29 Mar: This description returns to an old and fun theme, surprises with people. I already mentioned Christian, the German cycle-camper I met in the campground near Albert. I’ve also gotten to know an English father and son on a little camping get-a-way. He’s a teacher and has been a nice guy to talk with, even gave me a beer one night after a long day of cycling and sight-seeing. I sincerely thanked him for that. One morning, I saw him reading some WWI history to his son outside their tent. The name of his son is Sammy, a typical kid in many ways, lots of energy. He didn’t look like he was a teenager yet, but if he’s not, the kid’s a little ahead of his time. All kids can be difficult sometimes. He’s a little ahead of the rest in this area too. I respected his father’s patience.
In the morning, I needed to get packed up, since I was starting my return trip, two days north to the ferry at Calais. I like to pack my panniers from inside my tent. I can keep everything drier that way, since there’s a lot of dew on the grass and on my tent. I can also spend part of my packing time while still inside my warm and cozy sleeping bag, since the mornings are cold. Anyway, I was inside my tent, putting things in their correct pannier. I heard Sammy and Dad wake up and start packing. At least, Dad was packing. Sammy was trying to find his Gameboy, and asking his Dad where the Gameboy was. After a while, Sammy still couldn’t find his Gameboy, and started asking his Dad louder if he knew where it was. Dad was still busy packing. Finally, Sammy cheerfully told his Dad that he found the Gameboy. Dad told Sammy that was good and asked him to help pack. Sammy told his Dad he wasn’t ready to pack yet, probably because he could now play his Gameboy. I really didn’t want to listen to the conversation, but as I was in my tent packing, I couldn’t help it.
Dad continued to patiently ask Sammy to pack. Sammy didn’t want to and was getting louder about his reasons why. Dad patiently asked Sammy to pack, maybe too patiently. Sammy continued to get louder. Dad finally said “Sammy, please don’t yell.” Sammy yelled back, at which time I firmly said, from inside my tent, “Sammy, would you please not yell.” Finally, their conversation went silent for a moment. “Thank you” The father called back to me. “My pleasure.” I firmly replied. There was another pause. “This is where he needs is mother.” Dad commented back. “It takes two.” I said, ending the tent-to-outside conversation.
Sammy was quieter for a little while. When my panniers were packed, I stepped out of my tent and said “good morning.” We chatted for a moment about what we were doing for the rest of the day, and finished our packing. Before they left, I was sure to sincerely tell Sammy that I hoped he enjoyed the rest of their trip.
Back to some cycling stuff, I planned my return route before I started this trip, which is shown on the map from 23 or 24 March. When I planned my return trip, I knew it would take me 2 days to reach Calais. I couldn’t find many big sights to cycle by, but the French countryside and small towns had a lot for me to see. I decided to follow a river valley, which started a little north of Albert and went to the English Channel. I figured a river is always good for some sights, and being in a river valley should mean there would be fewer hills. I did have to cross a smaller river valley to get to the one I wanted, but I was optimistic the hills wouldn’t be too bad. Considering all this information, I popped a few points into my sat nav, and wha-lah, it gave me a route on slow roads.
As usual, the morning was good. The sun was out. My new solar panels were pulling in energy, and I enjoyed the slow roads. They were really slow, about one car passed me every 20 minutes. It was very peaceful riding. I actually stop a lot when I cycle. There’s always something that needs adjusting or a picture that needs taking. One time when I stopped today, a group of old French guys took an interest in my bike and solar panels. They didn’t speak a word of English, and my French is limited to the paper of French words in my map holder, on top of my handlebar bag. Overall, though, I think me and those guys had a good conversation. I peddled on and enjoyed the slow roads again, although the hills were a little more than I expected.
I like the way trees are often evenly spaced on country roads. Then, the roads got even slower, even a bit too slow. I now know what a dashed line means on my sat nav, since I saw the real-life version of that dashed line. I’m pointing to it in the picture below.
Here’s a better picture of that very slow road. I didn’t lose much time when I stopped to take a picture because I pushed my bike along this “dashed line.” It’s a pity the dashes on my sat nav, for very slow roads, couldn’t be little donkey symbols instead, since only they can walk over these paths without stumbling. It’s a little harder for a human pushing a loaded bike. I grumbled to myself that I must have a stern word with the person who created this route. I finally got off the donkey path and back onto a civilized farming road, and some more long hills.
A couple of hills later, I found a campsite, which was closed for the season. About 5 miles later, with more hills, I found another campsite. They were closed for the season as well, but instead of this being a reason not to let me stay, they took it as a reason not to charge me. They also told me to put my tent anywhere nearby a duck-pond, so I put my tent closer to the water than I ever have.
I set the tent up so that the door faced the pond. I kept the tent-door open for a long while, watching the ducks and daylight fade.