Please dear god. Never again. Day way too many: Chateauneuf de Pape - Cassis and somehow back to Sweden
01.06.2007 - 11.06.2007 -17 °C
Distance - 14.51miles (23.3 km).
Distance cycled by the people who didn't wimp out after said 14.51miles - 90.23miles (144.36 km)
Max Speed - On the bike, not very much. In the van, more than was legal
I really shouldn't have. I know. So did everybody else. But even though I said so, nobody believed it. By now, I had form. For reasons that have nothing to do with logic or common sense, and lots to do with me being a suborn moron, I decided to cycle. It was the final day and I just couldn't not ride. I knew that I wouldn't last the whole day, so said beforehand that i would cycle the first half and then drive into the finish. But by now, everybody was used to me saying that i would just go a bit and see how far it made it, and subsequently cycling a whole day.
I knew that I shouldn't have started, but I just had to. Besides. We were heading to Cassis, on the coast. And were at several hundred metres. Surely, therefore, it was just a case of a nice leisurely roll down to the coast? In addition to that, Göran and Torbe had left early that morning to catch their flight back, so we were down 2 of the fast guys. Easy!
But none of that made any difference. Within 5km, I knew that it was going to be a hard day. I spent the the sitting at the back, struggling to keep up with a not particularly fast pace and in pain. For the first real time, I was in significantly more pain on a bike than off it. Another few km and I barely made over up a road bridge without collapsing in pain, and I knew that I wasn't in for a good day.
Lunch was looking like a significant stretch of suffering and any vague lingering plans I had to cycle the whole way were eztinguished. Shortly afterwards we hit a section of roadworks. The road surface had been stripped and for maybe 1500metres we went over a bouncy, pot-holed unsurfaced painfest and I finally admitted to myself that I was being a stuborn arsehole, and with a brief comment, let the others disappear for good.
Each day we had been given a small route list of towns/villages and distance. When they had been put together, spelling hadn't been highest on the list of priorities, and so some of them had come out slightly strange. Showing itself to be roughly 10km ahead was somewhere written as "La Tour". It seemed a fitting end, and i thus phoned the support van for collection, and slowly and one leggedly rolled into La Thor.
My cycling efforts were over.
La Thor is actually quite a nice little town if you aren't a half dead crippled ex-cyclist. I never want to see this bike (below) again
Though I didn't realise it, the easy part of the day was over. The real fun was just beginning.
A coffee later and Emil picked me up, and off we then headed off to try and catch the peloton. It wasn't long afterwards that we managed to drive straight into a speed trap and get stopped by the police. Have you ever been stopped by the police when in a rental van full of lots of peoples stuff and without having any idea where the heck the papers are?
If not, I can highly recommend it. Especially when your French is less than fluent and their English is nil.
On the plus point, we managed to escape without any financial settlement, due in part to the French police's bizarre insistence on being paid with a cheque. They would not accept cash or credit card, only a cheque. Even in the UK where cheques are still reasonably common, few people actually carry a cheque book around with them, yet in Sweden they have been obsolete for donkeys years. Somehow we managed to convey that. And headed on our way.
I sat glumly watching as we headed along almost entirely perfectly paved and gentle downhill (with, naturally, the wind behind us) roads for the next hour or so, cursing my knee's inability to manage a simple road bridge, when i could have spent the next couple of hours one legged and still surviving due to the wonders of this gravity thing that I've started to hear about.
Inventions these days never cease to amaze me.
It was after lunch that I started to regret, well, only having one leg. With everybody else happily on their bikes on the way to the bar (or coats, same thing), within 2km of heading off, I made the interesting discovery that flashing red lights on the fuel gauge aren't always conducive to forward motion. In the most amazing and unlikely piece of luck I've had in years, i half spluttered around a corner, and rolled down the slope into a wonderfully obliging petrol station. 200Metres further or less of a slope, and I'd have been pushing.
