like the starter which seems to be common in these parts - ham slices in some sort of mayonnaise sauce, too salty for my taste and I don't like mayo. I drank 1.5 liters of water at dinner, and I reckon that was just to neutralize the salt.

It's Wednesday today, and it looks like it might be wet on Friday and certainly on Saturday. I had hoped the rain might arrive with me in Agen, which would be a good place to take a day off. I fear it will arrive when I'm in really rural regions beyond. It's in the nature of hiking that it rains when there's no shelter, and your days off occur in BFE.
Towpath continues
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