Day 3 – Étaves-et-Bocquiaux to Doische

Or the back of beyond to the arse end of nowhere, or who’s taken my border.

Inevitably eventually the wheels came off. It all started so well; Oliver’s house was comfortable with underfloor heating from an air source heat pump and the beds just goldilocks (not too hot and not too cold). Of course the energy to drive the heat pump would be largely nuclear so perhaps not appropriate technology for the coming post industrial era.

Anyway, knowing we had a long hard day ahead we made an early start and had scoffed Oliver’s breakfast and were saddled up and pedalling by ten past eight. Apparently the temperature was 2 degrees above zero (not absolute, and no limit) but the morning was bright and it felt like summer (in GreenieLand).

BTW today’s photos will be added tomorrow owing to circumstances

We aimed to put 30km in before second-breakfast, so back we went across and down to cross  the Oise, now a big stream, and then up onto an industrial agriculture plain.

Massive beet fields being harvested by massive machines (1 man went to mow, with his forage harvester, 9 men, 8 men…  and their dog booted off the land by a giant machine and left to rot on the dole eating coal) interspersed with giant chicken camps where the inmates are not troubled by daylight and have all their nutritional and medical needs met on demand by antibiotic laced corn pellets. Only the smell pervading the land betrays the contents of the sheds.

Overseeing it all giant wind flowers of picardy revolving slowly in the fragrant of chicken shit and rotting beet tops air. Such a vision of shit food by a shit process for the arse end of an industrial civilisation. Just think whether this could be achieved while treading lightly on the world, and put the awkward thought away to munch another sugar coated chick nugget washed down with cheap spirit. Choose a 4k tv to escape the reality bearing down on you as we pedal our way across the plain of north east france on route to Bonn. You know it makes sense. Not.

That’s quite enough RogerRant for one day. We chilled with a second-breakfast of coffee and pastries in Buironfosse at 35km.

Eventually the land became more pasture and wood; a hare dashed across the road in front and sped away across the field, a large owl swopped low across pasture and rose to rest in a willow. A buzzard took to lazy circular flight rising above the Oise, now barely a stream.

The border approached – or did it? Almost unmarked now this much fought over line. Schengen has done a better job of undermining the nation state than anarchists ever dreamed of. Reduced to a “Welcome”  sign on one side only and a change in the colour of the signposts. That’s how it should be everywhere and when you look beneath the cultural differences are still vibrant. Nation states are an artificial construct to control and subjugate (or citizenigate) people. Lets get rid of them, they only serve rulers.

For us the border also marked the half way point of both today’s ride and also the whole trip from Paris to Bonn so we had to stop for a group selfie. Euan also found what might be the ghoulish ghost of Ricky strung up from a lamp post for all souls day – we hoped it wasn’t him.

Lunch on the steps of a Church in the first town in Belgium. Then onward. Obviously a much more populous countryside than NE France – houses abounded by the roadsides. The roads themselves were busier. We voted again to ignore Miss OSMs advice and take the more direct road.

The trouble with ruler straight roads is that they don’t respect the contours of the land. Slicing across they rise and fall on graded inclines – steep enough to make the ups drag but not steep enough to make the downs flow. When cycling generally what goes up must come down, and that is a good thing. But straight roads also attract pedal to the metal merchants and that is not so nice.

Euan says “I’m not beet yet” [groan]
The kilometers ground by till we stopped for a pickmeup shot of cafe with sucre (from beet no doubt) and/or a first Belgian beer on Belgian soil according to taste. Having failed to score a date with a final french tart I took the latter option to drown my sorrows. 100km down and ‘only’ 20 to go,  this perhaps qualified as a nearly-there-beer, but that turned out to be tempting the fates who proceeded to teach us a lesson.

It was nearly 5pm when we left Couvin which meant for sure it would be lights on before we arrived. We decided to continue with the N99 as it was no longer an E(uro) rote and seemed quieter and to be following a river – flowing the other way now with us Eastwards. Unfortunately the river valley was narrow and deep and whilst the river meandered at the bottom,  the road went straight up and over each bluff as the valley turned. Not good for tired legs.

After 10km the cars were going faster, the gloaming was gathering and we were going slower,  so I proposed we should take to the higher ground where there seemed to be a flat route home at a cost of less than 1km extra distance.

At first all went well, it was lighter still at the top. The road was quieter. We turned as indicated by MissOSM and found ourselves on very rough concrete. Only for a little while but more than enough to shake dem bones and pay back for the lack of Pave yesterday.

Back briefly on solid ground we barfed at the sight of a further 7km stretch of rough concrete and went for the next turning indicated by MissOSM as a good metalled road.  Dark now, properly dark with a misty half moon. We found the turning by the light of our lights and observed a stoney track leading into the darker woods. That is no way a road. MissOSM taking revenge for us spurning her advice all day. We retraced our revolutions and tried again – a recce along a promising turning revealed rough stuff where the houses ran out. Ratz. Foiled again.

Defeated but not down we headed down into the next valley and finally found a decent road, a few km longer perhaps but it would get us there in 8km. At least it is dry and we are on the home run on a decent sized road.

Halfway there Ewan calls a halt – his gears not working. A inspection by torchlight showed the gear cable sleeve had collapsed and the cable frayed so he was stuck in top gear. Not ridable on this terrain. We managed to jury rig it so that it was stuck in mid range which was tough but pedalable as there was now a slight rise to Doische.

Rounding a corner the sting in the tale – a further section of rough decayed concrete on this bigger busier road.

As any fule kno concrete is not a sensible material to use for roads. Any fule except a Belgian fule it seems. Chiz.

Finally arrived in pitch dark sometime after 7pm. 122 km covered, 7hrs 40mins in the saddle. 15.9km/hr rolling average and a max speed of 54.1km/hr in bunch formation earlier in the day.

Now to work out how the heck to get Ewan’s bike fixed and another 110+ more hilly kilometers covered tomorrow. Wish us luck and give us a tip at

Todays route complete with setbacks in the dark: 


2 thoughts on “Day 3 – Étaves-et-Bocquiaux to Doische

  1. Much suspense and foreboding built up in today’s bulletin. Quite relieved that when revealed the promised disaster is relatively minor (although may not seem that way to you). I’m sure you can get out of this one. Bonne chance. (Where is the selection of faces and thumbs I need to express myself properly?)

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