Some of you may recall that on Day 3, somebody had decided to liberate the GPS from our van, leaving us one window down. Thus, an hour or so later, after a pit stop with the guys, I then headed off to try and find a specific glass shop. After a couple of strange slingshots, I managed to get onto the motorway, and made it to the Airport, which was my sole point of reference. I picked a hotel at random, and found a lovely and amazingly helpful English speaking old lady who old me that it was easy but really difficult to find, and gave me instructions. It was perfect until the last 300m. It then took me a good 45mins of wandering in dispair around Marignane getting helplessly lost. I was finally put on track, to discover that I had been within 100m of the damned place on probably 6 different occassions. Yay.
The first issues to be confronted were that (a) they apparently weren’t expecting a Swedish van to appear and (b) Nobody spoke anything other than French. Oddly enough, It wasn’t just me that was having a problem with that – every other customer in the place was foreign, and thus using an entirely not understandable mixture of English, Spanish, German, Swedish, Italian and French we somehow all managed to help each other out and get our problems understood. Or, at least, we hoped so.
I then had 45mins or so to kill, so did what everey normal person would do in the same situation and went and sat in a bit of scrubland, eating a baguette and watching old people play boulles whilst Air France jets and assorted helicopters (Eurocopter are made here) passed overhead on route to Marseille airport. Magically, when I returned, the window had been fixed, and I received the keys back for the correct vehicle. More curiously, despite fully expecting and having been told to beforehand, they refused payment from me, saying it had been paid pre by a “Swedish card”. To this day, I have no idea who paid for the window.
I finally I had a window. Surely it had to be easy from here?
Whilst waiting, I had also done a little pre-planning, having suddenly realised that it I would be leaving in late afternoon on a Friday (with a long weekend coming) in rush hour traffic and that my shortest route involved ploughing right through the centre of Marseille, something that didn’t necessarily appeal to me greatly. And in trying to be clever, I plotted a different route and inadvertently dumped myself into a whole lot of new problems. And this tim, there wasn't a pschotic Japanes girl anywhere to be seen.
I won’t bore you with details [though I will note that there were a large number of stunning Mediterranean beauties wandering around in Mini’s], but suffice to say that as well as the discovery that nobody in France on a Friday afternoon cares in the slightest about speed limits (at times i was going 20 or 30kmh over the limit of 110 or 130 [it varied] on motorways and barely keeping up with articulated lorries, let alone the rest of the traffic) i got caught up in delays due to several accidents, 2 motorway closures, numerous traffic jams a second police stop of the day (they seemed to be stopping only foreign vehicles, and whilst were perfectly pleasant about it all and spoke good English, they empted the van entirely -over the motorway – and went through things thoroughly. And then said, “ok, you can go” without helping me put anything back) and finished by a wildly unhelpful diversion over a mountain half way to Toulon.
Finally, several hours later than anybody expected, and a good 4hours or so after everybody else had arrived, I crawled into Cassis, and with unexpected luck and a strange symmetry (I had started the trip driving as well), I finally rolled up to the hotel. Happy to have somehow survived the whole way, and also to have ridden as much as I did, although it would have been great to have been able to do a bit more. Of the 13cyclists, only B-G had cycled every km.
Cassis. End of the line, kind of. The castle and bits of the harbour, what would have been a more relaxing way to arrive and (bottom) the whole reason we had done this.
After all that, it might have been time for a well earned celebration dinner and the odd glass of local wine (and maybe a dozen or so beers). The following day, after a bit of touristy stuff, and, inevitably, watching the cycling in a bar in Marseille, it was just time to go home. For everybody else, it was an early flight on Sunday. For me, it was a multi-purpose week long journey via Nice, Milano, Zurich (for the same reasons as why I went that way to Paris), Belgrade, Bucuresti, the staggeringly inevitable Sopron, Wien, Nurnberg, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford and London due to a mixture of stupid Americans, problem solving, work, catching up with friends and people getting married, before the finally the normal trek back to Sweden.
Plans are already being formulated for next year’s trip. Thus, I fear that you may be hearing more of my complaints soon.
For now, I’m going to go and lie through my teeth to my surgeon and try in the hope of convincing him that I have not been on a bike (I did promise, after all), but that I have a current slight pain, and maybe he can help me out?