Day 8. Mon., June 8, 2015 … Caudebac … 50 miles/410 total miles … “Michel is 71 and says this is not such a hard hill to climb”

8 Day jumieges

It’s been two days without Lexapro and haven’t noticed much of a difference. Yet. Feel pretty much the same as when I was taking it. Think that’s a good thing. Maybe I should make a dramatic gesture and flush the rest of ‘em down the toilet. Nah, may need one down the road. Knowing they’re here, just in case, is reassuring. Sort of like Aisle Seat Guy and his spare copy of Lonesome Dove.


Today was my day for bike issues.

Left Lyons-la-Foret a little after 9:00AM and started climbing a big hill. Got to the top, looked back to Lyons-la-Foret, and could see the fog down below covering most of the town. It was pretty cool.

About a mile later … pop!

My first flat tire of the trip. The back tire, of course, since it’s the more difficult of the two to fix. Because of the chain and gears. No problem getting the tire off, the old tube out of the tire and the new tube inside the tire. The problem was getting the tire back on the rim of my wheel. The last few inches are always the hardest, as the tire gets tighter and tighter as it stretches out as you push the bead of the tire around and into the rim of the wheel. Can usually muscle those last few inches in with my thumbs. Not so much today. This is the first flat I’ve had to fix since the incident, and guess my thumbs aren’t as strong as they used to be. Had to cheat and use one of the plastic levers that you use to get the tire off the wheel. You’re not supposed to do this, because the lever can pop the tube if you’re not extremely careful. Was extra-extra-extremely careful and finally got the tire all the way back on.

Down to my last spare tube.

Five miles later, just as I was entering the outskirts of Rouen … pop!


Another flat tire. The back tire. Of course. And, once again, lots of problems getting the last few inches of the tire back on the wheel. Used the tire lever again. Extra-extra carefully.

And was out of spare tubes.

Fortunately, came across a bike shop in Rouen and bought three tubes. At the rate I’m going, they should last a day or two.

BTW: My knee and hip were a little sore from yesterday’s fall when I woke up this morning. Was a little worried, but they loosened up once I got going. Now that I’ve stopped riding, they’re sore again.


Rouen is a big city, it’s where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake in 1431. Damn that must have hurt. Seriously, think about it. Actually, don’t. Too gruesome. Rode around the center of the city, had a snack, took a look at the cathedral, thought about staying overnight. Nah, too big and noisy of a city. And I don’t like big & noisy cities so much anymore because, well, they’re so big & noisy. And hurt my brain.

According to my Michelin map, there are hotels in Duclair, which was another 15 miles, and in Caudebac, another 10 miles past Duclair. A red line under the name of a city on the Michelin map indicates there’s at least one hotel in the town.

There was about a 5-mile hill out of Rouen once you cross over the Seine (yep, the same river that goes through Paris). At least it seemed like it was five miles. Was probably only two or three. There was only one > on the Michelin map, but there should have been at least three. This is one tough climb.

“Bonjour,” shouted an old guy as he and his friend passed me about half a mile into the hill/mountain.

Me (out of breath): “Bonjour.”

Old guy on a bike: “A bunch of French words I didn’t understand.”

Me (even more out of breath): “Je ne parle pas Francais. Parlez-vous Anglais?”

Old guy: “Yes, a little. Are you British?”

Me: “No, American.”

He and his buddy seemed a little surprised, and pleased, to meet an American on a hill/mountain outside of Rouen.

Old guy: “It is beautiful day for a ride, no? And not so hard for someone 25 years.”

Me: “I’m 34.”

Old guy (pounding his chest with pride): “Thirty four, that is quite young. I am 67.”


“Yeah, yeah, good for you old timer,” I mumbled to myself. The 67-year- old old guy started talking French to his buddy, they both looked at me and started laughing.

Old guy: “Michel is 71 and says this is not such a hard hill to climb.”

And with that they stood up on their bikes, started peddling a little faster and began to pull away from me, dropping me like a pair of dirty underwear. Showoffs. What with me being only 34 and an American, I wasn’t about to let two old French guys kick my ass up this hill/mountain. Got up and out of my seat and began spinning my pedals faster. Closed the gap and was gaining on them. And then, after 500 meters (OK, not even 300), stuff started seizing up all over my body. My lungs ran out of air and were ready to explode. My back started screaming. Had to slow down a little (OK, a lot).

The two old guys, turned, waved and sped away.

Damn, have to admit it, those two old guys sure could ride. They kicked my young American ass. Pretty sure they’re retired professional cyclists who once rode in the Tour de France. Michel may even have won the damn thing a time or two.


Duclair is a cool little town right on the banks of Seine. Thought about staying there, but it was only 2:00PM when I arrived and decided to keep going. Glad I did. About four kilometers (2.4 miles) later, there was a sign pointing to the left that said Jumieges was 3.5 kilometers (2.1 miles) to the left (south). Had no idea what Jumieges was or if there was anything worth seeing in Jumieges, but my Michelin map had a symbol – three little dots – that indicated some type of ruins were there. Love a good ruin, and decided to make a side trip to Jumieges. What the heck, it was a nice day. Plus, there was another little symbol – the letter B, in blue, surrounded by a box – that indicated there was a barge that would take me across the river (still the Seine) and a white road I could ride all the way to Caudebac. Cool, a barge. I like boats.

Jumieges turned out to be amazing.

According to the Normandy tourism website (which means I must now be in Normandy): “The first sight of the remains of the immense abbey church, in its verdant setting in a meander of the Seine, is unforgettable.”

They’re right.

Jumieges is one of the oldest monasteries in France, which means it’s one of the oldest monasteries in the world. Was founded by Saint Philibert in 654, destroyed by the Vikings in 841 and then again during the Hundred Years War (1337 to 1453).

All that’s left of the once-immense cathedral is the skeleton: the outer walls and some of the towers, with grass growing in the middle. The walls seem to defy gravity and are just so majestic and beautiful and amazing. And unforgettable. And relaxing.

Must have hung out at Jumieges for an hour, including a 20-minute nap, lying on the grass, next to my bike. Had some water and biscuits and a banana.

The barge station was where it was supposed to be, but the next one wasn’t for another hour, so rode back the way I came and on to Caudebac, which is where I am right now. Like Duclair, it’s a really nice little town, right on the banks of the Seine. There are paths all along the water lined with parks and flowers.

In Chapter 9, Marc learns all about the ancient rituals of cafe culture…

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