It’s raining….no….it’s hailing!

Four days we have predominantly followed the Canal entre Champagne et Bourgogne from Vitry Le Francios to this bleeding hill, the ramparts of Langres.
The beauty of canals….i figure its training…prep…for what is to come, for an insane bicycle ride on bikes built by ourselves in bamboo….that may or may not be sturdy….
It’s been a relatively easy few days as canals mean… flat….no hills.
There have been wee hills….bumps over the occasional roads that disturb our moderate isolation for 150km. There is an occasional dog walker or fisherman but we are otherwise alone choosing to deviate from course only for provisions, water, bubbles in form of Demi sec, bread, cheese, sausage, chocolate.
Day 1 was hilarious, speedy even for me, my luggage and my bulky beast. Warm enough that I was definitely not experiencing the euphoria of hyperthermia….though I giggled, laughed out loud banking each hill….yeah….bump…..but my legs were strong and happy and craving more. This day was pretty and fast and nothing could stop me, and Li and I pedalled side by side. We stopped at 71km, for beer and after several an hotel after too little beer ruled out the mayors very appealing but cold gardens.
Day 2 we lost our pace by about 3km/per hour. Each day we wake between 6.30 and 7.30am, planning to hit our path shortly afterwards. Coffee, 2 or 3, photographs, more complex breakfast than we need, Li performing functions of the GPS, we are finally in saddle an hour or so later than would be ideal, usually 10 or 11am. . We complete 81 km on day 15 with little to note other than tuning into our bodies and more unusual when we had prepared ourselves to uneventful passing of the day….Joinville. A wee town we turned into to find water early evening we thought we had ride into a festival, music blared from somewhere we could not pin point and as we went deeper into the heart of the village the music continued. Only a sole shop and the empty church were open, and the music played. Music speakers were mounted to every building within this tiny rambling, atmospheric town, and it played on to closed shutters and the vacant streets, and to us, welcoming our arrival. Hat off, a quick hello to Saint Joan in the church for our friend Kevin, re stocked and we were away bewildered and amused.
Early on Day 3 we discovered a public but private bath house, roofed and just for ourselves. Too cold for our still soft bodies, but the plaque stated the upper basin for laundry…..does that include camp cooking dishes? We cycled until 8.40pm forced to find a slightly less appealing camp site to secret ourselves from the passing cars that chose to use the canal path as an easier route than the road between villages. Nestled between river and canal in woodland amidst the rotting leaves and other debris that was preferable to the other boggy areas we vaguely considered in haste to pitch camp in fading light.
The 3rd day on the canal it rained and we discovered we prefer cycle touring in the snow. This was wet and warm for us at 5 degrees reaching 13 during the day. We cycled 76km and just over 700 in total.
Day 16, our forth following canal out of champagne region we came to a deviation, this hill only 20 plus kilometres after emerging from our muddy home. Stuck with leaves and goodness knows what else smelling slightly of the back of a poorly ventilated wardrobe we had been washed by numerous downpours with no improving results. There was warmth and promise of food…..up that damn hill. We cycled past the first signage to the town, cycled further around the hill reassuring ourselves the other side would be slightly less aggressive to our senses. Ok….how much do we really need….anything….this walled city is apparently worth a visit…ok, let’s do it it is beer O’clock.
We rode, we , pushed, we stopped, we pushed, stopped, pushed, sun, wind, rain, push, sun, wind, push…..there was a river running down my back, not rain, hat off for first time outdoors in 17 days, tshirt, push, stop……would turn back but muscles would no longer control bike on such a descent. At some point I’m pushing on gravel like thousands of marbles and braking the bike is moving backwards propelled anywhere but up and I dig in my feet, my whole weight my mind, push and….stuck, push….we are up. 27km, the sky changes, it growls, it hails, we are even more wet, it hails again but by now we have taken refuge and are going nowhere. We deserved this, this hill is ours for now and 27km is ok.

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