Tuesday, September 18, 2018

September 18, 2018 Calais France to Nieuwpoort Belgium

To day was a very interesting day the distance was 87 kms and the climb was only 135 meters however the tail wind was around 25-35 kms out of the SW and as we were headed East-North-East. It was a real kicker.  In fact there was no turning back to go look at something you missed. The couple of short stretches where we did have to go into the wind around some were tough as the dust and sand were flying right into your face.

We were off at just after 9:00 Am and were cruising along through a lot of side streets until we got out of Calais.  Once out of Calais we spent a lot of time travelling down a busy 4 lane road. Fortunately we were on a separate bike path which was separated from the highway by an 8” high curb.  This lane ran all the way into Dunkirk, which was at the 43 kms mark.

The route took us straight to the Dunkirk museum which honors the soldiers who were trapped in the Dunkirk pocket and were evacuated in the days of May 1940.    The museum is housed in the bunker which was the British Headquarters.  It was a very interesting museum and presented a much different perspective from the one I had always heard.  They told the story how the British secretly started the evacuation without telling their allies and it wasn’t until the secret was out did they announce it.  They also told the story how many of the French soldiers who were evacuated were returned to France only to be killed or captured.  After we left the museum we cruised along the beach at Dunkirk and visited the dunes which the soldiers were evacuated from.

Right after Dunkirk we came to the Zuydcoote Military Cemetery. In it there were close to 5500 soldiers. There were approximately 2100 British and 2200 French soldiers plus about 1200 from other nations including 200 Canadians, 900 German. These were all soldiers who died in the Zuydcoote field hospital in 1917.   The graves were organized into British Commonwealth, French and German each with their own style of marker.  It was a very touching remembrance of a tiny part of World War One.

We turned onto a bike path which followed a long a large cannel and took us almost right into Neiuwpoort.  The cannel path was great to cruise along as it was totally flat with perfectly smooth pavement and the tremendous tail wind.  While on the path I crossed into Belgium, saw some great scenery and rode through a flock of sheep who were out by themselves enjoying the sunshine. 

The cannels ended right at the ocean where there is a huge monument to one of the Belgium Kings and the WWI war memorial to the Battle of Neiuwpoort.  It is somewhat unusual in that it is three sided and has these huge lion sculptures on each corner.

The final few kms into the hotel were down some back lanes befor we entered the resort town of Middelkerke Belgium where we are staying.


Monday, September 17, 2018

September 17, 2018 Le Touquet to Calais

The ride today was only 73.7 kms however the climb was planned at 515 meters.  The Garmin came up with 75.3 and 613 meters of climb.  I can sort of understand the mileage difference as when riding you go around the outside of all of the traffic circles, I am sure that over the course of the day a person would wind up riding an additional 1.6 kms.  The difference of 20% on climb seems like quite a bit and it seems like the Garmin always comes up 20% higher than the route plan.  The interesting thing on today’s statistic was I hit a top speed of 67.5 kms/hr.  There was no doubt there was more than on decent where I was hard on the brakes.  I find a lot of these roads have unexpected high and low spots and hitting one at speed is somewhat disconcerting. 

After yesterday’s mad house, downtown was deserted this morning when Juerg, Ken and I rolled out from the Red Fox in this morning at close to 9:30 am.  It was a late start as it was a short day and while we knew there was going to be a lot of climbs nobody was interested in an early start.  We cruised through some back streets and then a bike path out to the main highway north.  The main highway was quite busy however there was a bike path on either side of the road which was perfect as you were never concerned about traffic. 

At the 11 kms mark we came to the Etaples Commonwealth War Cemetery.  Etaples was an important supply point for the British army in WWI and there was a huge hospital there.  The cemetery contains 11771 commonwealth graves from WWI of which 1145 are Canadians.  There are also an additional 662 non commonwealth graves (mostly German) and 125 WWII graves.   While not a well know cemetery it is still a very impressive sight.  I have been so impressed at how well the cemeteries are maintained and at how many graves have had flowers, wreaths or poppies placed beside them.   Maybe we haven’t forgotten this horror. 

