There is an old adage that anything which can go wrong will, almost with out exception, end in complete catastrophe. It is in this spirit of poignancy I write my first post from the continent - in a room above a bar in the tiny French village of Les Attaques, full of horse sausage, celebrating French Independence Day with 3 pedals between the two of us and a roaming internet charge which averages at over a penny a word.
So, I'll be brief.
We left Dover later than expected as we overshot our long-stay car park. John decided this was one of the areas he would economise on and, as you get what you pay for, we had a four-mile cycle to the ferry terminal. A little busy but a good chance to break in our new equipment; So Far, So Good. Dover was nicer than expected and had definite character and the white cliffs, though a cliché, did make me feel slightly emotional to be leaving England in the knowledge it would be weeks before I saw them again. The ferry was swamped with young teenagers on their way to a foreign exchange, who were at that conflicted age where the battle between shyness and a desire to flirt is answered with shouts and screams from everyone. Photos to come.
Calais was very quiet. Stores were closed, streets were empty and barely any cars were seen. A little eerie, but good cycling conditions. We found the canal without too much trouble and concluded the GPS was a worthy purchase, and began to follow the route which would take us to Saint Omer. Not only that, but after we left the outlying areas of Calais and entered the country the route became beautiful, bordering countryside and canal, with just the occasional cyclist or fisherman on the way.
Now for the catastrophe. I read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintainnence when I was younger and he mentions something called "gumption traps" - random occurrences of bad luck which suck your will to continue, and this situation definitely fits the phrase. John's clete pedal began to wobble, then came off entirely. Not only had it come off, but it had destroyed the thread lining meaning his replacement pedal was too slim for the groove. Hence, three pedals for two cyclists. Our options were very limited, and far from promising; we had encountered a potentially fatal dilemma just hours into our trip. We know enough French between us to graduate with a BA in ??? from the University of Nowhere, and explaining something as complicated as a pedal malfunction would have been as difficult as trying to explain the 12th dimension. What could we do? Near everywhere was closed for French Independence Day and we were at least 15miles from the nearest sizeable town.
We limped to the next village, Les Attaques, and were then extremely fortunate in finding a bar run by a kind man named Dennis, who knew enough English to understand our problem and had a room we could rent for the evening, with a beautiful bathroom. He also knew a nearby mechanic run by (as we later discovered when we met him), the regional president of the cycling society for the last 26years, who was very excited by the news of our trip. We intend to see him tomorrow morning for repairs. Later his friends arrived who surprisingly lived in Kent but had grown up locally, so were fluent in English and French, which meant we could actually have a conversation. We drank lots, ate lots of horse sausage (beautiful by the way), and John smoked lots, and have done little exercise to make up for it, though not for want of trying.
Oh yea, and our internet was never configured for use abroad, despite making it clear to the salesperson that was all we intended to use it for, so now we have to pay roaming internet charges at extortionate fees.
As we can't predict how long repairs will take tomorrow it is difficult for us to gauge where we will end up. We will at least make Saint Omer, but how much further remains to be seen.
Happy French Independence Day , I'm going to sleep now to the sound of the fireworks in Calais.