We awoke at 6:30 AM to the sound of a downpour pelting our rain-fly through the cover of our forested free-camp and the beeping of my optimism from the night before. I reached out from the warmth of our sleeping bag, flicked the alarm clock off and promptly curled up with Tara for the remainder of the wee hours of the morning. It was about 9 AM when the rain finally started to slow (a bit) and I soldiered up the initiative to begin the muddy, wet morning.
With a bit of prodding I roused Tara to join me and we spent the next 30 minutes packing absolutely everything we could from the confines of our safe, mostly dry tent. When we were through I dashed out into a cold morning shower to grab our rain jackets, tossing Tara's into the tent and quickly zipping myself into my own. Tara hid out in the safety of the tent as long as she could, handing me things to stow in the bikes. Once the tent was empty we tore down the last of camp and trudged out of the clearing we'd made in the woods back to the canal path.
Our morning routine was surprisingly lighthearted and cheery dispite being a bit cold and very wet. We've both learned that the hardest part of the day (for us) is getting moving, rain or shine. We just do our best to ignore any negative thoughts we have about the day until we're on the road and by then they've usually passed. We emerged from the woods equal parts muddy and wet as we started down the canal path towards Nantes. Riding away, our spirits were lifted by what appeared to be large and promising blue patches of sky in the distance. Sure enough about 30 minutes in the sun was out and we were both overheating as we'd dressed for a day of rain riding.
Happy to have what appeared to be good weather ahead of us we stopped beside the canal and tore open our panniers to change into cooler clothes. As I was packing my pannier I managed to tip my bicycle over twice, once scraping my shin and the second time almost pulling myself into a thick wall of nettles trying in vain to hold it up. My body reacts quite violently to nettles, I get huge swollen bumps for a good hour or so and then the spot is tender for at least a day. After the second fall I was mightily annoyed and kicked a nearby rock to alleviate my frustrations.
What happened next occured in slow motion.
My yet to be re-tied right shoe flew off my foot, ridiculously high into the air. Tara and I watched it sailing away like pedestrians watching a car accident about to happen; wanting to yell something but knowing there is nothing they can do. The next few seconds elapsed like minutes. My footwear seemed to float happily through the mid-morning sun before it landed with a comical SPLOOOSH in the canal, echoing like the "nooooooooo" playing in my mind. As it landed time sped up like a cassette tape being played on fast forward. Tara immediately started laughing but I didn't hear it because I was too busy running headlong through a field of nettles into the canal, fully clothed, to rescue my precious shoe.
My now soaked shoe was still floating when I reached it and to my surprise the canal was fairly warm! I swam out with sopping shoe in hand, trying like a cat who just ran into a wall to play off what just occured as totally normal. Tara, still laughing grabbed the camera and started taking pictures of me looking like a drowned rat. Feeling more than a little sheepish (but relieved to have my shoe!) I started laughing too. Again, like pedestrians at a car accident we shared the details of the scene repeatedly from our unique individual perspectives before finally leaving the accident site to continue our day. Oh, and my arm had been completely nettlized. Ow!
The rest of our day was very easy going as we rode along the canal, meandering in the direction of Nantes. Along the way we had another good laugh as we spooked a flock of ducklings on the path and they all started peeping their little hearts out while trying to get away. We slowed down and rode beside them, watching their hilarious little waddling run as one by one they dove off the path into the grass leading to the canal. A few of them even did little barrel rolls as they tripped and stumbled in their tizzy. As the last one dove off the path I yelled "Where is your Mom!?"
Other sights of interest on our route today were a huge potbellied pig (I took photos for you mom!) sunning itself on the front steps of a house by the canal and a big French triathlon. Tara and the participants yelled all kinds of things back and forth as we cycled by the kayaking section of the meet. Canals paths certainly make for easy riding, we covered 75 winding kilometers today (a new distance record) and barely felt tired at all!
Towards the end of our ride we stopped to buy bread from an odd frenchman and his daughter before heading into our first "four star" campground. We paid for our spot and promptly began drying our wet gear. After camp was made I spent an hour or so cleaning and inspecting our bikes while we chatted about the day. I found a huge tangled web of fishing line in my rear derailleur and with Tara's help I pulled off both the jockey wheels and removed the mess. Our bikes are clean, everything is in proper working order and we're ready for another day of canal riding tomorrow!