The day is finally here and we are preparing to go to the start. I notice that my stomach is feeling rather badly, but I figure it will pass as the ride starts. Wrong! It will haunt me with nausea throughout the entire event, though it does ebb for short periods of time. It is not raining, but there is the promise of rain in the air. The crowd is large and it would be easy to get separated. Some people are pushing and shoving. I hang onto the back of Steve Royse's carradice so as not to get separated. I still am not sure about finding my way if I get lost. Someone at the hotel tell me the arrows here are used differently than they would be at home.
There are fireworks and other exciting things going on in the distance. I notice a man and a woman speaking french and they are pointing at me and laughing. He tries to talk with me, but I don't really speak but a few words of french. I call on Johnny for help. I find that my Boure hat means being drunk in french. I will meet this same people in a bar somewhere in France in the middle of the night later during the ride and the giggle will continue. It was almost like running into old friends.
The ride gets ready to start. Someone wants to see both of my lights work, but my secondary has not worked since I got here. Perhaps I should have asked Dave or Steve for help, but I was proud of myself for finally getting the primary to work without help and I figured I could get by. I hate always having to ask for help. Asking for help is hard for me to do. There are reasons for that, but this is not the time to go into that. I have my primary light, my head lamp, and a cats eye handlebar light.
The ride thins out more quickly than I would expect and I hang onto the people I am riding with. Unfortunately, there are enough people that I am not very comfortable eating in the midst of everyone. If I ride this type of ride again, I either need to practice or come up with something that works for me. In the dark I hear someone go down and the sound of their helmet scraping across the pavement. Water bottles seem to be everywhere, but I manage to remain upright and with everyone. I find I am overdressed, but I don't feel as if I can stop. By the first stop, I am starting to feel very dehydrated. Coke tastes like the sweetest of drinks, but my stomach just won't get over it.
I later end up bonking and Steve Rice gently pushes me up hills and feeds me caffeine to pull me along. I am amazed at his patience and gentleness, and I feel badly because I know I am impacting his ride strategy. Strangely enough in light of what is to come upon my return home, I think about when I will be without Lloyd for I am realistic enough to know that barring illness or accident, I will outlive him, and I think that maybe with friends like this I can somehow survive that loss when it comes.
Sometime or another, we come upon a stand where children are giving out hot chocolate and pound cake. It tastes so good. I am glad I have a little something to give them in return: stickers and toy parachutes. Sometime during this time, I realize I must separate from the group for their own good and my good. Unfortunately, when I try to communicate that need to Royse, he won't accept it telling me that I will be amazed at what an hours worth of sleep will do for me. When we reach Loudiac, Dave is there and says we will meet at 1:00. I am in no mood to argue, so I go to bed and explain that I will need to get up at 1 to tell some friends to go on, but want to sleep another hour or so after that. Luckily, the man at the control speaks English. They wake me at 1:00 a.m. and I go outside, but I must have gotten the time wrong because nobody is out there. I try to find paper and finally manage to snag a scrap piece from one of the tables. I write a note intending to leave it on Dave's bike as I think he will find it as he is so observant, but I can't find his bike. I leave the note on Steve's bike asking them to go on. My bike is not shifting right and I need a mechanic and I need a bit more sleep. When I awaken, they are all waiting and I feel like a piece of shit. They had not found my note. I tell them to go on and finally they go. I will finish this ride, but at my own pace and in my own way. I have realized I must do this to be successful. I remain sick to my stomach. I was amazed at the control at how I could sleep. As soon as my head hit the pillow it did not matter that there were a hundred strangers around me, I was asleep.
I am amazed at the people along the route, even in the rain and the chilly, windy night air, they are there helping. They all blur together. Rain impacted picture taking, and I am glad my camera was not destroyed. I had bought waterproofing for my handlebar bag and applied it prior to the event, but it had never been tested. It worked well.