As many of you will now be aware I have finished my cycle ride and I apologise for the lateness of these final updates. I'm sure you will appreciate that I've been somewhat busy since returning to the UK; but enough of that for now I aim to post up the three remaining blogs over the next three days covering my ride from Paris all the way back to Forest Row. I will then (at a later date) try to write something to wrap up the events of the last seven months if that is at all possible!
I should also point out that I'm writing this from a bench over looking the Ashdown Forest my spiritual home having taken the bike out for a ride this morning. I know what you are thinking 'It didn't take long for him to get back out in the saddle!' and you are right but what better place to gather ones thoughts and get some inspiration for writing.
I was a little concerned about leaving Paris; it's a massive city and although it had taken us a little while to work our way through it on arrival it hadn't proved to be that much trouble. It seemed that getting out Paris posed perhaps the last 'big' challenge of my trip.
Tom had gone to a hotel with his wife Charlotte to celebrate their wedding anniversary and I half expected after a night spent in not only the luxury of a central Parisian hotel but also in the company of his beloved that he'd come back and meet me in the morning citing some mysterious muscle injury and would instead choose to pack his bike back on the Eurostar to head for the UK leaving me to pedal the final days by myself.
I needn't have been concerned Forest Row men are made of sterner stuff than this and right on time at half ten there he was bike and bags at the ready and fully prepared to finish what we started together back in Prague at the beginning of September.
The weather was gloomy as we said our goodbyes to Charlotte and headed back onto the road. I was certainly refreshed after my days of relaxation in Paris but now being back out on the road and also being so close to home there was a part of me that just wished it could all be over now and all I had to do was ride for three hours and be done.
This unfortunately wasn't the case but I drew comfort from the fact that it was only a matter of two hundred plus kilometres before I got back; small in comparison to what I'd ridden but also seemingly so far.
Working our way out of Paris in the end wasn't that much of a problem. If you've got a compass you're basically good to go and for us it was simply a case of heading on a north-west course until we hit countryside.
Our main problem on this day was the weather, it poured and our early morning jovial nature was quite literally dampened as we cut our way through the mid morning traffic.
Riding in the rain isn't actually as bad as it sounds; once you get your head down and get into a rhythm you almost become oblivious to the rain. I mean once you are wet there comes a point where you can't get any wetter.
For me my main concern for the day was that we didn't have anywhere arranged to sleep for the night. I suppose you could say we'd become slightly 'pampered' what with staying with friends just south of Paris and then of course staying in hostels and hotels for the last few days. I have to be honest and say that on a late wet September evening the prospect of finding a field in Northern France to pitch my tent in wasn't the most appealing.
Considering we left Paris at around 11 and had to work our way out of the city we made it to the small town of Gisors some 80 kilometres north of Paris very easily. The weather had eased up somewhat and we'd also seen some glimmers of sun through the day but it was clear to me that both Tom and I were thinking very much along the same lines with regards to where we could sleep for the night.
I've come to realise that nothing is a coincidence anymore and that everything that happened on my trip was meant to happen. Things, opportunities, situations call them what you will were placed in front of me as I travelled and it was up to me to decide what to do when these events presented themselves.
This was the case on this particular day as we rode into Gisors. Neither of us were particularly enamoured with the prospect of one final night of wild camping especially considering that we also faced the following night sleeping in the ferry terminal at Dieppe.
It was therefore a welcome relief to see the 'half pension' sign offering cheap rooms almost immediately on our arrival. We could have camped and saved ourselves twenty Euros each but when we thought about it logically it made far more sense to take the room and the bed for the night. We only had one hundred kilometres to ride before hitting Dieppe and wild camping would have meant we'd have been up and out before ten and therefore in Dieppe way too early. Taking the small room here meant we could at least freshen up, cook up the remainder of our food, have a lie in a mostly importantly finish watching the final episode of Bear Grylls Escape to the Legion TV show that has been on my computer for ages. In the end it was a no brainer.
The only problem was that the room only had one double bed. We also faced this problem once before in Romilly-sur-Seine and I offered it to Tom and took a mattress on the floor. However at this stage of the trip neither of us were about to give up the opportunity of a comfy bed (especially one we'd paid for!) and as a result the bed was divided into two with strict instructions about 'roaming' during the night implemented.
The day finished, a few Euro coins still jangling in our pockets I knew the next day would finally see me reach Dieppe and also be my first sight of the sea since leaving Xiamen on March the 6th, we were slowly but surely edging our way back.