Posted by: mcfinder | November 7, 2009

Another Wheelie exciting day on the road to Albert

Although the trip so far has been great, it is now, as we approach the Somme region and the areas of British involvement in the war that things start getting really interesting (for me at least). So, I was excited at the prospect of cycling upto Albert today. Albert is practically in the centre of the Somme battlefield and is synonymous with the British Tommy.

We set off at about 10am after a nice petit-dejuner the rain threatened but stayed away and we made good progress..After about 10 miles Steve asked me if he had a buckled wheel, to which I said yes, about 50 yards later his back wheel exploded with a loud bang! That was the end of the wheel, we were about 10km from the next town (Peronne) so we walked and hoped that we would find a supermarche that stocked innertubes and wheels.

The walk was long, and, ironically it was flat..the first 10miles or so out of St. Quentin had been hilly and tough going…  As I was minding my own business walking by the side of the road (county lane with no pavements) I got hit by a Fiat Panda. It’s wing mirror smacked into my elbow and I will be honest…it hurt like hell. The car stopped 20 metres down the road and out hobbled some old Frenchie with a bad limp and no teeth. Now, I dont mind old peeps, but it is my opinion is that when you get to a certain age you should stop driving, for the good of your fellow people…and this guy was way past this age. I was pretty pissed off and started shouting at him asking him in very plain anglo-saxon what the blazers he thought he was doing driving into me…He obviously didnt speak a word of anglo-saxon as none of my insults made an impression. So I just shrugged him off after he said ‘pardon monsiuer’ and trudged off down the road cursing. To be fair though, it was probably difficult for him to see me on the road, it was a dead straight road, in the middle of a sunny afternoon, and I was only wearing a white high-visability jacket…so I do feel sorry for the old git. Sorry, French, garlic crunching, old git. I have still got pins and needles in my arm…

After a couple of hours we got to Peronne and found a huge supermarket which stocked what was needed, and within half an hour of arrival we were back on the firm. We had 20 miles or so to go and a couple of hours of daylight left, so we needed to get a wiggle on.

We made good progress and as we got nearer to Albert there were more and more signs of fighting…a few shells scattered along the roadside, various pieces of land that were still visibily scarred with shell craters – even after 90 plus years, and then eventually we found a British military cemetery along the side of the road. Seeing those graves is a humbling experience and brings home why we are doing this trip. The next few miles on the bike were quiet, the  fact that there were still loads of hills didn’t really matter anymore…

The nearer were got to Albert the more cemeteries were saw, we stopped off at another one – the Devonshire Cemetery where we saw the grave of a VC winner: 12639 Pte J MIller, Royal Lancaster Regiment. While at this cemetery I checked my bike over to make sure everything was ok, and found that I had another spoke broken…not good news.

We road a few more miles, but to save the bike I walked the last couple to the hotel. Tomorrow is a rest day in Albert, the plan is to take a hire car and visit a few of the memorials and museums, as well as try and find a bike shop! Should be an interesting day…


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