Day 4 : Forrest roads and more cols
We were about to leave without paying when someone came driving up to the campsite. He came to mow the lawn. I asked if he was also working the front desk, he said he wasn't, but someone would come in 5 minutes. Fortunately, that was the case. If the guy hadn't been there we would have just left, but now we had no choice. The lady at the desk said that the weather today would be better than yesterday en that tomorrow would be even better. Where did we hear that before..
After descending for 15 minutes and eating a cold pizza at a bakery, col de Dondon was next. We thought it would be an easy climb because it had an index of only 1.9. That turned out differently. The index is calculated as the square root of the height difference divided by the length of the climb, but this col was unusually long. The height difference was only 500 meters, but it seemed to have no end. First, there were about 8 kilometers where we cycled next to a river, so that wasn't too steep. Then the real climb started, which was at least five steep kilometers. The descent wasn't very long, because the next col started right away.
A nice view on a grey day
The endless col de Dondon
Near the end of the vacation we came up with a theory about how the route was made: start at the bottom of a mountain, climb up along the longest or most difficult road, look for the steepest possible descent, so you can't cover any distance, take the nearest road going up. It often happened that we didn't even need to look at the directions, because they were so predictable. For example, a few times we made it to the top of a col, but there was another road going further uphill. The designers of the tour would of course not let such a chance slip, so just when we thought we had made it, we had more climbing to do.
Part of the route runs over the 'routes forestières'. Those are forest roads with hardly any traffic and without signs, only the route's name. Those were all very nice. What stood out was that many Frenchmen were working in the forests. They seemed to have an ideal image of a forest. It would look like this: In the forest are deciduous trees, about 10 meters apart but randomly distributed. The soil needed to be covered by a thin layer of leaves and ivy. Between the trees are neat piles of about one meter high and tree meter long stocks of split logs, held together by two beams in the ground. The ideal image was made realized by random Frenchmen who parked their car by the side of the road and then disappeared into the forest to do stuff. Eventually, all the logs would be burned on the farms. After two days, my shirt smelled more like smoke from all the bonfires than my sweat.
In the evening we arrived in Fontenoy-le-Chateau, where there would be a campsite. The signs directed us out of the village and up a hill. I really didn't want to climb more. When we reached the campsite, we only saw Dutch license plates. That could be either a good or a bad sign. French campsites with only Dutch people are either places where bad Dutch folk music is played until 3 in the morning, or neat clean places with better facilities than French people are used to.
At the front desk we asked 'une place pour une nuit' or can we also speak Dutch? We could. We were congratulated but didn't know what for. After we both guessed the wrong answer three times, the lady told us that today was Queens day. It would be a holiday in France tomorrow, so we could already order bread for breakfast if we wanted. We ordered two pain de campagne, so we would have some reserves to last through the day.
Each day we cycled roughly from 8:30 to 20:30. According to Bram's pedometer, we stopped about two or three of those 12 hours to look at the map, do groceries, go to the bathroom, and eat. Cycling 9-10 hours each day through the mountains was pretty tiring. After we showered for a change - without tokens - which the campsite owner told us she also hated, we sat down in the bar. The showers were one of the best we have ever seen at a campsite. You could shower as long as you wanted without paying, you could regulate the temperature, you didn't need to keep pressing a button, and the bathroom area was heated.
The atmosphere in the bar made us almost fall asleep. Not that that was bad, but it was super French, and we got super drowsy. Some French people were drinking at the bar, and someone was reading in a corner. There were also two men from the Netherlands at a table. The music was that calm piano music, with about one keystroke per half a minute. We were drinking Grimbergen beer and could barely keep our eyes open. One of the Dutch men started talking to us. He thought, let's make a wild guess, and asked: 'how far did you cycle today? I guess maybe even 50 km?' We told him we did 160 km. He didn't expect that. He told the other guy he felt like 20 was a lot. When we finished our Grimbergen we crept into our tents.
Oh, they also told us the weather would be better tomorrow.
Distance cycled : 164.10 km