Ode to the Canal

Trip Start May 22, 2009
Trip End Feb 16, 2010

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Flag of France  , Midi-Pyrénées,
Thursday, October 1, 2009

Oh how I love thee, let me count the ways:
1)  I love your wide banks full of fishing herons
2)  I you’re your tree lined sides that shade my skin
3)  I love your flat surface that makes travel oh so easy

Traversing this canal was a dream come true!  Wide and paved it’s much nicer than the Nantes a Brest Canal route.  We made amazing time and set a new record:  120km.  I had been hoping to have a really great day like this for awhile and 120 was the secret number I had in my head.  We hit it exactly!  Brian’s bike computer measures every 10m, so that was pretty incredible!

This is the superhighway of canals.  Charging straight as an arrow, cutting France in 2.  This route is called the Velo-route de Deux Mers - we will take it all the way to the Mediterranean Sea. 

This canal is straight and flat and flaunts it.  Hardly any ecluses (locks) in comparison to the Nantes a Brest.  This canal even defies gravity.  Heading itself into river valleys this canal shoots straight over tops without a flinch.  What a strange site for those on the river below to see a boat sailing far overhead.  Water over water.

This is another beautiful canal lined with giant maples instead of oaks (like in the North).  Maples I have never seen before with beautiful camo colored bark.  These poor trees die with much less fan-fare than their Canadian cousins.  Here, the leaves just slowly turn brown and fall off.  But watching them slowly waltz their way through the air is beautifully entertaining all the same.  And the satisfying ‘crunch’ as they are run over by the bikes. 

This canal is beautifully up-kept.  We passed several maintenance teams trimming and cutting, and blowing all throughout the day. 

Along the way were several interesting people as well.  One lady was doing dome watercolour paintings along the shore.  At one point, we actually had our own cheering section.  A group of older women had gathered at an ecluse.  When we cycled by, of them started clapping and shouting ‘Bravo, Bravo!”.  I started to wonder if we had somehow intersected a race or something.  In the end, I think they were just interested in seeing us with our gear packed on the bike. 

Throughout the day, I tried very hard again not to worry about what would happen this evening.  We didn’t stop at any tourist information offices along the way, so we had no idea about local campgrounds.  Being on the canal,  Brian didn’t even bother to pull out a map of the area where we were traveling.  After a quick stop at a McDonalds to check internet it was starting to get late. 

I was working on trusting and not worrying, but as the miles continue it becomes more and more difficult.  Getting to be 6pm.  Brian got anxious since we had already cycled 100km and didn’t know where we were going to stop.  No signs have shown themselves along the canal, and we were starting to wonder if this would be another ‘rough’ night.  The canal was filled with people taking their after work stroll or cycle so there was no way we could stop. 

Still we were both scanning the countryside and banks of the canal looking for an appropriate plate to set up camp.  But being too busy, we pressed onward.  In between towns, we also were running into the problems of no place being remote enough.  We weren’t going to camp in someone’s back yard!

I was thinking that it may be a good idea to pull out the map to see where we were, and where the next remote area may be.  We were pressing on 110km and the sun was hovering just over the trees. 

Brian notices that another cyclist is coming up behind us, and shouts at me to get over so that he can pass.  However, he doesn’t pass.  Instead he us coasts along beside us and start to make conversation.  This is a nice change as no other cyclists have done this before.  So we try to ask about the upcoming town (which is where he lives) and if there is any camping (yes!).  But instead of moving on, he kept cycling with us.  So we kept attempting conversation with little snippets and broken fragments with the few words I can string together. 

We ended up cycling together the full 5 km or so to Montech.  At which point he offered to take us to the campsite so we were sure to find it.  We were both amazed at this act of kindness from a complete stranger.  What a sweet man, and what an amazing experience that is both humbling and awesome. 

The only word that rand in our heads was:  trust.  It was growing late.  The sun was touching the tress tops.  We hadn’t had dinner.  No sign of campsites.  But God brought us a guide to take us to where we needed to go.  From the canal path there were no signs indicating a campground.  The site was nowhere near the canal so we could not have seen it while cycling.  Without this man we would have completely missed it and gone on to who knows where. 

I’ve always tried to thank God for his provisions and blessings.  However, with a job and a mortgage, you begin to feel as if you’re providing for yourself with such stability.  Right now our lives are nothing but un-stable and we need to rely on other sources of security.  Since the campgrounds closed and internet has become less than reliable, I’ve run out of my own options for finding these sources.  There’s been no choice but to fully trust in God for each day.  A stretch to be sure, but one that will be rewarding in the end. 

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