The holy grail has been found

Day 28

Meilhan sur-Garron – Agen

82km

There was no rise that morning. Well, of course that’s not technically true but, let me put it this way, the sun got out of bed in a much speedier fashion. Seems by muscles were adopting the “when in Rome…” mentality and had gone on strike. I hobbled, with considerably less grace than that of Tony at his ripe old age of 80, into the cold shower without the hot water token that the campsite owner was due to turn up with 3 hrs later. Pretty sure that didn’t do much for my back but it certainly got the circulation going. Even making my morning coffee was a painful process. I said bon voyage to the uni cyclist from the adjacent pitch who was packing up his kit in an extremely efficient manner, before he headed off to double my daily average on just one wheel, and started a very long session of stretches and exercise to get some movement back into myself. It did the trick! It always does. I may look like a complete idiot rolling around on the floor, breathing with my belly and forcing a smile through the agonising pain emitting from the sciatic nerve in my left leg but, bingo! 40 mins later I was supple enough to bend my head down and see my feet, a start.

Obviously I wasn’t going anywhere till I said my goodbyes to Jackie and Tony so, well, I said my goodbyes to Jackie and Tony. A long winded process but I was more than happy to breath that air, they are a lovely couple! Bizarrely enough, they used to live in San Antonio, ibiza but, oh how it’s changed since 1973! It got better, then much, much better before nose diving in a kamikaze like fashion which is of course, when I arrived last time round. Since then, it’s apparently got worse. I don’t see how a plane in a thousand pieces can get any worse, that is unless it’s got Airfix written on it and you pass it and a tube of superglue to someone completely off the face on some new Chinese high that hasn’t even see the bloodstream of a guinea pig yet, much like the majority of the summer residents of said place today. But I admit, I’m very much looking forward to “passing through” regardless. Skating just one pass of the San An prom will be worth all the effort.

After a few more coffees and a decent breakfast, my bags were packed again in the usual order and I hit the canal path one more time but, unlike the previous day’s smooth rolling, today’s paths had been built with a little less tender loving care. The surface was now a half arsed 5. The roots of the trees lining the canal were apparently so insulted by the workmanship that even they had decided to show their respect by dismantling the majority of it and all that was done in response was to spray paint the mini ramps like, well, luminous spray paint on mini ramps! My board slowing with each jolt and my right toes loosing life under the rattles of the cracks and loose stones that had arisen from them. I’ve got the right kit for this terrain but abec11 don’t make toes, I’ll put it to them on my return.

Eager to press on, I did just that. Thank god for the scenery (well, it certainly wasn’t the path workers that paved the wildlife and put the wonderful little old French fisherladies there!). The views were an essential distraction and extremely efficient too. Kilometres passed without noticing and the picture never ended. The only change was my physical point of view as I occasionally had to pass over a bridge to the other side of the canal, never mind. I didn’t.

I knew all I had to do was keep by the canal. No need for GPS and no worries about taking wrong turns but, not checking for my next supply of water wasn’t a risk I could afford taking. The next town was pretty close by and there were several small villages after which but none of them seemed very attractive in any way. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not offering tourist advise here as simply looking at a map and trying to work out the potential of a village is akin to trying to figure out how beautiful a woman is by her silhouette. In fact, quite the opposite tactic was adopted because I was seeking something larger than average, something with, of course… a Lidl! But the only real potential I saw was the large town of Agen, not only a guaranteed cheap foreign supermarket but also big enough for graffiti, immigrants, kebab shops and unfortunately, danger for a single guy carrying a couple of grands worth of tech, regardless of his attitude and ability. The other problem was the distance. I was already 45km into my day and this destination was nearly that over again.

I contemplated possibility, I checked my muscles, my back, my knee and, every part of me was saying “go for it Mikey boy! No Lidl, no croissants for breakfast!”. So I selected the music for the long past push – an old favourite, a current favourite, an always and forever favourite – Hybrid. Blissful symphonies of string orchestras layered over and over with atmospheric breaks. Music to let your mind run away and forget everything around you.

I had to stop of course! No way I can do another 35ishkm without a breather but the music didn’t stop. I merely chose the long and chilled breakdowns with their tracks to dictate my stops, rising again with the build ups and pushing to the beat.

Agen approached. The canal path spelled this with the sudden increase of runners and kids leaping from the locks into the water. I wanted to join them (the kids that is, not the runners, weirdos) but I fear I’m past the age where I can join in on a kids playtime wearing just my boxers without being arrested. Damn you 21st century! Damn you age! But, when I saw an 8yr old fall off his scooter, my teeth gripped as I saw his hands go out in front of his falling body and I was waiting for the “crunch” of broken wrists that I’ve experienced too many times myself. So I removed my wrist guards from my rucksack and offered them to him. Of course, any kid nowadays knows not to talk to strangers, especially not smelly ones with bloody stained shorts but his father was really appreciative when I tracked him down.

I perched up for a few moments before the final push to 29c croissant heaven – a 3.5km round trip, past the graffiti, past the kebab shops and weaving between the immigrants. I sat outside Lidl with a humongous bag of food and suddenly found myself surrounded by a group of Senegalesians. Nothing else to do but remove my helmet, show them my scared face and balding beacon of “you do understand that you ain’t pickin on a kid here” and give them a “come n av a go if you think you’re hungry enough” stare. Agen isn’t what you’d call an idillic French town, not the part that I saw but I didn’t really give it a chance. Fortunately I knew my previous spot by the canal was a safe resting place for the night and it was only a few pushes away.

I sat in comfort. Strange, considering I’d just smashed my daily record to the state of present-day San Antonio.


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