Today’s ride is the most scenic of the trip, with terrain that resembles the Cotswolds without the dry stone walls. Their absence makes me realize how much that stone defines the aesthetic of the Cotswolds, manifest in the churches and cottages and, of course, walls. After three days of eating and riding together, our fellow cyclists are starting to become as much a part of our landscape as those dry stone walls are of the Cotswolds. Not yet knowing everyone’s name, we’ve taken to privately calling them by their defining, sometimes annoying— everything seems annoying when you are going uphill on your third straight day of distance cycling— characteristic. I’ve already introduced smoking man and sweatpants-tucked-into-his-tube socks man, but they have now been joined by a cast of characters including:
- Foghorn Leghorn, a twenty-something gung ho gal with a plum coloured bob and a booming voice she uses to indicate that she’s very pleased with herself.
- Australian Man Eater, Foghorn Leghorn’s buddy on this trip who’s clearly on the prowl. I presume the squeaking bed springs coming from next door in the early morning hours of Day 4 mean she was successful.
- The “Merely-a-Paper-Cut-Gals,” a trio of posh fifty-something birds who are shockingly athletic. My nickname for them hails from the French and Saunders sketch where the duo play a pair of country toffs who constantly sustain dramatic injuries and insist with quintessential English stiff upper lipness that it’s “merely a paper cut.”
- The Sports Bores, a group of twenty-something uber athletic men who we only see in the morning and evening because they’re always miles ahead of us. They favor achingly tight red lycra and wear their men-from-the-future sports sunglasses with their civilian clothes in the evenings.
- The Doofus, a ginger haired boy who’s joined Foghorn and Man Eater’s clique, and keeps falling over on his bike.
- The Doo-lolly, a blond haired, Rubenesque gal who likes to zoom past you on the downhill then suddenly stop her bike in front of you on the uphill so she can get off and walk.
By the time we arrive at our motorway adjacent lodgings, we’ve created back stories for most of the group. We continue this form of recreation over a pichet of the motel’s house rosé. (Being France, it’s quite decent wine relative to what you would expect to find at your average British or American Motel 6. Do they even sell wine at Motel 6?). And just to prove we’re not horrible people we share our pichet with Foghorn’s table.