9 April 2007

Wipers Day - Report

After a week of almost perfect biking weather it was a surprise to wake up and find that we had fog. To make sure we arrived at the Shuttle on time (if not early!) we got up early and were ready for the off. The day before I had filled to bike to make sure we had loads of petrol as the estimated mileage for today was about 160 miles.

By the time we had climbed out of Hythe on Blackhorse Hill we had also climbed out of the fog and the sky was blue and it was sunny. We met the rest of the group there over a coffee and then motored around for the 0920 train.

The train group totalled 15 and one, Ian, was on Sea France and planning to meet us at Ardres. The crossing was smooth (!) as expected and we ventured out with me at the head. We had a few GPS's with us and all should have been following the route I had sent out earlier in the week. The Tom-Tom's using a slightly different system but intrinsically should have been the same as my Garmin.

Once united with Ian we cut across country south of Ardres via Watten and arrived at Cassel for lunch. On the way we encountered a British registered caravan on a country back lane, and true to its traditions it held us up for miles and then at Cassel we came across a charity long distance walk or maybe a marathon, who knows, we hardly saw a competitor taking part, but loads looking like they may have finished.

After lunch the ride was across to Mont des Cats and the Abbey, sadly closed as the Monks had some other distractions on Easter Sunday. We had a walk to a small chapel and were in time as the monk was about to open it. Very nice windows. We passed through Mont Noir and then despite the GPS's we managed to lose Ian and James. We stopped at the next way point in Kemmel for a coffee to wait for them. When they didn't arrive I gave Ian a ring on his new Bluetooth headset and the phone was remarkably clear considering it was being relayed through his Tom-Tom from phone to ear! I said we'd see them at the Hooge Crater Museum and went back to join the others for coffee.

From Kemmel the planned route was south-east to the British Monument at "Plug Street", then up to the new Irish Peace Park and then to Hooge. As Simon and Denise were staying overnight we cut the loop and went straight into Ypres and they went to the hotel. At a set of lights I motioned for the others to stay with us and go to Hooge, but they all followed Nigel. I set the Garmin for Hooge Crater and set off to meet Ian and James.

After a chat and another coffee we paid the €2 entry fee and went in the museum and were joined by the others a bit later.
It was gone 6.30pm when we parked up in the market square by the Cloth Hall and spit into groups to get something to eat. We agreed to meet back together for the Menin Gate "Last Post", which we did.

The town was full of groups of Canadians, and they had a special presentation and wreath laying under the bridge during the "Last Post" ceremony. Then they sang "Oh Canada" without music. Quite moving. From there it was back to the bikes and off via Poperinge and Steenvoorde to the A25 and back to the Shuttle with about 40 minutes to spare.

Another very good day and I hope everyone enjoyed themselves.

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