Day 5. The City of "traffic" light. (Thursday 2nd October)

October 2nd, 2014
  Today Total
Distance 88 miles 340 miles (547km)
Height gain 940 metres 4566 metres (14980ft)
Calories 3300 13300

So in a weird similarity to Hitler I set off early-ish from Compiegne, the place where the Germans after the First World War signed their "unconditional" surrender and then in 1940, the French signed their unconditional surrender to the Germans. Unlike Hitler though, I was cycling.... The journey was quite uneventful but then I started to worry about where I was heading again as I felt that I was going the wrong way so I zoomed out of my GPS.... Impressive, it had again added another 15 miles onto the journey by doing a bizarre loop!  It's getting annoying now!

See picture below... And the quickest route between the arrow and the pin is.......

paris gps

Ignoring this I took a more direct route but the roads are quite scary around Paris and the equivalent of "A" roads in France don't really have hard shoulders to cycle in anywhere which leaves little room for a little cyclist when massive lorries zoom past. I'm trying to avoid routes with these roads where possible and go on the longer but safer county lanes......  Just not 10 miles longer!

Then I hit the Northern Parisian suburbs and what can I say other than I never want to cycle there again. I was just 8 miles away from the Arc de Triomphe but it took nearly 2 hours to get there. Compared to London, there are so many more traffic lights, no cycle lanes (until you hit the centre), it completely sapped my energy, stopping and starting all of the time.  This may have been to the massive amount of road works caused by the tram works but the traffic around Aubervilliers and the grime, dirt and chaos was horrific.

arc de tri

But eventually I escaped and then rounding a corner, there was the Arc, and as you can see by the photo, Hitler would have also had a similar view given the "munition" look of my handlebar water bottles! 

I took in the main sights around town including a scary cycle around the Arc de Triomphe roundabout and down the Champs Elysees, the Louvre, Notre Dame, Eiffel Tower and the Seine, then I headed south to a hotel I'd booked about 15 miles from the centre. 


Notre DameEiffel Tower

Thanks to more horrendous traffic and hundreds more traffic lights it took nearly 3 hours and a trek over another large hill to get to the hotel where I arrived completely drained.  I really recommend that no one ever cycles through Paris, it's the worst city I've ever cycled in. Then to top it all, when I got to the check-in I found that they'd given my room away.... they said not to worry though as they'd put me in another hotel 6 miles away. I did point out that I had a bike and it was 11pm so why would I not worry. They said this would not be a problem!  Again, I said it was a problem but they just smiled. I suppose it was nice of them to think that it wasn't an issue but I was the one cycling and I'd just done 82 miles with a big chunk of that through the festering suburban pollution filled streets of Paris.

So at a little before midnight I arrived, after a total of 88miles (142km) I called it a night and passed out!

arc de tri me

For more detail on route click HERE.

day 5 route

(© google maps)

Day 6. "Spoke" too soon. (Friday 3rd October)

October 3rd, 2014
  Today Total
Distance 91 miles 431 miles (694km)
Height gain 549 metres 5115 metres (16781ft)
Calories 3000 16300

While heading though Paris yesterday I happened upon a bike shop to find a couple of spokes. I discovered this morning that while cycling around Paris another one had also snapped. Happily the shop found one with the right length but unfortunately not girth, a common problem it appears when comparing the larger Imperial measurements compared to our fellow Europeans.  It looked pretty unlikely that I'd find the right size so I took some of the thinner size and then went to a hardware shop to get some PTFE plumbers tape. If I wrapped this around the screw thread it may just give enough grip to hold.  Both seem to have held for the whole day so far, so fingers crossed.

broken spokedifferent sizes

Before setting off I programmed the destination into my GPS and got the following image! I now believe Garmin are taking the piss out of cyclists as not only does this route double the distance, it's also clearly a massive cock! I'd laugh if it wasn't so frustrating trying to figure out a non phallic based route across France.

