Monday 22nd May
Pornic to Barre de Monts: 47km, 146m climbed, 2hr 40’
Total Distance 473km
“Where are Hannah and Matt when you need them?” Sighed Wendy as she realized that we were going to have to do the washing up. It was 1930 and a lovely evening in Notre Dame de Monts.
Oh the knee is fine, thanks for asking. It only hurts when I walk. It has been a funny old day.
We had a cracking barbecue last night using the campsite’s BBQ and then went up to the bar for a swift half. This morning I woke up at 0700, probably because I had fallen asleep at 2130 and took Alf out. One of the drawbacks of La Patisseau was that there didn’t seem anywhere to give the dog a run. So being up bright and early we went off for a bit of an explore. No more than five minutes away down the hill and under the bridge was a footpath sign. It turned out to be an hour-long circuit mostly along a canal so great for dogs. Another tick in La Patisseau’s box as the best site so far. The canal was dotted with old fishing shacks just like the ones you see at the coast. It seemed a little one-sided as apparently the fishermen kept everything they swept from the canal bed.
I had been busy last evening trying to sort out the logistics for today. The route included the possibility of riding to the Ile de Noirmoutier along the Passage du Gois, the causeway. This is only possible for 90 minutes either side of low water, which happened to be 0830 today. As it was almost three hours away, I wasn’t going to set off in the dark so it meant that I would have to take the alternative inland route to Barre de Monts 10km longer. If I had done a little more planning earlier I would have ridden to Les Moutiers yesterday which would have given me the chance to ride the causeway.
The route out of Pornic was very similar to yesterday’s leaving of St Brevin, suburbs sprawling south to envelope old hamlets. There were a lot of shared roads and sudden junctions as the route ricocheted south. Just outside La Bernerie the scenery changed and became marshy. Everywhere there were drainage channels and some were widened to use as pits for fishermen to keep their oyster catches in until they were sold.
As I passed a campervan aire there was a line of fishing shacks facing out to sea and I stopped to take picture. I set off again and pffft! My back tyre went again – at least this time it wasn’t raining but gloriously sunny. I changed the inner tube much faster than last time but now I was worried about the tyre too. I could see where the puncture was and when I checked the tyre around the tiny hole, I found that the tyre was noticeably thinner than last Wednesday; indeed there were quite a few holes through the tread when I held it up to the light. I wonder if the clarty conditions on Friday especially the clogging up of the mudguard had caused extra wear on the tyre? The front tyre had much less wear. I decided that it would not be wise to continue on the La Velodyssee route as for the rest of the day it was going to be mainly on poorly surfaced tracks, it was also going to wind its way through the marshes and though I still had a spare tube it would make any recovery that much more difficult. Instead I would take what passes for main roads about here.
Now with a clear plan, I hooked my left foot in the toe straps and pushed down hard to get on my way. I hit the road with all the grace of the proverbial sack of potatoes! The chain was stuck from the wheel replacement and all my weight had gone over to the left side, my left foot was trapped and so down I went. The only saving grace was that there was no one about to witness the sorry event. They would have been awarding no points for style and very few for difficulty. My knee took most of the force but there was not much I could do about it so I started off again just a little more cautiously.
The take the road plan seemed to be working. The roads were not very busy and were very smooth with not a pothole in sight. I passed a sign welcoming me to the Vendee and suddenly there were saltpans either side of the road making artisan sea salt. From Bouin I rode directly to Beauvoir-sur-mer and then to La Barre-de-Monts and arrived at the campsite only minutes after Wendy and had shaved fifteen kilometres off the day in doing so.
Wendy had taken Alf down to the Beach for a spot of lunch. She had left the van outside the gates as on Mondays the site shuts for lunch from 12 until 3! We decided to find a Decathlon or bike shop to get some new tyres while we were waiting for the campsite to re-open. Sat nav and Google showed that our best bet was to head for Challans. I am now the proud owner of two new Vittoria trekking tyres which I am assured have double shielding puncture protection, 30 threads per inch and suitable for all conditions. Who could ask for more? Well we also found that the petrol station over the road had LPG so we were able to fill up our gas. [We have only used seven litres of gas in two weeks away. We have been on hook-up but have used the kettle on the hob. While I have been bike wrangling Wendy has worked out that we can do at least eight weeks on a full tank of gas.]
The route to Challans had been tortuous due to two sets of road works and a couple of closed roads (good old route baree again) so we decided to drive back through St Jean-de-Monts and Notre-Dame-de-Monts for old time sake. When we got to Notre Dame we spotted a sign to camping municipal a plage. Wendy hadn’t been impressed with our intended site for the night and thought that this looked much more promising. And indeed it is. It is right behind the beach in a pine forest and only half a mile from the town centre.
I gave Wendy a master class demonstration in the art of changing tyres only to find that despite checking and double checking I had fitted the front tyre the wrong way round and when you have disc brakes you cannot just reverse the wheel. Of course it took me longer to refit the front tyre than it had to do both originally.
By now it was getting late and I was one hungry cyclist. Charcoal BBQ are not allowed here because of the fire risk in the forest – this will probably be the case from here on; but never fear we whipped out our Cadac Safari Chef and within minutes the pork steaks and saucissons were sizzling. Thanks girls for a great Christmas present.
With no chance of Hannah and Matt reprising their ‘Big Cook Little Cook’ roles it was down to us. Now it was cool enough to take the dog for a walk so down through the forest to the beach and along the beach to the new Notre Dame Sailing Club building. This was the scene of the first of Andy’s and mine many triumphs in the French Fireball Nationals some twenty years ago.
We have said all along that if we find somewhere nice and the weather is good we might stay for a couple of days, and walking back along the beach, watching the last of the kite surfers, we thought that this was just one of those places.