As we set off this morning out of Forges-les-Eaux we found that the GPS had actually taken us off the busy main road and onto the quiet country roads and this would be our route for the day. Beaudy! The first part of the ride involved more of those cheeky hills and a quite a few of them decided to come to the party this morning. The scenery was beautiful though and the roads were quiet.
As we ride around, we tend to get quite a few stares from onlookers in the various towns and villages we pass through and it seemed the onlookers in the fields today were equally curious. A paddock of cows took quite an interest in the strange moving objects passing by and stopped their grazing and their snoozing and stood up for a better look.
“Gawd Barry, what on earth’s that do you think?”
“Gee Merv, I got no idea but I hope they aren’t comin’ this way.”
“Quick Stan, stand up for a better look, wad y’reckon to that mate?”
“I reckon I’d like to get me some of that fashionable head gear, that’s a bit of all right, and it’d put Rex in his place next time he tries to head-butt me just ‘cause I said ‘mornin’ to Shirl!”
I was starting to feel the hills a bit and the darn wind was blowing hard again and starting to dim my mood somewhat. As we turned a corner, I saw a horse in a paddock and pulled over to say hello. Well, it was so friendly I stopped and gave it a pat and a nose rub, which it seemed to lean into and enjoy. Then the calves came up to see what was going on. I’ve discovered from chatting to the neighbours’ calves at home, that they seem to like it when you blow up their nose, maybe their mum does that, but they always seem to wander over blowing their noses, so I just blow back at them! They seem to like the greeting. Anyway, I said hello to the calves with mutual nose blowing and then the horse thought it would like a bit of the action too, so we all stood their blowing and snorting and having a lovely pleasant introduction! After that, I can’t tell you how much my mood lifted! My legs felt fresher and my head felt lighter and it just goes to show what animals can do for positivity and how much I’m missing animal contact!
We rode on and the roads got flatter, which was nice and even though we were riding into that force of a headwind all the way, my spirits were not going to dampened and the fact we were on quiet roads and didn’t have traffic zipping past us all the time, helped make the wind a little more bearable. We pulled over for a quick elevenses at a table by the road and cottages lined the road there. Our presence started dogs barking and it seemed we alerted the local neighbourhood watch folks because the curtain twitchers went into action and a lady stuck her head out the window to see what had created the kerfuffle! We must have looked pretty harmless, because the curtains nestled back into place and the windows closed and the sleepy little village went back to being sleepy.
We rode into the region of The Somme and as I rode along I looked across at the flat farmland and could picture it as a muddy, shell holed wasteland, as it could have appeared during the First World war.
My grandfather fought in World War One and he was on my mind as we rode along and I looked across at the scenery. Over the next few days, we’ll be riding through some of the areas that saw some of the worst battles, fighting and casualties of the war and I’ll be thinking of Pop who fought here on The Somme and in Ypres in Belgium. He’s from the side of the family where I inherit my short-person genes so he was only a little fella, about my size really and I’ll be thinking of him as we go. He was one of the returned diggers who didn’t ever want to talk about the war and from what I know of the horrors of the Somme, I can understand why they were memories he might have wanted to keep buried.
We rode into a small town and went up to a supermarket in search of a public WC, which are so hard to find. As I was standing by the bike, a lady walked up and stopped to look at the bike with all it’s load. She blew out her cheeks and said, “Something something something fatigue,” Well, I knew what that meant, so I thought she was saying something like ‘that must be tiring’. “Oui! Très fatigue!,” I replied and we both laughed. She then said something else that I couldn’t understand at all, so I just said, “Je ne comprend pas, désolé.” She gestured as if to say far, are you going far? I said, “Oui,” and she smiled at me and gave me a wave and off she strolled. She was so friendly and jolly! Before she spoke to me, she spoke to Steve and then was chatting to another man and I could hear her laughing and chuckling, before she came and spoke to me. Then when we were riding through and out of the town, so many people gave us big smiles and said, “Bonjour” and it just felt like such a happy, jolly, friendly little town.
Then, continuing the theme of happy and jolly…I was riding along and quite a way behind Steve because the wind was belting me in the face and making the going pretty hard when a man driving a tractor came past me. What did he do? He leaned out of the tractor’s cab, gave me a big clap, a smile and a double thumbs up! Well, that just put the biggest grin on my face! I ended up riding along with a huge smile, because it was such a nice thing for him to do and I couldn’t stop grinning! Steve had stopped up ahead to take a photo of me slogging against the wind and as I got close I think he snapped me with the tail end of my goofy grin that had been on my face for the last few hundred metres!
After about 44km we came upon our pitstop campsite for the day at Poix-de-Picardi. Would it be open!? Well, one sign said open and other one said closed! Hmmm. The office was closed, but a sign posted on the door gave us some cheer. “We are closed at the moment, take your pitch and we will be open at 2:00” You little ripper! Plan A worked! We found a nice grassy spot between hedges and sat and had lunch while we waited for the office to open. After a while, a lady walked up to us, who must have been the lady who ran the site and spoke to us in English, “You have a lovely pitch, I am just going out but you want one night? No problem, come up later in the afternoon, whenever you like” and off she went. Later when I went to check in and pay and I handed her my passport, she asked if we were here for Anzac Day. She was another lovely friendly person!
We went for an afternoon roam around the village. There is an airforce cemetery here and there were headstones from British, New Zealand, Canadian and Australian airmen. There was an airfield here during WWII and all those buried here were shot down during that war. The day had come out really warm and it was so nice to just walk around the village, sheltered out of the wind.
So even though today had some tough bits with the wind and hills, those played second fiddle to the delightful, friendly people and the friendly animals and the gorgeous scenery. I’m now trying to just relax and think about the nice parts of the day and not think about the fact that the wind is supposed to be stronger tomorrow and this town is in a valley surrounded by big hills. We wheeled downhill into town, so we’re going to have to climb back out again. I’ll have to have the legs ready for their “breakfast burn” up some more hills! I’m trying hard not to think about it! I’ll just have to reeelllaaaaaxxx and take Scarlett O’Hara’s approach from Gone with the Wind…”Fiddle-dee-dee, I’ll think about it tomorrow!”