“Independence” day

(Pete today)  Today’s ride was to Calais, a simple 50 miles jaunt to the North. When you are skilled at navigating as I am you don’t need a GPS, so today we decided to declare our Independence from the oppressive GPS directions lady. Using my carefully honed scouting skills, I identified a way to get around the only significant obstacle we faced today: a half-mile climb maxing out around at around a 14% grade.

It was beautiful riding out of Berck this morning. If you want to spend time at a less crowded beach in France, Berck may be your ticket. Granted, we were there mid-week. We meandered along the coast until the trail ended.

Early in our ride nature made her morning call, so we went through the normal gas station rejection ritual. Natalie made the comment “we need a McDonald’s” and within minutes we saw one. There are very few over here, so it was kind of weird. McDonald’s didn’t disappoint and earned our purchase of a small order of fries for breakfast.

The next few hours went about the same, with several visits to beach towns, although none as charming as Berck. 

Natalie adding: towns such as Boulogne-sur-mer and Wimereux. Today we were also able to see England on the distant horizon across the channel, from near a little town called Wissant. That was neat!

The final segment of our trip provided me with my chance to shine. Shifting our route to the east to avoid the big climb brought us into beautiful farmland with distant views of the sea. This little detour added about 5 miles to a trip that had already grown by 20%. Unfortunately this route had a couple nasty climbs of its own, each similar to the one we were avoiding. Climbing these on a big, heavy, tandem bike hurts. There is no better description. Lots of lactic acid! As we rode to the end of my bypass route we were greeted by the start of another climb – the one that we were trying to avoid. It must have moved. We had no choice but to ride it. So my routing basically tripled our pain. 

Natalie again: it was ridiculous and yes painful and now in hindsight rather funny. But we did it! We did them all. Never got off once to push. Also, another thing Pete forgot to add was that part of our change of route was due to a very kind, well-meaning man who pulled off the road in his car to point out a route with much less traffic. He was also a biker and knew the area and trails very well, so it seemed reasonable to take his advice.

I don’t think I was getting the silent treatment after the third climb – I just think Natalie was too tired to talk. (Natalie: yes!) The marriage is still strong and tomorrow I’m going to make amends with GPS navigation lady.

Natalie’s ending: Tonight we are in Calais, the port city, also where the “Chunnel” connects from the U.K., although not near it. We are in the beach residential area before Calais, however, so it is not too busy. We are at a traditional B&B, not an Airbnb. Very nice couple running it, nice old home, comfortable and clean. We strolled on the boardwalk and pier in the late evening. It was amazing to see the giant ships and ferries coming in to port. We will sleep well tonight! Tomorrow we head to Bruges, in western Belgium.

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