Jour Vingt et Huit: A Tale Of Two Wheels - France on a roll -- depending on charm - CycleBlaze

July 9, 2011

Jour Vingt et Huit: A Tale Of Two Wheels

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it was the age of rain, it was the age of surprises...

I woke up to a driving rain, which isn't so bad when you're in your tent because my REI quarter dome was nice and dry. The problem comes in the getting OUT of the tent, which you have to do when nature calls. THEN there's the problem of packing up your soaking wet tent, which is not soaking wet on the inside, but eventually the inside becomes soaking wet when your roll the whole kit and caboodle up and stuff it in a sack, which starts out dry but then gets wet. Still, I'm pretty good at keeping everything else dry, including my bedding which includes a down bag which HAS to stay dry.

After my soggy start I rode to town for a café cream, which, unlike the Loire, comes as a cup of coffee with a big mug of warm cream on the side. MMMMM! Then I headed to the tourist office to find out the start of the bike route north. There I got in a conversation with the tourist office woman, who spent a number of years in Connecticut and spoke very good English. Well, we hit it off and one thing led to another and I had a change of plans, which I'm REALLY excited about!

On Monday night I have reservations at Mont-Saint-Michel! And I don't mean NEAR Mont-Saint-Michel, I mean on the rock, baby! WOOO-HOOOO! I have read that the place is a mob scene during the day but at night it clears out because there are few hotel rooms there. I had thought about this idea since I got here but did not have the nerve to call hotels because I don't speak French. Of course not having a working phone also complicates matters. But the woman at tourist office called for me, which was really nice because Mont-Saint-Michel is out of her jurisdiction, technically.

It's a little spendy, at 95 Euros for a 2-star hotel, but it's doable. Besides, this is my reward for all that money saved on camping.

Of course that meant I had to get north a little quicker than planned, so with a little help from my friend, the French train system, I went to Rennes, and then rode north-east from there. I got on the canal route for bikes and rode up the pretty canal system, dropping into towns here and there as the spirit moved me.

Around 5:30 I started looking for a place to stay. Earlier I had dried my tent out, more or less, but still I would have preferred a hotel. Unfortunately the towns were really small and there weren't any hotels around. It was about that time the heavens opened and it RAINED! I thought it would be a short spurt of rain and, remembering a little lock-house shelter, turned the Girl Friday around and headed back about a half a kilometer. As fate would have it the lock-keeper was in there and she and I started chatting.

"There is a nice campground in town," she said.
"It would be nice to get out of the rain," I said, and she agreed.

I had read that down the trail about 10 km's was a Gite (pronounced GEET, like "sheet" but with a soft G). But she explained I can't just drop in, someone has to let me in.

"I can't call, I don't speak French," I said. So she volunteered to call the French only speaking owner.
"It's 6 locks down from this one," she said after she made the arrangements for me. Of course I thanked her profusely, gave her a flag lapel pin and set off. About 3 locks down a woman was waiting for me.
"Something, something, velo, something, American, something, something, Gite?" she asked in French.
"Oui" I said.
"It's 3 more locks down," she communicated, between her bad English and my bad French. The other first lock keeper called ahead for her to look out for me! How cool is THAT!?

Finally I arrived at the Gite. To make a long story short, I shared the house, which was a lockhouse on the canal, with two 'educators' (her word) who were on a week long field trip with 5 little kids who were in an, I guess you would say, orphanage. The woman didn't speak a whole lot of English but I got the gist of it.

At first I was a little intimidated. But out came the charm ;-), and the lapel pins and American coins for the kids and the ice was broken. Later that night they even invited me to play a game with them, which was played on a board that sits on a table that has the same rules as pool but you play it with little disks and flick the "queue-disk" with your finger. My favorite kid was Alexi. My, he took his "disk pool" serious in the cutest kind of way!

Oh, and did I mention I had a nice clean room, with a bathroom, and the kitchen to cook in, for 15 Euros! That, and the fact that it rained all night made it perfect. This morning they all said goodbye and loaded me down with some of their extra food.

But here's the thing... If it had not started raining I would not have gone back to the lock to take shelter, and would not have met the lock-keeper, which means I would not have had a really nice night at the Gite, and would have likely woke up soggy 2 mornings in a row.

So you see, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times, if that makes sense, and I know it does not.

Finally, I would like to note that the night before there was a school group at the campground. Kids here are still in school and get out in, I think, a week. I wonder how many more days a year they go to school than kids in America?

I also noticed how the kids are encouraged to sing. Maybe it was just a coincidence but the teachers had the kids singing up a storm in the tents. It was really cute to listen to. Mostly they were singing popular music, including songs in English. Still, at 10:00pm the music went off and you didn't hear a peep out of them. Last night the kids were singing to their MP3 player.

Any-who, that was my day. And again, I'm really excited about Mont-Saint-Michel. It will really be my last big thing to do in France and a great way to end the trip.

Oh, one more thing. Tonight's campground has a restaurant. I had the "Nordic" crepe which had a filling of smoked salmon with cream. MMMM! And for dessert I had the "caramel cream" crepe. I thought I would look like a stupid American if I licked the plate, though I was tempted to look like an idiot anyway.

See you tomorrow! Even though I won't really 'see' you, it is more a reading kind of thing more than a 'seeing' kind of thing.

Canal picture
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Funny, look at the little dog in the boat
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The canal path again
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I saw these a few times along the way, they are for kayak racing
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This was a cool little, OLD, mill along the canal
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...about the mill
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Whoa, tight squeeze!
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The little shelter I ducked under to get out of the rain
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Route markers. We need these in the states!
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Every now and again I totally forget I'm in France and just riding in the U.S. and this was one of those times. Look, a baseball field!
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Today's ride: 56 km (35 miles)
Total: 1,539 km (956 miles)

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