Monday, October 8, 2018

October 7 2018 Soissons to Compiegne to Ormory-Vilers

Today’s ride was only 70 kms with only 275 meters of climb, and we had a 3:30 pm checking so there was no need to be on the road early in the morning.  It was a good thing to as it poured rain most of the night and this morning there was a little drizzle coming down. 
We sat in the breakfast area drinking coffee and watching the drizzle and mist.  About 10:00 am we decided that it was time to leave so bags were loaded into the van and Earnie, Ken, Juerg and I jumped on our bikes and headed off.  I was a concerned that the rain would have made the unpaved bike path which I planned on taking out of Soissons wet and muddy.  Fortunately there was enough packed gravel on the path that it was fine.   
It was 40 kms down to Compienge which was where the armistice was signed which ended WW1 and where the French surrender was signed after Germany invaded France in WW2.  The Armistice Glade is a large area surrounding the Armistice Memorial and the Armistice Museum.  The area was chosen in 1918 as it was quite remote and was away from the prying eyes of the press.  The French government did not want any photos taken of the armistice proceedings.  The original rail car used to sign the armistice in 1918 was also used to sign the French surrender.  The railcar was then transported back to German where it was destroyed in an accidental fire.  The original railcar was one of several which were built as dining cars for the French rail service.  The museum houses one of the other dining cars which have been reconfigured to identical specification.  The museum also contains lots other displays relating to the armistice and the cost of the war in terms of human lives. 
Agnes, Betsy and Sally had found a boulangerie and showed up with baguettes and ham so we had a picnic in the parking lot.  We had been riding so we were sweaty and while in the museum we were fine but out in the parking lot I was freezing.  The temperature was only about 9 C and the mist of the morning had returned.   Of course what do you expect for a picnic in October. 
The ride from the Armistice Glade down to Ormoy-Villers was a further 30 kms so after picnic so we left about 2:00 Pm to make the ride down to our Airbnb.  The ride through the Armistice Gland was interesting as there were lots of sign posts to various walks through the park. A couple of hills, a few lefts and a few rights and we were there.   
The big War Memorials tour wraps up in the Airbnb.  The only thing is to pack bikes, and fly home. 
The final statistics on the tour as compiled by Ken are:  Miles ridden 2267.2 kms, total climb of 13,710 meters, wheel turning time of 104.4 hours, giving us an average speed of 21.7 kms/hr. 
Looking back I am really impressed with how much attention is put into the maintenance of all of these hundreds of memorials, and cemeteries for the past 100 years. Rolling into a tiny village and looking at a beautifully maintained memorial with 30-40 names of which there are several sets of identical sur names which were probably brothers or father-sons gives you a tiny insight into the sacrifice these people made.
Terry hot biker

Saturday, October 6, 2018

October 5 2018 Romilly-sur-Seine to Soissons

Today’s ride was one of the longest rides on the tour and had the most climb of any ride on the tour.  We had 134 kms and 1341 meters of climb.  We also had one of the major WW1 sites on the tour, that being the American Aisne Marne Cemetery and Belleau Woods Marine Memorial.
As Earnie wanted to spend extra time at Belleau Woods and so he elected to jump in the van and take a bump. The van was actually going to Chateau Thierry which is where the Marine Corp monument to the American soldiers who died in the third battle of the Marne.  The monument is kind of hard to reach by bicycle so it was not on the ride.  These sites were all at the 90 kms mark on the ride so they were quite a way into the ride.
Ken, Juerg and I set off at 7:50.  As we rode through Romilly-sur-Seine the downtown area was all closed off for a Saturday morning market but we zipped right through the barricades and past the vendors who were setting up their table. Some of whom shot us dirty looks but we had lots of miles to cover and never slowed down.
Once out on the highway we picked up a very decent tail wind and just flew down the road.  It was a pretty busy road which had a lot of very large dump trucks.   While they were very respectful and gave us lots of room the bow wave of air combined with the huge tail wind,and nearly knocked you off your bike.   The busy roads lasted from km 8 to 22 and then again from 31 to 60.  The only great thing about the road was most of it was out in the open and with the blasting tail wind we were really moving.  At one point I was in top gear of the bike and I looked down at the Garmin and saw I was doing 52kms/hr and hardly pedalling. 
The road from 22 to 31 was this tiny road through a dense forest which was barely 8 feet wide and all downhill.  The surface was absolutely perfect and we just flew down it.  We covered that section in just a few minutes. 
When we arrived at the Aisne Marne Cemetery at 1:00 pm we ran into Earnie who was just completing his visit.  He was pretty pumped as the local host at the visitor center was a Navy Seal and they had spent over an hour talking.  Earnie was on his way to the Belleau Woods Monument.  Ken, Juerg and I ate our lunch before we visited the cemetery and Earnie finished up and was on his way.  Ken Juerg and I spent about 1.75 hours visiting the American monuments and then we road down the road to visit the German cemetery.  The American cemetery had 2950 and covered 42.5 acres while the German cemetery had 8700 and covered less than an acre. However the Germans had been fighting at the Marne for four years and the Americans less than five months.
We still had 45 kms to go and a lot of hills to climb.  However our tail wind was still working for us and if anything was coming on even stronger.  The three of us were really flying along and even on the steepest of pitches I don’t thing I ever hit my granny gear and 90% of the time I was in the big ring of my triple.  You would hit the top of a large hill and the view would be absolutely stunning but I never took my hands off the handle bars to grab a picture.  Then it would be down a roller coaster though a tiny village at break neck speed.  Stop signs flashing past with someone yelling clear as though they actually looked.  What a ride.  We covered the 45 kms in under 2 hours including the ride through Soissons which as considerably slower.
There is really nothing like a howling tail wind to make you feel like your bike riding talents are wasted and you should be riding in the tour.  

