Ian Thompson and Alan Williams are riding from Felcourt to Petitmont in the Lorraine region of France in order to raise funds for the local school in Petitmont.
The morning started with loading the car with all the bags and the spare wheels for the bikes. It was very blustery when we left Felcourt at 10am with heavy cloud but no rain. The car went on ahead and arranged to meet Ian and Alan at a place called St Michaels on the A262 (A is a route Nationale in English) for a sandwich lunch. This was about 63km away from Felcourt and after passing through a town called Tunbridge Wells. A town founded by the Romans for the water from its wells which they thought had medicinal purposes but now treated as polluted!
The next stop was at a place called Hamstreet on the B2067 (B is a route communale). To Re pack the car we stopped at a lay by in a place called Newington for our trip through the tunnel on the train to Calais where we are stopping the night in a hotel. The first job is to shower after all of the exercise of cycling 92km and then finding somewhere to have dinner. Irvin has taken photos on route which will be available later.
We spent the night in Calais in a hotel called the Richelieu after the Cardinal that first tried to unify France into one country rather than a number of areas with different taxes, laws and fighting with one another. The hotel did not have a restaurant so we had to eat in the town.
We left Calais after the rush hour at about 9 45. and aimed for the D943. Today there was no wind and it was starting to get warmer, it was about 12 degrees. The first stop was at Moulle where Ian and Alan had some refreshment.
The next meeting place was after St Omer still on the D943 at a place called Wittes. Ian and Alan went down a dual carriage way which from other drivers reactions they should not have done. As soon as possible they found a way off and we all met up again at Chocques.
This afternoon it has started raining and we will meet up again just before Lens still on the D943. We arrived at the hotel with Ian and Alan being very wet and cold so its a quick trip to the shower.
We stayed the night in a small hotel in Noyelles-Godault. A suburb of Lens. Just round the corner from the hotel a circus was visiting and it was very funny to see a camels head appearing over the top of the hedge. Friday has started dry but cold only 9 degrees.
Lens is a big city with many internal motorways and fast congested roads so for safety sake I drove Ian and Alan to the edge of the city. This area was very industrialised and so one village or town runs onto the next with very little countryside in between. It has ben very difficult to find our way as their were many twists and turns and in some cases no sign posts.
Where the roads changed direction frequently I have been waiting on the corner to point Ian and Alan in the right direction. I have the GPS. Our first stopping point of the day was Lewarde on the D646 and then onto Bouchain where we crossed under the motorway to Haspres and at last some open country and then to Solesmes and Neuvilly before joining up to the D643 and aiming for Le Nouvion en Thierache for Lunch – a sandwich again but additionally with cakes bought from a bakers on the way.
Ian and Alan arrived very cold and before they started off again it had started to rain which got very heavy at times. We arranged to meet up again at Mon Idee on the D1043. This was the longest section for the two riders being about 52 kms but at least its through large forests and the wet country side.
We arrive at Rocroi at about 3-45pm, Ian and Alan will have ridden today some 125kms. The hotel is situated in the large square of this very old fortified town which we will look around if it stops raining.
Last nights hotel was small but very comfortable. They have only been open for 3 month so the butcher was telling me this morning. The previous owner was a drunk and the place had caught fire.
The fourth morning started cold and grey but with the occasional blue showing through, however as the morning went on it became warmer and was up to 18 degrees by midday. We left Rocroi on the N51 and crossed the N43 on to the D985. We then followed the D20 to Thin le Moutier anf then on to Launois sur Vence. We managed to avoid Poix-Terron as we found a very, very small road that would take us to Le Chesne for our first lunch with sun! Unfortunatly a tractor had just passed that had been muck spreading-the bikes now need a good wash!
This part was better for our two intrepid riders as the first part of the morning was mostly up hill but the second part was downhill to the river Meuse. I seem to have been awarded the job of finding a bakers to get cakes to go with lunch , the larger and creamier the better. After lunch still in sunshine we set off along the D977 towards Sedan but turned off after a few kms. on to the D12 towards Buzancy and finaly for the night at Dun-sur Meuse.
The distance travelled today was again about 125kms.
Last night the owner of the small hotel recommended us to a little restaurant which looked quite tatty from the outside but inside it was very impressive as was the food. As I said it was a little hotel as were the showers, The owner said none of his clients liked them and they would be changed later in the year, even though they were all less than eighteen month old.
The day started wet and it just got wetter as it went on. We were aiming for firstly for Verdun along the D964, The GPS enabled us to miss the town centre but the road it took was very narrow and very steep in places requiring large amounts of effort and the descents was often cold for the two riders because of the wind and rain. After Verdun we headed for Pont-A-Mousson initially along the D903 and then the D904 before it became the D67 and D3 finishing at our destination where we stopped for coffee and a warm meal.
We then found the D120 in the direction of Nomeny and then on to Delm where we will spend our last night via the D913 and D21. Although Alan is not a lover of church bells ringing the hours we have managed to achieve each night a hotel with hearing distance of a church! I felt sorry for Ian and Alan they looked like drowned rats each time we met up.
At the end Ian was beginning to suffer with the cold, his hands were white and his sock could be rung out even though he had covers on his feet. After a rest and some tea at the hotel he began to recover in time for dinner which tonight was going to be a cold one as the hotel does not serve hot meals on a Sunday night. Alan on the other hand because of his experience (advancing age?) was not suffering as much.
Day 6 The final day
We were lucky again with the hotel. Although no hot meals were available last night the food they had for us was very good. We didn’t go hungry – or thirsty.
Our last day started wet, wet, wet. Bus shelters are a good changing room when nothing else is available. This week Ian and Alan have changed in some unusual places, supermarket car parks, and small covered areas attached to cemeteries!
You may have heard of a white knuckle ride but today this was not fear just cold. Ian had to stop and wring out his gloves before changing to a second waterproof pair.
This part of France does not go in for hedges and the wind although not excessively strong does blow and coupled with spray the rain made it very cold.
Todays route took us from Delm along the D955 through Chateau Salins to Bourdonnay where we turned right onto the D40 which became the D7 to Blamont and then on to Cirey sur Vezouze before arriving at our destination.
On our arrival in Petitmont was a sight to see. Their teachers had a ribbon across the road for our two riders to cross. This was accompanied by all the children and parents with flags of both countries. The village has two classes; the 2 teachers have to cover an age range of 3-7 years in one and 7 -12 in the other. No mean feat.
The mayor of this village, Petitmont (Where Ian and Helen have their house) and the next were present as were the press for photos in the village hall. There were speeches of welcome as it was too wet to stay out side and the three of us were presented with small cups to mark the occasion. Ian presented a cheque to the school which was followed by words of thanks in both languages. Some of the younger children had painted words of welcome and thanks for the two riders.
The afternoon finished with a three course lunch which a number of the mothers had cooked accompanied with wine or beer. Tomorrow we have been asked to go to the school to talk to the children.