It was all planned out. As much as it needed to be anyway. I was riding from St Malo to Le Mans and my cycling friend I was meeting with, was riding from Caen to Le Mans. You guessed it. Le Mans was the meeting point. Did we make it and meet up? Nope! This is what happened.
If you read my post a couple of weeks ago, you would know that I have been planning to meet up with another Cycling Touring Community member. Simon was cycling from London to the Sahara. All the way through France and Spain, before heading to the Sahara (if time allowed anyway). It was to be a challenge ride for him, with long days in the saddle planned. Living very close to France, I thought it would be great to meet up and ride along with him for a few days before heading home. A mini tour to get my cycling legs in for the Spring/Summer. Also a great way to meet other members of the site.
We were all set. Ferries booked, emails exchanged explaining where to meet and a rough idea of times we would arrive. Not over planning, but enough to be able to meet up. What could possibly go wrong!? Well, getting puncture after 10 minutes of landing on French soil wasn't the best start, but punctures and cycling go hand in hand, so accepted and moved on. Camping out the first night.
I woke the following morning to some rather interesting weather! If you live in this part of the world, you would know a little storm hit Northern France and Southern England earlier this week. Very strong winds, rain and generally unpleasant cycling weather. I got packed up and hit the road bright and early. It wasn't long before I hit tough times trying to reach Le Mans. I made it 70 miles into my 110 mile journey before I admitted defeat standing in a bus shelter soaking wet (even with waterproofs!) and decided to find myself a campsite.
You may be thinking, why camp in a storm - you must be mad? Well, I might have gone to a campsite, but I knew the owner was happy for me to sleep in the communal lounge area. Arriving at the site, it was like having my own hotel room for the bargain price of 6 Euro for the night! If you are ever in the Combourg area of France, do pop along to http://www.camping-combourg.com They are very welcoming and Combourg is a stunning town to visit. Whilst I was heading to Combourg to shelter, Simon was struggling too. The weather had beaten him. Getting half way to Le Mans, he opted for a train later that evening and found a hostel. Being on a schedule, he needed to make each point along the way.
The following day we tried to meet up again along the way, but again the weather broke both of us. Even worse driving rain for me within the first hour, that seemed to never go away. I spent much of my time hiding in bus stops and at one point some farm buildings, only to find an angry dog barking at me! It was the same for Simon, who was now trying to head towards Parthenay.
It was at this point I realised it wasn't going to happen. With me only being in France for a few days, and having a look at the miserable weather forecast, I decided to head back towards St Malo. At least I would be near to the ferry terminal and not get stranded by the bad weather (I had plans after this trip had finished). By this time Simon had settled in a campsite, where by all accounts it was a windy night, with the tent next door blowing away during the night! He swiftly jumped on another train to Bordeaux the following day. And who could blame him - get away from this weather as quickly as possible by escaping south. Sounded like a good plan. It was a touring holiday for him after all. Myself on the other hand had chickened out of camping and was checked in to a hotel in St Malo. Eating beef burger, chips and drinking blond beer in a local bar. Perfect way to unwind after such hard few days in the saddle. I felt as if I had ridden 500 miles, when I barely covered 150!
Waking the following morning to even more high wind and rain, I quickly changed my return ferry and headed off to the port. Thankfully the ferry was allowed to make it's journey, but it wasn't a pleasant ride! Bobbing around for hour and a half, there were many people looking a little ill. Me included! Next stop was home. And now I am at home, I see it was the right decision. The weather got worse. I'm now getting my exercise fix out on the cliff paths near my home. And yes, more soakings from the rain!
You would think I would be a little despondent after this experience, but I'm not. Yes it is a little frustrating, but these things happen and until now, I can count on one hand the amount of days I have had ruined by bad weather. It is just one of those things that you have to accept being a cyclist. You learn how to cope with setbacks. It is character building. Adapting to what the day brings, always keeping yourself safe and just going with it is all you can really do. Sometimes in life you have little control. Just go with the flow of the journey and it will all work out okay. You can always go back another day.