Days 25 & 26 – (September 15th & 16th)
I woke up still on a high from the beautiful ride from the previous day and the Chargers victory over the Super Bowl Champs! I watched as many highlights as possible as I sucked down close to 2,000 calories over breakfast.
With 75 miles in front of me to Romeries, I knew food might have been hard to come by along the French countryside on a Monday (last time I had to find food on a Monday in France I almost passed out, and finally did when I ate 40 chicken nuggets at the only place that was open, McDonalds).
After a wonderful breakfast and tour around of the regal city of Compiègne, I pushed off. I had selected the route the night before based on how I was feeling from the previous ride. Energized, I thought I should add to my mileage by 50% or so, and picked a city roughly 75 miles north east of Compiègne. Using the Booking.com app that had helped me find lodging everywhere in Europe, I selected a nice bed and breakfast on a farm in Romeries.
Within miles of Compiègne, the canal roads deteriorated into gouged dirty paths, reminiscent of some difficult mountain biking single-track I was used to back home. While fun on a mountain bike, these roads were hellish when on a road bike with 50+ lbs of cargo over your back wheel.
I ruptured 2 tubes within the first 10 miles. The second blowout was a bad one and caused a tear to develop in the sidewall of my rear tire. I patched the sidewall with an emergency tire boot kit and prayed it would hold. I only had one tube left in reserve and a patch kit, which I really did not want to use, as they are not as effective when your tire is under heavy weight. Therefore, I proceeded cautiously for the next 10 miles.
My eyes were peeled for anything even closely resembling a bike shop so I could replace my tire and stock up on tubes. However, since this was a Monday in rural France, everything was closed. Making matters worse, I had just run out of data on my SIM card that morning, so was unable to search for bike shops or anything for that matter until I topped up at a wireless store, all of which are closed in rural France on Mondays…
At the halfway point of the trip, I rode through a beautiful city that shares a name with one of our most notorious prisons, Saint-Quentin. Distracted by the wonderful architecture in the city center, I rupture another tube! I took great care with this repair, as it is my last tube. Nevertheless, within a quarter mile, it blew again.
Finally, I realized the sidewall was beyond repair and it would not make sense to patch the tube just for it to blow again. Dejected, with no data in a town that is all but shut down on a Monday, I started walking back to the city center hoping for a miracle.
A very kind man named Gary saw that I was in trouble and offered his help in broken English/French. He told me the only store that was open on Monday with bike equipment, was 2-3 miles down the road next to the freeway. He pointed me in the right direction and I started walking.
After close to an hour of walking I saw the business park! The sight became even sweeter as I turned the corner and saw that the Intrasport was open, and there was a McDonalds right next to it. Another 20 chicken nuggets would be my reward once I fixed my tire!
Inside, I immediately met an energetic Frenchman named Christian who was excited to help, yet spoke no English. I showed him pictures of my ride and pointed to my bike issues and he brought out all the tires they had. With no tire wide or strong enough to carry the load over the rear wheel, I decided to swap the front tire for the back, and buy a decent Continental front tire to replace my destroyed one. I also bought 4 more tubes just in case, before I rewarded myself with a feast of nuggets.
With a full belly and working bike, I flew through the remaining 30+ miles to my bed and breakfast in Romeries. I made it just before the sky went pitch black and was greeted by a pack of friendly dogs and warm shower.
The next morning I arose to the sound of chickens and a ton of emails. Unfortunately I had a major project come up last minute and had to hole myself up at this B&B until it was finished.
This farmhouse was a perfect place to work and I decided to extend my stay another night so I could finish in peace. It took all day and most of the night, but with the valuation project complete, I planned my route to Brussels and passed out.