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to Drancourt (St. Valery sur Mer)
We got up so early, determined to make a good start, that we found ourselves the first in line for a sag van shuttle ride from the Etap Hotel to the Bellevue restaurant for breakfast. But as the day turned out we may as well have stood in bed.
When the shuttle reached the restaurant it was too early for the 6:30 breakfast so we lugged our bags up the street to the gear trucks and stored them in our lockers. Then we stood in line for breakfast, another meal not worth mentioning. There was museli again, but this time it was right out of the box, dry and chewy.
It was so cold, windy, and foggy that we decided to put on extra clothes before starting on our way. Except which way was it? The directions on the DRG were written to exit the campground and therefore were of no use to us. Joan took the lead but we couldn’t find the way out of town, cycling 5 km. before we found the road we needed. Then it was up, up, and up some more, so of course we were too warm and stopped to shed some clothes. The views we should have enjoyed were spoiled by the fog.
We had to cycle past an immense nuclear power plant that seemed to go on and on and was surrounded by a high maximum security fence. Huge circular buildings were emitting clouds of steam and making a rushing water sound. I had seen too many scarey movies about nuclear power plants and was glad to put it behind me.
The fog had disappeared and we were away from the power plant when I heard the unmistakeable hiss of a flat tire, my flat tire. Just the day before I had boasted that I had had only 2 flat tires on the entire trip. Few riders can claim to have had such good luck. The good news was that it was on the front wheel which is easier to remove and replace, the bad news was that the tire was slashed. I would have to buy a new one very soon. I patched the tube while Joan scoured the tire for the offending bit of glass or wire but could find nothing. She had some special Kevlar material in her repair kit which we used as a boot. A boot is something like a piece of inner tube or even a dollar bill that is put between the tire and the tube to protect the tube where the tire is slashed. Eventually we had the repair made and the wheel back on the bike. We started down the road again but had gone only 10 km. or so before I had another flat on the same tire. This was too much! We took the wheel off and the tube out and could see that this flat had occurred in a different location on the tube than the first. We started to fix it, but then I decided to stop a sag van and buy a new tire. Fortunately one came by almost immediately, unfortunately there were no tires that would suit me on board. The van driver agreed to give us a lift to Checkpoint where there would be a mechanic and hopefully a better selection of tires.
The mechanic was there but the tire that I wanted, a Continental Top Touring 2000, was not. Eventually one was found and I had my new tire in place. We should have been ready to go, but I realized that I had left my Kamleback (water supply) in the sag van and now it had gone to get gasoline. The gasoline must have been hard to find for it was gone for well over an hour. When the van finally returned I retreived my Kamelback, and we started down the road again but had gone only a hundred yards when Joan had a flat tire! This was just about the last straw. We had already lost hours to flat tires and it was getting to be late in the day. We trudged back to Checkpoint to make the repair and it was a good thing too because her tire was so tight on the rim that even the two of us together could not remove it. Eventually our mechanic, Jason, and I working together did get if off but it was a knuckle scraping struggle. By this time it was hopeless to do the day’s ride so we were given a van ride into camp, her bike still in pieces.
Our campground was the Chateau de Drancourt, a four star campground named after a chateau on the grounds. I hadn’t realized that there was a star system for campgrounds but this was certainly one of the nicer ones we had seen. It had two swimming pools and a golf driving range which may explain the four star rating. It also had a restaurant but our meals were catered and served in a large hall. Dinner was an hour late and was a cold buffet of salads and cold cuts with not enough for everyone. Eventually more food arrived and everyone who hadn’t given up did get something to eat. Dessert was a treat, fresh cherries and apricots.
to Martin Mill (Dover), England via Hovercraft
This was an exciting day for me because I was met in Dover by an English friend and would begin a ten day holiday and much needed rest in the English countryside. I had worried about cycling the 80 miles to the ferry in time. Joan suggested I ask someone for a ride part of the way which was what she had done. Some riders have teamed to share the costs of having rental cars so they in effect have their own sag vans and more flexibility. One of these riders, Tom, has his locker next to mine in the gear truck. I found him there and asked him if he had room for one more passenger and sure enough he did! Tom and Warren in fact gave me a ride the entire way, delivering me to the Hovercraft ferry terminal in time to catch the 12:00 ferry with Trueheart who had cycled there and was of course the first cyclist to arrive.
The hovercraft was noisy and fast, crossing the English Channel in 35 minutes, one-third the time of a conventional ferry. A sign on a ferry door requested that the door be kept closed while the ferry was in ‘flight’. The hovercraft ferries run every hour, making the wait until the next ferry bearable if you missed the one you wanted.
We had a picnic lunch near the ferry dock and then drove to the Hawthorn Farm Holiday Park in Martin Mill to get my things out of my locker. Soon we were on our way to our destination in the beautiful, green countryside.
KALKBRENNER, Friedrich Wilhelm (1785-1849); Fr.
Song of the Sailor's Wife (J.VanRoy)
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