No, not my age, my waist in inches or the number of beers we drank in the hotel in Blois. This was the temperature today as recorded in green numbers beside the flashing green cross of a Pharmacy.
We thought that the day was going to be warm as we sat outside enjoying breakfast. At 0830 the air was already very ‘comfortable’, even in the shade. A fly walked across the breakfast table fanning itself and a pigeon could not be bothered to ‘coo’. Instead, it sat on branch sighing to itself. I overheard a few swallows discussing whether to migrate further north.
There is a fantastic bike shop right opposite the hotel. Sean could do with a new chain and I could have my rear brakes checked. It looks quite a big place and advertises several types of bike, including Bianchi. They also do repairs. Except that it is closed on Mondays. Today is of course Monday. I don’t like Mondays. Neither do French bike shop owners, they prefer to be at home or to shoot the whole day down.
So we set off for Blois, as it turns out is 73 miles away. We have minor issues with brakes on my bike resulting in a ride that feels like wading through treacle. The French have a saying, ‘au buerre’, or ‘in butter’. Butter in these temperatures would be as runny as water and as likely to stick to a tyre as grease in a codpiece. Add in a head wind, which was with us for all of those miles, and bike felt like it was made of lead. We had stopped at a garage and borrowed some tools, but later we had to stop at a “bricolage’ ( B and Q) for tools of our own. Only after 10 minutes fiddling with the bike outside the B and Q, were we informed of a bike shop just around the corner. Of course we arrived as it closed for lunch. A vey nice lady told us that all small bike shops would be closed “lundi”. I really don’t like Mondays. Undaunted we affect a running repair to the brakes and then off at a rate of knots across very very flat country. For all you Strava freaks the stats are: 73 miles and 2500 feet of ‘climbing’.
The route south of Orleans takes us alongside the Loire all the way to Blois, much of it on a cycle path. Generally the drivers, as noted, are great. Two days ago, I did have one chap open his car door and stepped out in front of me so closely I could see his dandruff, smell his diffidence while nearly having a ‘touch the cloth’ moment. Today a white van man clearly did not see us, first I knew was the sound of a horn and the van cutting me up at speed. Sean says the wing mirror and my head were close to touching. We also had fun with gravel and a dirt track as the usually tarmacced bike path gave way in places. We both hit one patch at over 12 miles an hour only to experience front wheel tucking and severe bike wobble. I might have said a naughty word out loud, and clearly the oncoming cyclist heard something judging by the huge grin on his face. ‘Fuck’ is universally understood if not universally practiced.
The heat was relentless and learning from my Provençal experience, we drank litres. I’m not sure it was enough, but we got through the day. The water tasted like warm gnats piss tea, but without the tea or the gnat. So, really it tasted of warm piss. With only a mile to go we both nearly ‘bonked’, i.e. ran completely out of energy. In the UK, this route would be easy. but with panniers and over 40 degrees of heat, and a constant head wind, it had the makings of an ‘epic’. We have similar to do tomorrow as we again follow the Loire to Saumer, another 70 miles away.
Tonights dinner was a fantastic Italian, accompanied by a pichet of the local sauvignon blanc. Sean’s french pronunciation is ‘improving”. As much as double incontinence is an improvement on piles.