Ok there are some things you need to know, firstly this is much harder than i ever expected (I am days ahead of this post) and keeping a blog going at the same time is far more difficult, what with also using the GoPro to do a diary type thing. The problem is that I am either cycling, eating or sleeping. So I will try and bring you all up to speed. This is just a catch up page and I have had no time to check the spellings or distances and locations so please bear with me as I hurridly type up what has been a busy few days, for my legs anyway.
Day 3 started with me deciding that the roads are the way forward as in an instant I wrote off 50km. I set off after a small breakfast at the travel lodge near Cambrai, south of Arras. The roads were going to be quiet as it was Sunday. I did my usual trick and got straight on a road clearly signed not for cyclists, but the satnav didnt seem to mind. During the previous night I realised I had got quite sun burnt, my knees were suffering most, so I had donned my running lycra under the padded shorts. This causes issues as the padding no longer sits where it should and any seams are going to chafe. Having got back onto normal roads I ploughed on up an ever increasingly steep hill in the hot morning sun. Obviously the uphill gave way to a great downhill which was cut short at the bottom as I entered a village that promised a chemist to get sun lotion. Bringing the bike to a halt from 30kmh is a horrible thing to do as it feels like you are cheating yourself of that energy for the uphill that will follow. Stopping under the flashing green cross that indicates a chemist. You can imagine the Sunday morning prayers I yelled as the green neon only indicated the location of a closed shop. I would have to wait, but I already felt the heat through my cycle helmet and my upper arms started to burn. I stopped at the top of the next hill and looked in my bags. I have 3 long sleeved items with me. The first a thermal vest for those cold wintery camp sites, the other two for protection from the rain. So it was, that I cycled the rest of the day in what is effectively my pyjamas! In my PJ’s defence they did a great job. The material let the air flow through but kept the sun off. The leggins likewise did a good job but the discomfort from the saddle was getting worse causing me to refer to it as Satans Saddle.
I visited a war memorial and another cemetary for more soldiers in the first world war. This time it was an American monument and British cemetary. I spent some time walking around the relatively small grounds reading some of the names and ages. Boys and men as young as 18, none I saw older than 30. In my mind we cannot allow these things to be forgotten, for fear that we make the same mistake again.
Later in the day I had a Top Gun moment. Fans of the film will remember the scene as Tom Cruise rides his GPZ900 alongside the runway as an F14 Tomcat lands next to him. It was just like that except it was me wheezing along on my bike as a Eurofighter Typhoon went past fully banked and at full afterburn. It must have been half a mile away but the thunderous exhausts pounded at my chest. I love aircraft and had several more sightings that day.
5pm and it was time to look for a hotel. I was at a place called Laon and my chosen site found me a motel just 3km away. The Kyriad at Laon is another generic travel lodge although it has some links to motorsport and a formula 4 race car adorns the reception.
Most memorable though was the fact that my room had a bath. I wallowed in that bath until the water was cold before heading to a Buffalo Grill for yet more food. I tell you Im eating my own weight each day. I had completed some 86km. Laon is near Saint Quentin, north east of Paris.
It was another inclusive breakfast and I found myself filling bowl after bowl with cerial and drinking loads of orange juice before taking a coffee to my room to pack. It was going to be a warm one again so Pj’s and lycra were the order of the day. I mostly cycled busy roads with one section of undulating uphill lasting 2 hours. There was a lot of walking and cursing before eventually finding a suitable celebratory downhill. My overriding memory of this day is the busy roads. Lots of lorries and heavy goods vehicles, some with trailers all passing me at speed. Some felt the need to sound their horn from 50m behind me until fully past me. A word of note, if you are a French lorry driver, sounding the very loud horn presumably means removing one hand from the steering wheel. The noise doesnt make me any less wide, nor you any thinner. Just a thought, why not ease off, indicate and move round me, that way we all get home safely. Rant over. At lunchtime I found a McDonalds and ordered large. I mean big chicken sandwhich, big fries, big coke and big sticky ice cream.
Refuelled I got back on the road, I was surprised that I was not full of energy from the meal, in fact the opposite, it felt heavy in my stomach. Quickly I made my way through both the 2L water holder in my rucksack and what was left in the bikes bottle. It was so hot, I ended up knocking on a lock keepers house and asking for water. The guy was so helpful filling the bottle with ice cold water from his pride and joy of a fridge that he insisted on showing me. What I quite liked was, that I could mostly understand him and he, me. My French is improving. Later I stopped at a petrol station to get more water, where I met an English couple who were riding their motorcycles home from Croatia, having ridden the Stelvio Pass. Well almost ridden it. The lady had a Triumph Tiger 800 and on the 37th corner of the pass she lost all drive. They had breakdown cover and soon enough they were taken to a garage where the insurance company supplied her with a hire car for the 17days it took to repair the bike. It sounded like one of my trips. However her bike was fixed and now some 10 days behind schedule thay were headed home. For me, it was back to peddaling and trying to get some kilometers in.
I stopped about 5pm and looked for a hotel in Chalons de Champagne. It was over 10km away and the cheapest was the Ibis. I booked it as I know you get good rooms and it would have a private bathroom. I was so wrong, for cheap read £100 a night. I was allowed to keep my bike in the room. The room was so small that to get from the bed to the bathroom I had to climb over the bike. The room was musty and the pillows smelt damp, along with the smell of cigarettes. The food was good even if it did take twenty minutes to get a coke. Anyway it was a bed. I had clocked up another 92km. The only other shock was that the meal and breakfast added a further £50 to the bill. I tried to eat as much as i could in the morning. I watched two cyclists leave and the lady next to me said she didnt think they had much luggage. What followed was a discussion with her and her husband about my trip and then about their incredible adventures as youngsters when they took a Bedford Green Godess fire truck across Africa. Returning several times with paying customers. The tales were incredible and I encouraged them to write a book such was the enthusiasm they had for travel. I really hope they look up Horizons Unlimited as they would be so welcome to go and give talks, that I have no doubt would be enjoyed by many.
It was back to the canal Champagne de Bourgogne from Chalons du Champagne . It was the best thing to be cycling along flat tow paths, although rough in places and the locks always seemed to be going uphill.
I plodded along in the sun, which got to be quite oppressing at times. I found myself walking quite a bit but the way I looked at it was that my body, mainly my legs deserved a rest now and then. The hours and the kilometers ticked by. The issue with canals is that they dont run through so many towns or villages. I found several times that a detour to a village proved fruitless in the search for food. Eventually I found a little cafe and managed to order the croque monseuir and salad in French (cheese and ham toasty to us).
I was back on the canal and making slow progress. I was clock watching, as my plan was to cycle until 6pm each day then find a hotel nearby. At 5.30 I was ready to book. I loaded up the website I use and checking the map for locations I booked a hotel for £60. I knew it was a non refundable payment but that didnt matter as I was going that way and so a refund was not an issue. Great news was that it was only 12km away. As soon as I set off the satnav was telling me to turn round. I checked again to find the hotel was back where I had come from. That was not happening no matter how much it cost. I cancelled, it was less than 4 minutes from booking to cancellation but they still charged me. Easy money for someone. I tried again and found a place 16km away in the right direction. Off the canal the road was quiet but it seemed such a long way to La Vollette a bed and breakfast in Saucourt sur Rognon, which is south of a place called Joinville. I was shattered and needed a shower. The host and hostess were wonderful, as was the lovely farm house and buildings they own.
They even made me an evening meal despite my late arrival. I slept so well, especially pleased as I had clocked up 100km.
Ok that’s enough, more to follow soon. Thanks for all the messages of support.