Good day – 105km in hilly terrain. Paul and Treena were right, the climb out of the valley from Ornans was really nicely gradiented, I didn’t use my ‘granny’ gear once all day. Climbed to 1046m (3431ft), and crossed the north sea – mediterranean watershed. Got a stamp in my passport going into Switzerland, and found the campsite in Lausanne.
Other notes from today – I changed the rear tyre. The sidewall was splitting in 6 places, with the biggest two joining up.
– Special thanks need to go to Jo and Alex. Wherever in Europe/Australia you are now, travelling for the couple of days with you really picked up my spirits and got my on my feet. Thank you.
– My beer gut is gone, and my legs are huge now!
– It feels really good finally crossing an international border.
The day started well, was on the road by 8:30, and in Besancon by lunch. There are some lovely villages between Gray and Besancon – I could see myself living here one day! But the day worsened with roadworks, diversions up very steep hills, and rain. I sheltered in a warehouse in a village during the worst of it. I didn’t make Pontarlier, and instead stopped in Ornans. There I met a British couple Paul and Treena, cycling some of the mountain climbs of the tour de france. Special mention to them – they fed me a delicious dinner with wine! Thanks again!
More cycling in French countryside. They grow a lot of wheat and corn. Getting bored of miles upon miles of crops. I also met a nice Dutch couple cycling the opposite way. I’m really liking these chats with other cycle tourists, and they seemed suitably impressed with my plans. Found the campsite in Gray.
Before setting off I discovered my rear tyre sidewall is splitting. I’m loathe to change it, there’s plenty of tread left, but I’m scared it will blow on a big descent. Dilema. I’ve left it on for now, but am monitoring it. Also saw General de Gauls monument while cycling. Was a waste of €4 getting entry though.
I left Jo and Alex in the morning as they were cycling another way, and I headed to St Dizier. Cycling along I met a couple walking, they shouted “nice outfit” – they couldn’t mean my clothes, so must have meant my bike and trailer! Turns out they have cycled around the world 30+ years ago. Was great to talk to some people that have actually done it.
Rest day, not much to report, cycled with Jo and Alex from campsite to train station, caught train into Reims, went on internet. Back at the campsite I met a guy called Nigel who wanted to borrow duck tape, and he seemed amazed by the adventure. I also met Eric Wehrheim who has been cycling around the world.
This was the first rainy day, and the first with proper hills. I left Jo and Alex in the morning, since we were going a different route to Reims (pronounced ‘flem’), and struggled up the hills into driving rain and a horrible headwind. I stopped at another war memorial. I’ve been to lots in the past, but as before, it was very emotional. It was certainly of the beaten track, and on a hill side, and it must have been a bloody battle. A lot of the graves were unmarked, just saying ‘known unto god’.
I made it to the tourist office in Reims, to once again find out there is no campsite, but guess what – there’s one 15km down the road! I went to the internet cafe, and sent a few quick emails, and then on to the campsite. I wasn’t expecting Jo and Alex, but later in the evening they turned up 🙂
Today Jo and Alex, the two aussies, gave me just the pick me up I needed. We set off early, and reached Laon by mid day – brilliant! At the campsite there we met English Les and Leslie, and they gave us a lift up the hill to the town centre – in a car!
We found the internet cafe was closed, but I did some laundry, and a very helpful bookshop owner let us use the internet in his office, but there wasn’t time to update the site or email anyone. At the campsite we also met some of Dutch cyclists going from Holland to Paris, including one on a city bike with no gears! Another Dutch father and son on their way to Paris marvelled at my Brompton (he had one for commuting) and the trailer.
Jo and Alex are quick up hills, and quicker on the flat, but I kept up most of the time, and did my best average speed so far – 17kph. It’s really nice to travel with people again, and share beers in the evening and talk in English.
Cycled 63k in the blistering heat, and very slowly. I narrowed the ‘problem’ down to 3 things – a problem with my bike, a horrible headwind, or my legs just being knackered. After oiling everything and seeing there being no problem with the bike, I suspect a conbination of the latter two.
On finding the campsite in St Quentin I met an Aussie couple, Jo and Alex, going in vaguely the same direction as me. Alex confirmed there was a horrible headwind, so that solved that mystery! We decided to cycle together tomorrow to Laon.
Today was a ‘good day’. The cycling was tough, but enjoyable. I got to Arras to find there is no campsite, but there was 20km down the road. Except that one was closed, out of business. A very helpful gentleman told me of another down the road, only 15km away, and gave me lots of very cold water – very much needed! So I went another 15k to the one which was open, and had a lovely dutch couple give me beer! Total 95k for the day, a new record!
On the way to the campsite I passed a WW1 cemetary. I went in, and read the visitors book, and a family had come from all the way in New Zealand just to pay respects to a relative who died. It made me realise just how small, and yet immensely huge, the world is – this was a tiny cemetary away from main roads, it’s quite a pilgrimage. Reading the comments in the visitors book made me really quite sad.