Les Sables D’Olonne – Tranche sur Mer
“Time to get up Michael! Come on Michael!! No excuses now. You’ve had 2 days of comfort, you’ve got a belly full of calories to burn and the fires have been bellowed by your friends. Time to press on Michael”.
That’s all it took to get me out of bed and into my final shower for the next few days, everything else was prepped, washed, sorted, fine tuned and ready to go. I was at the breakfast bar of the hotel half an hour later with a steaming pot of coffee sat in front of me. The last booster required to get me on the road and making up some of the mileage the rain had robbed from me over the previous 48 hrs.
I set off with a proper stride on, almost ignoring the message I’d tattooed onto my pushing foot to “take it easy”. The roads were kind! Following the coastal cycle path at first, just as planned, and then back onto the roads, just as realised. But they were quiet and wide enough to be able to enjoy some music along the way without having to listen out for road trains steaming up behind me. The hysterics kick in again very quickly and I’m now bombing along giggling, accompanied by beats and breaks, fuelling me even harder. Moving away from the coast and inland, I come to my first real hill in days and push the Evo up it without even a hint of difficulty, the yoga sessions now paying dividends, supported by the straps forcing the unwanted fluid out of my board knee, the pain in my calf now nothing more than extra muscle. But, as I reach the top, the drum and bass remix of Placebos remix of Kate Bush’s appropriately titled “running up that hill” comes to an abrupt stop for no reason. Knowing that my MP3 player is fully charged, I leap off the board with a “NO!!” that must surly have emptied the surrounding pine trees of life. It’s dead! My music has gone. I take an unavoidable and unwanted 5, try every trick in the book, twisting, restarting, unplugging, recharging… nothing. A quick Google reveals that it’s fallen way to a common fault. A common fault with a easy fix but, for some strange reason, I didn’t think to add a soldering iron to the kit list nor to I have the budget to purchase another player at the next city. I chew on it, swallow the reality and continue the days slog, unaided by my beloved bleeps and squeaks trying to push the daunting fact of another 1700km humming along to whatever EDM Pop nonsense I accidentally slip into my shopping trolley at every supply stop from there on out.
Regardless, the day goes very well. The sun is out in full force and I’m fit for it to say the least. The roads blend into one another and, even though my “just keep right” method of navigation leads me to several beach front dead ends, by 2:40pm I find myself at a supermarket in order to stock up on water. Problem was, this was 28m from my starting point. I was surprised to see that I’d already gone over my quota for the day and was only just starting to consider burning through my pre-packed lunch. What happened? Where did that go? I’ve got more than enough energy left to keep going for another few hrs and could possibly double the distance but sensibility forces me to consider my calf and, for once, with the aid of my newly displayed foot ink, I call it a day, happy that I’ve achieved my goal but hungry for more.
I push onwards a little more giving myself the excuse that I’m “just looking for a suitable place to kill the rest of the day” as if I’ve got a boss looking over my shoulder and an annual bonus to protect and, let’s face it, in my current position, nothing could be further from the truth but I suppose it’s my legs running the dictatorship these days. I skate back a short distance to the coast and discover a never ending beach. Could be worse places to kill a few hours. It’s quiet, too quiet, suspiciously quiet. I lean my bag up against a fence, hoik my board up well above ground level to ensure my wheels bearings don’t see a single grain of sand, tuck into some snacks whilst researching my gifted video montage a few more times with a similarly diminishing level of enjoyment I get from seeing an episode of Red Dwarf for the 92nd time (not one bit). I then pull out my book to chomp slowly through another chapter, unnecessarily re reading every third or so sentence in order to make it last. It doesn’t take long to realise why I’m sharing this vast expanse with only a few others. A few other humans that is, and several million flies – tiny, minute thunder bugs, little, black, flying beetle things that can never seem to land on their feet and must spend the majority of their lives hopelessly re-righting them selves and wannabe horse flies that can’t bite for shit but I had to give them a worthy 8 for effort. They pestered the patience out of me after an hour and I was forced to pack up and move on. At least I saved on the book reading.
Skating back into town, I had no luck spotting my site for the nights camp via satellite so I reverted to the old fashioned method of exploring on foot, or board, I should correct. Scooting round the margins of the beach between the hundred and twelve empty villas that must have been de occupied by residents fed up with eating insects every time they opened their mouths, it reminded me of the times my parents used to take us on holiday and I’d head out on my skateboard in search of other youngsters to try and befriend but this time I held back on the latter part in fear of being arrested as in now 35 and balding (doesn’t mean I don’t wanna skate with the local kids any less though, maybe I just need to grow up). I draw a complete blank. Unless I jump a wall and camp in one of the unused back gardens (once again, don’t fancy the cuffs associated with that plan) my only option is to head back to areas natural airport and set up on the beach.
Right choice! The change in temperature has called “bedtime” for the bugs and, seeing as the giant sand hornets can be heard coming half a kilometre away and easily avoided, I’ve now got the perfect spot and no one else to have to share it with!
I dump my bag, place my board with an opposing attitude and take a stroll along the shoreline washing my feet, enjoying a cup of liquorice tea and my my first proper foreign sunset in 13 years.