The mortification of our bodies continued on 80 km of canal paths. My mortification was intensified by having to wear ‘not quite dry’ clothes in the chilly early morning. I had made a misguided attempt at spiritual purification by ablution and the evening washing of lycra. I wondered if gel saddles and foam gussets nullified the indulgences achieved by sitting on a moving pole for hour after hour. Then I passed over some asphalt upheavals by tree roots at 22 km/h and was brutally reminded that asceticism is overrated.
Bar such roots and the chill of damp lycra, today was quite easy for cyclgrims. Two double espressos with a great breakfast, our hotel also had an excellent bakery which provisioned us very well. Second breakfast in Châlons-en-champagne was accompanied by another double espresso. Lunch in the square in Vitry-le-François was chilly and that final coffee of the day was much needed.
A wonderful coincidence was that my alarm sounded 10 seconds before Walkmeter announced we’d been pedalling for 28 hours and had covered 500 km. Yes, technology is helping us. We set the phone alarm for each hour so we can pace ourselves. Komoot guides us. Google maps is the backup but is not so accurate for bicycles. And I’ve been using Walkmeter to track my outdoor activities since 2010 because it does exactly what I want on foot or wheels. Battery life is managed by sharing navigation duties between cyclgrims’ phones on the longer days.
The Canal de la Marne à la Saône has been renamed Canal entre Champagne et Bourgogne but I’m told it’s known locally as the canal d’Heuilley. Whatever it’s called, large sections of it are being drained for some unclear maintenance purpose. I wondered how the herons, kingfishers and marsh tits we saw were coping.
We reached Saint-Dizier with time to wash clothes that just might be dry tomorrow. Not everyone learns from their mistakes.
So ends week one of four: 552 km after 31 hours sitting a moving pole. There are some hills ahead which will slow us down. Fortunately, the Italian side of the Alps is generally the steeper.