Friday, October 5, 2018

October 5, 2018 Chaumont to Romily-Sur-Seine

Today’s the route was 140 kms and 834 meters of climb.  This was one of the biggest days on the tour for mileage and climb was in the top three.  On the plus side of the ledger it was a net downhill of 250 meters and we had a tailwind in the morning when we had 80% of the climb. 
The route out of Chaumont was a really which I was very proud to have figured out.  The route was across a bridge over the rail way tracks, three turns, down a very steep back alley, a left turn and we were on the road which half kilometer later and we were out of town and on the highway towards Romily-sur-Seine. 
Juerg said we rode this highway (D619) when we did Orient Express but I certainly could not remember. It was in the spring and we were headed east.  This is the fall and we were headed west.  After a big climb we were on top of a huge plateau and the views of the surrounding fields were spectacular. Juerg decided to go exploring and left Ken and myself on our own. 
The tailwind and the downhill whipped us along and we were down at a town called Bar-Sur-Aube in practically no time.  This town was nothing but one way streets which were all the wrong way however I had plotted out a ring road route which took us around the maze in not time.  The town did look very picturesque but with 140 kms to cover we didn’t look back. 
After Bar-Sur-Aube Ken and I travelled down a bunch of tiny back roads which had almost zero traffic and while there were a few short hills it was primarily downhill.  At 65 km into the ride we came to a slightly larger town so we went off course and found a boulangerie where we purchased sandwiches for lunch. As it was only 10:45 we stowed them in the trunk bags and hurried on.  There was a huge abandon chateau in the town and we made some jokes that maybe it was haunted. 
As we entered the province of Champagne I finally got a view of the vineyards I have been looking for.  The south facing hills were covered in grape vines.   We stopped at an unfenced vineyard and had a close look and taste of the grapes.  A special treat!
At kilometer 90 we came to a beautiful lake resort which was totally shuttered for the season and the beach was abandon.  It looked like a great spot for lunch and we stopped to eat. We were there less than 15 minutes and Earnie rolled up.   He rode on and we finished our lunch and were off.
At 105 we turned off the roads onto a beautifully paved canal path.  The canal was not in use and was clogged with weeds and was overgrown with trees but the path was great.  As the path was slightly down hill and with the now very slight tailwind a person could coast along a 8 kms/hr without pedalling. 
When we arrived in Romily-Sur-Siene we rode to the Garmin end point to find that there was no hotel there.  The place is brand new and I had to guess at the address when I made up the route.  I had thought we had passed the turn to the hotel as there was a big supermarket and some car dealerships on the corner which I had seen on Google earth.  So Ken and I turned back and we rode straight to the place. 
While this was a big day mileage and climb wise it was a really perfect day of riding.  Bright warm sunny day with lots of varied and beautiful scenery, a tailwind in the morning when it counted and some great downhill riding.   Laissez le bon temps rouler!

