Les Cassieres to Forest-before-Feneu [Part 1]: Saturday 12 August 2017
0643. Tent. In some managed forest in Pays-de-la-Loire, some 30km or so to the West of Le Mans. We thought that would be our destination for the day, and that, it being a large, well-known, glamorous city an’ all, we would stay with a Warmshowers’ host there. We contacted four from the contrived comfort of our hotel room yesterday and the day before, but to no avail thus far. To be honest, I wasn’t that keen on jutting East just to see a city. Actually, it wasn’t the city so much as the jutting. Now, in the absence of any replies, we’ve decided to continue more directly Southwards, which excites me infinitely more.
From the maps, the terrain looks more varied and interesting – and just heading to a city? why? for the sake of it? just because it’s there? As destinations, cities just don’t hold any appeal right now. Yes, some may have beauty, some may have charm, some may have another aspect that makes them memorable, but most all are just conurbations built to serve a function; they don’t exist just to exist and lack that naïve quality that is maybe so beguiling about other more community-evolved settlements.
But where does, really? Either human or non-human, all developments and evolutions do so interdependently, and serve some function. And some develop this way; and some develop that way. And for some arbitrary subjectivity, this makes that one beautiful; that makes this one charming; the other makes it something else. Like with everything else, everything is what we make it to be: nothing has these qualities inherent in them. Qualities are perceived and invested with meaning by the beholder.
For me, a city’s just a city: bricks, cement, traffic, shops, people. They all have their own atmosphere, sure, and cannot be tarred with the same brush, but most exist to serve function rather than romance – and very few have developed with the bicycle in mind. They have veins of streets to pull the traffic in, out and through. Some do this more effectively than others; and some have managed to do this in a manner that allows a cyclist to meander and enjoy the city in the way that a pedestrian might, but many paths and roads exist just to get you from A to B as efficiently as existing infrastructure allows.
Many can be enjoyed, once you’re there and have planned an optimal route or followed a reliable instinct, but these, to me, for now, on this trip, are incidences of making the best, and taking the positives of everywhere, wherever we go:
- if they’re pretty much on the way – do we have a way? – we meander through and have a feel.
- if we need a sizeable enough town a day in order to be able to stock up on supplies for the day.
- if we are in need of bricked accommodation.
But now we’re touring for real again, with no real aim except to enjoy the present and follow our hearts to who-knows-where-that-may-lead? And as we ride on the wave of beauty and pleasure that carried us through Normandy, Le Mans just seems to jut out that way: not part of the natural rhythm we’re on.
So, for all this pointless philosophising, conjecturing or whatever, we’re just going with the flow – our flow! I like that, and we like that. And, as the days progress, the pure simplicity of just riding, eating and riding, then finding a place to pitch our tent, is a joy built more and more on our own requirements.
From time to time, it’s nice to kick back, relax and refresh in a concrete shelter, but mainly we are bicycle tourers, where the most that comes between the winds and us are a couple of layers of nylon canvas, and we lay our heads amidst the sounds of the worlds we inhabit calling to and fro. That’s how we like it, and that’s how we love it. I guess it’s still a gilded cage, but it feels so much larger, with so much unexplored, with so much unknown, that the occasional comfort of familiarity that four walls may provide holds little temptation – at least, for the moment.
So Le Mans seems a pointless diversion 😄