Don't want to tempt fate, but this might be the end of the crap weather for a while. France Meteo, who I now have to trust are forecasting light rain in the morning, brightening up later. So rather than head straight for Les Sables D'Olonne, I thought I would not push my luck and go for a nearer destination, Ile Noirmoutier. We didn't stop here when we sailed the boat down as it's a drying harbour, so another reason to take a look for the first time. Google predicts 50km, so doable in the afternoon if the morning is damp. As it happened, overcast, but dry first thing, so set off.
I haven't mentioned my back for a bit. This might suggest the body is in good shape, but as one thing gets better, another potential disaster rears its head, or rather a different bit of anatomy. Saddle Sore! I've never suffered from this during thousands of miles cycling in Dorset, so I didn't imagine it was going to be a problem. But as soon as I arrived yesterday and had a shower, all was not well. Spent the entire night struggling to sleep as I tried to find a position to encourage some ventilation to those parts to encourage healing. I haven't brought any ointment, so realise I'm in trouble, tomorrow is Sunday. Only thing I have is some oil for lubricating the bike chain - I'm wondering if that's better than nothing. Otherwise I could nick some butter from breakfast?
I set off trying to find the most comfortable position on the saddle. If it really gets bad, I have got a knife with me, so last resort could be amputation. Sunday morning, back of beyond, what are the chances, but I ride through a small village and there's an open all hours small Carrefour Express, got to be worth a look. I first look for babies nappies, as I imagine there might be something suitable next to them. I find something that refers to sensitive skin - which is an understatement, but reading on it appears to be targeted at removing poo. Not my issue, at least at the moment. So not looking good. I then look elsewhere and find plasters - ah, more promising, and bingo! What do you think is the French word for Vaseline? Yes, Vaseline!! Can't believe my luck. With the biggest proud grin you can imagine I join the queue at the till. I'm in full cycling gear, hi viz, still got my helmet on, waving a tube of Vaseline. Behind the till is a young guy. We make eye contact. He spots the Vaseline. He nods. He gets it. I briefly wonder about showing him the sore body part, but decide a naked scrotum on display might be a bit over friendly for a first encounter. It feels like the best 4 euros I might ever spend. I then think about applying some in the shop, but decide could get me into trouble.
Can't believe it. 9.30am in the middle of nowhere, foreign country and I've sorted Vaseline. Since I've retired I often think you feel a bit useless, you're past your best and then something like this happens that shows when the chips are down, it's not all over, you've still got what it takes.
As I head south I pass from the Loire region into the Vendee. For those who haven't seen it, I imagine the Vendee is like the Netherlands. Totally flat, I think quite a lot of it is under sea level, so there are ditches and waterways everywhere. You'd think flat means great cycling country, but no, there's a sting in the tail. Bloody wind! There's no cover. No hedgerows, no trees, absolutely no protection. It's blowing a gale and I'm trying to cycle into it. Dave had previously given me a tip. If your legs are hurting switch to a lower gear. If your lungs are hurting, switch to a higher gear. I will now add, gale in the face, go for green power. I pass lots of young guys cycling on race bikes - they are all going in the opposite direction at a serious speed. Only one cyclist was going my way all day. He passed me at twice my speed. He had a big heavy e-bike and was clearly in red hyperspace mode. Within seconds he was out of sight. I've come to realise there's no substitute for battery capacity on a tour, and I haven't got enough of it.
When I was planning the route to Ile Noirmoutier, Google showed two options, one, much shorter and direct, so that was what I was following. I arrive at a point where the road runs out and there's just sea. A big sign announces the road is only passable at low tide.
It's 1130, LW is at 1630. Can you believe it, I've arrived at HW! It's a serious detour and at least 25km further to take the other route which involves a massive bridge. It looks like the scale of the thing connecting Denmark to Sweden and it goes up miles into the atmosphere directly into a gale. I realise I'll need all my available battery power to get up it, assuming bikes are allowed to use it. I've already booked and paid for the night's hotel accommodation on the island so I'm in big trouble if I can't get there.
It's bloody depressing going back in the wrong direction after fighting against the wind. Especially when google keeps telling you to turn around, you're going the wrong way. If google was really intelligent it would understand tide tables, so just proves all this artificial intelligence is complete b****cks. On that subject mine are not enjoying the struggle of the headwind.
I arrive at the bridge after what has been a massive detour. There's a sign announcing due to maintenance work access for bicycles to the bridge is closed. I employ the Anglais card. I'm now a car, engine hyperdrive and get over the bridge before some gendarme comes after me.
Another hour later and I've arrived at the top of the island. It's a really pretty harbour that's become a resort. I celebrate with a drink in a cafe. I fall in love with the young lady in the hotel reception. Use all my French until I run out of vocab and just keep repeating myself, so its time to have a shower and apply the Vaseline - heaven!!
I've forgotten how far I went today, but it was a long way in the end.
Sending this email and off for dinner.