My host in Marle laid on a breakfast fit for a king this morning. Breads, pastries, cakes. An utter carb-fest! Afterwards, I was actually ready for a lie down and not spend half a day on a bike. After waving goodbye to Monsieur et Madame, I pedalled off only to stop after 25yds as my Garmin watch had crashed. A quick look on Google on how to reset it and I was away again. 2 miles later after a long climb out of the town I was at the bus stop in the little village, Autremencourt. This is where my knee finally refused to bend anymore back in September. It was a good psychological victory to get here this morning.
Again the rolling countryside afforded me some swift progress before dropping down into a wetland nature reserve which was, naturally flat but also devoid of any tarmac. Once again, Google maps had played a blinder during the planning stage. I was slowed down quite considerably weaving left and right to avoid the pot holes this lasted a couple of miles but at least the sun was shining and all of the wind turbines I saw in this area were stationary – always a relief for a cyclist!
Today’s ride was a proper smorgasbord of environments; quiet roads and country lanes, busy as hell ‘D’ roads, and then some ridiculous thoroughfares avoiding the motorways.
I wonder who, at Google’s mapping department selects such ‘roads’ and deems them suitable for cycling – a sadistic b@#$%&d! That’s who! After 50+ miles the last thing you want to do is push a bike up stuff like this.
It wasnt all bad though. After quick progress on a rolling D road with articulated lorries affording you the courtesy of passing as wide as they can, I entered the town of Reims and immediately picked up the canal cycle way which skirted around the place. Not very picturesque in places due to some heavy industry going on and a lot of abandoned buildings but it made a nice change after the previous 20+ miles.
Now, usually when rolling along a canal towpath, one would see a variety of wildlife – ducks, swans, geese etc. However, this one was a little different as there was none to be seen. What there was plenty of however, was piles of white-coloured metallic scrap objects every couple of hundred yards. These mounds are the discarded findings from those people that are into ‘magnet fishing’. What you do is go onto Ebay and pay a small sum for a neodynium magnet, attach it to a rope and then chuck it into the canal in the hope of finding a discarded safe or a biscuit tin full of gold bullion etc. In reality tho, and certainly in this canal it was more like an old ‘baccy tin and a rusty hub cap! Altho there was an exception which was lain on the bank in all its glory- a moped! Imagine the effort it took to extricate that from the water! He’d probably phoned his wife and told her to put a deposit down on that Mercedes as his luck had finally changed! And now there’s one disappointed magnet fisherman in Reims with a hernia and a bad back!
The latter part of the ride went a bit pear-shaped in all honesty. The route into Chalons en Champagne was to come off the main road and drop down onto the canal towpath for a flat end to the day. This wasn’t to be as after what seemed like 10 miles of crappy farm tracks, access to the canal was barriered off. So…..back I went muttering the odd profanity and back onto the main road. I was then routed onto these ridiculous rutted tracks around the perimeter of agricultural land right beside the motorway (much to the amusement of passing traffic I’m sure!)
Two minutes after leaving the tracks and hitting tarmac again, out of nowhere the heavens opened. Torrential rain. I was 2 miles from the finish. The Garmin lost its gps link so was useless and my phone kept reverting back to the homescreen as the rain was hitting the glass. After faffing about for 20 mins, I found a bus shelter and was able to route to the right address…..or so i thought…..
On arrival, there was a young lad (we’ll call him Jean-Claude) unloading groceries from his citroen (all men in France called Jean-Claude drive Citroens). He beckoned me over and invited me to bring my bike into the garage. Wanting to get out of the wet stuff, I obliged and Jesn-Claude then offered me a hot drink. Lovely! I thought. I then asked (in French of course!) if he was the son of Sylvie. He looked at me puzzled and replied (in French also) that Sylvie had been dead some seven years! I then looked at him in a way that said,
‘I’ve not got the right house here have I?’
He then simultaneously returned a glance that said something like,
‘No you prick! I invited you in to get out of the rain!’
If I’m honest I was relieved as I thought there was some sort of French Norman Bates thing going on!
Anyhow, 10 minutes later I was in the right house and then spent the evening drying out all of my kit. I couldn’t face going out again in the weather so asked the host if she would phone and order me a pizza. It was bloody lovely after all of that!
A real mixed day and glad it’s done. Hope everything improves tomorrow as it’s the longest day with over 90 miles to cover.