The original plan pre Coronavirus had been for Anna and myself to spend a week around Carcassonne and then she’d fly home and I’d cycle back. For various reasons Anna decided not to come and so in effect I arrived in Carcassonne and started cycling back. I point this out because a lot of the route, latterly, is known to me and hence the ‘passing through’ commentary. For example I well remember visiting Beaune with my brother in law, Bill, and his (and my pal), Peter. It was a memorable visit to Burgundy in 2006 with two blokes who knew and liked their wine and how to have a jolly time. Likewise Dijon was on my first long solo bike ride in 2011. It was baking and I stayed in a hotel to escape the heat: no such problems this time!
This time as I started the process of packing up my wet tent I fell into a conversation with a cycling Swiss lady who’d camped just along from me. She had a bivouac tent but pulled a small trailer. This trailer solution usually indicated you’re hauling a lot of things. She was, a dog. She also had loads of luggage hung from her bike and the pouch was caged in a box on the trailer. She was a similar age to me – young (cough). She was pedalling from Berne to Normandy to see her mother. However she was using an electric bike, clever girl (oops, sorry Katrina (FED), ‘woman’). It looked a very expensive bike and she had a range of 100 kilometres on one of the batteries.
Despite all this chatting I washed some kit. It would have to be packed wet. I hoped the weather would pick up or I’d find a tumble dryer.
The destination today was Chaumont. The weather was damp and grey. The terrain was slow rolling, that is you’d have a long swoop down 30 metres over a length of several hundred metres before the road rose again. You couldn’t get sufficient speed up to climb the coming hill and ended up twiddling the granny gears to breast the peak before it all started again.
Around lunchtime I pulled into a small town at the bottom of one of these rolling hills and found a ‘plat du jour’.
Inside was Nicholas. He was a Dutch psychologist who, after introductions, started a gentle investigation of the specimen in front of him. His story was more interesting. Thirty five years old and heading south with no plan. He had a business and team back in Utrecht but liked to wander and had some interesting stories about Iran, South America, Europe and, nearer, to home – Cornwall. I urged him to write them up. He had great insights.
In some ways he seemed to have the weight of the world on his shoulders or maybe he was a serious guy. I doubt I helped. I asked if I may take his picture for my blog and with a grumpy face he accepted. By way of reciprocity he invited me to take another photograph of him but with his 35mm film camera. The camera weighed a lot, a troubling issue for any touring cyclist! He expected me to know how to focus it (as I was older than the camera). I struggled peering through the viewfinder with him remaining out of focus. After a few minutes I worked out the problem: I wasn’t wearing my spectacles and so it wouldn’t be in focus would it! This was hilarious and I caught a photo of him laughing! We said goodbye.
Heading north I found Langres was a walled city and I caught this one image of a bus trying to escape with difficulty.
The road was a major highway and the traffic was fast and regular. There was nothing to slow it down. With towns far apart then drivers always pick up their speed.
Chaumont eventually arrived and I found a laundromat. Another ‘Angel’ came to my help and I was helped on how to programme the tumble dryer. With dry clothes I was happy and my morale was restored.
The centre of Chaumont looked promising with a number of bars and restaurants. I have to say the French have a fatal addiction to pizza. Anywhere and in every size of town it seems they love their cheesy treats. It was no different here. Unfortunately after pitching my tent the bike ride back into town would have necessitated a murderous climb. I could live without a pizza.
The campsite was a municipal one. Basic, cheap and well placed. The woman on Reception managed to wind me up. The site had 60 pitches but with only four occupied. Instead of saying “pitch where you like” she allocated a pitch. I ended up some way from the shower block. When I remonstrated she feigned not to speak English and suggested my favoured pitch was too big for a little tent. True but as no one was there then why worry?
After the football euphoria of Leeds United beating Swansea then tonight was the ‘banana skin’ game, at home, against the bottom of the table team, Barnsley. Anna sent a text informing me that we were leading 1-0. I hadn’t realised they’d kicked off! Tim in York added ‘colour’ to the information I got from Twitter and with a lot of luck we held on. This virtually confirmed our promotion. I had no booze and no one to celebrate this with and it was still drizzling. Time for bed.