Sunday, June 16, 2013

What could possibly go wrong today?

The plan was to head through the centre of Luxembourg City before aiming south for Saint-Avold. Owing to the Achilles problem (and also my "good" knee hurting, though my "bad" one was fine), we decided to take the flatter-but-longer route around the city, following route 13, keeping a clear eye on where the nearest train station was in case we needed it.

The Luxembourgers love their cars, as was shown by the rush-hour traffic jam which would have done central London proud. We got honked at a fair few times as we wove our way between the static vehicles, loving the smooth tarmac but not the hills. We left Luxembourg, wiped away tears of laughter at the sign for a titty-bar which was situated in the Rue des Dicks, and waved at a Cloud Factory.

Cloud Factory
We crossed the Moselle at Malling (for old Kent's sake), and began to feel confident that we might be able to make the day's ride. We lunched at Bouzonville in a pleasant shady spot by the river, but since this also turned out to be the location of the town mortuary, we moved on when all the mourners began to glare at us.

A very pretty town and castle Somewhere.
We re-stocked our ibuprofen supplies in the local pharmacy, where I marvelled at the displays. No make-up, just loads and loads of medicine. Mineral-based medicine, homeopathy-based "medicine", medicine for pets, homeopathy for pets... there was even an entire display promising to heal "heavy legs". I didn't even know that cycling was a medically recognised complaint, let along that you could cure it!

We continued towards Saint-Avold, and the afternoon became quite pleasant. I began to feel an odd sensation from the back wheel. Since we dented the rim in Dunkirk, braking had been a bit juddery, but the wheel turned well enough. Now however, it felt as if the tyre had a lump each time it rotated. I thought I was imagining it (I am often fretful and paranoid), so kept quiet, but the sensation became stronger and stronger. As we rolled down the hill into Porcelette, I finally told Tim about it, and he said "Hm, maybe the tyre's deformed, but there's nothing we can do about it."

We went up the hill out of Porcelette, and there was a BANG. The rear tyre exploded, eight kilometres from the end of the day's ride.

Tim began to boot the tyre with a piece of cardboard, and we wondered "what now?". A passing moped-rider stopped to offer a loan of tools, but (a) didn't speak English, and (b) wasn't local, so was unable to say whether there was a bike shop nearby. Having learnt from Dunkirk, Tim flagged down a passing roadie on a bling bike, and asked about bike shops nearby. The response was gloriously French - there was a shrug, a "Bof", an eye-rolling look at a watch, and the words "Saint-Avold", clearly implying that it would be shut by the time anyone got there.

We proceeded gingerly on the booted tyre in the hope we could limp the remaining eight kilometres. As we were planning on spending the night in Saint-Avold (the roadie had at least confirmed the existence of the campsite), time wasn't an issue. After three kilometres, Tim began to feel more confident, and asked me whether I was feeling happier now that the worst had actually happened.

There was another BANG, and now the hole in the tyre was large enough for me to poke my finger through. There was no way that a boot would last the remaining 5km, so we elected to not trash the final inner tube, and to walk into town, playing "name that roadkill" to pass the time.*

If you're ever in Saint-Avold, I can recommend the bike shop "Cycle Maxime". The staff don't speak English, but we'd learned enough in Dunkirk to know the word for "inner tube" and "un nouveau pneu bon, tres fort, s'il vous plait."

I also recommend the Camping Municipal in Saint-Avold, apart from two things. Firstly, the mosquitos,  though they largely bit Tim instead of me. Secondly, it's on top of a ruddy great hill - the sort that you encounter in school at the same time as learning the phrase "Motte and bailey castle" - and the road winds round in spirals adding an extra 2km to the journey. We later learned that it is possible to go via the Rue du Cimetiere (there's a gate which isn't locked, but we didn't know that at the time) and cut the corner, but had we done so, we would have missed the bike shop. In the campsite we met another cycle tourist who was heading from Germany to Spain, and who, when Tim broke our pump, kindly lent us her pump which we promptly broke as well.

*A red squirrel and a slow worm, if you're interested.

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