The ride continued up and down the rolling hills.  None of the climbs were particularly steep but there were lots on long grinders.  Down in the lowest gear and just spinning away.  Finally we came to Boulogne and for some reason I thought we had to cross the big estuary there.  As we rolled through town it was so pleasant riding along the water’s edge through a big huge park and public place.  We stopped a number of times to take pictures of the harbour and different marinas. Finally I could see the Atlantic and the mouth of the estuary but no more bridges.  I had to stop and pull out the map to see that we had crossed to the north side of the estuary about 6 kms back when there was just a little creek to cross. 

From there we climbed a number of hills and could look out and see the white cliffs of Dover. It was so close it is no wonder that the German defenders thought that this would be the place for the invasion. Along the coast there were lots of different WWII bunkers still in place.  The largest was the Battery Todt.  This battery consisted of several huge circular bunkers which contained some very large guns, living quarters and command headquarters.  I had really wanted to see this installation however it was closed.  So a few pictures and Ken and I rolled on as we had lost Juerg in Boulogne.

We were only a few kms out from Calais however we had the two biggest climbs of the day in front of us.  The first was about 100 meters straight up a long hill of about 5% grade.  This was followed by a very steep and winding decent into a little village with a stop sign at the bottom.  On the decent you could look across the valley and see the opposite climb which had a few switch backs in it.  This climb was only about 5 kms but had some steep sections especially when you were on the inside of the switch back. 

The view from the top was spectacular of the English Channel and the Dover cliffs in the background. 

The decent into Calais was a blast and Ken and I rolled in pretty happy. 

Tonight we are in a very interesting hotel from the turn of the century which was bombed out in WW2 and rebuilt in the 1950’s.   It has a very classy feel and some very nice amenities.   Ken, and Sally, Juerg and I enjoyed a cold beer in the cozy lobby bar.


Sunday, September 16, 2018

September 12, 2018 Juno Beach Tour in Normandy

  OOOPS  Looks like this post never actually made it live.  It some how stayed as a draft.  Well here it is now

We were all up early and off to catch our tour today of the Canadian Juno Beach for the Normandy Invasion.  All seven of us were on the same tour so it made things easy.

The tour was only our group of seven so it was a pretty easy bunch.  The tour took us down to the north end of Juno Beach were we got out and walked along a cliff overlooking the beach.  I have seen this view in a lot of movies.  After that we were down to the main part of the Juno Beach where the Canadian House is.  This was the first place in France which was liberated in the Normandy Invasion.  In most of the pictures I have seen of it is pretty much bombed out but today it looks pretty good.  From there we were into the Juno Museum which was started by a Canadian D-Day veteran.   It was a great museum and did a wonderful job of depicting the Canadian war effort.

I was feeling pretty punk from yesterday’s hard ride.  I had a runny nose that I just couldn’t shut off.  So I got the tour director to stop at a pharmacy where we went in and she pointed out some nasal mist which fixed me right up. In addition it did a great job of putting me to sleep.  Sitting in the rocking van all nice and warm and I was out like a light.

After the Juno Beach museum we toured a couple of bunkers which were typical of the Atlantic wall.  It would have taken a lot of courage to charge up the beach towards one of these which had machine guns blasting away.  How these young men did it is a wonder to me.  In addition these were all volunteers. 

From there to the same cemetery we rode past yesterday and on in to Caen and a bunch of other sites as the tour followed the Canadian’s advance inland.  Although a lot of these sites are kind of a footnote to history it is still something that needs to be remembered and the stories of these brave young men who fought against tyranny need to be kept alive.

After the tour was over we stopped by a cathedral which is said to contain the tomb of William the Conquer. 

Tomorrow is the tour of the American Beaches. 

Terry hot biker

September 16, 2018 Le Treport to Le Touquet

Today’s ride was 81 kms with only 168 meters of climb.   There was only one little climb of about 100 meters as we climbed out to the Le Treport harbour to the escarpment opposite the harbour and then after a few kms across the top of the escarpment a decent to some salt water marsh area and on into Le Touquet. 

