Wednesday, September 19, 2012

London to Paris, day one

Just home from a good ride with some good fellows.
Ages ago Jay had the idea of riding from London to Paris. Plans were talked about, emails flew back and forth and training was planned and undertaken. In what seemed like no time at all the date was upon us and we were assembling at the Cutty Sark in London to set off.
Then, we were away.
Roadbooks had been put together for each day, and a map was stuffed in my back pocket with the route marked on, but it was still only about half an hour before we missed the (truthfully unmarked) exit from the A2 onto the A207, so with a bit of jiggery we found another route and were soon off and out of London, over the M25 and clear of the debris that seemed to flick into eyes as we pedalled along.
The route paralleled the A2 mostly, and joined it along some of the quieter single carriageway sections. Our support crew were in a van and car and we were ahead of them for most of the way out of London, the joys of two wheels over four. Arrangements were made to meet in Sittingbourne for lunch and after negotiating the market taking up most of the parking spaces for the support vehicles we were soon sat outside a cafe eating some grub. Post lunch we pressed on, fuelled by chips and other tasty carbs not used on le Tour.
Close to Faversham and the Shepherd Neame brewery we rolled along single track back roads and took in the smell of the hop gardens being harvested on one side and the orchards bulging with apples on the other. Through Faversham and resisting stopping at a pub to sample the local brew we pressed on.
Canterbury was negotiated after a bit of local advice and we were back out into the open again. The roads now were climbing and falling and it was easy to tell that we were expending energy.

I was starting to feel in need of something to eat and drink. I probably should have had a bigger all day breakfast at lunch time...
It went a little wrong after this, when we came sailing down a freshly gravelled road through some S bends that had us all feeling a little sketchy with negotiating them at the speeds we were travelling! Safely through we met up with the support crew for an update.
On from there and we missed a turning, though this wasn't apparent until several miles down the ride.
After some map reviewing a re-route was worked and we were back on it. This meant a lot of climbing, which after almost 70 miles was a bit of a shit. There was much cursing, some of it under breaths, most of it not.
Time dragged as we wended along back roads cross country, dodging strimmed hawthorn cuttings which littered the road threatening punctures, and tractors sat on our tails as we kept single file down the narrow routes. Finally we were in Lydden and back on track.
Down towards Dover and mood and momentum were lifted. The skies became bluer, and the going was smoother.
Then, the sign we had been waiting for.
We were in Dover.
Support crew were located and after refuelling the vehicles and ourselves on a BP forecourt we loaded up and headed to port.
The crossing was millpond smooth and we savoured the moment with nutritional beverages.
Then, disembarking and a trip to our lodgings for the night; the youth hostel to find the rooms then dash into Calais town centre to find something to eat.
Time was now 10pm local, and hunger was very present. A rather tasty Moroccan/Mediterranean restaurant served us but it was too late for Mick, who pulled a spectacular whitey after eating and had a few minutes face down on the table recovering. He wouldn't be the last to suffer on the trip.
Still within 5 minutes he was back to his normal self and after settling up we walked back to the beds. The next day we were riding in France.
Mileage for the day was around 85.
Route here

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