May 1st, 2011 Saint Joire - Villey le Sec, 79 km, 5h38, 13.6kph
Excellent weather all day.
Via Demange aux Eaux, Baudignécourt (because of the Mauvages Tunnel), Houdelaincourt, Delouze-Rosières, Mauvages, Sauvoy (by road), Void-Vacon, Troussey, Pagny sur Meuse (along the canal), Lay to Foug (by road), Ecrouves, Toul, Chaudeney sur Moselle, Pierre la Treiche and finally, the camp ground in Villey le Sec.
Early start from Saint Joire. Me late as usual, Daniel champing at the bit on the towpath... Still need to make improvements !!
Super night: no birds near the soccer field but lots of dew. Tent soaked !
The first minutes along the canal were magic: mist hovering slowly between the banks, contre-jours, reflections..
Got help from a fish warden in finding the best/shortest way to avoid the Mauvages tunnel (the canal disappears for several km under a hill: no tow paths available).
Only option was through Baudignécourt and Houdelaincourt; not very busy in the early hours of May 1st.
Next village along the road was Delouze-Rosières that we finally reached after two endless hills.
Mauvages was quite a surprise, especially the very kitch neo-Egyptian fountain in the middle of 'main street'. From then on, we chose to cycle along the D10 road all the way to Void-Vacon due to the non-existence or very poor condition of the towpaths.
The town was closed to traffic. It was the annual flea-market day: all the local associations had a stand, selling all types of junk, second hand clothes, home-made cakes and coffee, jams and honey etc...
However, the main attraction was a live , working replica of the 'Fardier de Cugnot'.
The inventor of the World's first steam-powered vehicle, built in the 1700s, was a native of Void-Vacon. A local association had reproduced the Fardier and was about to power it. The monster consisted in a sturdy wood frame mounted on three wheels.
A huge "pressure cooker" was installed at one end. The water inside was heated by a wood fire burning underneath. Billows of steam were coming out of various pipes and valves. The monster was hissing, whistling, panting and smoking, two bars short from blowing up, while members of the association were still stuffing the fire, pulling levers, turning wheels, shouting instructions and other warnings in the hope the beast would move !
Finally, in a deafening, clanging and blaring din, the enormous machine started reversing: pistons going back and forth, chains up and down and the huge wooden wheels slowly turning... Alleluia ! nobody had been hurt !
Beyond Void-Vacon the quality of the towpath fluctuated. We got lost in Lay saint Rémy because of another unexpected tunnel. Had to go to Foug by road. From there till Toul, back along the canal. The cathedral in Toul is quite surprising: looks like a crossbreed of a giant turtle and Saint Sophie in Istanbul. They probably ran out of money when it was time to build the spires.
Got lost once again on the way out of Toul due to the many waterways that run alongside each other in the area. The path was OK to start with but got gradually narrower and narrower, compelling us at one stage to pull the bikes up a bank and over an old railway track.
A narrow road on the other side of the track led us to Pierre la Treiche where a bunch of friendly cyclists gave us instructions to reach the camping ground in Villey le Sec.
Beautiful well-equipped camping ground ! The shower was a dream, especially after three days without !! After having completed the evening rituals, we decided on steak and fries at the camp restaurant. It was well deserved.
Lights out at 9.30PM ! Cyclists kaput.