Day 6 Reims to Brienne le Chateau 80m (127km)
Gentleman of the road. I was battling my way in through the nasty industrial suburbs of Reims yesterday, trying to get to the Office de T. and Cathedral before they closed. Another local cyclist, Christophe (yet another Chris!), on his bike next to me at some traffic lights, offered to guide me all the way. Being an experienced urban cyclist, he knew the streets well, we jostled with the traffic and he delivered me to my destination. Yet another gentleman of the road!
Internet access is very sporadic. I am using the local library’s service in Brienne, but it won’t allow me to download photos. When I can’t get to a computer, I text a short message to Jenny and she uploads for me. There’s always a solution.
Youth Hostel in Reims. I had a couple of very pleasant N Africans as room-mates, until it came to turning out the lights. Because it is Ramadan, they insisted on going through their prayer routines in the room, then afterwards they watched movies on a laptop. When I eventually got to sleep, I was rudely awoken by security who were checking for gatecrashers, and I realised there was another person in the room who hadn’t checked in as usual. When security had left, the extra person slipped out of the room……. But before I could resume some kind of sleep, the two remaining lads rose at 4.30 to have breakfast before sunrise. As I crept out of the room at 7.30, they were well into the land of nod, and probably didn’t rise till much later. I night never to be forgotten!
Tonight I have been offered free accommodation at a small pilgrim bunkhouse in Brienne, but I have yet to work out how the lights work……….
Today’s route can be described in two parts: the morning forced me onto a very nasty Route Nationale to Chalons en Champagne. I kept jumping off at the slightest chance, but all roads kept returning me to it. However, the visit to Chalons was well rewarded. It’s streets and buildings ring of former days of great wealth, and the stain glass windows in the Cathedral are worth the journey in themselves. Put it on your list when you are next this way.
This afternoon was a sheer delight. 50 miles following deserted country roads, through villages with their “Village Fleurie” ratings and prettily situated churches. The roads stretched out ahead for miles across the tremendous prairie landscape of the southern Champagne region, but not a vineyard in sight. They are more over to the west, towards Epernay. The crops that entertained me were maize and the hanging heads of sunflowers awaiting their destiny. I associate proudly standing sunflowers with the Tour de France in the month of July.
My thoughts today were dominated by the psychology of the long-distance traveller and the coping mechanisms. Marathon runners know all about the “zone”: that mental state, when coupled with the ideal pace and cadence, puts them into a kind of comfort zone (even though it is not that comfortable really). The very same happens in cycling, and when you find your “zone” you find yourself carried along a bit, and the miles slip by.
Also, what works for me, is not to think of the whole day’s distance ahead (whether it’s 60 or 100 miles) but to break it down into chunks of 25-30 miles and reward myself with a break and refreshments. Completing each chunk then becomes a victory in itself, and your total for the day is the number of chunks you achieve. The old cliche is true “How do you eat an elephant?” (one bite at a time of course). Now that got me wondering just how many elephants (ie the equivalent of) have I eaten in my lifetime? I would be shocked to see before me the mountain of food I have ingested over my lifetime.
The things we cyclists think about as the pedals are turning :0)
“May life’s winds be ever at your backs!”