August 7, 2017
The house is all a tizzy in the morning because everyone is leaving. Nicholas to Italy, Vanessa to her farm, and me on my bike trip. (Just realized I never told you about Nicholas, another old friend of Sarah’s in town on his way to an art residency in Florence). V takes a picture of me in the Prototype helmet that Headkayse so kindly sent me in time for my trip and its very cute but its heaviness outweighs (pun intended) its ability to flatten. I’ll be wearing the Bern most of the day so its comfort on my head is paramount so I take that one. Still I am greatful to Headkayse. But first we have to get a gas canister for my camp stove that was forgotten the previous day.
Sarah made me an incredible route out of Paris and Scott even accompanies me much farther to the north of Paris along th canals than I expect. Their hospitality continues to astound me. Sarah’s route is perfect but connecting it to the ones I have made previously was far from it. After lunch in Roisy I am in a maze of busy streets closer to the airport than makes me comfortable. Mostly the less busy D and Z roads are nestled among the A roads, which are the equivalent of freeways, and it’s just nerve-wracking to be following signs that look like they are going onto the freeway. Mostly they don’t an sometimes there is even a sneaky bike path in there. But often there is not, and sometimes the streets I’m supposed to be on are busier than I would like, and I often have no idea where I am going. I spend the next few hours constantly turning around. I walk my bike over miles of unnavigable cobblestones. I carry my bike over a huge steep hill of dirt I didn’t think was possible but the alternative was going back over said miles of cobblestones when the next road was right there.
Finally I get to an Orange store with a nearby grocery where I intend to figure out why my phone won’t text Sarah. Only Sarah. The shop keep’s phone number is fine, as is Vanessa’s new French number. He is stumped. But she can still get in touch with me, and V with her so I shrug it off. The only thing now is to decide if I am going to find a hotel and stay there for the night. I am exhausted and Google shows at at least an hour more, 13 miles, ahead of me. But a big snack and the AC revive me and I decide to do it. Not sure I would have knowing what was ahead.
I don’t know if this area is frequented by mostly mountain bikers or just Google is whack or what but I was riding on some crazy sketchy roads through the Ly’s forest. I tried to take real roads but every time I backtracked the next best road was always just as sketchy and I was constantly adding to my time, or rather it just never decreased, so I just pressed on. Sometimes there was even sand so I had to walk my bike. I couldn’t even take my chances with bone shaking rocks and dirt roads, of which there were also plenty. The only thing that was nice here was that I really was in a forest, a nice change from either city or country. I even thought of trying to wild camp but there were plenty of hikers and as wild as it felt, the real road was never far. Plus I just wanted to get a little farther. For as many miles as I had gone, less than 25 of them were actually in service of my route and direction. And I am trying to make to Antwerp in time for Pride and Amsterdam with enough time to spend there with Amy and enjoy the city for a few days.
Instead I kept going between rural roads and footpaths, past private roads that Google tried to put me on that promised a 135 Euro fine if caught. I thought it too risky, even though at home I have occasionally risked taking private roads in Estacada or Battleground which may well get you shot rather than a big fine. I can even try to claim language ignorance, although the message was pretty clear even if you could only read 1.3.5…but anyway, I toiled and toiled until well past 8pm. I was so so so close to the campground I was aiming for when a huge up and down staircase came into my view. Surely god was mocking me. But I carried my fully loaded bike all the way up the crazy multi-level staircase over the train tracks and was high enough that I could see a ground level railroad crossing less than a mile away. Google, I hate you. After that I thought I was so close, and I probably was, but my exhaustion levels combined with a few more hills and dirt roads made the end feel long. Luckily I arrived before nightfall, if not before the pool closed, and besides not being able to find my headlamp, which I fear I left in my backpack in Paris, all is well. I am up to late typing this but also drinking a tiny bottle of St Emilion, even though I have no corkscrew. But it is a French campground, so life is good. I might try to have an easy 30 mile day tomorrow. I’d love to take a pool dip before I go…unfortunately what do not know as I am first writing this at the end of the day is that the next is supposed to be rain all. Damn. Day. Which will make for some interesting riding as well. Sigh.