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Published: April 7th 2017
So a nice early rise Thursday morning as the ferry was for 6:40am and I needed to fuel up before hand. Now the one draw back to my little van, (or “Bob” as my nephew has named him), is climbing hills. I can start at 60, but I’ll be lucky if I’m still doing 40 at the top and not in third gear. So I was a bit apprehensive of taking the main A20 to reach Dover, but as it was, there was virtually no traffic and a 40mph limit, which meant I actually had to slow down from time to time. Once at the port I prepared to present my passport to the relevant authorities, except they were all still asleep and not in their booths, the english nor the French. The only guy to wake up was the customs guy, who dashed out to divert me to the checking area, but the guy inside was far from interested in seeing me so he asked a few questions and sent me off. Once in my lane, I went off in search of a coffee, only to once again find everyone was still asleep there too, which meant it was all
closed up. The crossing itself was fairly smooth and before I knew it I was parked up on Calais beach, making coffee and sorting out the Tom tom, something I should have done at home, as it took ages to wake up and set on a destination. Now because of Bob’s lack of climbing power and top speed, I chose to avoid motorways, which at first was lovely, but towards the end when the tiredness began to creep in, it became a slow slog with me clock watching the miles.
But avoiding the motorways did show me a few new things, for example I’ve always seen the “twinned with” on village signs around Kent while cycling, and today I found the French twin of Hamstreet completely by chance. I also saw a lot of the Canadian war memorials. There were a few diversions on route, which the Tom tom had a shit fit about each time. At around the 100km mark I found a McDonalds for a bite to eat and a quick use of the WiFi, and while parking, a guy with a beaming smile walked over and starts chatting away, of course I had no idea what
he was saying, which he picked up on half way through, but I did understand that he was very impressed with Bob and the fact he had a Solar panel stuck to the front, oh and did I have a cigarette.
As I said earlier, the closer I got to the destination the more tired I was getting, and the slower the journey seemed to be going. But then Paris Roubaix arrow signs for the racers appeared, and I found a bunch of Motorhomes parked up in what looked like a large carpark in the centre of town, which I assumed must be the place. But as I’m setting up a cup of tea, everyone starts to pack up and drive off! At first I thought it was something I said, but it turns out this place was just a waiting area till the actual campsite opens up. Well I say campsite, the pics on the forum showed a field, but it is now a hard standing carpark, minus the tarmac.
At the pre-parking place, I was the only brit, and now I’m at the actual site and there are many more motorhomes, I’m still the only brit,
who has a severe lack of French speaking ability, making it a little weird, as I feel like I’ve parked up in a french-Belgian party that the UK wasn’t invited too. When I read up about this place, it did say zero facilities, and they were right, which means I am hesitating what to do with my washing up water, as unlike the bigger vans around me I don’t have a waste water tank, just a bucket that sits under the van, which I now don’t know where to empty. Luckily the French don’t seem to do early mornings, so I might just stealth it across the road and ditch it down the drain.
Last nights dinner was a huge plate of spaggetti and red pesto, which i think could have fed a family, so i decided to go and cycle the cobble section now rather than wait till morning. First impression, I should have packed the full suspension bike, as even with very low pressures in the tyres of the tourer, I was still being jared to pieces, along with the bike. How these guys do it on road bikes, over and over, across the huge distance they
cycle amazes me. At the end of the cobbled section I put the air back in the tyres, and continued to follow the race direction arrows, which brought me to the next section of cobbles. This one was a bit more sedate, but you still had to choose your line carefully. By now I realised my Garmin didn’t have the maps for this area of France, so I guessed a way back using the gps track it did show, which worked out great, and brought me back to half way down the first cobble section. When back at the site, I nearly couldn’t find Bob, as he is so dwarfed by the vans around him with all their huge sat dishes up.
The nights sleep was good, as I think I was too tired from the drive to hear the odd car drive past or the trains going by, but I keep forgetting it’s only April, so the temperature when I got up was bastard cold. After breakfast I set off in search of Supermarkets and a general scout of the place. Again without maps on the Garmin I was riding a bit blind, so at a roundabout I
turned right when Aldi’s was 100 yards down the left turn. Then even when I realised my mistake and found the shop, it was closed. I got back to the site around half 9, which it appears is when all the others wake up and unpack their bikes, and pedal off in their groups. So now I have time to write this till Aldi opens and I can buy a lot of water, and probably a ton of pain au chocolate. Its also interesting to see some of the teams ride past on practice rides alongside the guys just out for a ride.
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