Thursday, October 4, 2018

October 4, 2018 Dijon to Chaumont

Checking out of our Airbnb was super easy as our host showed up a few minutes before the appointed time and we were off.   I had put together a little Garmin route for Earnie and I to follow over to the other apartment which was under 3 kms and we were over there in no time.  Ken, Sally and Juerg had their luggage down the multitude of steps and were waiting on the street when the van showed up.  Unbelievable there was even a parking spot so we loaded luggage and everyone was off. 
The four of us rode out of town together which is a really good idea and I am so glad that Earnie is at least riding with us to the edge of the city as it gets him past all of the lefts and rights of the downtown city maze.  I have carefully picked the out of the city route so that we are on streets with bike lanes and the least traffic.  Often these are not the most obvious route. 
After we cleared the city Ken, Juerg and I rode on ahead.  There was as usual a nasty head wind so the three of us set up a pace line which really helped.  Ken is such a big guy that following him into the wind is almost like being motor paced. We were traveling through a lot of wide open countryside with very few trees so the wind wasn’t blocked.  This is one thing I have been a little surprised over. I had thought we would be riding through nothing but vineyards but I haven’t seen one.  Miles and miles of corn fields.  Although today we saw a sunflower field which stretch for several kms.
At about the 44 km mark we turned on to a canal path which was absolutely gorgeous. Most of the canals have rows of huge trees lining both sides which are now showing their fall yellows and reds. The sun playing through the trees is so pretty.  We are really late in the season so we have the canal path to ourselves as well.
We stopped at the 66 km mark in a little village and went into a bar for a sandwich.  We had been there about 30 minutes and were just finishing when Earnie showed up.  He rode on as the big climb of the day started at 69 kms and he didn’t want to do the climb on a full stomach.  This wasn’t bad logic as there was bigger town 75 kms.  The route skirted Langres as I had not wanted to ride through a city built in the 15th century which was a lot of one ways and a total maze. 
We caught Earnie at the top of the big hill. Earnie rode into Langres to find his lunch and Ken, Juerg and I rode along the perimeter of the city walls. One of the city gates had been built in 1420 and the walls added between 1500 and about 1840.    We stopped at a couple of places to marvel at the walls which had to be 40-50 feet high.  We talked about what it would be like to attack the city wall.  I said I didn’t think it would be too hard to climb the walls as there were quite a few nooks and crevices in the rock wall.  Ken and Juerg scoffed at this so a bet was struck and I started up the wall.  Juerg grabbed my camera off my bike a snapped my picture.  It was pretty scary near the top and luckily nobody was at the top pouring boiling oil down on me.     
The downhill from the Langres citadel was spectacular.  It was now kind of busy road but all the traffic is so polite it is really a pleasure.   Big trucks will grind down into the lowest gear until there is ample room to pass. 
At the 88 kms mark we turned off the main road onto a winding road through the forest.  It was nothing more than a single lane road without a center line but the pavement was so smooth.  It was just so pretty riding through the trees.  No wind, sun dappling through the trees, and the temperature has climbed up to around 25 C.   This road took us right to the edge of Chaumont and our hotel is on the south side so we only had a few kms to the hotel.
Le Royal where we are staying is a harming family run hotel.  I think we have the biggest room on the entire tour here.   I went down and had a beer in the bar with Juerg after the ride. It tasted so great.
We covered 114.5  kms and had a total climb of 849 meters.
What a wonderful ride today was. 
Terry hot biker

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

October 3, 2018 Rest day in Dijon

This morning I was still rubbing the sleep out of my eyes when I was broadsided with complaints about everything from the route, to the food, to the choose of accommodations.   About half way though the broadsides I got a phone call from the other apartment dwellers who had been planning the next few days agenda for us and wanted to tell me their ideas.  The route and the Garmin’s are all wrong and should have been better, sorry but mine seems to be working perfectly, in fact there has not been a day when the Garmin has not played it’s little you have arrived tune.  The choose of food has been terrible and the menus are all in French.  Sorry but that is what happens in a foreign country. They speak foreign languages. The accommodations have been terrible and we would have been better off in Ibis hotels.  Maybe so but I was given a budget and I lived within it and I have had to wait in line to use the washing machine which was one of the must have’s.  Ibis hotels do not have washing machines. 
The Airbnb apartment we have was cold and so I got hold of the host who promptly dropped off and electric heater.  At least one of the complaints solved. 
Sorry but I can’t do much about the busy roads and I made chooses and have tried to minimize the busy roads and yes there are some bike paths and sometimes we have to take a busy road.  I phoned the French department of highways and they just didn’t want to divert traffic for us. And yes sometimes the bike paths are confusing with this foreign language stuff again.  I just don’t get what is wrong with these foreigners.
Anyhow after a couple of hours I managed to get the tour back under control and would like to thank all of the folks for their input.  The best way to become the next tour director is to start complaining. A few vitamin I’s and my headache will be under control.
My brake pads seem to have disappeared. They were totally fine when I left Kelowna a few weeks ago.  They were brand new when I left for LEJOG and were now down to nothing. Finding a bike shop on line I got Agnes and the van to drive me over there.  New brake pads are now installed. I fear no decent now.
After a lunch of baguette, Agnes Betsy and I were off to downtown.  Betsy hit the art museum and Agnes and I choose to wander the downtown.  The old town Dijon is so pretty.  It is filled with buildings dating back to the 15th century although most of it is from the 1800’s.   Agnes and I went into several shops, and I purchased this really beautiful tapestry of Vincent Van Gogh’s Iris for Agnes.  She has been really great driving the van and helping with the tour. We wondered into the cathedral which is a total wonder.   As I was taking pictures I was thinking of my friend from the northern mining town who loves to take pictures and how much he would love to take pictures in this place. This is a really pretty city. 
Tomorrow is 112 kms into Chaumont.    
Terry hot biker