Solo ride Day 2
I woke at about 3 am to the sound of soft rainfall so started to mentally prepare myself for a ride. By morning the rain had stopped but the roads were wet and the air was very misty. I set off without wet weather gear but I had it ready in case. Getting out of Valenciennes was straightforward except that the route led me to a non-existent bike track alongside a canal. I must say that the French idea of a canal path is nowhere as good as the Dutch or Belgian. In many cases even good quality paths disappear into rutted grassy lanes and sometimes disappear altogether. I was frequently cursing the Garmin for sending me to useless tracks until I remembered that it was the fault of the MapMyRide (MMR) program. The Garmin was only showing me the route as worked out by MMR - they must be using out of date maps or ones developed for mountain bike riders.
The route I had downloaded was supposed to be 129 km but by the time I had made numerous detours along roads because I refused to follow the Garmin route I ended up doing 154 km. In fact it was never going to be 129 km because some of the routes didn't exist. At about 10:00 am a light rain began so I dressed in my prepared wet weather gear and pressed on. The light rain continued for an hour or so but by midday it had eased off. I stopped in the town of Saint Quentin and found a bar where the owner kindly let me eat my purloined rolls and croissant so long as I bought a hot chocolate and a coffee. Soon after lunch I came across a large group of students and teachers riding along - it was some kind of school excursion everyone was smiling although two students were hanging on to the support vehicle.
The scenery of this day was mostly fields of wheat and canola so it was kind of boring. The interest was whether the next time I linked up with the route would I see a proper bike trail. In a few cases I did and I had some lovely ride sections alongside the Canal du Nord. Near to towns the canal tracks were usually in good condition but they just didn't continue as they do in Belgium. At one stage I got caught out when what I thought was a road turned out to be a rutted grassy and muddy track for about 5 km and to cycle by road would have added maybe 20 km. As i rode this track my back wheel kept sliding around and threatening to upend me. I was very glad to finish this section and resolved to just use roads for the rest of the trip. Luckily I had bought a Michelin road map and I was able to work out the correct direction to follow. I have lost a lot of my trust in the routes I have worked out using MapMyRide and may have to do some recalculation.
I finally arrived in Compiegne at 3:45 pm which is not bad given that this was a longer ride than yesterday. Despite the damp beginning the temperature by the time I arrived was a pleasant 21C. A long hot shower and washing my riding gear helped me relax but I wish I had asked for a room with a bath. I took a walk through town and once again found it amazing that there are so many pharmacies and optometrists in such a small town. If you spot the green cross of a pharmacy it is almost a certainty that not far away there will be an optometrist. Draw your own conclusions about the French! In the main square there is a building upon which three knights stand in the tower and on the quarter hour ring out three peals before the main bell rings. There is quite a lot of barge traffic along the canal. Earlier I have seen barges carrying sand up and down the canal system. They can certainly transport huge loads along the extensive river and canal network.
Tomorrow I head for Paris. It should be about 90 km but who knows what route MapMyRide has selected. I may just backtrack the route we used when we came from Paris to Compiegne.
I had a nice pasta dinner washed down with a passable rose. Will be hitting the sack very soon.