As we had a relatively easy day there was no hurray so after a leisurely breakfast we loaded the van and started off.   We made our way to the downtown harbour area of Le Treport and found ourselves in the start of a half marathon race. The place was packed with people and there was a lot of excitement in the air.  Not wanting to get caught up in the crowds we worked our way across the lock system which controls the inner harbour water level and we were off. 

The climb was no big deal and when we go to the top Earnie’s Garmin went out.  I tried and number of different resets and nothing worked.  It had the course blue line and map but no navigation.  Finally I gave Earnie my Garmin and took his.  I rode with Ken and we relied on his navigation even though I did have a blue line to follow and the map so it wasn’t totally out.  I think that it had not properly sync’ed with the course.  This may have been that I created the course on a Microsoft machine and Earnie loaded it from a Mac.  None of his courses had the names loaded into the Garmin.  To remedy this I deleted all the courses and re-loaded them from my laptop. 

We caught up with Juerg having lunch in a church yard so Ken and I stopped and got some pastries and joined him.   With only 30 kms to go and no hills to climb it didn’t take long to get into Le Touquet. 

There had been an airshow on in the morning and the place was jammed with people.  Agnes had done a marvelous job of getting the van into town and getting it parked.  We decided to move it closer to the hotel and found a place only a block away.  The van may have a slow leak in the rear driver side tire as the sensor said it was low.  It doesn’t really look low but we will have to have it looked at in the morning. 

Tomorrow is a short ride day of only 73 kms into Calais however the climb is set at 515 meters so it will be a lot of ups and downs as we follow the coast line. 

Terry hot biker

Saturday, September 15, 2018

September 15 2018, Honfleur to Le Treport

To days ride was 136.5 kms and 855 m of climb.  This made it a fairly challenging day.  Fortunately we did have a bit of a tail wind, while not a major factor was not a bad thing either.
The first order of business was the big bridge over the Siene River.  I had worked on this and could see the bike lane on the bridge so I knew we could ride across however I did not see the no cycling sign on the bridge on ramp.  Fortunately Juerg found the correct cycling ramp and we were across the bridge. 
We then had to climb the escarpment out of the Seine River Valley.  To do this we took a bunch of side roads on our way north.  Things worked very well through a bunch of freeways and I was quite pleased that the route worked so well. At one point a peloton of young riders went past us going almost double my pace.  Juerg jumped on the back of their tail and rode it for quite a distance.  Ken and I thought we would never see Juerg again but we did catch up about 30 kms later.  The climb was about 10 kms long but was only about 4.0%.  It got your attention but was not a killer.
We were at the 75 kms mark when we decide to stop for a sandwich.  We pulled into a little tobacco shop to ask where we could get a sandwich and the lady said she would make us one.  Sure why not and it turned out to be a great big sandwich on a huge chunk of baguette.
I had hoped to get into the Dieppe Museum however by the time we got to Dieppe it was too late to tour the museum so we settled for a visit to the Canada Square which is a memorial to the sacrifice that the Canadian soldiers made to lord Montbatton’s ego.  
I had originally hoped to stay in Dieppe so that we would have a 100 kms day and 110 kms day rather than a 130 kms day followed by a 80 kms day.  However there were no rooms in Dieppe and now I know why as there was huge festival going on and the place was a total mad house.  Maneuvering the bike through the crowd was a challenge.  After we got through the town the route took us down a a couple of side streets.  However every time we went down one we were off course.  It turned out the course went down a back alley and up a few stairs to get on the climb up to the top of the escarpment.
After Dieppe there was only 30 kms and it went by pretty quickly.  I found a shop which sold fresh fruit and vegetables.  The display was so beautiful I had to stop.  I bought a huge melon and some pears.  The melon filled the bike trunk and made the bike tail heavy.
The Airbnb is an absolute beauty. It has a fabulous balcony overlooking the historic town of Le Treport.  The melon and pears were so sweet and delicious; it made hauling them the 12 kms in on my bike well worth it.  Sitting in the sun and enjoying the day was a total treat.
Over all a long and challenging day but so much fun.   
Terry hot biker