Yesterday was really hard. It rained and rained but I also felt rubbish, tired and was all aches. I was nervous about today, it was a long day according to the ASO road book, with nearly 90 miles ahead. After a good night’s sleep (the eternal panacea) and lots of food, I felt vaguely ok. The emerging sunshine was the definitive factor though. That’s all you need, anything that isn’t a block headwind (preferably a block tailwind) and copious amounts of sun. Everything is better.
Poitiers is nice. I wasn’t sad to leave, but like everywhere I’ve visited, my time has been brief and my experience of the city or town a superficial scratch at best, a photo taken of something old, a trip to Mie En Caline and a desperate search for acceptable food. It’s luck rather than judgement when I stumble across something unusual. At the same time, I’m immersed in the entirety of France (well, a 2 metre wide strip running across it like a surgical incision) feeling the cultural, demographic and topographic change around me as I move through in a liminal way. Like I said, living the dream.
Pre-loading maps as a breadcrumb trail has been useful, but it’s also not always necessary. You don’t do anything different with or without a Garmin. I’ve frequently opted for place to place navigation, working out where I need to go and the towns en route then going there. It’s worked out more reliable in terms of keeping me on a metalled road, rather than a French track with a hooning great dog and old Leatherface and his Stihl. There are still dogs everywhere.
I went for the main road out of Poitiers. It was the straightest road I’ve ever been on. It was straight as an arrow pointing toward to horizon like a very precise and photorealist version of a child’s first perspective drawing in CDT. After yesterday’s tribulations it was perfect, it meant steady progress, tap tap tap. It was what I needed. I made a brief pause at Leudon for coffee then headed straight for the Loire at Saumur. There was a minor detour.
I had a brief pause for lunch. It was inventive. An Emmental and chips baguette by the sunny, tapering banks of the McDonald’s car park.
The Loire is way bigger than any of our rivers. Well, the ones I’ve seen, and I mean inland, away from the sea. It’s a huge swirling brown mass with islands in the middle. I found it hard to work out where the water comes from. I mean, I know the answer, but it still seemed like a ridiculous volume. I rode along the levée from Saumur to Angers, some 32 miles. There was an alleged cycle path but it was a mess of gravel and dog shit so I left the loose gravel and the decomposing dog shit to their strange relationship and went back to the road.
Exciting animal spot of the day… I saw what looked like a slimy brown bag in a field. I assumed it was dead sanglier, until it moved and unfurled a cricket bat tail. It was a beaver. It slipped into the murky pond and disappeared. I saw another one a while back, this time he hurtled into his beaver house. My mum said they might be Coypu. She always has to piss on the strawberries. It’s because she once saw a coypu somewhere in France. Anyway, I soon put her right, “No mum, it was 100% beaver. It was massive, glistening and wet.” There was an awkward silence. I wished her a happy birthday. Her present is some free advice on cleat position.
By the time I got to Angers I was all but 90 miles up and ready for a rest. Two shorter days to go and the weather looks ok. On y va!