Riding in the dark towards a waiting ferry, ignoring the storm clouds, the vagueness of the plan, the not-quite-sure-I’ve-got-everything feeling. The signs were there early on.
The overnight ferry churns across the channel. 4am arrives. I ride in circles bleary-eyed looking for the Avenue Vert. Groups of cyclists from the ferry gather with the same idea. I bump into my friend Jim and we ride some more circles together before finding the route to Paris.
Jim and I go our separate ways a few miles down the road and the slow unravelling of the plan begins. Puncture number 1 followed by puncture number 2. I ride with different groups of riders in between more punctures. I ride alone for a while with nothing but punctures for company. The unravelling quickens.
Some getting lost, some hiding from the rain and then another puncture. I find myself sitting on a muddy farm track miles from the nearest town. I watch the rain darken the ground at my feet and stare at the last remaining puncture repair patch. And then…I give up on the plan.
I’m not sure why, but I find myself completely unbothered about the failure of the plan. It is just a bike ride, it doesn’t really matter.
Somehow I make it back to the last town, fix the bike and ponder the world with the strongest, blackest coffee in Northern France. The rain passes and I watch the world go by from the café window.
I look at the map. A new plan forms. I leave the café and get on the bike in the first sunshine of the day. I begin a new ride without a care in the world. It turns out to be the best ride I’ve had in years.