We all have our favourite methods of getting somewhere. For Mr S., a good journey should involve ferries; preferably the Harwich-Hook-of-Holland one. To get to France, I far prefer driving or taking the Eurostar to flying. So when a wedding was announced and we were told that the venue was Germany, the game was on!
Mr and Mrs S, naturally, declared that they would be taking the ferry from Harwich and driving down from the Hook of Holland. Mr and Mrs C declared that they would be caravanning across France: a plan only stymied by the logistic of moving their behemoth of a caravan. And Tim and I looked at the map and said “It’s only 600km across Europe. Let’s cycle!”
And so preparations began.
Firstly there was a question of navigation. If one is planning on heading down the France-Belgium border, it doesn’t do to rely on there being a helpful dotted line on the ground to follow just because there’s one on Google Maps. Fortunately, the Michelin Local maps of France have enough overlap to include all the necessary non-France bits as well, so that saved a bit of packing space.
Because that’s the problem with a tandem – it transports two people, but it only carries one bike’s worth of panniers, so space is at a real premium. A packing list was drawn up, with superfluous items (clean socks etc) eliminated and only the bare essentials (corkscrew, crossword book, soundtrack to The Producers) on it. For off-the-bike clothing, a maxi-dress is the equivalent of an interstellar hitchhiker’s towel. You can stuff it in the bottom of a pannier where it takes up little space; it can keep the sun off your legs and prevent burning; in the evenings it will protect against mosquitoes and chill winds; the floor-length skirt hides unshaven, chainring-tattooed, road-rashed legs; and of course it looks chic enough to sit around in a continental café with a carafe of wine of an evening.