April 27th 2011. Compans 99 (Paris 19eme) - La Ferté sous Jouarre, 84km, 05h44, 13.9kph
Hot and sunny. First fight against the North-Easterly wind !
Paris 19eme, Bois de Vincennes, Joinville le Pont, Nogent, la Marne, Lagny, Chessy, Chalifert, Esbly, Quincy-Voisins, Villemareuil, Signy-Signets, Jouarre. Bivvy in La Ferté sous Jouarre in a children's holiday camp.
FINALLY, THE DAY HAD COME !!!
Daniel arrived yesterday, by TER train from Brittany. We locked the bikes together in the basement of our building, after removing all the bags and taking them upstairs.
Result: 8AM this morning: we took everything down again -along with my stuff- and filled the small back yard. Got the bikes out of the basement and started the loading exercise.
Having only done this once, the day before, it took me some time to get the whole lot organized and fitted in a proper way on both ends of my aluminium mule.
Getting through the front door of the building was the first test...
We had decided that we'd make a small change to the official itinerary (which follows the Ourcq Canal for a while) and follow the Marne river instead, the surroundings being a lot more pleasant along the river.
We finally got started at 09h30 pushing the mules to the top of our very steep street: no use killing ourselves the first morning !
Nothing particular to report until midday.
"Lunch" opposite the old Menier chocolate factory in Noisiel -now the HQ of Nestlé France-. First attempt at reorganizing my bags..(it will be a gradual exercise...).
Then, off along the river, to Lagny and Chalifert.
Another bike-pushing exercise up the hill into Chessy, just opposite the "Jardin de Statues de la Dhuys", a 'garden' packed with extremely weird monumental statues carved out of huge blocks of limestone that come from an old bridge.
Hot, sticky and thirsty weather !
Got lost in Esbly; had to ask our way. The young lady jogging along the towpath had a funny look on her face when she mentioned the hill in Quincy... No wonder: it was a steep, endless straight line, that seemed to have no end to it !
Swearing all the way to the top of the hill, we had no idea of what was awaiting us just after the last houses on the way out of town.
THE WIND !! 100% from the North East... (NON STOP, all the way to Prague !...), the price to pay for the exceptional Spring weather we were enjoying !!!
In Saint Fiacre, an old couple who had just arrived home in an immaculate Citroën DS 21 kindly gave us a water refill.
(we were having a hard time getting 25km to a bottle...)
The road continued up and down, (more often up than down...), through villages and fields, all the way to Jouarre.
I was beginning to think that I was totally stupid ! Why had I ever wanted to do this ? Why would anyone in his right mind want to cart a 50kg loaded bike over 1, 600km... up and down hills, against the wind ?
Anyhow, it was too late to turn back now; should have thought about all this before...
La Ferté sous Jouarre, 5.30PM: the Tourist Bureau was already closed ! (had it ever been open ?)
The city employee in 'La Mairie' was useless: too busy keeping an eye on the clock to help a couple of crazy cyclists find the city camp ground. (after a bit of checking we found out that it no longer existed...)
On our way into town, Daniel had spotted an area near the river. It looked like some sort of amusement park; turned out to be a children's holiday camp, getting ready for an upcoming vacation period.
After a few words with the young people in charge, Daniel got an OK to stay there overnight. Bikes and bags sheltered in an Indian tipi ! To avoid getting them into trouble, we promised to be off early in the morning.
The whole camp was ours, including a fully equipped kitchen with water and gas ! No showers though -and no lignts in the toilets-... The five camp supervisors lived in a small house near the entrance. Super people !
Set up the tent, write a few words in the travel diary, inhale a couple of beers re-hashing the day, 'cook' dinner, do 'the dishes', organize for the following morning... go to 'bed': the ritual would be the same most evenings for the next three weeks. Same order, same food, with beer steadily improving as we headed East.
Slept in Morse code; but only in dots ! (had forgotten how hard the ground could be...)
Very testing first day.. I hadn't done any cycling during April due to other committments... The heat, the 50kg to haul, the wind, the hills, the 1,600 km ahead of us nearly beat me. But I had spent so many months studying the maps, exchanging with Daniel, preparing for the trip and dreaming of the "Praha" city sign that there was no turning back now... and being two of us, one with lots of experience, quickly took care of any doubts I had !