Evacuate… evacuate

Posted on April 22, 2011


So the day had finally arrived. After negotiating Virgin’s finest, the mean streets of Central London and the jungle that is Connex South Eastern on any given Thursday, I rocked up to the Goat’s ranch around 9pm. The Goat and I swiftly repaired to the Black Horse pubic house to plot our course, especially the fiendishly tricky bit through the industrial wasteland that is French Flanders.  After four pints of English courage – they only serve ales at the Horse – we had agreed the route and we retired for the evening, ready for the off.

We were up bright and early Friday morning to find the sun wearing his hat, and a rather jaunty one it was too. As I opened the curtains, I could almost hear ‘Big’ Bill Withers limbering up in the background in readiness for that legendary 18 second long note that greets days like this in radio land.  I do hope for Bill’s sake he did that in one take.  And I’m guessing Bill wasn’t invited to that many bong parties in his youth, not with those lungs.

Back to the thread…. after a bit of packing, or ‘fiddle-arsing’ as the Goat calls it, we were off to Dover to meet El Presidente and the mighty Shamu. We picked up the chaps outside of the ferry terminal and then coasted down to Passport Control. While we three stopped, the Goat – a man who refuses to acknowledge such petty things as international boundaries – sailed on by much to the chagrin of the incumbent French Customs officer. Apparently this was the first time he’d been required to present his credentials at Passport Control. After a little diplomacy, we popped over to the bike check-in point. From here we observed a troupe of high-spirited (read massively DRUNK) smurfs disembark from a coach and then race up and down the loading lane, cheering all the way. At 7.30 in the morning. It made me proud to be British. No wonder we won the war.

The ferry journey was straight forward except for the food. I rocked the café restaurant till executive’s world by electing to only have six items instead of the regulation seven that form the ‘Big Bad Breakfast’ option. You’d have thought I’d offered to pleasure his mother given his reaction. For him this was profligacy on an Elton John scale. As we left, I was going to tell him I only drank half of my complimentary orange juice but I feared this might be the proverbial straw. Other than that it was plain sailing – boom, boom – and we arrived in Dunkirk bang on 1pm local time.

Dunkirk is, quite simply, a shit hole. It is easy to see why Dunkirk hosted the greatest evacuation exercise of modern times. I bet no one needed convincing otherwise on the big day. It makes you want to run and run. And if you want a good laugh take a look at the Dunkirk Tourism website for the ultimate in turd polishing. So let’s move on, as we did, quick smart, and take the ferry dismount as read.

One mile in we had the first puncture of the tour. Of course it would be my bike. The Goat gave a puncture repair master class while I regressed back to my childhood. After 15 minutes, we Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse mounted our steeds with a renewed sense of purpose. Goat was on point with Shamu bringing up the rear, while our Glorious Leader and El Presidente stoked the furnace. We made brisk progress along a deserted sandbank before swinging inland to tackle several major roads before crossing the Belgian border, twenty-two miles to the good. We had reached the Promised Land.

And we’ll leave it there for now. Part two of maybe four will appear shortly 🙂 God willing.

Posted in: Cycling