Saturday, 29 September 2012

Detour De France (Pt 4 Look Dad it's the Gherkin)

Le Dudes
This was our last day in France and the last day of the ride. And as much as I wanted to get home, part of me just wanted to keep going....well for as long as the sun shone.
The previous night had been great, but sleep had been in short supply. Still this should be our shortest day of the trip, about 100 miles on the nose, so easy no matter what.
We assembled in a patch of sun in the square in Montreuil-Sur-Mer, well I say we because Joe was having issues with eggs and was delayed whilst he wiped them off his head. Then Joe appears all bare chest and flip lops, but straight away he bursts into a torrent of swearing as eggs fall out of his jersey, all you can hear is every version of the 'F' word and the splat splat of eggs splattering all around him.
Lets go!
It's been a great trip
no hurry to leave
Iain leads us out over the customary pavé and into the countryside. At this point some want to press on and some don't want to leave. I'm of the latter and sit back with Derrie who is joining us this morning. The big bonus is that my knee is acting like it was never in trouble the day before, so I cruise along taking in the architecture and the lovely stream following the road. The others will have to stop at the Channel anyway.
We are taking in some stunning countryside today including several Passage Dangerous. This section is taking longer than expected though, so a good job we got away early. And to make matters worse as we roll into a great village with classic white dust roads Joe punctures a tub and struggles with a replacement.
We're now riding on roads familiar to me. Around Guines we meet endless groups of riders in their Sunday best. I'm loving some of the classic bikes they're on.
We hit Calais with no time to spare, except for the customary cheese and ham sandwiches we've been living on. We board the shuttle and get driven onto the train, and grab a nap.
Half an hour later we're back in Old Blighty. And it's just 70 miles left to go. Prior to getting back to Folkstone I'd been worried about facing a headwind all the way home, but my fears were unfounded the wind was going to be no trouble at all.
We saddled up and set off at a cracking pace and in good order. I was very impressed at our progress, we had so much left we had to make sure we eased off at times.
Following the A20 home isn't great, but moving like this in this weather makes a big difference. Then we hit the South Downs, our route takes us up a monster three part climb, and although it spreads us out it's only seconds that split us. Once over the downs the countryside starts to give way to towns. I think it's Maidstone? or some town begining with M, a town in bloom so the signs say that greets us next, when we hear 'hwwwwr hwrrrrrrrrrr hweeerrrrrp coming from the back of our group? Joes guts are having an argument with his mouth and shortly after taking on water barfs all over the said town in bloom whilst still riding. We drop a gear and move on.
Just after our first sighting of 'that there London Town' in the far distance we regroup with Iain, Toby and Tom and decide how best to ride the final busy leg of the A20 into London. Against Iains wishes and common sense we ride the three laned A20 in Club 10 TT mode. It was hairy as well and Iain is relieved when we all regroup safely at our turn off. At this point riders and crew part company and Jason takes over using his Garmin. We are in London now and it's busy. The bus lanes offer sanctuary and we press on. The final few miles seem to take an age, but we know that all towns really slow down progress.
riding the colours
We are getting very near now so I push Jason to the front as this was his baby, I tell Rob to get in next for all the work he has done.
Then Iains support car sweeps in like something from a Presidential convoy. The hazzards go on and Toby hangs out of the window to get the final images.
**** the traffic Iains in control and he is leading us home.
A few more corners and we're back. I get off the bike and it feels odd straight away.....what now?
I look around and see Jason in tears hugging his kids, Iain gives me a man hug  and my eyes well up, Robs keeping his glasses on and Joe seems to have dust in his eyes. It also feels odd that I probably won't see Craig or Derrie again when so much was shared on the journey.
It's getting dark now and after some welcome Stellas and a big thank you from the charity we really have to make plans to get oursleves home.
I never like leaving mates, but we have to go, but we promise to meet another day to chew the fat.
Thanks guys it was emotional.

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