I'm not a morning person. I never have been. I'm just not the sort of person who wakes, or is woken, and automatically dives headlong into a new day, full of bounce and vitality, like a character in a breakfast cereal advert. At the other end of the day, I can keep plugging away into the night, but don't call me in the morning.
Alastair Humphreys wrote "Mornings come peacefully on the road". Now that I am settled back into being 'on the road', even a broken spoke isn't disturbing that peace.
In a complete reversal of the normal order, I woke first this morning, at dawn. Instead of fighting the daylight, or being aware of other people having beaten me to it, I heard the sweet silence of the morning, punctuated only by birdsong, the occasional call from Morgane and Marin's rooster, and the tolling of a distant church bell, quite unlike those we hear at home. All the moment wanted for was some Grieg playing in the background.
Tempting as it might have been on another day to vegetate and luxuriate in the calm, and despite the mileage we've done, which at the moment amounts to more strenuous exercise than I am ever used to at home, I got up, got dressed, and, taking the camera, slipped out into the crisp morning air. With the lifting of the burden of a day already being accounted for before it even begins, and with the children still asleep, I was wound back a decade or more, to the days when I would have gone out to take photographs, just for the pleasure of it, and because I could. Nothing earth shattering, but a wholesale and liberating paradigm shift all the same. Shades of the first scene after the intermission, in 'Oliver'; "Who will buy this wonderful morning...".
I can only attribute to the invigorating power of the road, the slowly settling change in me.
That's not to say we didn't have things to do today, because that spoke wasn't going to fix itself, and our bikes were literally caked in sand and grit after many miles on the voies vertes. The resulting mess was like having oiled your bike with cutting compound.
I returned to the house, where everyone else was starting their day. We breakfasted with our hosts, the girls taking the opportunity to show their new friend Brewen 'In the Night Garden' on the iPad, in between playing with his toys. Oh, add rhubarb jam to the menu when we get back home!
Morgane, Marin and Brewen were off to a baptism, so we let them get on their way and got ourselves ready for a trip into St Méen le Grande, the nearest town, to try and get my spoke fixed, and source some kit to clean the bikes with. Riding the bikes unladen was something of a novelty!
|A beautiful new mural adorns the water tower as you enter Saint Méen Le Grand.|
Saint Méen Le Grand is a cycling town, justifiably proud of her most famous son, three-time Tour de France winner Louison Bobet. We have seen, again, levels of civic pride we just don't recognise from home, heightened of course because of the passage of a stage of the Tour this year. Every shop in town has a picture of their 'local boy done good' in the window. To think all we managed for our Olympians was a thin coat of gold paint on a post box.
In the midst of this cycling fervour, rolling into town we were stopped by a Police roadblock - for a bunch of roadies! We never quite got to the bottom of what the event was, but there were loads of them knocking about town. The first guys we stopped to talk to told us the bike shop wasn't open all day, so we got on with that bit of the job first.
In a town like this, we were unsurprised to find a nicely-appointed bike shop, with something of a racing bent; lots of lovely rims hanging up, but nothing of the kind that might have tempted me to buy a replacement wheel. The mechanic took the view that rebuilding the whole wheel would be uneconomic, so we had him crack on and change the broken spoke, whilst we had a whizz round the shop buying cleaning materials and a couple of new chains. I'd had some slipping a couple of times yesterday, and having previously broken one (embarrassingly, in the middle of a road-rage incident, whilst on a roundabout, towing the trailer) in Exeter last year after our trip to Scotland, I figured that whilst they've not done massive miles, at almost a year old, and now covered in rubbish, they could go.
I also managed to source a cycling-themed souvenir from our trip, which will appear in due course...
It was back into town for lunch next, via a cracking patisserie, with their obligatory picture of Bobet in the window. We're learning not to miss lunchtime now!
We struggled to find somewhere to park the trailer, and our bikes, in the blistering midday heat. In the end, the bikes were locked up at one end of the town square and the trailer came with us to the other. We got some funny looks for parking Ruth and Rhoda a few metres from our table outside the restaurant, but the shade was critical, not only for the comfort of the sleeping girls (and 'Froomey') but for the cakes nestled in the back!
Unsurprisingly, it was galettes for lunch, with some new fillings. Smoked salmon and crème fraîche couldn't be passed by, but when we translated 'Noix de St Jacques', I had to order one of them as well...
Thomas Ivor put away another plateful of steak haché without blinking. It makes such a change for him to just demolish meals without fuss - the lad's clearly been working hard.
Lunch concluded (crêpes all round!), we went back out down 'Rue Louison Bobet' (that man again!) to the industrial estate, to visit the supermarket for some provisions, and for a naughty trip to the jet wash. A bottle of degreasant later, we had the worst of the muck rinsed off the bikes, ready to ride back to base to change the chains and give the drivetrains a thorough clean. This went well enough except for the heart-stopping moment when Thomas Ivor, who was supposed to be keeping an eye on Rhoda as I linked up my new chain, took my filthy old one and made for the house and our hosts' living room. Mercifully, we got to her just in time!
We've had a lovely day in Saint Méen Le Grand, although we must move on once more tomorrow. Another time perhaps we will be able to make time to visit the Bobet museum. We have dropped the shortest day of our schedule to stay here, so we do have mileage to make up tomorrow once more, but we and the bikes are refreshed, the distance won't break any records, the weather is nice, and perhaps I can even look forward to another relaxing early start in the morning.