Garmin cock

Checking the more useful google maps which provides terrain info for France, it looked like todays cycle would be quite flat so I decided to make it one of my longest distance days. The headwind was still very frustrating but just about bearable and I made slow but steady progress.  I tried to avoid the main roads until I got a bit further out of Paris and by doing so the route today took me past some pretty little villages including Janville-sur-Juine were there was a pretty little chateaux. 

chataux

Orleans

Further on I came across numerous French Military cemeteries with thousands of those who died trying to prevent the Germans from taking Paris back in 1940.  Then in the late afternoon as I entered Orleans there were a number of high speed bumps which jolted a bit but luckily my spokes held out, however, after taking in the sights I headed out of town then crunch...

brocken loop

A loop holding one of my panniers to the frame tore out of its socket which made it twist into my spokes. I managed to hold the pannier in position against the frame with a spare strap I'd been carrying but this was clearly not good enough as eventually it would come loose. But luckily I cycled past a large out of town supermarket which seemed to stock everything including DIY stuff and I managed to find a bright orange tension strap and bound the pannier firmly to the frame. I'll have to have a go at fixing the loop properly later, but at the moment this will hold it. 

strapped up

As it had taken a couple of hours to sort out the pannier, I was nowhere near where I'd planned to be tonight which meant cycling on the narrow but busy roads at night.  As rules dictate in France I put on a fluorescent bib and cycled on through a very swampy, cold damp area which went on for about 30 to 40 miles.

The air was cold and damp and progress wasn't helped by my GPS insisting that the only route there was, was through a military site!  A little later after finding a way past the site and through the little town of La-Ferte-Saint-Aubin I was cycling down a very dark road with dense woods on either side when I heard a sudden grunting and snorting coming towards me. To my right I could see the bushes shaking as some kind of creature was trying to find a way through.  As I cycled along, the progression of shaking bushes seemed to keep up with me, a slight feeling of panic came over me as I cycled harder to outspeed whatever was chasing me.  As the shaking stopped I turned in shock to see the silhouette of a charging wild boar, luckily for me the road was flat so I could keep the pace up and I think it was just bravado on behalf of the boar.  Animals do tend to chase animals that are already running but think twice when the animal is stationary. But this shook me a little so when I found the next village, Chaumont-sur-Tharonne, I stopped and looked for somewhere to sleep. Sadly nowhere was open but there was a nice looking park bench next to a cemetery.  I figured I'd be safe from wild boar as being a cemetery there was no food or cover around but not quite the lovely hotel room I'd planned so I cracked open my sleeping back and carry mat laid down and slept!

a grave place to sleep

For more detail on route click HERE.

day 6 route

(© google maps)

Day 7. The Randomness of Knowedge from Random Travel. (Saturday 4th October)

October 4th, 2014
  Today Total
Distance 78 miles 509 miles (819km)
Height gain 643 metres 5758 metres (18891ft)
Calories 2500 18800

Apart from an old man pulling over in his car and asking whether I was alright it was a boar free night and I slept relatively well. Before setting off I had a quick look around the little town that became my bed for the night.  I'd settled in the pretty little village of Chaumont-sur-Tharonne and it turned out that I had an unusual link to this place due to one guy who lived here for a short time and an earlier but small part of my journey. 

Chaumont

As I cycled past the church I saw a wooden monument in the shape of a plane, on the sign it said it was a monument to Louis Blériot.  This guy is credited with inventing the world's first working monoplane and his link to my trip, well he was the first person to fly from Calais to Dover in 1909.  It is strange how random travel like this you can find some really interesting, and in this case, globally important facts completely by chance.  It's why I like backpacking and travelling ad-hoc, you learn amazing if not bizarre things.

Chaumont

But I cycled on and it wasn't long before I happened upon another amazing story. Practically in the middle of nowhere I came across a monument  strangely to four British people, Maurice Southgate, Amédée Maingard, Jacqueline Nearne and Pearl Witherington.  In this place in what was called the Valencay - Issoudun - Châteauroux triangle these guys were parachuted in as part of the British Special Operations Executive

SOE memorial

These guys helped the French resistance disrupt German lines of communication, supply and transport and broke links between the South and Normandy during the important allied invasion.  At one point Pearl Witherington with a small band of badly trained men numbering about 140, took on 2,000 Germans and it was around here that it all happened.  She also presided over the surrender of it's said 18,000 Germans.

BougesDeols

Continuing through a number of pretty little towns on mainly gentle rolling hills I cycled on and entered the small village of Bouges-le-Château, named after the Grand house that stands at the head of the main road.  Yet another pretty little house which seem to dot this area.  Eventually as afternoon became evening I entered the very picturesque small town of Deols before finally crossing a small river and arriving in the pretty little town of Chateauroux.

Chateau

I could have gone further, even after 78 miles but there were dark sky's ahead and I wanted to see if I could do a simple fix of of my pannier loops with a bit of webbing and some Gorilla Glue..... The best glue ever!  I also had to fix my broken front baggage holder on which one of the wooden slats had split so the screw wouldn't fix the wood to the frame. Amazing what you can do with a coca cola bottle top and a pen knife!  

basket fixingbasket fixed!

For more detail on route click HERE.

day 7 route

(© google maps)