Now, I’m just going to preface this blog by saying, nothing I’m about to report is complaining, it’s just an account of the day, which we both found a teensy bit challenging.
The morning started with a glance out the window at the trees that seemed to be moving rather quickly side to side in a fashion that I remember from not too long ago and not with pleasant memories…the wind was blowing! OK, we’ve faced wind before, nothing we can do about it and we had to head off, so off we went.
As we rode out of Deauville, with one slight and inconsequential wrong turn, that was quickly remedied, what should appear in front of us…a mighty hill! One of those long ones, with lots of steep corners, a hill that goes on and on and on. I have to say the legs were feeling a bit less than top gear, after yesterday’s long ride and hill climbs, so this doozy first up in the morning, did pose a slight challenge. The gears went low, then lower, then lower…the pedalling got slow…then slower…then slower. I began to doubt if I would get up to the top, because the top didn’t ever seem to want to put in an appearance! The drivers were brilliant and all the cars gave us space and time, as we slowly slogged our way to the top, and yes…we got to the top on pedal power without having to get off and push. It was a battle of brain over legs though, because those legs were hurting!
At the top, being as we were, on top of a hill, that wind was blowing like billy-o again. The scenery would have been lovely if I could have looked at it, but all I can do when faced with super strong winds, is just put my head down and try and push into it, so I never get to enjoy what’s around me.
As we rode on, I was right on Steve’s back wheel and I had to keep braking constantly to stop myself from running up the back of him. We seemed to be going a lot slower than usual. The wind kept blowing and it was rocking me back and forth and pushing me around again, made worse by the fact we were going slowly, so I was something of a sitting duck for any strong cross winds. We were also on a busy road and the constant REEEERRRT…REEEERRRT…REEERRTT of cars going past is always a bit disconcerting, made even more so when it’s windy and I’m being pushed around.
Then…I took a really heavy fall. Crash! A cross wind hit me, that caused my front wheel to go off the edge of the road, where there was quite a lip dropping off, this caused the whole bike to lose control and I crashed in a heap, sprawled right across the lane of the busy road, with the bike on top of me. Steve obviously heard me crash because when I looked up he was rushing back towards me, which was good because I was having a hard time getting up. The bike had pinned me down and I was having trouble lifting the weight of it off me, since I was on my stomach, sprawled in the road. Steve got the bike off me and I scuttled as quickly as I could off the road and sat in the grass to rub my arm and leg, where they hurt a bit. Steve dropped my bike on the side of the road and came to see if I was OK. The first thing I said was, “Get the bike off the road.” The second thing I said was, “I’m fine.” The third thing I said was, “Thank goodness nothing’s torn because I don’t have that many clothes.” So that was sort of the priorities my brain had at the time:
1. Save the bike.
2. I’m fine, don’t think I’m not fine, don’t think I can’t cope.
3. Thank goodness I haven’t damaged any of my limited clothing supply.
As we were sitting on the side of the road, a driver stopped with a concerned look, obviously wanting to know if everything was OK. We smiled and gave a wave and a “Merci” and tried to assure him that all was well. It was nice of him to stop and check. I’m just really glad there wasn’t a car behind me when I fell, because I don’t know if it would have avoided me, since I did end up all over the lane of the road and then lying there like a prize piece of useless, unable to get out of the way. We picked up the bikes and stopped up the road in a driveway to tape up my torn handlebars and fix up the panniers that were hanging off. So now I have a few more scrapes and bruises to replace the last lot I acquired during my last battle with the wind. The wind is not my friend!
We continued on, slogging it out in the wind and I was again, trying not run up Steve’s back wheel. We eventually found a park to pull into for elevenses.
I again assured Steve I was fine and was good to go the distance. “Is there a reason we’re going so slow,” I asked. “When we go slow, it makes it harder to stay balanced in the wind and it knocks me around even more.”
“I’m going as fast as I can,” he said.
“But I can see you’re in really low gears,” I questioned.
“Yes, that’s because I’m struggling,” he explained.
So it seemed the conditions were even taking their toll on the big fella.
On we went, still ploughing into the force of the headwind. We were now on an open stretch of the main road, with flat open fields either side, so the there were no wind breaks of any sort and it just roared onto us with all its might. As we came towards another town, we wheeled down a long hill and Steve stopped to take a photo, so I continued wheeling past him and stopped at the bottom to wait.
When Steve pulled up beside me, he said, “I’m all for stopping, I don’t know about you.”
“Completely?” I asked, a little surprised because I hadn’t expected him to suggest stopping the ride all together.
“We don’t have to ride in this and it’s no fun in these conditions,” he said.
So we rode on into the town and stopped on a seat to consider what to do.
“We could keep going,” I suggested.
“We’ve got time to get to Peronne,” Steve said and then continued, “as we were riding along that straight, I asked myself if we didn’t have to be somewhere would we be riding in this and I thought, no.”
Steve suggested we look for a hotel or a cabin and cut the ride short. I said I didn’t mind what we did. “If I wasn’t here, what would you do, if you just made the decision?” I asked.
“Stop here and find a hotel or cabin,” Steve said.
Well there was only one hotel and the campground wasn’t far away, so we rode around there to take a look.
“Cabin?” asked Steve.
“It seems pretty sheltered,” I said, “we could pitch the tent, but you’re a better judge of the tent than me, so I don’t mind.”
“Ok, we’ll camp,” said Steve.
So that’s what we’ve done. We only rode 40km today and stopped about 20km short of our planned destination. It was a pretty hard 40km though, with the hills and wind ganging up against us. There’s going to be more big hills to come in the next few days, so the map tells us, so there’s no escaping those, but hopefully the wind might ease and be a little kinder to us. We spent the afternoon sitting in the tent to get out of the wind while the little tent whoomped and flapped in the gale.
So I’m sorry if our shortened ride makes us look wimpy given all we have learned about the hardships and feats of endurance that have occurred in this area. We’ll try to plough on tomorrow and make a good show of it and, well…just do the best we can!